submitted by Dr Rachel Mash, environmental Coordinator of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa
Only One Earth
Today we celebrate both Pentecost and World Environment Day.
Many of us feel extremely worried as we look at the global situation. We are facing a triple ‘pandemic’ of climate change, biodiversity collapse and pollution. Those hardest hit are those who have caused the least damage. We have less than three years for our carbon emissions to begin to drop, and yet emissions continue to rise and we are reaching dangerous tipping points. Already the Brazilian Amazon has changed from carbon sink to carbon emitter. Melting permafrost is releasing vast amounts of methane. The devastating heat waves across India and Pakistan led them to re-open coal mines that had been closed. The war in Ukraine seems to have increased the demand for new fossil fuel extraction in other parts of the world. We are lost and confused.
The followers of Jesus were also lost and confused. After three incredible years of following Jesus, walking with him, learning from him, sharing with him, they had seen him tortured and murdered. Then the word began to spread that he was alive again, some people saw him, ate with him, touched him. Slowly they began to believe that it was true – he was alive! But then at the Ascension they were left again confused and upset. He said I am calling YOU to be my witnesses, stay in Jerusalem until you are clothed with power. They were so confused, no doubt afraid, maybe they would also be killed if they mentioned Jesus’ name. And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. They began to preach the gospel and three thousand were added to their number.
They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, to breaking of bread and prayer. There were wonders and miracles. All the believers were together, selling all their possessions they gave to anyone has he had need.
People can debate what exactly happened, what were the tongues the fire, what exactly were the different languages. But what is crystal clear is what happened to the followers of Jesus.
There was a complete transformation in their lives: From scared they became courageous.
After seeing what had happened to Jesus, no wonder they were afraid of both Roman military and Jewish authorities. They were in hiding, and now suddenly they had the courage to preach in front of great crowds of people
They were given a mission, they were sent. There is a saying that “a church without mission is like a fire without burning” The Fifth Mark of Mission tells us that we are called to “Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the Earth.”
Firstly in our Mission we must confess and lament that we have failed to protect the integrity of creation – it is of vital urgency that we commit to renewing the life of the Earth. The very first mandate that we were given by God was this” Care for my Earth”, when God placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and said “Work the Earth and look after it” (Gen 2:15)
If you are worried about the future , know that action creates hope! The Spirit inspires and empowers us What do learn from Pentecost about how to take up this challenge?
From separated – to unite
One of the signs of the spirit is that they were one, they came together regularly to meet and they weren’t hiding away, lonely and stressed in their own corner. Day by day they spent time together in the temple, they broke bread.
People have different angles on caring for creation, some are passionate about preserving animals or birds, others care passionately about the fact that people don’t have access to clean water. Some are fighting climate change; others are plastic warriors. We need to come together, support each other and carry the mission out. We need to work with those of different faiths and those who have no faith.
Join networks, work with others, link up on social media Transformative change doesn’t take place when individuals, change, it takes place when networked individuals change.
From Selfish to generous
Peter to protect himself said’ I do not know this man’ now we read all that who believed were together and had all things in common, they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all as any had need. No one had need amongst them.
Climate change and environmental degradation have at their root greed. That we can take more and more from the earth, consume more and more, destroy more and more. In order to protect the planet we need to aspire to a simpler lifestyle. We need to life more simply so that others may simply live. The wealthier nations that have benefitted from fossil fuel-based development over decades need to provide funding to assist developing nations leapfrog to renewable energy. We all need to live more simply so that others may simply live.
From Sorrowful to joyful
From the sadness and despondency of losing their beloved Jesus, they were now so joyful people thought they were drunk at nine o’clock in the morning! To care for creation is a joyous thing, we connect again with nature, spend time in nature, growing good things in God’s earth, seeing beauty where there was none before. Many of the activities that we will take part in – such as clean ups, tree planting, food gardening, are moments of great fellowship and great fun!
Let our work be based on love for God and love for God’s creation. Part of our ministry involved enabling others to connect with nature – organising hikes with young people, opening our church gardens to the community – creating opportunities for our church members to spend time listening to God in Creation.
You will not protect what you do not love!
So in our Mission to renew this Earth, the only Earth we have, let us be filled with these marks of the Spirit – be courageous, have a purpose, become united, be generous and be full of joy.
Rev Dr Rachel Mash
Here are some liturgical ideas for the service:
Praise be to the Holy Trinity! God is sound and life, Creator of the Universe, Source of all life, whom the angels sing; wondrous Light of all mysteries known or unknown to humankind, and life that lives in all. (Hildegard of Bingen, 13th Century)
We confess that even though we are created in your image, we have not appreciated your creation as you have.
We have become arrogant and greedy and instead of seeing the beauty and diversity around us,
We have seen wealth and progress and have wanted it for ourselves.
We have individually and as peoples amassed what we can for ourselves,
With little care for what effects it will have on our planet and
Without thinking of sharing with those who have nothing.
We confess that we have not loved this world as you have.
We are sorry for the destruction we have caused,
For the many of your beloved species that are no more because we wanted more,
For the many lives that are lost each year to starvation while we have more than enough.
We confess that we have not cared and provided for this plant as you do.
We take and do not replace, depleting the earth of precious resources.
We use and then dump, creating wastelands of junk.
We create chemicals for our own convenience that destroy the natural balance of life, upsetting the cycles that you have created.
We value our own lives and our own comfort but care nothing for the earth or other people who are suffering.
Merciful God, we come before you,
Humbled by the parts we play in destroying your creation,
Hear the cries of our guilt and
See the willingness to change in our hearts.
Forgive us we pray.[i]
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Awesome God, we join our voices with all creation as we proclaim your greatness:
Creator God, you sculpted the vast universe,
Scattered the stars in the skies and formed this our planet.
You moulded the mountains, scooped out the seas, and filled our atmosphere with air.
You formed plants which provide edible nutrients
And animals of many forms, shapes and colours,
And then you created humankind and you breathed life into us.
You created us, male and female, in your image,
And gave us the task together of caring for your carefully designed planet.
We praise you for your creativity, for your imagination,
for the intricate designs of animal, mineral and vegetable all around us.
We praise you for creating us, human beings, not one of us the same as another,
With different gifts, skills, abilities, personalities and characteristics and yet each of us created in your image.
Precious in your sight, loved and valued by you.
Redeemer God, when we ignored your love,
When we turned our backs on you,
You did not give up on us.
Because of your great love for the world,
You came offering yourself as atonement.
We praise you for your sacrificial love.
Sustainer God, you continue to care and provide for this planet,
You send rain and warmth in their seasons,
You continue the cycle of life you first set into motion,
Providing nourishment for generations to come.
We praise you for your tender care of all who inhabit this planet.
Great God, three in one we worship and adore you.
RESPONDING TO GOD’S WORD
Affirmation of Faith
We believe that God creates all things, renews all things and celebrates all things.
We believe Earth is a sanctuary, a sacred planet filled with God’s presence, a home for us to share with our kin.
We believe that God became flesh and blood, became a part of Earth, a human being called Jesus Christ, who lived and breathed and spoke among us, suffered and died on a cross, for all human beings and for all creation.
We believe that the risen Jesus is the Christ at the core of creation reconciling all things to God, renewing all creation and filling the cosmos.
We believe the Spirit renews life in creation, groans in empathy with a suffering creation, and waits with us for the rebirth of creation.
We believe that with Christ we will rise and with Christ we will celebrate a new creation.
May God who established the dance of creation,
Who marvelled at the lilies of the field,
Who transforms chaos to order,
Lead us to transform our lives and the Church
To listen to the voice of all creatures,
That reflect God’s glory in creation.[iii].
[i] Church unity Commission Liturgy for Justice: Economy and Climate Change
[ii] Church unity Commission Liturgy for Justice: Economy and Climate Change
[iii] (adapted from the CTBI Eco-Congregation Programme