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.
UMH=United Methodist Hymnal
TFWS= The Faith We Sing
UMBOW= United Methodist Book of Worship
Reflections on the Theme
Uncreation happens. It is when what was created falls apart or is demolished. Beachfronts or hillsides hosting people and wildlife flood and erode, becoming uninhabitable. Tornadoes rip forests or towns apart. Earthquakes break and reshape the land. Asteroids change the ecosystem of the entire planet.
Uncreation is happening. The vast majority of climate scientists remind us that human activity, especially the escalating rate of the release of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels used in energy, manufacturing, and transportation, is making earth’s climate, water levels, and atmosphere more unstable and dangerous for many of earth’s inhabitants, including humans. Al Qaeda terrorists attacked the United States 15 years ago today, and terrorists of many names and backgrounds continue to attack individuals, cities, communities, and even nations around the world, bringing destruction and destabilization everywhere in their wake.
Uncreation happened. Jeremiah speaks of the coming destruction and desolation of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah in terms of uncreation, the initial creative acts of God undone. Earth returns to void. Heavens have no light. Mountains and hills disintegrate. Birds of the air are gone. Arable lands have vanished. Cities lay in ruins. God uncreated God’s people and their land. God was not finished. Something new would come. But God was not apologizing for the uncreation.
Uncreation happens. When it does, it causes great doubt, as the Psalmist attests. Even so, the Psalmist believes God is with its victims; and no matter what, God is the refuge of the poor, even the poor whose poverty may have been caused by uncreation.
Uncreation happens in us. Saul had been a prime example of uncreation at work in the human heart. His whole life had become focused on persecution and violence. Even so, as for Jerusalem and Judah, God was not content to “make a full end” of Saul. Instead, in mercy, God reclaimed him, flooding him with grace and love and newfound faith.
Uncreation is not the last word. Reclamation is. We know this in our hearts if we are listening to them at all, Jesus reminds us. When a shepherd loses just one sheep or a woman loses just one coin, they will turn heaven and earth upside down to find them again. And when they do, they will rejoice like there is no tomorrow. This urge to reclaim is stronger in us than any force of uncreation that happens to us, any uncreation wielded against us, or any uncreation we may cause ourselves by our sin or our carelessness.
Today is about acknowledging both realities, uncreation and reclamation, and our part in them. It is not about pointing fingers. It is not about casting blame. It is about taking responsibility and letting the love of God and what is already in our hearts to do in the face of such losses have the final word.
Bring back the artists from last Sunday, but invite them to bring examples of creations that went awry—exploded pots, bad manuscripts torn or shredded, knitting that didn’t work, designs or prototypes that failed badly, recipes that tasted awful or were burnt, and the like.
If you can do projection, display images or video of the Midwest and Great Plains before and during the Dust Bowl, and of Kiribati (video), Tuvalu, and significant parts of Vanuatu, where hundreds have already been displaced from their homes or have had to make other adaptations because of rising sea levels caused by climate change. (All three will have been part of the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle on August 21). You may also wish to project or provide information about the V20, the coalition of finance ministers of 20 countries already being damaged by climate change and most at risk for future damage.
Begin worship with a brief call and response as the choir (if you have one), and the artists bring their “uncreated” wares process in silence to the front, pause at the Lord’s Table, then return to their places.
Pastor: I looked on the earth, and it was waste and void.
People: We looked to the heavens, and they had no light.
Pastor: I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert.
People: Restore our fortunes, O God, and restore our land.
WORD AND RESPONSE
Move directly to the readings after this procession. No music. No praise.
Offer the first two readings and pray the Psalm again from places where the artists are stationed. On the last verse of the Psalm, have the artists hold up their “uncreated wares” again, and join at full voice in the praying of the last verse. Pause there in silence.
“Depth of Mercy, Can There Be” Worship & Song, 3097, or UMH 355, verses 1-3
Read the second reading (I Timothy) from one of the artist stations.
“Depth of Mercy, Can There Be,” verses 4-5
Confession of Sin
Pastor: So incline us to repent,
here our sins, confess, lament.
All: Father of love,
Jesus weeping and loving us,
Spirit groaning in us,
bearing witness we are yours,
though gone astray:
have mercy on us.
We are corrupt.
We are careless with our planet.
We have failed to do good.
We have devoured others like bread,
and confounded the plans of the poor.
Pastor: The saying is sure, worthy of unwavering acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. In his name, we are forgiven.
People: To God, immortal, invisible, Ruler of all, be honor and glory forever.
All stand sing: “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” UMH 103, verse 1
The Gospel is read from the midst of the people.
After a brief pause, the last verse of the reading is repeated.
All sing: “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise,” verse 3
All are seated.
The last verse of the gospel reading is repeated again.
The congregation repeats the last verse after the pastor.
The sermon begins.
Suggested sermon focus: “God is in the reclamation business, and you are, too”
Response to the Word
“Affirmation from I Timothy,” UMH 889
“Litany for the Church and the World,” UMBOW 495
INVITATION TO THE TABLE
Because the confession of sin would have happened earlier in the service (after the Epistle reading), 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
Use An Appalachian Lord's Supper, adapting the plants, environment and wildlife listed to your particular location. The confession and peace will have already been done in this service and do not need to be repeated.
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. The ritual itself has already enabled the assembly to acknowledge responsibility for acts of uncreation. The sermon and this Eucharistic prayer will have moved us toward reclamation.
“Pass It On” UMH 572
“Sois la Semilla” (You Are the Seed), UMH 583
“Go Forth for God,” UMH 670
“Walk with Me,” TFWS 2242
“A Place at the Table,” Worship & Song, 3149
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.
face down the power of uncreation,
face your own role in it,
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.