Worship for August 15, 2021

You can join this week’s worship service by visiting here.

Below, you’ll find Steve’s reflection and prayer for this week.

Scripture: Genesis 1:1-2, 26-31
Music: Called By Earth and Sky, We Cannot Own the Sunlit Sky
Image: Luke Haugen-Strand

One of the comments I frequently hear across this vast country; north and south, east and west is, “This is God’s country.” I’m always thankful that people are able to see God in all of the various places across Canada and in every other place in the world I have visited. (By the way, there are a couple of places I’ve been where I didn’t share the same perspective as some of the locals.)

I need to switch directions slightly, as I’ve said before, the Bible is not a science textbook nor is it a history book. Also, it was never meant to be understood in those ways. It is a book about relationships; God’s relationship with us and our relationship with God and each other.

I love the Creation story in Genesis for its poetry but also because it helps us understand that God wants us to care for and to be stewards of the creation.

For many years, people have understood that our role is to have “dominion” over the creation or to “subdue” it and to do so for our own benefit.  Many of us have come to recognize that is sheer folly – the climate is changing and not for the better.

We know climate change is real through scientific research that lead to the report released this week by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, signed by the world’s leading climate scientists, who concluded that climate change is caused by humans and have predicted dire consequences for future generations.

We know the climate is changing through what we are seeing in the news. Over the past few weeks, we have seen record heat, massive forest fires burning across Alberta, BC, the western US, Greece and in Turkey. We’ve also seen almost unbelievable floods in parts of Europe and China.

But when I pause and think about the creation, I am overwhelmed with the beauty of it all. In this part of the world, the weather has been great for growing things; everything is green and lush. The only downside is that all the rain has lead to a bumper mosquito crop!

So, we all realize that creation needs to be healed. But, when we think about our role, it seems like we contribute so little to climate change there is little that we alone can do.

As people of faith we need to consider that part of our United Church Creed that pledges we will, “live with respect in creation”.  And, as people of faith, we can buy into that ideal.

This past year, we learned we don’t need to drive to the store every day to get groceries. We’ve also learned we can survive without using plastic bags for carrying them. These seem like small steps but still they are steps.

Fifteen years ago, as we were renovating this building, we stated that we believed God wanted us to care for the creation. So we made several decisions to reduce our energy footprint; we put in energy efficient windows and doors, we changed over the heating systems to reduce energy consumption, we also changed a lot of lighting and many other improvements focused on that goal.

A couple of years ago, we were one of the first congregations in the region to take advantage of the Faithful Footprints program. The single largest change we made was to replace all of lighting that had been replaced a little more than a decade earlier. The energy audit showed that it made economic and ecological sense to spend about $20,000 to upgrade to newer, even more energy efficient lights that would have a payback in under five years.

This spring, in one of the few projects we have been able to do during the pandemic, we decided to get rid of some grass and put in a pollinator garden out front. I’m pleased to tell you that it is healthy and thriving. Yes, I’ve see bees buzzing around out there doing their thing to help pollinate the Unicorn Day Care gardens on the side of the building.

These may seem like small steps but they are making a difference and more important they are faithful.

There is a story I’m sure many of you have heard,

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a girl picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the girl, he asked, “What are you doing?” She replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Child,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!” After listening politely, the girl bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, she said…..“I made a difference for that one.”

Sometimes, we are called to take major steps in our faith. Sometimes, we are called to do what we can even though it may seem like a small step – because that is what our faith calls us to do.

In the coming weeks, it is rumoured that St. Paul’s may receive a small amount of money from Elections Canada. If that does come to pass, I hope you will ask those who are asking for your vote a theological question, “What will you do to live with respect in creation and help ensure that future generations will live in a world that doesn’t have to worry about the climate crisis being an existential threat for the next generation?”

Friends, we have been told to do unto our neighbor as we would have them do for us. I saw an interesting twist on that saying the other day on the Faith and Common Good website, the people who helped fund our energy renovations, Do unto the Earth what you would have the Earth do unto you.

So what else can you do for this tiny blue planet in your own life and what else can we do together?

We are not alone. We live in God’s world, as caretakers, as stewards who are called to live with respect in creation. Thanks be to God. 

Pastoral Prayer
When we take time to drink in our surroundings we recognize that this world, this world that you have given us, is an amazing place where life can truly flourish within the whole of creation and within each of us.

Help us to see that all life is sacred and blessed. Help us respond to all we have been given by caring for it, for each other and ourselves.    

As the Psalmist tells us – that your way is right and your wisdom is simple – open our hearts to see your light that shines on what is truly good and just and life giving.
Help us be strong to follow your way.
Help us heal this hurting world—your world.

Holy One, we come before you with humble hearts asking for forgiveness for the wrongs we have committed and all that we have turned a blind eye toward in our personal lives and our life together. Help us to know that you love us no matter what and that you offer divine compassion and healing love.

There are many who are in need of prayer. We pray for those who are facing forest fires in the West and floods in Europe and China. Grant courage to those who are responding to those in need. Give foresight and wisdom to those who are responsible for recovery and planning for the future. 

We pray for those whose lives are torn apart by war and conflict. We pray for the people of Ethiopia and Afghanistan, for Palestine and Israel and all other places where conflict roils

We pray for this good earth where our climate is changing. Help us to act responsibly so that it may flourish in the generations to come.

We pray for all who are grieving and we ask that you bless them with compassion and a sense of peace, with the strength they need for today and the days to come. 

We pray too for the front line workers in the pandemic and especially the scientists and medical personnel who are responding. Help them to use the wisdom and knowledge they have accumulated over the years as they seek to help others.

May these words of our mouths and the meditations of all our hearts, together, be pleasing to you, our God, our Rock, our Redeemer as together we pray in the words Jesus taught us saying, Our Father, who are in heaven . . . . Amen.