A Season of Creation is an opportunity to spend the month of September focused on creation-centered themes. Begun in Australia nearly two decades ago, this initiative has spread worldwide and has generated substantial resourcing, some of which is captured on the website, seasonofcreation.com.
Here, for our use, is an organization of the themes of “A Season of Creation” based on the Revised Common Lectionary readings for each Sunday of Year C, plus additional suggestions for music from several United Methodist resources, along with ideas for visuals, media, prayers, planning, preaching and Great Thanksgivings.
Reflections on the Theme
Creating is not just what artists, musicians, actors and writers do.
All of us create.
“Creating” often defines our relationship with the earth and our fellow creatures. We start with materials of the earth or other creature and transform them by connecting them in new ways into something useful, desirable, beautiful or delicious.
Today’s readings from Jeremiah and the Psalm picture God forming plans like a potter forms clay, “knitting” us together in our mothers’ wombs, and weaving our inmost beings in the depths of the earth. Today’s readings from Philemon and Luke point to ways we and Christ may create new possibilities for others to experience transformed living. In all cases, creating involves the elements with which we create no longer functioning as they had in the past, but “letting go” and allowing themselves to be formed into new relationships with other elements of the creation, with one another, or with God.
We all create. The question becomes to what degree what we create or how we create brings life and joy or death and sorrow to ourselves, to others, and to our fellow creatures.
Are we creating greater capacity for people and the earth to flourish? Or are we diminishing that capacity, or restraining it, keeping people or other creatures in bondage, or ourselves in bondage to the powers of sin and death?
Where does your congregation need to place the greater emphasis today? On the nature of creating and how creating may positively connect us with the earth and fellow creatures? Or on the examples of Paul and Jesus about creating capacity for full thriving as disciples of Jesus Christ? Either may be foreground or background, depending on where you are. Discern your way prayerfully and thoughtfully as you plan this service with your team.
Well before worship begins, set up several places throughout your worship space for a variety of “creators” to create. These might include quilters, painters, sculptors, computer graphics artists, CAD engineers, painters, musical composers, writers, filmmakers, and others. Draw on the gifts of people in your congregation and community. This isn’t a “demonstration,” but more a “manifestation” of the gifts of creators in your midst. And have them work on projects they’re currently working on.
Begin worship with a brief greeting, such as the following, and then an opening (processional) hymn.
Pastor: Blessed be God, Creator of all, Inspirer of every creation!
People: And blessed are we, baptized in Christ’s power, bearers of God’s New Creation!
During the opening hymn (see suggestions below), have these people process after the people who are carrying the bread and wine (in addition to others who may be processing) and bring some representation of their creative work (something they can carry) and place these on or alongside the Lord’s Table to the left or right of the Communion elements, which should be placed first.
Processional Hymn Suggestions:
“How Great Thou Art,” United Methodist Hymnal (UMH), 77
“What Gift Can We Bring,” UMH 87
“Maker, in Whom We Live,” UMH 88
“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” UMH 89
“For the Fruits of This Creation,” UMH 97 (Suggested Tune: AR HYD Y NOS, UMH 688)
WORD AND RESPONSE
If you have potters, weavers, knitters or writers in your "creators mix" today, consider having the first lesson read from wherever the potter has set the wheel, and the Psalm led from wherever the weavers or knitters may be, and Philemon from where the writer is stationed. They don’t have to be up front. They do need to be able to be heard! (Make sure your sound system is working properly at each station beforehand and that the readers know how to operate any sound equipment they are using.)
Invite the congregation to turn toward the reader or leader. During the reading of Jeremiah, have the potter smash a pot that is going badly and start a new one. During the praying of the Psalm, invite the knitter or weaver to stand (if possible) or lift up some example of the handiwork as the appropriate verses (13, 15) are sung, chanted, or prayed. During the reading of Philemon, have the writer typing or writing and at the conclusion of the reading, hold up whatever was written (or the laptop or tablet on which it was written) and return to her or his seat with it.
The gospel calls for a different approach. Jesus is speaking in the midst of crowds. Read the gospel read in the midst of the people, everyone standing. If you will be preaching on the gospel, especially the last verse, repeat the last verse, have everyone sit, repeat it again, then have the congregation repeat it after you. Then preach in the midst of the people.
Response to the Word
“Statement of Faith of the United Church of Canada,” UMH 883
Consider using a simple, sung form of the prayers of the people today, such as TFWS 2201, adding three intercessions:
"With our fellow creatures and the habitat we share…”
“With joy in all the ways we can create, and for the right use of the riches of creation…”
“For ourselves, for freedom from the power of our possessions over our lives, and for the forgiveness and deliverance from our sins…”
Conclude the prayers with silence and a word of pardon. Then share the peace of Christ with one another.
THE GREAT THANKSGIVING
“Holy Wisdom” A Great Thanksgiving also includes a prayer of thanksgiving after Communion and an act of sending connected to today’s readings
The purpose of the sending is to propel people to take their next steps in faithful obedience to Christ as they have prayed, read, heard, and sung in worship. What will have been your chief focus today? Celebrating creativity? (Psalm 139) Embracing the call to open new possibilities for others? (Philemon) Or letting go of your possessions so you may be Christ’s disciples? (Luke)
Here are suggested hymns of sending for each.
UMH=United Methodist Hymnal
TFWS= The Faith We Sing
“When in Our Music God Is Glorified,” UMH 68
“Praise the Lord Who Reigns Above,” UMH 96
“Within the Day to Day,” TFWS 2245
Opening New Doors for Others
“I’ll Praise My Maker While I’ve Breath,” UMH 60
“Jesu, Jesu,” UMH 432 (Note: In Ghana, the pronunciation is Jee-SOO’)
“Cuando El Pobre,” UMH 434
“Make Me a Channel of Your Peace,” TFWS 2171
“We Are Called,” TFWS 2172
“Together We Serve,” TFWS 2175
“Sent Out in Jesus’ Name,” TFWS 2184
“In the Midst of New Dimensions,” TFWS 2238
“The Spirit Sends Us Forth to Serve,” TFWS 2241
Letting Go All Things to Follow Christ
“I Surrender All,” UMH 354
“My Hope Is Built,” UMH 368
“Nothing Between,” UMH 373
“Jesus Calls Us,” UMH 398
“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” TFWS 2129
“The Summons,” TFWS 2130
“Would I Have Answered When You Called,” TFWS 2137
“Fill My Cup, Lord,” Worship & Song, 3093
“Purify My Heart,” Worship & Song, 3103
“Covenant Prayer,” Worship & Song, 3115