Season of Creation 2018 Worship Series, week 5 — BLESSING ALL CREATURES
September 30, 2018
Small Groups: From Worship To Discipleship
Fellowship—Snacks or a Meal (10 minutes with snacks; longer obviously if there is a meal). Pray over the snack or meal with this or a similar prayer:
Gracious Lord, we give you thanks for this food we are about to receive. Awaken us in gratitude for those who cultivated the soil, planted the seeds, and harvested the fields that produced this food. May we be grateful, as well, for those who processed and shipped the foods we are about to receive. We give you thanks for those who sold the food as well as those who took time to purchase and/or create the food we are about to receive. It is you, Lord, who nourishes the earth and feeds our soul. Nothing falls outside your care or concern. With grateful hearts, we receive this as our daily bread. In your name, we pray, Amen.
Gathering time (5-10 minutes) In pairs or groups of three, discuss: Name a sign that your body is getting older.
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
(Optional) Opening Question: From your homework, discuss the findings of the participants and discuss the environmental impact and others that come from eating foods that are not locally produced.
- Who is groaning and why in Romans 8:19-23? How is this groaning connected with the redemption of humanity? [See note below.]
- Is the phrase “live simply so that others might simply live” overly simplistic? What implications do the discipleship virtues of contentment and self-sacrifice have for creation care, blessing all creation, and expressing love for our neighbors? [We are mindful of the impact our consuming has on others. We advocate for stewardship practices that do not exploit resources that are harmful to others.]
- How does our understanding of humanity’s role as image bearers and stewards of the earth relate to our understanding of the end times? [See note below.]
- In the fourteenth century, Catherine of Siena wrote, "I [God] did not intend my creatures to make themselves servants and slaves to the world’s pleasures. They owe their first love to me. Everything else they should love and possess, as I told you, not as if they owned it, but as something lent them." (Catherine of Siena, “The Dialogue,” Green Bible, I-103)
- Would it change your perspective to view everything you own as a gift borrowed from God? Why or why not?
- (R) How should Christians advocate for creation care? What responsibilities do Christians have for creation care?
- What are acts of compassion you can do as an individual for creation care? What can your church do? How can you and your church be advocates for creation care? (Start a community garden. Write elected officials.)
- Optional exercise: Look at life of Francis of Assisi and his blessing of the animals.
Too often, the gospel message is told as though the Bible begins in Genesis, chapter 3, starting with sin and the fall of humans. However, the gospel message rightfully begins with God’s grace — the gift of creation. The importance of including Genesis 1-2 in the telling of the gospel story is cosmic in scope; creation also yearns for redemption. As the Apostle Paul tells the gospel story in Romans, he notes that all of creation “waits with eager longing” (8:19, cf 20-22) for redemption. The creation longs for the day when the people of God are restored to being the image bearers of God who exercise proper dominion, as first envisioned in Genesis 1. Part of growing in justification and sanctification is learning to exercise dominion now. By doing so, we foreshadow and give witness to what the fullness of the kingdom of God will look like when it comes in final glory.
Eschatology means study of the end times. “Are we living in the end times?” “When will the end times begin?” are questions I have heard frequently. Unfortunately, these questions are fueled mostly by curiosity and fear. While these questions are understandable, they miss (misinterpret) the New Testament’s teaching that we are already living in the end times. The end times were inaugurated at Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. In John’s Gospel, the emphasis on Jesus appearing on the “first day of the week” highlights the idea of believers living in the eighth day of creation.
Unfortunately, some end-time thinking asserts that Christians will be “raptured” to some other place and time. So called “rapture theologies” are recent inventions that misinterpret a small number of Scripture passages. Revelation 21 and 22 reveal that the New Jerusalem will come down to earth. The Greek word for “new” in “new heavens and new earth” is more like the English word “renewed” than our concept of “brand new.” God’s aim is not that the people of God escape to some galaxy far away, but that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the resurrected people of God will properly be able to exercise dominion of God’s glory throughout the entire renewed creation. Because of the Easter event, the beginnings of this vision have already begun with those with eyes to see it and live into the new day. Because of God’s ongoing work of redeeming the world, through Christian stewardship, we help in a small way to release creation from its groanings (Romans 8:12-17). John Wesley noted,
It may enlarge our hearts towards those poor creatures to reflect that, as vile as they appear in our eyes, not one of them is forgotten in the sight of our Father which is in heaven. Through all the vanity to which they are now subjected, let us look to what God hath prepared for them.
(Wesley, “Sermon 60,The General Deliverance,” 449, based on Romans 8:19-22)
Prayer (10 minutes)
Sending Forth (2 minutes)—End by praying the following together:
Creator God, give us the heart to be thankful for the abundance we experience. Give us the eyes to notice when our enjoyment comes at the expense or harm of another. Give us the wisdom to be wise stewards of all that you have entrusted to us. As we become better stewards and grow in compassion for the earth and those around us, help us to be aware that we learning to exercise proper dominion and are also growing in Christ-likeness. Amen.
Additional question: How does the commandment to love our neighbor enhance our thinking about the effects of environmental costs that stem from one country but affect another? Or from company to neighborhood? From our generation to succeeding generations?
Psalm 124 (NRSV)
“1 If it had not been the LORD who was on our side -- let Israel now say --
2 if it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when our enemies attacked us,
3 then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;
4 then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;
5 then over us would have gone the raging waters.
6 Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth.
7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken, and we have escaped.
8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”
Introduction to Psalm 124
This is one of the “Psalms of Ascent” (Psalms 120-134). To ascend means to go upward. Pilgrims or faithful people sang these psalms as they walked up to the temple in Jerusalem and climbed the stone steps to worship God.
Our verse for today is Psalm 124, verse 8: “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”
Let’s think about what this means.
“The Lord” is a way to refer to God, who helps us and is with us.
The name of the Lord is powerful. When we call on God’s name, God always listens to us.
That’s another reason why we need to say God’s name with honor and reverence.
God is the creator of heaven and earth: all the galaxies, creatures, people, plants, and everything.
Yet the God of all is not far away from us. God is close enough to answer our prayer.
God is on our side in our time of need. God rescues us and opens a way to escape.
Can you think of some ways that this could help you to be brave?
(Suggestions may include, Say: “Our help is in the name of the Lord,” or “Help me, Lord,” or “Help me, Jesus.” Affirm the responses. Add other suggestions, as you feel led.)
These would be good ways for each of us to be brave.
Dear God, Thank you for choosing to be with us in our time of need. We praise you, Lord! Please help us to say your name with honor. Thank you for always listening to our prayers, especially our cries for help. We are grateful for your Spirit with us. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.