Season of Creation 2018 Worship Series, week 2 — MOUNTAIN SUNDAY
September 9, 2018
Small Groups: From Worship To Discipleship
Fellowship — Snacks or a Meal (10 minutes with snacks; longer obviously if there is a meal)
Gathering time (5-10 minutes) In pairs or groups of three, discuss: “What is your favorite location to visit?”
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
(Optional Opening Question: Discuss the scores participants received from the ecological footprint quiz.)
Read Psalm 125
- Beautiful vistas and worship spaces can be places where we are open to God’s presence. Yet, as alluded to in Psalm 125, even there we are not immune from temptations toward idolatry and unfaithfulness (see verse 3). Is it possible that these beautiful places and even worship can lure us away from God? [We view them as meeting our own desires instead of pointers to God; we view them as ours and for our benefit instead of witnesses to the majesty of God.]
- Read Genesis 2:4b-17. Look at verse 15 and consider what responsibility Christians have to care for the earth. [See below on Genesis 2:15.]
- What is the difference between being an “environmentalist” and a Christian who takes seriously the role of being a steward of creation? [Environmentalism often makes an idol out of creation. Christians don’t worship creation, but see it as an image of God, who exercises dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26). Just as we are called to love all our neighbors, Christians are called to creation-care ministries. While Christians and environmentalists might agree on some end goals, the means of arriving at those goals often comes from different ideas.]
- (R) How do our lifestyles (particularly the resources we choose to consume) and the call to creation care relate to the Great Commandment: Love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 14:30-31)?
- (R) One of the idols in our culture is productivity. The fourth of the Ten Commandments reminds us to keep the Sabbath. How might keeping a sabbath be God’s way for us to care for our world and ourselves?
Psalm 125 is part of a collection of Psalms (120-134) known as the Songs of Ascent. These were songs that pilgrims would sing as they ascended to Mount Zion, which has an elevation of almost 2,500 feet above sea level. Pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for one of the religious festivals would literally ascend to Jerusalem. These songs reveal the pilgrims’ hopes for worship in the holy temple that lay on the Mount Zion portion of Jerusalem. Psalm 125 highlights God’s protection. It uses the analogy of how the mountains (or hills) protect Jerusalem from invasion. Thus, the people can trust God’s protection, even in the presence of a scepter or rod of wickedness. Psalm 125 encourages trust and faithfulness to God, although temptations toward idol worship and unfaithfulness are present. In Psalm 125:3, “stretching out hands” (NRSV) or “use their hands” (NIV) likely refers to the physical act of lifting hands in praise to foreign idols.
Genesis 2:15. While the first creation account highlights humanity’s call to have dominion, the second creation account notes that humans are called to “till and keep” (NRSV) the land. The original Hebrew words are connected with priestly service. The word translated “till” can also mean “serve” in a religious sense (see Numbers 3:7-8, where the word has been translated “service”). The word “keep,” which can also be translated “guard,” also has a religious connotation (see Numbers 1:53). Our work with the creation has a priestly function, as we serve and guard or preserve creation.
The fourth commandment of the Ten Commandments is often the most ignored commandment. Even more, it can actually be seen as a sign of weakness or laziness to do what the commandment is advocating — nothing! The Protestant work ethic has taught that idle hands are the devil’s playground. Furthermore, we rush and work because we’ve been told that financial independence is the path to happiness. “Greed is good,” our movies have proclaimed. In this way, observing Sabbath time, time for intentional rest, can be a countercultural act. Sabbath reminds us that we depend on God’s provisions. In today’s culture, Sabbath reminds us that our primary function is to praise God, not to consume more. Biblically, Sabbath was more than just time for people to rest; it was also a time for the land to rest. Perhaps participating in Sabbath takes us one step closer to obedience and to loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Prayer (10 minutes)
Sending Forth (2 minutes) End by praying the following prayer or a similar prayer:
Lord, forgive us for our attitudes of self-dependence. Forgive us when we have loved things purely for our benefit and not as gift from your hand. Forgive us when we placed our identity in our work instead of in being a child of God. Help us to find our identity in being a baptized child of God who seeks and serves others, so that they might know your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Psalm 125 (NRSV)
“1 Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds his people, from this time on and forevermore.
3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous,
so that the righteous might not stretch out their hands to do wrong.
4 Do good, O LORD, to those who are good,
and to those who are upright in their hearts.
5 But those who turn aside to their own crooked ways
the LORD will lead away with evildoers.
Peace be upon Israel!”
Introduction to the Psalms and Psalm 125
The psalms are a collection of 150 songs to God written by many writers in the Old Testament. Psalms are the hymnbook of God’s people in Jewish and Christian congregations from ancient times until today. Many psalms praise the Lord for God’s everlasting love or give thanks for God’s mighty acts. Other psalms cry to God for help, protection, or justice. Psalms remind us of God’s faithfulness in the past and promises for the future.
Psalm 125 is one of more than seventy written by King David.
Our verse for today is Psalm 125, verse 1: “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.”
Let’s think about what this means.
Mount Zion is where God’s temple was built in Jerusalem. Strong mountains surround it.
In a similar way, God is present with us and God’s love surrounds us.
This is true for each person, our congregation, and all of God’s people everywhere.
Every person who trusts in God stays calm, and steady, and peaceful.
When we focus on trusting God in our heart, we don’t let anything make us wobble or wander or give up. Trusting God helps us to keep going the way we should.
Can you think of some ways that remembering to trust God could help you stay steady for a try out, a test, a game, or a performance?
What kinds of things could you say or do to remember that God is with you?
(Suggestions may include saying, “God, I know that you are with me right now,” or “Take a deep breath and count to three for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Affirm the responses. Add other suggestions, as you feel led.)
These are good ways to remember to trust God.
Dear God, Thank you for always staying steady and trustworthy. Please help our faith and our trust in you to grow stronger every day. Thank you for sending your Holy Spirit who helps us to feel your peace all around us so we can keep going. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.