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Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church Service for Sunday 22nd August
Photo Credit: Markus Spiske, Unsplash Climate Sunday – led by the Green Apostle Network
Hello and welcome to this ‘Climate Sunday’ service for Sunday the twenty-second of August. Any Sunday can be a Climate Sunday, and today as we approach Creation Time, celebrated from the first of September until the fourth of October each year, we will reflect on our Creator, the world around us and our place within it.
My name is Daleen ten Cate, and I am a Mission and Discipleship Mentor for the URC North-West Synod. I’m also a Green Apostle, encouraging and supporting the care of creation within my synod. You’ll find at least one Green Apostle within each synod, and we are here to help. You’ll hear today from some of my Green Apostle colleagues, including Helen Glasse, Green Apostle for Youth; Charles Jolly, Green Apostle for the East Midlands; and Chris Baillie, minister at Westfield and Cannington United Reformed Churches and Green Apostle for the South-Western Synod. Chris will be preaching. And David Coleman, URC minister, environmental chaplain to Eco-Congregation, and Green Apostle for the National Synod of Scotland, has prepared some of the liturgy that you will hear today. But first, we begin with a call to worship.
Call to Worship Come before the Lord with joyful songs, because God is good and generous, because we lack nothing. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise.
Serve the Lord with gladness, because of God’s greatness and justice, because God puts an end to war, and to all forms of violence. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise.
Come before the Lord with joy because God is a faithful promises keeper; God’s Word is eternal. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise.
Know that the Lord is God, and we are God’s own people, a community, the family of God. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise.
It is God who has made us to the praise of the Holy Name, and therefore today, in the same spirit, we have a festival to celebrate God’s peace. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise.
Jesus is Lord!Creation’s voice proclaims it, for by his pow’reach tree and flow’rwas planned and made. Jesus is Lord! The universe declares it – sun, moon and stars in heaven cry: ‘Jesus is Lord!’
2 Jesus is Lord! Yet from his throne eternal in flesh he came to die in pain on Calvary’s tree. Jesus is Lord! From him all life proceeding – yet gave his life a ransom thus setting us free.
Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Lord! Praise him with alleluias, for Jesus is Lord.
3 Jesus is Lord! O’er sin the mighty conqueror; from death he rose and all his foes shall own his name. Jesus is Lord! God sends his Holy Spirit to show by works of power that Jesus is Lord.
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Declaration of Forgiveness
Maker, Christ and Spirit, Partnership of creation, Bringer of beauty from chaos, welcoming all who are lost, alone and together we bring life to transform. Earth cries out against us; so pardon our species: Forgive! Forgive each, forgive all!
And where damage is done by my choice or neglect to what you have made and you love: so open a window of healing that, mindful of the magnitude of change, we be not bound by despair but empowered by hope encouraged by mercy enlivened by grace beyond earning.
God challenges us, God encourages us. God confronts us, and God accepts us. God works wonders in our midst and gives us eyes, hearts, souls, to cherish life. God forgives us: for Christ is the Way – when all we see is wilderness – there, to dwell, at home with life abundant. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Prayer of Illumination Draw us close, Holy Spirit, as the Scriptures are read and the Word is proclaimed. Let the word of faith be on our lips and in our hearts, and let all other words slip away. May there be one voice we hear today — the voice of truth and grace. Amen.
Colossians 1: 15 – 20 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.
God, the maker of the heavens, and the planet that we share, show us how to live, like Jesus, lives of gratitude and care. Make us mindful of the footprints from the lives that we pursue. Make us partners in your mission: you are making all things new.
2 God, the gardener of Eden, teach us how to tend this earth, learning from the changing seasons, times of fallow and new birth. Lord have mercy when we’re careless, rich resources we misuse. Use our hands to heal creation: you are making all things new.
3 God of labour and vocation, Lord of science, trade and art, take our efforts and our passions make them mirrors of your heart. Every habitat and creature loved and valued, God, by you. May our lives reveal your Kingdom: you are making all things new.
You are making all things new. You are making all things new, all things renewed.
Sermon Hello. A question for you: how important do you think climate change is? For example, would you put it in the top three issues facing your country or your world at this time? And whatever your answer, let me suggest that your opinion on climate change, and on how you personally should respond to it, is substantially shaped through ordinary, everyday conversations.
You will have been influenced by important documentaries, newsworthy characters such as Greta Thunberg or David Attenborough, by what you’ve heard of the science, and all those big issue-type things. But actually, all the time, you’re being very influenced by the people around you with whom you exchange everyday chit-chat, who you may met casually and talk about life and things in general. Perhaps without giving it a great deal of deep thought. If those around you don’t think that climate change is worth talking about, they’re really telling you that it doesn’t matter as much as the things they are talking about. And we’re very influenced by this, very influenced by what seems to be important in the everyday conversations. We don’t just look for the main, big issue statements. We pick up most of what shapes our attitude and thought from continuous small talk.
So, I want to suggest to you that it’s really worth paying attention to a thought from Paul as he wraps up Colossians. There in chapter 4, in verse 6, he advises us to be people whose conversations are full of seasoned grace. And I want to suggest to you that if you are so massively influenced by the heap of small conversations that you take part in, then not only are you influenced by that climate, you contribute to that climate of opinion. And in fact, your thoughts, expressed and unexpressed, are shaping other people’s attitudes and priorities. In actual fact, you have an awful lot of power in the small talk of life. So why not apply that insight into taking part in saving the world in the face of climate change.
Speaking for Tearfund, the climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe mentions that the US military has identified climate change as a ‘threat multiplier’. What this means is that whatever the threats the USA can face, they are amplified – all of them – by climate change. It’s not just a threat: it’s a threat which makes all threats more threatening. But of course, it’s not just true for the USA. It’s true for every country. And, like ordinary people in any time of crisis, we, the ‘normal’ folk, the ‘ordinary’ folk, the ‘everyday’ folk, must rise to the moment sacrificially and with commitment. And an important ingredient in rising to the moment that we’re in is in our conversation, because I tell you, it’s more than just words.
‘Let your conversation’, said Paul to the Colossians, ‘always be full of grace, seasoned with salt.’ Grace because we always will treat people with respect, because as followers of Jesus, of course we do: we see the image of God in everyone. And so, the way we talk will be careful, considerate, patient, kind; all the qualities that we know belong to love – of course. ‘Seasoned with salt’ I think means this: that to bring the best out of grace, to let the full flavour of grace be there, we cannot hide away from truth. Grace and truth belong together in the holy character of God and there is no grace without truth. And the truth is that we live in a very particular season of the world’s history.
A large proportion of the planet’s people do not know that there is a crisis because they’ve not been told what they definitely have a right to know, because it effects them. Another chunk of us have been told, but we don’t want to face the reality. And then there’s a much, much smaller number of people who have a lot of power and wealth tied up in harmful processes and don’t care about the consequences for the others now or into the future.
All of us are faced with the task of changing how we’ve learned to live our lives. I mean, we learned to live one way and we’re going to have to learn to live differently. And whilst this is going on, we feel powerless against the huge task of getting humanity to work together against a common enemy. To be fair, it looks just – well it’s impossible, like telling a mountain to throw itself into the sea, but then Jesus said something about that, didn’t he, and I believe it can be done, because I believe in the Lord and so I have hope in all situations, even this one, which frankly does not look good at all.
Now, any government that cares about its citizens will definitely listen to them. And any government that cares about its citizens will make the environmental crisis its top priority, above all others. If it does not, it is either ignorant, putting its head in the sand or in the pocket of the abusers. Be in no doubt, it is a crisis that is already biting and is on track to get worse. We must do now what humanity has never done before. And as Christians we have a very particular way of approaching this, and a very big contribution. If we don’t make it, we’ll just be religious noise that deserves to fade away into the background of silence.
You see, we are a people conceived in the crisis of Calvary and born through the joy of the resurrection. Hopeful action is in our DNA. And there are millions of us to put that hopeful action into practice! Imagine if five million of us influenced five other people through our everyday conversations over a period of, let’s say, two or three years, and those five people, per all those many, then went on to make changes and to help the climate of opinion shift and the will be found to pressure the politicians and those in places of power.
I love the Creator and I love the creation, and I hope for the climate because I believe in the power of the risen Jesus. Like his planet, he was seized by the powerful who wanted to hold onto their privilege, and like him, his planet is being spat upon, beaten and injured. It’s being brutalised and we don’t have to stand by and watch. Right now, the battle is being lost, but, with the power of God’s Spirit, we can be big agents of change. If I change a habit, sooner or later, it’ll come up in conversation. So if I eat less red meat, or walk more often than I use an engine to get me from A to B, or whatever it is, as I change my own habits, it will come up in conversation quite naturally. It won’t need to be forced, it won’t need to be preachy, and we’ll talk about it with others. And that will shape their opinion and it will spread.
So we need a conversation that is winsome, because of how we treat everybody and every opinion with respect, but in which we don’t lose the salt, the punch, the power of the flavour that is so important if we are really to speak truth in love. Our conversation will not only be with those we meet up with casually or every day. It will also need to reach out to the politicians and the big decision makers. And you could be thinking about how you speak with your church and others to create pressure for change. It’s never been needed so urgently at any previous time in history.
Let your conversation and all your talk and all your campaigning and all your talking with others about what we’re going to do about it be filled with grace, seasoned with salt. And may God bless you as you go about serving the Creator. Amen.
Hymn Prayer May Not Halt The Pestilence
John Campbell lyrics can be used freely until April 2022 sung by a team organised by Roo Stewart
Prayer may not haltthe pestilence around us; it did not saveour Saviour from his fate. Harsh famine’s cursedefied the prayers of many, time after time,exacting grievous hurt. Yet, if we pray,and share life’s pain with Jesus, we will be changedand strengthened while we wait.
2 Prayer may not bring an end to all injustice; too many died whilst Naaman found his cure. Yet, prayer by prayer, we and our world are changing, if by prayer’s pow’r our hearts grow strong to care; if we reach out, empow’red by prayer, in action, then hope may help the fearful to endure.
3 And if the cup of suff’ring set before us proves deep and bitter ev’rywhere, for all, our prayers must help us work within the wasteland, give strength to rise up, even when we fall; that help and care and kindliness and sharing, may build anew a better world for all.
Affirmation of Faith We believe in the one and only God, Eternal Trinity, from whom, through whom and for whom all created things exist. God alone we worship; in God we put our trust. We worship God, source and sustainer of creation, whom Jesus called Father, whose sons and daughters we are.
We worship God revealed in Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God made flesh; who lived our human life, died for sinners on the cross; who was raised from the dead, and proclaimed by the apostles, Son of God; who lives eternally, as saviour and sovereign, coming in judgement and mercy, to bring us to eternal life.
We worship God, ever present in the Holy Spirit; who brings this Gospel to fruition, assures us of forgiveness, strengthens us to do God’s will, and makes us sisters and brothers of Jesus, sons and daughters of God.
We believe in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, united in heaven and on earth: on earth, the Body of Christ, empowered by the Spirit to glorify God and to serve humanity; in heaven, eternally one with the power, the wisdom and the love of God in Trinity.
We believe that, in the fullness of time, God will renew and gather in one all things in heaven and on earth through Christ, and be perfectly honoured and adored.
We rejoice in God who has given us being, who shares our humanity to bring us to glory, our source of prayer and power of praise; to whom be glory, praise and adoration, now and evermore. Amen
Intercessions We praise you, creating, sustaining, forgiving God, who works all things together for good. Through the pain, loss and turmoil of the pandemic, we have learned to cope with more change than we thought possible. Thank you for your solidarity with our humanity as we face up to climate change and biodiversity loss.
Inspire, we pray, people striving everywhere to cut emissions, to protect and restore oceans, forests, wetlands and soil and to adapt to global warming.
Thank you for the patient, dedicated work of scientists and environmentalists. Thank you for individuals who fearlessly tell the truth, like Greta Thunberg and Pope Francis; especially those who risk their careers and freedom. Strengthen us too to speak up boldly, even though the changes we demand may hurt us.
Give this nation a sense of your justice as our society rethinks what is really important. Loving parent God, we praise you for your faithfulness despite our foolish ways. We thank you for your Holy Spirit inspiring, encouraging, enabling us. We thank you for Jesus, who loves us and weeps over us and who, by coming here, made this wonderful planet sacred.
Almighty God, in November, at great cost and with great urgency, the leaders of the nations, and those with concern for our common home, will gather in Glasgow. We ask for your welcoming, affirming presence in the many layers of gathering that are part of this event and with those who feel called to protest in the streets. Give to those who make decisions, and those who are planning and negotiating even now, a freedom from the burdens of a past, which have pushed us to this cliff-edge and liberation to act with urgency, hope and confidence.
Give a dawning vision of your gift of healing greater than the blocked horizon of what it might cost. Argue and wrestle with the powers and principalities of expediency and despair.
Open every human ear to the voices of Earth and of neighbours in poor countries who already suffer sharply. Save us from the despair of complacency and the toxic temptation, when the visitors have departed Glasgow, to re-embrace ‘business as usual’ because that ‘old normal’ has gone. And our only future will be in wakefulness, repentance, trust and hope, as we live out your love and justice for the Earth we are part of, through your word made flesh, Jesus, our saviour and friend.
Offertory Prayer We pause now to remember the duty and joy of giving. To the work of the Church, to charities, to those in need. We give, remembering the One who gave his life for us. And so we pray:
Bless to us the sky that you placed above us, the breath that the trees have given us, the water of all life on the Earth, the minerals of which we are composed. Bless the gifts we offer back to you, of time and talent, and our treasure, our successes and failures, our setbacks and encouragements. For though we will not ourselves fix or save the world, with delight we accept our place and purpose in your own collaborative care. That all that’s offered, indistinguishable from prayer, may be seed planted to bear much fruit. Amen
Hymn Immortal, invisible
Walter C. Smith sung on BBC’s Songs of Praise
Immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible, hid from our eyes; most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.
2 Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light, nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might, thy justice like mountains high soaring above thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.
3 To all, life thou givest, to both great and small. In all life thou livest, the true life of all. We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree, and wither and perish, but naught changeth thee.
4 Great Father of glory, pure Father of light, thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight. All laud we would render; O help us to see ’tis only the splendour of light hideth thee.
Blessing We shall plant trees, and they shall take care of us. We shall plough furrows, and not look back. We shall be gentle and we shall be crafty. We’ll do our part that the world may change course. And so, May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit Be with us all, evermore. Amen.
Opening: Ach Gott Von Himmel Sieh Darein (“O God from heaven see this”) by Johann Pachelbel (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020) Closing: Toccata in Seven by John Rutter (organ of All Saints’, Odiham – 2020)
Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776, Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved. PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762