Easter 6, Environment Series: Creatures of Sea and Sky – Sunday May 9th 2021

Prior to our service today, the Wardens have an important statement prepared by Bishop Pete to share. The recording is below.

Welcome

Over the last four weeks We have been following a series based on the book Saying Yes To Life written by Ruth Valerio. We have been following the creation story found in Genesis chapter 1 . Today we look at day 5. By now There is light, atmosphere, water, land and vegetation; warmth and a rhythm of day and night and seasons.  The world is now able to sustain animals and the first to be created are the creatures to fill the waters and the seas, then the birds to fly in the sky. So our focus today will be on how humans are interacting with birds singing in the trees  and the teeming life found in the waters of the earth and the challenges that we face caring for Gods Creation. The service will be slightly different this week

Opening Prayer

Heavenly father, our provider, our maker and our protector.

Through your goodness, we are alive and healthy enough to gather and worship you.

We praise you for all that you have given us and thank you in Jesus’ name.

Holy Lord, we commit ourselves to you and ask that everything we do be done for your glory forever and ever.

Amen

Worship

O LORD, our Lord,how majestic is Your name in all the earth!

You have set Your glory above the heavens.

When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars,which You have set in place—

what is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels

You crowned him with glory and honour. You made him ruler of the works of Your hands; You have placed everything under his feet all sheep and oxen, and even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!

Amen

Psalm 8
1-9

The psalm reminds us that As people of faith, we cannot simply say we believe and leave it at that. We cannot fail to appreciate the heavy responsibility laid on human beings to be good stewards of the world that God created. Every single one of us has an obligation to live out our life in the way Christ has called us to live, to care not only for our fellow human beings but also the creatures and creation that God has so generously provided for us.

Word

Lord, when we have taken your creation for granted;
 Forgive us, gracious Father.
When we have abused its resources and polluted its purity;
Forgive us, gracious Father.
When we have not fulfilled our calling to steward your earth;
Forgive us, gracious Father

May we work with you in the renewal of creation;
Empower us, Holy Spirit
May we speak and act for the good of your planet.
Inspire us, Jesus Christ.
May we value and share the good gifts you provide;
Encourage us, Father of creation. Amen.

  Environmental Confession Sam Hargeaves engage worship

The Special prayer  for the sixth Sunday of Easter.

Almighty God,

who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life:

grant that, as by your grace going before us you put into our minds good desires, so by your continual help we may bring them to good effect;

through Jesus Christ our risen Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Amen

The sheer diversity of God’s creation is truly awesome. There are approximately 11,000different bird species and around 30,000fish species , though no one  knows for sure and when it comes to insects estimates range between six and ten million species. I have included insects because many of them fly.

30 different types of bird are mentioned in the Bible. The Dove is one of the best known and has long been a symbol of the Holy Spirit. In rabbinic tradition doves represent faithfulness. A variety of different birds are used metaphorically in the Old Testament. . In Luke 12  Jesus affirms his Fathers Love for Sparrows when he talks to his disciples about not being afraid. Sparrows are everywhere and are cheap they are sold 5 for two pennies and yet even with this ubiquitous bird that is hardly worth noticing not one of them is forgotten by God. Arguing from the lesser to the greater, if this is the case with sparrows whom God loves, then just think how much your heavenly Father cares for you

The seas and fish do not feature in the scriptural stories in quite the same way as other elements of the natural world. The sea is closely linked to the temple. Ezekiel’s vision in chapter 47 reflects the importance of the sea as water flows from the temple into the Dead Sea, bringing it to life so that it is filled with large numbers of fish- plenty for everyone to catch.

The oceans and the creatures that live within them are valued by God and take their place alongside the whole creation in praising God. The psalmists command them “Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them,”

In the vision of heaven found in John’s book of revelation Chapter 5 we read that every creature in heaven and on earth and on the sea, and all that is in them singing praise and honour and glory and power to the one who sits on the throne and to the lamb. Yet the sea creatures suffer the consequences of people’s sins. In Hosea chapter 4 we read how it is because of the behaviour of the people of God that the land dries up, and all who live in it waste away, the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea are swept away. 

We need to remember that human beings are after all completely interdependent with creation, human beings cannot flourish if the natural world is failing to flourish. Sadly, by the way we in the developed world are currently living we are all mistreating and abusing God’s gift of creation to us. Reconnecting and rebuilding our relationship with our planet will also help us to build up our relationship with its creator our loving God.

Please listen to this song, before moving on in the reflection.

20 Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.”

23 And evening passed and morning came, marking the fifth day.

Genesis 1
20-23

Please watch this short video, before moving on in the reflection.

God didn’t say “That’ll Do” when he saw the teeming shoals and swarming flocks that he had made. No God sees that they are good, not only that but God for the first time pronounces a blessing on his creatures telling them to be fruitful and fill the space that he has created for them. It is important for us to realise that God gives his blessing to all living creatures not Just to Adam and Eve. The literal translation for both sea creatures and humans in Genesis 1 is living being. Sea Creatures and Birds are not just there to provide food for us they have a value in their own right. They have been created by God and he has blessed them and declared them Good. If we  haven’t got the point the yet , we should not simply focus on the people in the Bible but take into account that the natural world is also clearly part of the story.

I don’t know about you but I love watching the birds in my garden and listening to the birdsong. Many of the church family got involved with this years RSPB bird watch.  The sparrow was once again the most frequently sighted bird in our gardens yet the tree sparrow has declined by 95%. in numbers since the mid-1970s  and the house sparrow has declined by 70% and is now red listed as a species of high conservation concern Yet these are the most frequently seen birds in our gardens so what does that say about what is happening to other species. In the UK countryside there are now half as many birds as there were in 1980. This trend is  repeated worldwide  bird numbers are plummeting rapidly with over 1500 species  at risk of extinction.  Habitat loss and climate change are the two main drivers of the decline in bird numbers Habitat loss is perhaps the biggest issue . since 1970 around the globe  urban areas have more than doubled and agricultural land has increased by more than 10 %.(our world in data  land use  H Ritchie and M roser2019) In the Uk The desire for increased efficiency has led to hedgerows being destroyed to create larger fields of mono culture crops and allow ploughing closer to the edge of fields. Better drainage has removed damp areas and wetlands along with a move away from mixed farming to specialized arable or livestock farming have all reduced the diverse habitat that birds need to survive. Alongside these the dependence on the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides have destroyed the insect population and wild plants that the birds feed on and degraded the soil. When you add in the fact that farm buildings have changed and no longer provide space for nesting birds and bats it is easy to see why bird populations are declining so much. But it is not just farmers to blame . The house sparrow has always lived near humans and been a feature of our towns and cities . Once the commonest bird of all in London even taken as a symbol of street wise urban Londoners,: Cockney sparrahs have gone from many parts of  London almost completely.. Our houses and work buildings no longer provide places for the sparrows to nest, The light pollution and pollution from traffic has adversely affected the insect population, the hedges that once bordered our gardens and provided shelter have increasingly been replaced by fences or walls , front gardens have become parking lots with no life in them at all. Our back gardens are not cultivated in the way they once were ,cottage gardens have for the most part become entertainment spaces, with patios extensive lawns and low maintenance planting which do not provide the bio diversity that the sparrows and other birds need   to find the insects that their young all  feed on in the first days of their life.

There are many ways we can help reverse the decline in house sparrows and other birds . Providing food in your garden such as sunflower hearts and meal worms or by leaving a section of your lawn to grow wild to encourage the insects that make up their diet. Planting native wild flowers will also help to do this. Providing nest boxes in appropriate places. Research in the UK has shown that there are 30 % more species of plant animal and insect life on organic farms than on  non-organic farms . Also, there were 44% more birds and significantly more endangered birds. One of the best things we can do is to support farmers who are growing crops and rearing livestock organically by buying organic produce where we can or failing that produce with the LEAF marque which includes using traditional methods with modern pesticides and aims to minimize environmental impact. Organic food may be more expensive, so try switching one of your main food items to organic and gradually try to buy more organic items.

71% of the worlds surface is made up of seas and oceans Our seas are a critical part of the climate system they distribute warmth around the world through large scale ocean currents. They are a key element in the water cycle that supports life on land. The creatures that live in them are incredibly precious; they are needed for life itself. Phytoplankton produces lots of oxygen and absorb CO2. It is in our own interest to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources, but sadly we are failing to do so. In 2019 the intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services reported that a third of fish stocks were being harvested at unsustainable levels and less than one tenth of fish stocks were being harvested below the level that is sustainable.  Not only are we taking too many fish out of the sea we are doing so in ways which are causing significant damage to the habitats within the sea and killing vast numbers of marine life we have no desire to eat. Industrial overfishing exploits rich fishing grounds leaving dwindling stocks for local fishermen and exacerbates poverty for coastal communities that depend on the seas.

 Climate change is also affecting our oceans. Coral reefs cover less than 2% of the ocean floor yet they support one quarter of all known marine species. They have the  highest biodiversity of any eco system globally which in turn directly supports 500 million of the poorest  people world-wide. They also form a protective barrier for the land against storms and tidal surges. As the oceans warm the coral dies ,currently a third of reef building coral species is threatened with extinction without action this figure will only rise.

Alongside overfishing and climate change pollution particularly plastic pollution is impacting negatively on our oceans and the living things that depend on them. over recent years we have all seen shocking images of the effects  plastic into our oceans.is having on  Marine life and sea birds .  Plastic never goes away, it doesn’t biodegrade, over time it just breaks down into small pieces called microplastics which then end up being consumed by sea creatures mistaking them for plankton. The cumulative affect of this is detrimental to the health of the creature.

I was staggered to find out that the UK is second only to the usa in the amount of plastic waste produced per person (national Geographic)30 0ct 2020. Less than a third of that is recycled. The rest is either land fill which will leach micro plastic into the rivers and oceans  or the waste plastic is  incinerated which adds to CO2 emissions. We must break our plastic addiction and move away from single use plastics. Not just coffee cups and water bottles but all the single use plastic that is used in the packaging of almost every item of food , our cleaning products, toiletries, toys, and any other product that we purchase. Also we need to be aware that many of the clothes we wear contain synthetic fibres all of which are forms of plastic. Every time we wash a single load of such clothes they release thousands of micro fibres which eventually reach the oceans adding to the microplastic pollution that’s accumulating in the food chain and being ingested by all sorts of marine life and eventually us.

It takes thought and a willingness to do things differently especially when there is likely to be a financial cost and we have all allowed ourselves to take things for granted for so long and not questioned the effects of our actions. Try stepping up reducing the use of plastics. I have returned to using bars of soap as I did in my child hood instead of shower gel and soap and shampoo in plastic bottles. Try shopping at places that do not use plastic to wrap their goods. Consider buying clothes made out of natural fibres rather than synthetic ones. Join a campaign to get supermarkets to ditch throwaway plastic packaging.

 To help stop the oceans from warming we can all reduce our production of CO2 by using our cars less, reducing the amount of electricity we waste and consume. Switching to a power company that specialises in renewable energy

Buy Fish that carries the marine stewardship council’s blue fish label which certifies sustainable fisheries.  Join a campaign to restrict the use of damaging fishing methods.

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We are all at the end of a chain of blessing or at the end of a chain of cursing, what we buy ,how we eat and live will impact on other  living beings far away for good or ill and eventually impact on us in the same way.

We have faced some big issues this morning and we may feel that whatever we do individually  will make no difference. we must do something we cannot do nothing.   All of these changes have happened during my life time, so if we act we can make a difference. If in the event of  a fire in gilfield wood  I took a bucket of water to put it out people would say that’s not going to make a difference. However by making an effort, refilling my bucket from the river and repeatedly using it I am doing the best that  I can . and if everyone living in Totley all 8000 each took a bucket of water and repeatedly refilled it from the river that would have an impact.

. God cares for all of His creation , if we know god loves us and we love God then we have  an obligation to do the best we can to live out our life in the way that cares not only for our fellow human beings but also the creatures and creation that God has so generously provided for us.  Don’t be despondent God will be with his people as together we face the challenges , hardships and joy of caring for the world he created for us.  Do you not know? have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired . he gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak, those who trust in the Lord will find new strength They will Soar on wings like eagles.

Witness

Prayers of Intercession

Loving God, Lord of heaven and earth, this earth, our home, belongs to you .

We thank you Heavenly Father, that though we are aware of the world’s many trials and troubles we can enjoy and be amazed at the stunning diversity You placed in every part of Creation.

We thank You for Your marvellous provision of everything we humans need for a perfectly fulfilling life

Father, You put everything here for us to enjoy, for us to marvel at, for us to realise You love us so much. All of Your creation reminds us of You and Your presence with us

which, in turn, brings great comfort even when we hear of dreadful things happening in and to  the world around us showing – how just how  far short of Your ways we have fallen.

Father, we are so grateful that You do not change, and we understand that You have given us a job to do;

To live our lives as channels of your love for all creatures of this earth for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.


Give us grace to love the world as you do. Give us courage to give ourselves, as you do, for the good of all people and all of your creation.

 Strengthen us to stand, as you do, with the vulnerable poor. Give us wisdom to know when we have enough, and the voice to say “enough” to all that harms creation and hurts the poorest.

Enlighten the leaders of the nations and those who possess power and money that they may avoid indifference,

that they may love the common good, advance the weak, and care for this world in which we live.

Amen

that they may love the common good, advance the weak, and care for this world in which we live.

Amen

Father, we pray healing, peace and comfort for all the people of India We ask you God to bring healing to a nation that is experiencing devastation.

Father, we pray for oxygen, vaccinations and all supplies needed to help these people.

God of heaven and earth open the eyes of all the countries of the world that they would see and assist India.

Father we pray for the people of Myanmar. Lord we pray for peace and justice and the restoration of democracy

God of heaven and earth open the ears and hearts  of the military leaders that they would listen to the people and step down

Father we pray for your church around the world. At this difficult time Lord we pray that your Holy Spirit will empower Christians everywhere to reflect your love, seek your justice, bring comfort and relief to the poor and needy and bring hope to the downcast.

God of heaven and earth open the eyes of the world so that people everywhere  will come to know  your Son Jesus Christ as saviour and friend

Father , as our world seems more and more chaotic  help us to open our hearts and minds to your peace. Sometimes, Lord when we are  bombarded by news and statistics, we may feel  scared,  and afraid that nothing will ever be the same again. In those moments, be with us so that we feel your love surrounding us and help us to remember that you will never leave us.

God of heaven and earth give us the strength to reach out to other people to share our feelings and fears and to listen to theirs so that together we may find calm in knowing that we are your people and you gift us with all we need.

Father we pray for all who suffer in mind,  body or spirit. Lord we pray  for those in hospital , surround the frightened with your tenderness ,give strength to those in pain; hold the weak in your arms of love, and give hope and patience to those who are recovering;

We ask this In the name of Your Son our saviour Jesus Christ

Amen

The Lords 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.

Suggested Activities:

 

  • Allow yourself to wonder at the abundant, varied and often beautiful creatures who share our world. Discover more about birds or sea creatures by watching a documentary or researching online.
  • There is an urgent need for us to break our plastic addiction. What more could you do to reduce your own use of plastic at home and on the move?
  • If you eat fish or shellfish look out for products that carry the Marine Stewardship Council’s blue fish label which certifies sustainable fisheries.
  • Intensive farming is associated with hedgerow loss and reduced biodiversity. When you buy fruit and vegetables, look out for produce from less intensive organic or LEAF-certified producers.
  • Can you create or restore a habitat for birds in your garden – or in your local churchyard or other community space?
  • Eggs are closely associated with Easter celebrations and decorations. How happy are the hens that lay the eggs you will buy? Look for free-range in the shops, sourced locally if possible.

 

Activities for Kids

 

  • Explore the wonders of the deep! – Watch a nature documentary or research online to discover more about the life of our oceans – and thank God for the wonders of his creation.
  • Can you use less plastic? – Too much plastic is ending up in the sea and endangering sea creatures big and small. Think of ways you and your family could use less.
  • Read about Jesus and the amazing catch of fish – Fish make plenty of appearances in the Bible. Read how Jesus helped Simon Peter and his friends make an unexpected catch of fish in Luke 5:4-11.
  • Look at the birds of the air – Watch – and listen – out for birds today. Bigger cities and changes to farming mean there are many fewer than a few decades ago.
  • Feed the birds – Jesus tells us that God not only cares about every person but even the smallest sparrow. Can you put out some food and water for the birds today?

Blessing

Prayer taken from (Ephesians 3:14-19)

I pray that out of his glorious riches our heavenly Father may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 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