Article

A Season of Creation: “Killing and Destroying”

September 18, 2016
by Taylor Burton-Edwards

Seasons of CreationA 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. 

Lectionary Readings

Jeremiah 8:18–9:1
Psalm 79:1-9 or Psalm 4 (UMH 741)
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 16:1-13

 

Abbreviations

UMH=United Methodist Hymnal
TFWS= The Faith We Sing
UMBOW= United Methodist Book of Worship
 

Reflections on the Theme

Killing is essential for the feeding, health and survival of many of the earth’s creatures, including humans. Human bodies and the bodies of other creatures, including plants, are full of cells constantly killing other cells and organisms that may endanger them. That such killing happens so pervasively is not a sign of uncreation. It is simply the way living creatures on earth are sustained and the balances of ecosystems are maintained.

God has placed a clear limitation on killing, however. We are not to kill other humans. The word in the commandment points to murder, the intentional ending of another human life, typically with malice. The reading from Jeremiah today and the Psalm both reflect the devastating effects on victims and survivors alike when killing and destruction are disobeyed, used not to enhance life but to increase power for some humans over others.

Millions of people of all faiths, including Christians, live with the consequences of the intentional killing of others and the destruction of human and natural habitats daily. Today is a day to remember them in our prayers, and pray in solidarity with them. As you pray or sing Psalm 79 today, remember not simply the ancient and more recent mass executions of our Jewish siblings under Hitler and Stalin, but all people and other creatures everywhere who suffer the loss of lives, homes, and habitats because of human sin. Remember, lament, and entrust them and yourselves to God for redemption as you pray or sing, “Help us, O God of our salvation for the glory of you name; deliver us and forgive our sin, for your Name’s sake.” A PowerPoint presentation of Psalm 79, with musical settings for chanting the verses and a refrain, is available here.

Our prayers are to be offered not only in lament and solidarity with the suffering, but also, as today’s reading from I Timothy reminds us, on behalf of all leaders of all people groups everywhere, they that may have the wisdom and courage to do all in their power to restrain forces of human killing and destruction against each other (and, we might add, our habitat shared with all other creatures) so all can live in tranquility and peace.

While the other readings today move toward prayer in the face of pain and for protection, the gospel reading today calls disciples of Jesus toward a proactive and clever use of money, not in the service of “the monied” who simply want more money, but in the service of others whom “the monied” may hold in thrall. The final verse reminds us what is at stake in many of the world’s biggest challenges, including environmental challenges. It is not simply a question of willpower or personal morality, but nothing less than a struggle between powerful but incompatible visions about what money is for. God’s vision is community and abundant life for all, or as Paul put it to Timothy, “that all people should be saved and come to the knowledge of truth.” “Mammon’s” vision, represented in this story, is that some should be wealthy and others should be eternally at their service and in their debt. Mammon’s vision “takes over” through threat, fear and domination. God’s vision in this story and often in our world triumphs through grace, joy and clever subversion. 

 

ENTRANCE

Work with your worship planning team to gather images of ruins of destroyed places your congregation would recognize. These may be local or global, more recent or more historic. Include images of human-destroyed ecosystems as well (mountain-top removal, bleached coral reefs, deforestation, etc).  Find ways to have these images displayed prominently in worship today, as large as you can make them in your worship space.

Play a minor chord progression (D-minor, G-minor, D-minor, for example) and have the choir or praise team begin the procession slowly, faces downcast, silent. When they have gotten about one-third of the way to the front, have a soloist begin singing “Dust and Ashes” (Worship & Song, 3098) and the rest of the choir or team responding as the “congregation” for verse 1. For verses 2, have the whole choir sing the “leader role” and the whole congregation respond with the “congregation” role. After verse 3, sing the refrain first accompanied, and then unaccompanied.

End in silence.

 

WORD AND RESPONSE

The Readings

Out of the silence, have the first reader begin reading the text from Jeremiah. Have him or her read it slowly so that the words sink in. The reader may begin weeping in the course of reading it. (I find I cannot read it aloud without doing so!) If so, let it be. This reading can do that to a reader and a congregation. It is a heartfelt lament. It is a call to weeping.

Allow for silence (30-60 seconds) before playing the refrain of the Psalm. Have a soloist, choir, or praise team sing the refrain once; then invite the congregation to join. Either a cantor, the choir, the praise team or the whole congregation may chant the psalm, all singing the refrain together as indicated in the PowerPoint presentation. After the Psalm is completed, the presentation continues with one last repeat of the refrain. Invite people either to hum it (with no accompaniment) or keep silent as the musicians play the refrain quietly in the background.

Allow 60 seconds of silence, and then lead the congregation in intercession with all who suffer because of human killing and destruction of human and natural environments. A deacon or lay prayer leader may lead the intercessions, with the people responding.

Prayer leader: Help us, O God, of our salvation

People: Deliver us, and forgive our sin.

Prayer leader: With all around us and around the world this day who have been threatened or lost loved ones to murder, war, and acts of terror, especially persons facing or victims of gang violence, the people of Syria, the people of Eastern Congo facing ongoing threats of war, and others we now name before you, either silently or aloud…  (pause for individuals to respond)… Help us, O God of our salvation . . .

People: Deliver us, and forgive our sin.

Prayer leader: With people whose poverty drives them to destroy their land to make a living, and with those whose greed and hunger for power keeps them impoverished, especially for those who work diligently to remove mountain tops for coal, destroy forests to create ranchlands for cattle, or overfish their waters for export, the corporations and people who profit from this, and others we name at this time, either silently or aloud… (pause for responses) Help us, O God of our salvation

People: Deliver us, and forgive our sin.

Prayer leader: With the earth and our fellow creatures, with all who work to enrich and protect our common habitats, and with all creatures who suffer because of our human neglect or mistreatment, especially for creatures bred to feed us or accompany us as pets, for coral reefs and their inhabitants, for animals and other creatures endangered and displaced by deforestation or poaching, for all creatures, from microbes to whales, at risk from human-caused climate changes, and for others we name at this time, either silently or aloud… (pause for responses) Help us, O God of our salvation . . .

People: Deliver us, and forgive our sin,
for your name’s sake. Amen.

Silence (30 seconds)

A second reader reads the lesson from I Timothy.

After the reading, the prayer leader continues:

Prayer Leader: For the leaders of every village, town, city, state, people group, and nation, especially (Name), our mayor; (Name). our governor; (Names), our representatives in state and federal government; and (Name), our President, that they may diligently work for freedom from violence, fear, and oppression, that our people and all peoples may dwell in tranquility and peace with one another and our fellow creatures… Help us, O God of our salvation.

People: Deliver us, and forgive our sin,
for your name’s sake. Amen. 

All stand and sing:

“For the Healing of the Nations,” UMH 428

During verse 4, the deacon or pastor moves into the midst of the people.
After the singing, the deacon or pastor reads the gospel, all still standing.

The sermon begins with a declaration of pardon, such as the following.

Together we have acknowledged and asked God’s forgiveness for our sin against God, one another, and the earth and other creatures God has made.

In the name of Jesus Christ, the one mediator between God and humankind, you are forgiven.

People: In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven. To God be the glory! Amen.

The people are seated and the sermon continues.

As for last week, the service to this point will have enabled the congregation to embody and reflect upon the first two readings and the Psalm. For the sermon, therefore, you may wish to focus on the gospel, and particularly on

a) the reality that there are two very different visions of how we approach our human neighbors and our fellow creatures depending on whether we are serving God or “Mammon”;

b) that most of the human-caused destruction we see in the world, to other humans and to the planet, derives from serving Mammon;

c) that while Mammon often seems to “call the shots,” ultimately Jesus brings humans and the earth the profoundly good news that God’s kingdom enables even “powerless” or “power-down” disciples to subvert Mammon’s life and community-destroying ways and be part of creating new life and new community for all around us. God is that gracious and clever, and calls us to exercise such gracious cleverness, too.

d) Examples of such gracious, life-giving cleverness at work now—among folks in your community, the nation, or the world.    

e) A call to serve God, and not Mammon, and so to rejoice in creating new homes with new people and our fellow creatures now, and in the age to come.
 

Response to the Word

“The World Methodist Social Affirmation” UMH 886 or
The Social Creed OR Social Creed Litany (scroll down).
 

The Prayers

This service has already been full of congregational praying for the world. Now, in response to the sermon, it is time to pray for the church and its mission. Here are some suggested biddings for the “continuation” of intercession.

Prayer leader: We pray for ourselves and one another, that we may be faithful to your mission in our daily lives, resisting evil and confessing Jesus Christ as Savior and mediator for all…
People: For you desire all to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth

For those ensnared by sin and the powers of this world, whom we name before you either silently or aloud… (pause)… that they may be set free…
People: For you desire all to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth

For those who do not know you, or seek a deeper knowledge of you, whom we name before you, either silently or aloud… (pause)
People: For you desire all to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth

For bold hearts and clever minds, that in us your kingdom may outwit and redeem the powers of this world….
People: For you desire all to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth

For all who have shown us how to serve you, those who live among us, and those who have died, whom we now name either silently or aloud… (pause)
People: For you desire all to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth

Concluding Collect

God of our salvation, hear our prayers,
deliver us and your whole creation,
that your kingdom may reign in us and all things,
and your power working in us

may bring forth joy to all;
Through Jesus Christ, our only mediator. Amen.
 

INVITATION TO THE TABLE

Because the confession of sin has already occurred, consider using the following Invitation to the Table:

Christ our Lord invites to his Table all who love him,
all who earnestly repent of their sin,
and seek to be at peace with their neighbors.

The peace of Christ be with you.
And also with you.

The peace is exchanged. The offering is collected and placed on a side table. The bread and wine are brought forward and placed on the Lord’s Table. The “uncreated” art is also placed on smaller tables or stands alongside the Table at this time. 

 

THE GREAT THANKSGIVING

The Great Thanksgiving for World Communion Sunday, with its emphasis on creating life and community, would be appropriate for this service. Then use it again on World Communion Sunday (in two weeks). 
 

SENDING

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. In today’s service, the readings, prayers, sermon and Great Thanksgiving have moved us from mourning to a joyful embrace of Jesus as bringer of life, joy, and community with one another and all creation. Choose songs and words of sending that best enable your congregation to embody these things as they go into the world this day.

Hymns

“Christ Loves the Church,” UMH 590
“Rescue the Perishing,” UMH 591
“Here I Am, Lord,” UMH 593
“We Are Called,” TFWS 2172
“Song of Hope,” TFWS 2184
“There’s No One in This World Like Jesus,” Worship & Song, 3036
“A Place at the Table,” Worship & Song, 3149
“Go to the World,” Worship & Song, 3158

Words

You know what is lost, and who is lost
to the forces of uncreation.
And you know in your hearts,
and in God’s heart,
the unstoppable urge to go, find, and reclaim.

So go,
face down the power of uncreation,
face your own role in it,
and especially,
face the world with the love and mercy of Jesus Christ,
so that you add this week, and every week,
to the joy of earth and heaven. Amen.

 

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Categories: Sundays After Pentecost