Virtual Services

Easter 7, Environment Series: Session 6 – Sunday May 16th 2021

Welcome

Hi everyone and welcome to All Saints, Totley and our online service, whether you are with your household or on your own and no matter what time you are watching. Welcome, it is great that you have chosen to join us.           

Today we come to the last session in our series focusing on the environment, based on Ruth Valerio’s book ‘Saying Yes to life’. Over the past five weeks we have moved through the story of creation found in the first chapter of Genesis. We have seen how in days one to three God created the environments, the spaces that were then filled in days one to six. We have looked at the biblical themes and some of the key issues that our world is currently facing and through it all, there has been the challenge to consider our own impact on our world and the changes we can make to be kinder to our environment.

In this final session we consider the creatures of the land, including humans. We’ll think about what it means for humans to be made “in the image of God” and how it affects our relationship with one another and with the rest of creation.

In other news, it was agreed at PCC on Monday that we would re-open the church building for services from next Sunday 23rd May, when we will celebrate Pentecost.

Please note that social distancing will remain in place and meeting for worship will following the guidelines and structure as the last time we were in church. For those of you that do not wish to return we are still working out what this will look like but if you have any thoughts or preferences, please send your thoughts to the email address comments@allsaintstotley.church.

The Zoom Coffee and Chat will continue until Sunday 20th June and the PCC will consider whether to extend this or not at their meeting in June.

Lastly I just wanted to mention the Deanery Confirmation Service that will be held at All Saints on Monday 11th October.  If you want to know more about confirmation and what this involves, please do get it touch. I would love to speak to you about this?

As we start our worship this morning, why not look out of your window and give thanks    for all that you see.

Worship

Our worship this morning is provided by Resound Worship and two songs from their Album Doxecology.
God the Maker of the Heavens by Sam Hargreaves
and
You saw that it was good by Alex Fergusson and Tim Fergussion

Take a moment to pause and tell God what is on your heart.

Word

24 And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.’ And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’

29 Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.

Genesis 1
24-31

The Interconnectedness between animals and humanity

At the start of this reflection, I want you to think of an animal you are connected with… so that might be a pet, or it could be the birds or another animal that visits your garden on a regular basis… Now that you are thinking of them, how are you connected to them?

Ruth Valerio in her book tells the story of their encounters with a hedgehog and her three babies that regularly visited the garden and of the routine of watching first mum and then mum and babies, come to feed on the water and hedgehog food that Valerio and her family placed out for them on a daily basis.

And I have thought fondly of the pigeons that come and visit the bird feeder and who seem to watch and demand that I fill it back up again especially if I don’t do this straight away upon my return from my morning walk, but as time as gone on I am also experiencing the wonder of watching the smaller birds – blue tits being the only ones I can recognise – also starting to use the feeders too. Let’s hold on to those thoughts as we start to explore our passage for this morning.

At the start of our reading from Genesis, verses 24 & 25, God creates the animals from the ground, the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground and the wild animals, each according to its own kind, which can also be translated as ‘each according to to its species’. The Hebrew word here translated as creatures is the same word used in the previous section when referring to the sea creatures and remind us that these too have God’s breath in them. They are living creatures and we share a world with a wide range of different species of creatures across the world Notice too that having created the land animals, at the end of verse 25, God pauses and then declares them to be good, thus re-affirming the intrinsic value and worth of all that God has created.

All to often we understand connectedness in human terms. Many of you will have heard me speak of a report commissioned by David Blunkett a number of years ago now called ‘A tale of two cities’. In it highlighted that the affluence of the Hallam ward in Sheffield, had prevented the remaining five wards from accessing funding they were eligible for to tackle poverty and inequalities for those living in those areas and this is why I am so passionate about the common fund, for it comes from the recognition that we have an impact on our brothers and sisters throughout the diocese.

As a church, we also see this too, in our links with David Kereto and his work in Kenya, but these two verses in Genesis suggest we need a broader understanding, one that sees our connectedness not only with one another both seen and unseen, known and unknown but also with the animals around the world both seen and unseen, known and unknown.

Jon loves reality TV shows and he often watches those series that tell the stories of people living in Alaska. Occasionally, I will watch these with him and as I have done so, I see that sense of connectedness that they have to the land and the animals they share it with. Yes they hunt for food, but what is noticeable is the rules they live by. They only kill what they need. Having killed an animal, they place a hand on the animal and thank it for is life and for the way it will provide for them and there is no waste for they will use every part of the animal. Be that for food, clothing or to make tools.

We are living in a time when more and more species of animals are at threat of extinction, often through humanities practices and lifestyles, which destroy habitats usually to gain precious resources or to make way for farming or agriculture. But it is not just the animals that lose out, we too are losing out. Think back to the animals you thought about at the start of this reflection, what would miss if they were no longer around.

What does it mean to be made in the image of God?

I have another question for you, so take a moment to either ponder or discuss within your household the following: What do you think it means to be made in the image of God and what does this mean?

In last week and this, we have seen that within the Genesis narrative, humanity has the same breath of God in them as do the creatures . The blessing and the command to be be fruitful and increase in number, given to the sea creatures in v22 is the same command as God gives to humanity in verse 28 and yet there is a difference, in that humanity, men and women are made in the image of God. There is much that could be said about this, but in terms of our subject, the key thing is that bearing God’s image gives us a job to do and this impacts how we view our relationships with one another and how we view our relationships with the wider creation.
The genesis narrative contrasts to other contemporary narratives. In other ancient cultures it was the only the king who was made in the image of God. But within the Genesis narrative, we find a radical equality in that all people are made in the image of God as the psalmist says we are all fearfully and wonderfully made and yet within the world there remains a vast inequality between people and specifically between the genders and there is much work around the world that looks to redress this balance. Valerio quotes Rowan Williams when she says “Every time something happens to a person that goes against the value and worth God places on them, ‘some unique and unrepeatable aspect of God’s purposes has been allowed to vanish.’ It is important to remember this when we relate to one another.

But we also need to consider how we relate to the rest of creation and the world we live in. The role given to humanity is that of a caretaker, we are to care for the world and yet the all to often the words to rule, to subdue, have dominion over have been used to to legitimise the ravaging of the land and seas. But if we recognise that we are connected to our world, that we are a part of the community of creation then we realise that we are not immune to the suffering that whole of creation experiences and we can no longer ignore the effects of climate change which are being experienced by some of the poorest parts of the world right now.

Lastly, as part of creation we all share a common food, in verse 30, the plants were given to all creatures and humans for food. Food is important to us, not only because if provides energy but I pays an important part in building community and personal relationships, yet food and its production, transportation, packaging and disposal is currently one of the key factors in the issues that the world is facing and so considering our diet and making steps to reduce the amount of meat and diary we consume and move towards a more plant based diet will have a positive impact on the planet.

Over this series, we have considered a number of issues that we are facing and I am of the conclusion that whether actively or passively, there is no doubt that humanity including myself has fallen short of its role to look after and care for creation, but we do have a choice about how we act as we going forward, just as we choose to follow God and perhaps we need to broaden our understanding of following God to incorporate the love and care for the land and creatures around us.

In a couple of weeks on the 6th June, we will be holding a Climate Sunday service, during this it would be great to have a number of stories from you as to what you have learnt over this series and the changes that you have made as a result of that. If you would like to participate, please record your stories and send them through to comments@allsaintstotley.church, by Sunday 30th May, so we will edit them together to show on the day.
Remember you don’t need to be on camera, a picture and a voice will work, especially if you are under 18.

Confession

You delight in creation, its colour and diversity;
yet we have misused the earth
and plundered its resources for our own selfish ends.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

You have brought order out of chaos,
light in darkness, good out of evil,
but we have preferred darkness
in words and deeds which dishonour God’s holy name.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

You have showered us with blessings,
but we have been grudging towards others
and lacking in generosity in word and deed.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Use the next song commissioned by LICC and Thy Kingdom come as a prayer that through ordinary Christians, just like ourselves God would transform, revive and heal our society.

NB: Select the subtitles/ Closed Captions buttons on the bottom of the video to obtain the words.

Response

  • Daily Activities to think about over the week.
    ◦ Notice the animals around you. Count how many different creatures you encounter – pets, wildlife or farm animals – today and during this week
    ◦ Care for the animals who share our homes. God calls people to share in the work of caring for other creatures. Can you help feed or care for a pet – yours or a friends?
    ◦ Explore Bible Stories featuring animals. The bible shows us a God who loves and longs to save the whole world. Can you think of any Bible stories that feature animals?
    ◦ Be thankful for the food you eat. Remember how Jesus shared a last meal with his friends before he died. Be thankful for the meals that you share and try not to waste any of them.
    ◦ We have spent a the past six weeks thinking about God’s creation, what do you want to pray for our world? Why not write it down and share it?


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

You can find a wealth of resources and areas to investigate at the official site including the interview with Archbishop Justin Welby.
https://spckpublishing.co.uk/saying-yes-resources

Questions to Consider
1. What have you learnt through this series?
2. What has been the most memorable week and why?
3. Are there things for which you need to repent?
4. What changes are you making as a result?

Witness

Prayers of Intercession

Here follows a selection of prayers, please use these one or more of these or pray as God leads before ending with the Lord’s Prayer.

Family Prayer:

Father,
help us to follow your son Jesus
in loving and serving other people,
and in caring for the animals and the earth
you have entrusted to us.
Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

Let us pray to God the almighty, the King of creation.

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.

God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the heavens.’
We thank you for the vastness of the universe
and the mysteries of space.
We pray for all scientists and astronomers
who extend the boundaries of our knowledge.
As we contemplate the wonder of the heavens,
confirm us in the truth that every human being is
known and loved by you.
God of life:
hear our prayer.

God said, ‘Let the waters be gathered together,
and let dry land appear.’
We thank you for the beauty of the earth,
for the diversity of land and sea,
for the resources of the earth.
Give us the will to cherish this planet
and to use its riches for the good and welfare of all.
God of life:
hear our prayer.

God said, ‘Let there be lights in the sky
to separate the day and the night.’
We thank you for the warmth of the sun,
the light of the moon, the glory of the stars.
We praise you for the formations of clouds,
the radiance of dawn and sunset.
Save us from wasting or abusing the energy
on which all life depends.
Open our eyes to behold your beauty,
and our lips to praise your name.
God of life:
hear our prayer.

God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth living creatures,
and let birds fly across the sky.’
We thank you for the teeming life of the seas,
and the flight of the birds.
Help us to protect the environment
so that all life may flourish.
God of life:
hear our prayer.

God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind.’
We rejoice in the variety of animal life.
Grant us grace to treat all animals with respect and care;
to protect endangered species,
to preserve the variety of habitats,
and to honour the delicate balance of nature.
God of life:
hear our prayer.

God said, ‘Let us create human beings in our own image.’
We pray for the human family.
We exult in its diversity and giftedness,
we repent of its sins, divisions and violence.
By the power of your Spirit, restore your image within us,
through Christ who came to remake us
by his death and resurrection.
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 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.

Blessing

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