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Environmental Stewardship Commission
(MEESC)

Episcopal Church in Minnesota

 
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Upcoming Activities:

Next Meeting:

We meet quarterly close to the solstice and equinox.


Special Projects:

Creation Season Materials


Resolutions:

Resolution on the Spirituality of Food Production

Resolution on Church Buildings and Grounds


Resolution on Creation Season

Resolution on Green Congregations

 

 

If you find the information in this reflection to be of interest or concern, please contact MEESC Members.

Members of MEESC reside around the Diocese of Minnesota and are available to assist you and your congregation in their environmental stewardship walk.

Please contact us at any time with your questions.

 

Creation Season 2009
October 4 – October 25, 2009
(Proper 22 through Proper 25, Year B)

Proper 24, Year B
(October 18, 2009)

Humans interacting with
'this fragile Earth, our island home'

Homilist's Notes

Welcome! We're glad you're planning on observing a liturgical season of creation. We have prepared some materials for you to use in worship, teaching, and personal reflection.

The Reflections and Notes on the readings for this Sunday are available for you to use. You may

  • copy and paste what you wish from this page directly to your preparation materials or
  • download the materials as part of a reference materials for the individuals involved in preparing religious education, homilies, or special liturgical materials for your Service.

RCL Readings for this Sunday:

Semi-Continuous Track Gospel Theme Track
Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Reading: Job 38: 1-7, (34-41) Isaiah 53: 4-12
Psalm Psalm 104: 1-9, 25, 37c Psalm 91: 9-16
New Testament Lesson
Hebrews 5: 1-10
Gospel
Mark 10: 35-45
Creation Theme for this Sunday Humans are disconnected from the lifestyle of the earth and wander in the desert (proverbial or literal).
We feel isolated and the world's bounty seems far from us.

 

Sermon Notes

In his book Collapse Jared Diamond explores the response of various societies to environmental crises. Some were able to avert disaster and others were not. One key factor in success or failure was the ability to adapt cultural values to the new context, keeping that which remained useful, but discarding that which exacerbated environmental problems. As the predominant religion in the most resource intensive society on earth, Christianity's understanding of people's relationship to nature is critical to meeting the environmental crises facing the world.

Christianity has at times contributed to the degradation of the environment. Some Christians, emphasizing the dominion over birds and animals given humankind in Genesis (1:26), have treated the world as merely a stock of resources and a waste dump, to be used as people see fit. This interpretation of Genesis is rejected by most theologians today, but as Larry Rasmussen observes:

The theology of dominion remains the reigning one where it counts most, in practice. Social arrangements, especially, and the busy structures of economic life, in particular, still assume the tenets of mastery and live by them: earth exists for us; reality is a collection of objects we give shape and purpose as we form a world of our own making; and earth is stage, resources, waste container, and information for doing so.

This understanding of our relationship to the natural world contributes significantly to a way of life in the United States that is out of harmony with nature.

On the other hand, many strains within Judaism and Christianity support the care of creation. One day while hiking behind The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN, we came upon a large grotto housing a statue of St. Francis of Assisi. Many hours of hard work obviously went into the construction of this holy place in the woods. The grotto is a striking example of the close connection between our spiritual experience and the world of nature. At the founding of St. Scholastica, the convent and school stood on the edge of town backing a forest that stretched to the Iron Range and contained only loggers and some hardscrabble farms. One can imagine finding that wilderness frightening. But at least some of the sisters found it inspiring instead. One source for environmental concern within Christianity is an appreciation for nature as spiritual inspiration and teacher.

Creation care can also be inspired by the incarnation. Many Christians understand God's incarnation in Jesus as the sign of the broader reality of God's continuing presence in the world. Panentheism (the technical term for this theology) holds that God is everywhere present around, among and within all creatures, plants, and even the land and waters.

The Episcopal Church, in which I serve, is particularly incarnational and emphasizes Eucharist as an outward and visible sign of God’s presence in the world. We believe God is manifest in this world, where we can experience Holy Presence, and where we have the opportunity to honor God by caring for the least of God's creatures. Episcopal theology is not found in confessions or official documents so much as in our prayer book. The Book of Common Prayer 1979 edition includes a Eucharistic prayer "C" that gives far more emphasis to the goodness of God in creation than previous versions. This prayer has become a great favorite of the people. It says in part, "At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home."Some of the alternative Eucharistic prayers authorized in Enriching our Worship also contain extensive reference to God's gifts in creation. This liturgical emphasis on the gift of creation potentially predisposes Episcopalians to care for the environment.

In scripture, the most direct statement on the responsibility of human beings for the rest of creation is found in Genesis 2:15 "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it."(NRSV) The other direct instruction regarding treatment of creatures is in the Sabbath law. The sabbatical year and Sabbath instructions specifically include the land, the vineyards, and the animals. All shall be given a chance to rest. (Exodus 23:10-12) Because human impact on the environment was not recognized in biblical times, we don’t find much other discussion of creation care. What we do find are many positive portrayals of the natural world as a sign of the glory and power of God (Psalms 8 and 19 for example). And Paul includes the whole creation in the salvation accomplished by the death and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 8:19-23).

Some people understand the apocalyptic writings, with their emphasis on a transformed life in a "New Jerusalem"under god’s reign, to justify unconcern about this world. But Barbara Rossing in The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation argues the opposite.

"Early Christian ethics taught that the urgency of Jesus'return means caring for the world as good stewards until He comes again. It's surprising to people, but I find the Book of Revelation one of the most down to earth books of Scripture. If anything, it's about 'rapture in reverse,'because God and the Lamb come down from heaven to earth in the final vision, to which the whole book leads."

For Rossing, even the Book of Revelation supports the idea that Christians are called to live in harmony with the natural world.

What does it mean to live in harmony with God’s creation? The list of specific steps to be taken and ways of doing things to be adopted is as long as the list of human endeavors. No matter what we do, from farming to mining, from transporting goods and selves to sheltering them, from art to zoology, we can do it more or less in harmony with nature. Christians are called to do it as much in harmony with nature as humanly possible. In general we are called in every setting to take actions intended to protect, nurture, or use sustainably the complex ecological systems of the natural world, and protect or nurture other creatures.

In response to God's love, and out of our own love for children, grandchildren, and generations yet unborn, we need to move from an attitude of domination and exploitation to a faithful life of harmonious mutually beneficial interrelationship.

 

 

Canticle of the North Shore (Song of Praise). This may be used for every Sunday of this celebration of Creation.
If you will be following the Semi-Continuous Track readings [focusing on the Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) readings], please read first this reflection on Job.

PDF Version of these notes: click here

To other Materials for Sundays in this series
Proper 24
October 4
October 11
October 18
October 25
This Page

 

Note: The Reflections and Notes for this Sunday were prepared by the Rev Thomas D. Harries.

 

The Rev Tom Harries was co-Chair of MEESC, Priest-in-Charge of Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in St. Peter, MN, and a Total Ministry mentor in Central Minnesota, when he originally prepared these materials in 2009. Tom and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to Tom Harries or any MEESC member, or mail them to:


MEESC
c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the website.

   

This page last updated 2009-09-17.

 
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