Easter 2, Environment Series Session 1 – Sunday April 11th 2021

Welcome

Welcome

Good Morning everyone and welcome to All Saints, Totley and our online service this morning. On Friday, we heard the announcement that Prince Philip had died and so before we begin our service. Let’s take a moment to entrust the Queen and her family to God and ask him to be with them in their sorrow and as they grieve.

Most merciful God,
whose wisdom is beyond our understanding,
surround the Queen and the Royal Family with your love,
that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss,
but have confidence in your goodness,
and strength to meet the days to come.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen

Today we beginning a six week series focusing on the environment, based on Ruth Valerio’s book ‘Saying Yes to life’. The book describes itself as a ‘mix of biblical reflection and contemporary application’[1] and so over the next six weeks we will follow the story of creation as found in the first chapter of Genesis and consider the Biblical themes introduced in each section as well as the contemporary application of this. There will be lots of supporting resources and activity suggestions to engage with the subject.

This morning we start at the beginning with the creation of light. We shall see where and how light features in the Bible and will look at light today, exploring some of the extraordinary creatures who use it in extraordinary ways, and the importance of light in the form of electricity for people. This will lead into thinking about energy and issues of poverty and climate change and the urgent need for all of us to take action.”[2]

The zoom coffee and chat will start at 11am and this morning I’m going to set up a  breakout room for anyone who wants to discuss the subjects raised in this weeks reflection. Details will be provided in the meeting.

But that’s enough from me. Lets begin our service with the words of Psalm 148

148 Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD from the skies.
Praise him high above the earth.
2 Praise him, all you angels.
Praise him, all you armies of heaven.
3 Praise him, sun and moon.
Praise him, all you shining stars.
4 Praise him, highest heavens
and you waters above the sky.
5 Let them praise the LORD,
because they were created by his command.
6 He put them in place forever and ever;
he made a law that will never change.
7 Praise the LORD from the earth,
you large sea animals and all the oceans,
8 lightning and hail, snow and mist,
and stormy winds that obey him,
9 mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle,
crawling animals and birds,
11 kings of the earth and all nations,
princes and all rulers of the earth,
12 young men and women,
old people and children.
13 Praise the LORD,
because he alone is great.
He is more wonderful than heaven and earth.
14 God has given his people a king.
He should be praised by all who belong to him;
he should be praised by the Israelites, the people closest to his heart.
Praise the LORD!

(c) The Holy Bible, New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

[1]    Valerio, R, Saying Yes to Life p.xiv

[2]    Valerio, R, Saying Yes to Life p.1

Worship

We continue with the theme of Praise with our songs – Great is the Lord and Indescribable

Great is the Lord and
Most worthy of praise
Who can compare
To His greatness
Creation displays
In magnificent ways
His glory, His majesty
His splendour

Great is the Father
Great is the Son
Great is the Spirit
Great is the Three in One
Singing great is the Lord

Great in His mercy
Great in His love
Great in His power
Great in His fullness above
Singing great is the Lord

Great is the Lord and
Most worthy of praise
Who can determine
His greatness
The heavens display
In extravagant ways
Your glory, Your majesty
Your splendour

How marvellous
How glorious You are
How powerful
How merciful You are

© 2008 Thankyou Music

Thank you prayers

Take some to time to say thank you God for the world he has made.

Word

Introduction

Firstly let me say that in no way at all, do I feel qualified to speak on the subject of the Environment or Climate change. However it seems to me as I have prepared for this series that if we love God, then we need to hear once again his command to be stewards of his creation and to observe the world around us and to notice its distress. We need to be determined to act and play our part. For as you will see as we move through the weeks – God declared each element of his creation to be good. He saw the intrinsic value in it all.
So I hope this series will be one of exploring together. I hope it will encourage discussion and dialogue, I hope we will find experts around us both within and outside of the church community who can inform and guide us. I hope it will be a time of listening to our young people and the issues that they care about. I hope it will be a time of experimentation, of trying things out and sharing our experiences with one another. Most of all, I am hoping that this series is only a beginning that will deepen our relationships with one another, our community and our world.

Our starting point is to consider who God himself is:
Our first reading this morning is taken from Genesis 1: 1-5. Biblical Scholarship has highlighted that the Creation story that we have in Genesis 1 was written by those returning from being in exile in Babylon with the aim of presenting a picture of a sacred society with delicate balances and interdependence, in which humanities responsibility is to exercise pastoral care. The way that the poem has been structured is similar to an older Mesopotamian creation poem called the ‘Enuma Eelish’ but the messages contained within the two texts are different. So in contrast where the ancient texts suggest the the world was created out of violence, with gods fighting one another and humanity was created to be slaves of the gods, the Genesis text highlights that God is one. The world was made at God’s command and humanity is created to care for the created world. The God who is worthy of worship is a God who creates.
We will not look at this any further during this reflection but one activity that you may wish to consider is to read the text or summary of the it and compare it with the Genesis account to see what the biblical authors are telling us about God.
Our second reading this morning taken from Colossians 1: 15-20, is a very early confessional hymn which speaks of the cosmic and reconciling (bringing together) work of the Redeemer. Paul uses this hymn in his letter to counter the current ideas of the teachers in Colossae. Whilst there is a whole other reflection on this I want to draw your attention to v16
“For in him all things were created,
in the heavens and here on the earth”
and v20
“…through him to reconcile all to himself
making peace through the blood of his cross,
through him – yes, things on the earth,
and also the things in the heavens”

This tells us that the God who creates is the one and same God who saves and his death on the cross that we celebrated just last week, was not just to reconcile people to God but to reconcile the whole of creation.

I wonder if this a new idea for you and I wonder what difference it makes if we fully understand and hold together the idea that the God who creates the whole world is the God who saves the whole world?

I invite you to read the passages before moving onto the Reflection.

The beginning
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3 And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light ‘day’, and the darkness he called ‘night’. And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day.

Genesis 1
1-5

The supremacy of the Son of God
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Colossians 1
15-20

As we begin to look at the creation story it’s worth noticing the symmetry which can be found in the order as to how the creation account is set out. In the first three days God creates the spaces for the living creatures to inhabit and so on Day one God separates light and darkness, creating night and day, which in day four the sun, moon and stars fill[1] and you can see this pattern play out across each of the days.

On Day One God creates light and declares it to be good (Genesis 1:4).  Throughout the bible light is often used to symbolise God and his presence, which acts as light in the darkness to guide his people. In the Old Testament this is demonstrated in the story of the Exodus with God leading his people through the wilderness.  As we move into the New Testament light comes to symbolise holiness and purity and the idea that God lives in unapproachable light. In John’s Gospel one of Jesus’ I am statements – “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12.  Yet there is also a note of judgement with the tension between light and dark between those who wish to walk in the light and those in the dark.

Can you think of any other examples? You will find a list in the transcript of this reflection, which perhaps you can have a look at in your own time.

  • Psalm 27:1
  • Psalm 119:105
  • Exodus 10:23
  • 1 John 1: 5-6
  • James 1:7
  • Ephesians 5: 8-9
  • 1 Timothy 6:16
  • 2 Corinthians 4: 6
  • Hebrews 1:3
  • Revelation 21: 23 and 22:5[2]

Valerio in her book states “Light is the Foundation of life: the essential building-block created on the first day, emanating from the Word and the Spirit of God. It is so foundational that we can live in it and yet miss its beauty and wonder.”[3] She continues by highlighting that as human beings we are dependent upon light to grow our food, provide Vitamin D to keep our bones healthy, to maintain our body clock which tells us when to be awake and when to sleep. For those affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, the lack of light and warmth affects mood and can cause depression.  We need light to see the world around us and we need light to see colour. But we are not the only part of creation that needs light. Valerio highlights that Deciduous trees (trees who lose their leaves in autumn) seem able to count the number of warm days until there have been enough for them to be certain it is safe to start growing new leaves but they also need light e.g. Beeches for example begin their growth once it has been light for at least thirteen house.[4]

Birds too also response to light in their breeding habits, needing a certain number of hours of light, before the hormones needed to re-produce are kick started.

Animals also use different types of light, e.g  Kestrels who use ultraviolet light to find their prey and the Anglerfish who uses bioluminescent light, in the lure that they dangle in front of themselves again in order to attract its prey. [5]

So having considered how important light is to us, lets now think about Electricity which provides us light. I wonder what it would be like if we didn’t have electricity, or night when it is dark outside. We do catch glimpses of this when there are power cuts but this is not a regular occurrence and so we don’t understand what it would be consistently like.

Valerio in her book tells the story of Phul and her family who live in a village in Nepal. Before the village had electricity, Phul would get up at 4am to grind their maize, wheat and corn by hand which took a long time. To have light, they would need kerosene and Phul had a long way to walk to get this. Sometimes it would be so expensive that she couldn’t afford it. To help earn enough money Phul’s children would also get up early to work and they could only study via the light of the Kerosene lamp in the evening, which meant they were often behind. When Phul’s village was provided with a micro – hydropower plant to generate electricity providing light to the village. It enabled the building of a mill, where Phul now grinds her maize, wheat and corn which is quicker and gives Phul time to start her own business. Her children are now able to complete their studies.[6]

Affordable and Clean energy is one of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals but it doesn’t just consider access to electricity but also having safe and clean cooking fuels to prevent accidents and reduce air pollution, increasing the use of renewable energy in transportation and heating and take further action to action the Sustainable Development Goal by 2030.[7]

Whilst it is important to increase access to electricity for the parts of the world who don’t have this, we also need to consider the source of our electricity. The majority of which still comes from fossils fuels which in themselves plays a role in causing climate change and the impact that this is having on God’s creation.  The United Nations comment ‘Energy is the dominant contributor to climate change, accounting for around 60 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions.’[8]

The intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change produced a report in 2018. It noted that the world was already one degree warmer than pre-industrial levels and we are on a path to being three degrees warmer.  The consequences of a 1.5 degree increase includes extreme weather events, sea level rise, species extinction and melting glaciers, all of which impact human health, livelihoods, food provision, water supply, security and economic growth but the consequences of a 2 degree increase. The report showed that it is possible to restrict the warming to one and half degrees but urgent action is needed to achieve this and it is needed now.[9] 

So what can we do?

  1. We can Learn and be informed, read our bibles we can discover how much the Creator God loves his creation. We can find out how we are doing in caring for creation, we can connect with organisations such as Tearfund and A Roche to gain factual information.
  2. We can take action s to reduce our own carbon emissions, be that in what we choose to eat, in how we choose to travel and where our energy comes from.
  3. Use our voices to push governments and businesses to make the large scale change that is needed.
  4. We can support organisations who are working to help communities adapt to climate breakdown and mitigate changes.[10]

There are lots of links to resources on the website for you to investigate but the challenge this morning to do some investigation and make a change.

[1]    Valerio, R, Saying Yes to Life p. 6
[2]    Valerio, Saying Yes to Life, pp.6-9
[3]    Valerio, Saying Yes to Life, p11
[4]    Valerio, Saying Yes to Life, p11 quoting P. Wohlleben: The Hidden life of Trees p.148
[5]    Valerio, Saying Yes to Life pp. 10-13
[6]    Valerio, Saying Yes to Life p.14-15
[7]    https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2019/goal-07/ accessed on 10/04/2021
[8]    https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/energy/ accessed on 10/04/2021
[9]    Valerio, Saying Yes to life p.18
[10]  Valerio, Saying Yes to life pp.19-22

Daily Activities to think about over the week.

  • As you notice light around you today – light from the sun, a lightbulb or a candle – become aware of God’s presence in the world. What does God say to you?
  • However light and sunny it is – or isn’t! – today, make at least one journey on foot. Longer term, could you make more sustainable travel choices, such as cycling or using public transport?
  • As well as adjustments in our own lives, tackling climate change will require governments and businesses to make big changes. Take time to convey your concerns as a citizen, consumer, voter and member of your church.
  • A third of the UK’s electricity now comes from renewable sources like solar. Ask your provider if you can switch to a 100% renewable energy tariff. If not, find one via the big church switch website.
  • Organizations such as Christian Aid and Tearfund work with communities in great need, including those already affected by climate breakdown. Pray for their work, and support it financially, too, if you can.

Additional Resources

If you would like do some further exploration following on from the themes spoken  about in today’s reflections please see below.

You can find a wealth of resources and areas to investigate at the official site including    the interview with Christiana Figueres.

 https://spckpublishing.co.uk/saying-yes-resources

Use this video to think about your response to the big story of God and the big invitation to be part of it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kU_YjZHgxb8

You may want to use the prayer as a reflection after the video.

Blessed be you Light of Life,  source of the sacred flame within each of us,
light which the darkness cannot put out.
I rise up with you this day. I rest with you this night.

Celtic prayer by priest and chaplain, Tess Ward

A Summary and Text of Enuma Elish, the Babylonian Creation poem mentioned.

https://www.ancient.eu/article/225/enuma-elish—the-babylonian-epic-of-creation—fu/

Information on the Sustainable Development Goal (No. 7) https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/energy/

        Questions to Consider

  1. Where does light feature in your own life? Can you share any particular experiences that have give you a new appreciation for light.
  2. We all need to make changes if the climate crisis is to be averted. Looking at the online resources, what changes will you make? When will you make them?

Witness

Prayers of Intercession

Family Prayer:

Thank you, God,
for the light and energy that we use every day.
May all countries act swiftly
to reduce energy use and combat climate change.
Help us to make small differences where we can.
Amen.

Prayers of Intercession:

God said, ‘Let there be light.’
Eternal God, we thank you for your light and your truth.
We praise you for your fatherly care
in creating a universe which proclaims your glory.
Inspire us to worship you, the creator of all,
and let your light shine upon our world.

God of life:
hear our prayer.
© Common Worship

Lord of All,
We pray for the organisations who are working to provide sustainable and renewable electricity to those parts of the world who have none.
We pray for the organisation who are working to reduce the impacts of climate change
Help us to consider the resources that we use and give us the courage to make changes that will make a difference.

God of life:
hear our prayer.

Lord of All,
We pray for those people and situations in the world that we are concerned about and name them before you….

God of life:
hear our prayer.

Heavenly Father, you have filled the world with beauty:
open our eyes to behold your gracious hand in all your works;
that, rejoicing in your whole creation,
we may learn to serve you with gladness;
for the sake of him through whom all things were made,
your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.
(c) Common Worship

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Close

Dismissal

So as you step into this week

May God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is the source of all goodness and growth
pour his blessing upon all things created
and upon you his children
that you may use his gifts to his glory and the welfare of the whole world.

and the blessing of God Almighty,
the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer,
be among you and remain with you always.
Amen.

Community

The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.

The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.

“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”

The Wardens of All Saints Totley have been producing regular newsletters with helpful links, thoughts and resources. The latest of these is here.

We have also started to add resources for the younger members of our church, to add to this virtual service. They can be found here, and here.

Reminder

If you have any feedback on this service or any other ideas, suggestions or contributions, for future services please do send these to comments@allsaintstotley.church