CMC Worship in Place | Easter 2 | Creation Care | April 19

Sunday Meditation | Easter 2 | Creation Care | 19 April 2020

Special thanks to Elisa and Matthew Leahy for video production.

Welcome and Call to Worship | Cindy Fath

For many, even most of us, the past month has meant that we find a new way of life.  For me, it meant creating a workspace in a room at home from which to facilitate classes for my ESL students. I suspect we’ve all found a new rhythm in our routines all the way from our tinies to our seasoned citizens.

What you may be less aware of is that our earth has also found a new routine.  Our world has been forced into a rest, a pause.  Covid-19’s globe-zigzagging impact has reminded us that nothing happens in isolation, that what affects one part, also affects the other, just as in the Body of Christ.  We are truly all in this together.

Today is Earth Sunday and we hope to together learn more about what it means to care about and care for creation, all the while giving honor to our Creator.  After God brought our planet into being, God pronounced it as very good.  And don’t we resonate with that description?  Maybe the pause we are experiencing has given you reason to walk around your neighborhood or putter about your yard more and behold the delights of new growth and life in this season of spring. 

Let’s join in reading:

Leader:  Lord, you placed us in your glorious creation, into the garden you made for each of us.

People:  You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens and all the starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. 

Leader:  You give life to everything and the multitudes of heaven worship you.  How many are your works, O Lord!  In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 

People  The Lord is good to all, having compassion on what was made.

Leader:  But today, all of creation is groaning. 

People:  We have turned pleasant fields into wastelands. We have muddied the water that gives us life. We have trampled the very land that feeds us.  For this, the land mourns; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying.

Leader:  We turn to you God.  And from the ends of the earth, we hear singing;

People:  “Glory to the Righteous One, glory to our Creator.” 

Leader:  May the whole earth be full of God’s glory!  Behold, the winter is past, flowers appear on the earth, the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is again heard in the land.

Lighting of Peace Candle | Isaac Ruggles

As we meet today in spirit but not in person, we gather around these Sunday Meditations offered by members of the CMC community. Just as we light the Peace Candle to begin our worship, you are invited to light a candle for these Meditations. The flame joins us in spirit across distance, along with our sister church in Armenia, Colombia.

HWB 156 | All things bright and beautiful | Phil Yoder

Children’s Time | Ruth Massey

A bald eagles nest is easily visible from a small parking lot beside a empty business/ house. The nest is directly across the Scioto River.
The address is 1009 Dublin Rd.

Books referred to during the Christian Ed hour/garden tour video below are:

Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Back Yards
by Sara Bonnett Stein

Bringing Nature Home
By Doug Tallamy

Pastoral Prayer | Mark Rupp

Today we are focusing on the care of Creation, so for our time of prayer, I want to invite us all into a posture that will help remind us that we are a part of this good Creation that we care for.  If it is comfortable for you, I invite you to join me in placing one hand over your heart and the other hand on your stomach. 

Feel your heart beat.  Feel the rise and fall of the air moving into your lungs, expanding your belly in and out.  Take a few moments to ground yourself in the soft earth of your body, remembering that when we pray, we are not disembodied souls trapped in earthly bodies but part of the living Creation that God declares very good. 

Breathe deeply of this goodness as we pray…

God, your glory is written across the heavens, declared by the tallest mountains, whispered by streams, and insisted by sunrises and night skies alike.  Help each one of us to know Your glory inscribed also on the doorposts of these fleshy sanctuaries.  May it remind us not just of our own goodness but of the depth of our ties to the world around us. 

For all the ways that we have ignored or exploited these connections, we ask forgiveness knowing that repentance can only come by drawing ourselves more tightly into the web of life. 

We call these many connections to mind as we pray for all of Creation, for neighbors near and far, for those in our Columbus Mennonite community who have asked for prayer, as well as the prayers on each of our hearts that remain unspoken…
God, may any selfishness, greed, and apathy be uprooted in us so that compassion, generosity, and wonder may have room to grow.  Amen.

HWB 89 | For the beauty of the earth | Phil Yoder

Scripture | Genesis 1:31; Genesis 2:15; Ezekiel 34:18 | Jim Fath

  Genesis 1:31 (NIV)
  God saw all that he had made and it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning–the sixth day.

  Genesis 2:15 (NIV)
  The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

  Ezekiel 34:18 (NIV)
  Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet?

Meditation | Earth Sabbath | Dan Halterman

I added the bow tie to help you feel some normalcy.  You are welcome!

My initial idea list for today included: sharing some of my intense passion for soil (it’s hard for me limit words when I get going on that); the Pale Blue Dot image of our tiny, planet hanging insignificantly and all but imperceptibly in space, probably with typical Creation Story passages about dominion over the Earth; and the challenges of faithful living when life as we knew it is rapidly changing.

The latter would’ve been about climate change, not about coronavirus.

Then serendipity jumped in, its usual entrance, to make it sort of about both!

Three headlines from recent weeks made the connections:

The first, Earth Is Vibrating Substantially Less Because There’s So Little Activity Right Now

The second, The Pandemic Has Led to a Huge, Global Drop in Air Pollution – offering an accidental glimpse into what a low-carbon future might look like.

The first, from April 4 by VICTOR TANGERMANN:

“Flights are grounded. Fewer trains are running. Rush hour is gone. The world – particularly in cities – is looking drastically different during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

According to seismologists, that drastic reduction of flights, trains, rush hour – human hustle and bustle – is causing the Earth to move substantially less. The planet is ‘standing still’.

Belgian researchers see Brussels experiencing a 30 to 50 percent reduction in seismic noise since the lockdowns began”

Researchers in Los Angeles and in London noticed a similar trend. 

The second article is from March 28 by Jonathan Watts and Niko Kommenda: The coronavirus pandemic shutdown of industrial activity has slashed air pollution levels around the world.

Satellite imagery shows pollution levels over cities and industrial clusters in Asia and Europe were markedly lower than in the same period last year.

The World Health Organization is now investigating whether airborne pollution particles may be a vector that spreads Covid-19 and makes it more virulent.

This recent news echoes a similar event from early this century –

Some of you may remember when the second week of September 2001 presented unusually clear skies over North America and the North Atlantic when air traffic abruptly stopped after the September 11 attacks. 

I’m fond of saying “there’s nothing so entirely messed up that somebody is not benefiting from it.”   I can’t find the source of this –it’s not mine. 

The global coronavirus pandemic has resulted quickly in two Earth-happy realities – we’re giving the planet a physical rest and a breathing rest, at the same time, appropriate and timely (and entirely unintended) for Earth Day. We didn’t plan it, no local Earth Day Committee or major environmental organization promoted it; no brainstorming could have suggested a temporary global economic shutdown to “save the earth”, and no “futurist” foresaw it. 

However, it was envisioned.  Thousands of years ago, mandated in Jehovah’s law, part of Jubilee described in Leviticus 25: 

25 The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the LordFor six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. 

I understand there is disagreement about the historical application of Jubilee by the Israelites, and there is no evidence it was ever followed.  We do have the ideal described.  Much as Earth Day promotes ideals that are yet to be achieved, while the necessary application is not being followed.

The Israelites probably missed something important and of great value by foregoing Jubilee living; the Bible is silent on any benefits accruing.  We are given a picture of a troubled globe given brief respite it has not experienced for over a century, brought about by something terrible for us, something not of our choosing or design.  We have adequate science to tell us the benefits of giving the Earth respite from our rule over it.

A global pandemic over which I have little control is a time for humility –  “humility” in its deepest etymological roots derives from the Latin humus (earth).  Last year I was presented with what became a favorite image of our place in the Earth.  It’s from the last rites of the religion Bokononism created by Kurt Vonnegut for his novel, Cat’s Cradle.  Here’s the short version of this spoken ritual:

“God made mud.” 

“God got lonesome.” 

“So God said to some of the mud, ‘Sit up!'” 

“‘See all I’ve made,’ said God, ‘the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars.’ ” 

“And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.” 

“Lucky me; lucky mud.” 

“I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had done.” 

“Nice going, God!” 

‘Nobody but You could have done it, God! I certainly couldn’t have.” 

‘I feel very unimportant compared to You.” 

‘The only way I can feel the least bit important is to think of all the mud that didn’t even get to sit up and look around.” 

‘I got so much, and most mud got so little.” 

“Thank you for the honor!” 

I like that image for celebrating all the mud of Creation, including you.

Now, a few of you may recall I mentioned three news articles.  It wasn’t because sermons are to have three points.  Here’s the third, and it combines social distancing, sort of, and people granting a period of rest, a Sabbath, sort of, to the Earth:

With the current pandemic changing the lives of billions across the planet with the implementation of social distancing, one bright spot is the positive impact on wildlife as natural environments are free of human activity.

In the latest example, eastern India has seen a huge influx of sea turtles making their way to beaches across the country to lay their eggs free of human activity and amid reduced pollution, allowing for a much safer and productive hatching season.

As people around the globe practice social distancing in the hope of ensuring our future, sea turtles come together in immense numbers to ensure theirs.  Indian researchers estimate sea turtles will lay 60 million eggs this year, partly a benefit of reduced human activity giving these creatures some rest from environmental stresses that usually affect their reproduction.

And    we   get     to     be     part   of      THAT!

And for that, I say, “Lucky me; lucky mud.  I got so much, and most mud got so little.  Thank you for the honor!”

Now repeat after me:

Lucky me; lucky mud.

I got so much, and most mud got so little.

Thank you for the honor!

STJ 25 | When long before time | Phil and Julie Hart

Meditation | Celebrating Creation in a Time of Social Distancing | Gina Jaquet

As I began to think about what to share in this meditation, I couldn’t help but think about how different Earth Day is this year.  Though this is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, at times, I am sure that all of us are feeling some disconnect from the typical celebration of life that usually happens each spring.  The sense of renewal, new life, growth, trees and flowers blooming…

Though, perhaps this is a year where we can reflect more on creation and the incredible natural world God has provided to us.  As our lives have certainly changed pace and we are removed from our usual routines, some things slow down.  There is beauty in the first sprouting seed or the unexpected free time to expand a garden this year.  This feeling of wonder is summarized well in Job 12: 7-10, “Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”

The natural world truly is “gift laden.”

We can show our respect for creation through our commitment to stewardship.  Care for the earth and creation is not an Earth Day slogan, but is embedded in our faith.  The Bible is filled with reflections on the relationship between God and nature, and the role of humans in this world. Sustainability isn’t a reaction or a burden – it is a lifestyle and our calling.  We are called to serve others and protect our natural world.  Just as Jesus is depicted as a servant-king, so humans are challenged in the story of creation to assume a similar role:  “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).  Creation care is important not to serve ourselves but to serve the well-being of the entire earth community – together as a collective.

But how can we do this when we are in isolation?

During this time, a focus on “home” might lead us to the answer.  Home is a place where we show our true selves and develop habits and routines that mirror our values.  Also, our home lives connect to many of the major environmental concerns:  energy use, food systems, water use, materials, potentially runoff.   The takeaway is that the choices we make every day do directly impact ozone deterioration, waste streams, air and water pollution, and other consequences that impact life on Earth.  Our work at home with our families and as individuals creates the condition for a ripple effect far beyond ourselves.   In Christie Purifoy’s book, Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace, she explores themes of rootedness, belonging, and cultivating places of rest and retreat, of spaciousness and peace. She uses the larger metaphor of a tree and the way we “root” to our homes and physical places. But also of note is that she considers what it means to “cast seeds of love” wherever we find ourselves.  Further yet, she shares that home is “never simply a threshold you cross, but a place you make.”

What does it mean to make a household or family commitment to creation care?  Does it make a difference to take action on an individual level? 

What can we do?

Reflect on your ecological impact:

Have you heard of calculating your carbon or ecological footprint?  These calculators typically total your negative impact on the natural world and use of materials.  This is because climate change is closely linked to consumption and exhaustive use of materials and energy.  This is linked with our lifestyles:  what we buy, how we use energy resources, and how we live.  Consider that you also can reflect on something called your ecological “handprint.”  The ecological “handprint” is a measure of the positive impacts we can make individually, and together, to restore the balance between consumption and the planet’s carrying capacity.  The Footprint and Handprint are two complementary concepts that help us be mindful of our unintentional and intentional impacts, and guide us towards a more sustainable lifestyle that contributes positively towards our society and planet. Consider your handprint and footprint before and after COVID-19 and talk with your family to see what you might do together.  There are still some opportunities to shop local, for example, in our area some farmer’s markets have online ordering and curbside pickup – a great option to support small scale family farms during this time.

Consider the 6Rs:

You may have heard about the 3Rs – associated with recycling and waste streams.  An expansion of that is the 6Rs:  Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Rot, Recycle.  When I think about these terms, I always remind myself that the order is most important.  Recycling is what we should try to do if we cannot do any of the previous 5 Rs.

Refuse:  Try not to buy wasteful or non-recyclable products.  Request reusable containers.

Reduce:  Try to reduce the use of harmful or non-recyclable products.  Use the minimum amount of materials required to avoid unnecessary waste.

Reuse:  Try to replace single-use plastics and other items with compostable or reusable alternatives.

Repurpose:  This is also referred to as upcycling.  Find a second use in materials – many products can serve more than one purpose (mason jars, tin cans, and more).

Rot: Find a way to compost some of your materials and your food scraps.  Make a compost pile in your yard and use it in your garden.

Recycle:  Last, but not least.  This is the most environmentally friendly waste disposal method for cardboard, mixed paper products, glass, aluminum, and plastics.

Join in virtual collective eco-action:

If you aren’t aware April 17-26th is Faith Climate Action Week, hosted by Interfaith Power and Light.  Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, all activities have been moved online and this year’s theme is Love Made Visible: Engaging in Sacred Activism.  You can join an online climate march (including some fun sign-making with your families), sign up to join in the National Earth Day Climate Prayer, view The Human Element documentary, or plant trees via the Carbon Covenant program ($5 plants a tree that will sequester one ton of carbon pollution over its lifetime).  There are many more resources and activities available on the website:

Know that there is much reflection we can do on the messages God has sent to us, on our own lifestyles and impacts, and on ways we can better engage each other and our natural world during this quieter time.  This year, while thinking about my appreciation for God’s creation, I also plan to take a note from Christie’s book through consideration of my own “placemaking” and the ways in which peace and place are indistinguishable.  I hope you and your family will too.  I’ll leave you with a quote from the author of the book, Gardening Eden:  How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life, and our World.  He writes:

“For much of the last century, religious institutions have missed–or ignored–our responsibility as stewards of the creation and to the Creator.  However, people of faith have long relished the grimy pleasures of gardening.  The process of nurturing life brings contentment and a sense of wholeness in the accomplishment.  We instinctively understand that we were designed to be gentle gardeners.  We just haven’t realized the entire planet is our garden.”

Peace and many blessings to you and yours this Earth Day.

Benediction | Tim Jaquet

Christian Education | Caring for creation in our backyard | Ruth Massey