Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….
Welcome! We worship this Sunday with the land. We celebrate with the grasses, the soils, the vines and the creatures of the land present in the sanctuary. We celebrate with the land represented by a terracotta Earth bowl.
let us begin today’s worship
Call to Worship:
L: We invite the country to worship with us:
P: wild flowers and mysterious mushrooms, swirling grasses and golden wattle.
L: We join the land as it trembles before God:
P: with tremors and earthquakes, whirlwinds and volcanoes.
L: We invite the farmlands to sing with us:
P: wheat fields, orchards and vineyards, red gums, gardens and wetlands.
L: We join with all the fauna of the fields in praising God:
P: kangaroos, emus and bandicoots, echidnas, eagles and magpies.
L: We invite the ground to stir deep below:
P: life-giving microbes restoring the soil, beetles and worms preparing our food.
L: We celebrate the song of the soil!
P: Sing, soil, sing!
For the Beauty of the earth # 28
(All candles lit.)
21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
The word of God for the people of God!
P: Thanks be to God
Sermon This land is whose?
Season of creation Land Sunday
When I first think of this Sunday as land Sunday I think of the old song…This land is your land…this land is my land…This land is stolen…
Maybe that is part of the problem. The land, unless you are of indigenous heritage, was never ours to begin with. So the land is there for us to steal and fight over and misuse and throw away.
Unfortunately for most of the occupied history of this land it has been stolen property. And since it is not really ours we can do with it what we please… and we have!
So today’s gospel has us reading form the eighteenth chapter of Mathew.
This part of Mathew’s “Gospel is considered to be the fourth discourse/narrative within the Gospel, according to the five narratives theory. This discourse is described as the narrative to a divided community, in which Matthew describes to the new community of faith what their relationships to each other should be. Beginning with the question of who will be the greatest in the kingdom, Matthew discusses ensuring that others don’t stumble, how sin is to be dealt with and the role of God as the Shepherd of the flock. In this part of the chapter Matthew discusses the important of forgiveness. Using parable of the forgiving king, Matthew juxtaposes the king with a servant who was unable to forgive. In doing so, Matthew instruct the community to follow the example of the king who forgives and not that of the servant who is unable to forgive. Matthew also places the king in relation to God, so that like the shepherd in the parable earlier in the chapter, the faithful should aim to be like God if they are to live well in community with each other.” 1
How would you describe a successful person? I know you all would say someone who has love., a kind heart and cares for all things around them human and otherwise. But the secular world doesn’t have the imagination or hearts that you all do. Many would say that a successful person is one who is rich, has flashy cars, big houses and travels all over the world.
Reminds me of the old lyric; “well I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won, then you flew your jet up to nova scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun….” 2 That is what many see as success. This “current worldview is based on Economics. The pursuit of money and goods dominates our thinking and determines our behavior. It determines aspects of our identity; including where we live, what health care and education we have access to and who we associate with.
In ancient cultures this was not the case, success was determined not by what you have, but by the opinion that the community had of you. In order to be seen as successful, the community had to have a positive opinion of you, called honor. The opinion of the community was formed primarily based on the family you came from; if the family was wealthy or powerful then all the members of the family were seen as honorable. A child born into this society is therefore regarded as honorable if the family into which that child is born is seen as being honorable. Another way to acquire honor was to do an honorable deed, for example giving to the poor or saving a life.
If the community had a negative view of a person’s status, that would be called shame. As is the case with honor, it was possible for a person born into a shameful family and to thus be seen as shameful, or to do deeds that destroy and thereby be regarded as shameful. The low status of shame was apportioned based on the social category’s family, tribe, gender, slave vs. free etc. A person could also be seen as shameful if they committed shameful act. The thinking and behavior of people within honor and shame cultures was driven by the desire refrain from being seen as shameful and if honorable to maintain that status at all costs.” 3
This culture of honor and shame is important for us to understand. As we see today’s text it would be easy to get caught up in the financial intrigue. It becomes all about that one who is getting away debt free while he throws the other in jail, but at least he will collect his debt. We could fall into the trap of discussing money and usury. But, if we look at this through the lens of ancient society we can see how
“Today’s readings aim to show us that true honor comes not from being born into the right family, but rather in how we treat each other. The person for failed to forgive the debt of another failed to understand the importance of community and would have been seen as self-interested. Peter would have understood that such a person is not favorably viewed or considered successful.” 4
Reverend Shawn Cozett from south Africa reminds us of an interesting story;
“In 1964 Garit Hardin wrote his famous piece “Tragedy of the Commons”. In it Hardin tells the story of two adjacent properties, one privately owned and one common property. Hardin observes that the state of the private farm is much better than that of the common. He explains that the owner of the private property understands that grazing his cattle on a certain patch until the patch is fully grazed and then moving the cattle along to another patch in order to allowed the grazed patch to recover is important because the owner has a personal interest in the longevity of his property. At the same time, the common is overgrazed because herders have no personal interest in protect what is held in common.
This story of the tragedy of the commons has become an important story in understanding how we are to care for the environment. Hardin’s story tells us that unless we begin to care for common property as shared property for the benefit of all we will suffer the consequences of systems breaking down. Already we are beginning to see the impact that our use of fossils fuels has on the climate. For the past two decades the leaders of the world have been meeting to discuss how best they might respond to the impending climate crisis. The basis of all these talks been that every country is focused on what they need and talks have often stalled because one country waits for another to make the first move. All this while carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere increases, storms become greater in number and severity and record high and low temperatures are set on an almost annual basis. The same can be seen in other systems such as the oceans, which are becoming more acidic, forest that are being felled, water resources drying up and arable land becoming deserts.” 5
We need to move our consciousness back to whose land is this? Is it stolen land for us to use and abuse and throw away. Is it the banks land that I will never own? Is it my land that I can also just do what I please with it as long as it is turning me a good profit? As opposed to be land that I am caring for, with the knowledge that it is for the good of all.
Tehra Cox shares her experience of the land in the secret language of earth speak; “When I moved from the noisy concrete and steel canyons of New York City to a small Hudson Valley village with its serenely-forested highlands, I was stunned by the radical change of scenery. As late summer turned into fall, my favorite season, nature’s magic began its work on me. From one of my first autumn walks along the wooded mountain path behind the old Victorian house that was my new home, I was introduced to the uncanny voices of the natural world.
My first encounter with what I call ‘Earth-Speak’ was nothing less than phenomenal for its impact on my life and sensibility. As I came around a bend at the top of the mountain, the lush goldenness of maples along the trail nearly took my breath away. They colored the very air around them. As I stood transfixed, it seemed that all the flora of the woods began to sway toward me. The dramatic red-orange-gold hues in all shapes and sizes were pulsating with light, sounds and scents so intoxicating that I wasn’t sure if I was breathing or drinking. Suddenly, I “heard” a whispering of words that I will never forget: ‘Ah yes, the very things you humans love about us – our different colors and shapes and smells and languages – are the things you often hate about each other. Alas, you have lost touch with your beauties because you have lost touch with us.’
Having just moved out of a city teeming with the tensions that densely-populated diversities of culture, creed, economy – and yes, race – too often provoke, this message was stunning and timely for me. During that first year of “life in the country,” I became unusually acquainted with this sentient world. In my daily walks with pen and paper, the presences of nature enfolded me in their lushness while I chronicled their wisdom-teachings. As these “inner tuitions” invited me to consider some of life’s most paradoxical mysteries, they required only one thing of me – to be utterly present and receptive. I didn’t know to call it that at the time – I was only aware that I felt light and free, as if all the space around the trees and the flowers and blades of grass was also around, and even inside, me.” 6
This made me ponder the land around us here. I find it interesting, as I learned about the land around us, I discovered it has had a shift. “From 1983 through 2007 there was a loss of 3,000 acres of forest land per year mostly in the southern part of the state. The majority of this decline has been from residential development extending into previous forested areas. These losses of forest land have been tempered by abandoned farm land reverting back to forest land. The increase in forest land since 2007 has been attributed to land cleared and slated for development being halted and reverting back to forest land.” 7
And remember what my first question of the day was …whose land is it?
“Who Owns New Hampshire's Forest Land?
New Hampshire's private forest-land owners are a diverse group of approximately 196,000 individuals and enterprises; they control 73 percent of New Hampshire's forest land. This is divided between forest industry and non-industrial private owners. State, federal, and other public owners hold the remaining 27 percent. The acreage owned by forest industry has dropped continued to drip since 1983. Much of this land has gone into public ownership through federal and state land acquisition. The number of owners with less than 10 acres of forest land has increase by 124,000 since 1983, yet they account for less than 10 percent of forestland holdings by area.” 8
On the other side of this is another question, I was wondering how many rare or endangered plants and species live among us on these lands…well there are 8 pages of single-spaced names of tracked plants in the state interesting when I look at the town by town we can find “Rare Plants, Rare Animals, and Exemplary Natural Communities in New Hampshire Towns
Marlborough Natural Communities - Palustrine ** - Medium level fen system -- --
greater fringed-gentian - Gentianopsis crinita -- T Historical 30 ~ long-headed windflower - Anemone cylindrica -- E Historical 11 Vertebrates –
Birds ** Common Loon - Gavia immer -- T 1 339 Vertebrates –
Reptiles ** Wood Turtle - Glyptemys insculpta -- SC 1 281 Vertebrates –
Fish ~ American Eel - Anguilla rostrata -- SC Historical 177” 9
It is sad that in our very small space of land here where it seems as far as the land is concerned we are all pretty safe but even here in Marlborough we are tracking rare plants and animals that may be lost soon if we do not stop to care for the land. And care for it as a gift given not earned or owned.
If we were to look at all the texts for today the old testament, psalm and letter we could see a large pattern;
“This week’s texts remind of the importance of community. We are reminded of God establishing the people of Israel as God’s own people and how God acts for them in order that the covenant that God made with Abraham may be fulfilled. A common theme across the texts tell us to value community and to do all we can in order to protect our lives together. As we focus on the environment during the Season of Creation, we are called also to look at common property within the community and on the planet for example the oceans, the air, fresh water and open spaces. These places are not owned by anyone, but their survival depends on all of us working together. Our failure in the past to protect common property has led the near-collapse of ecosystems throughout the world. Who cares for common property? Do we have an interest in the places we do not own? Do we recognize the importance of common property for the good of the community?” 10
Woodie Guthrie wrote that great song this land is your land this land is my land and yet white privileged culture says this land is my land and the rest can lump it. Even Woodie asked the question in his song;
“In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?” 11
We are blessed to have this land that we sit upon today. We are blessed that we live in a good educated area where people do what they can to preserve this land, to treat it fairly and, many of us do the best we can to share it fairly and equally but there is still work to be done.
We have to work to stop coal mining, fracking and reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. Fossil fuels… a nice way of saying we are burning dead creatures to survive. In 2013 the united Church of Christ announced a resolution to divest from fossil fuels and in 2014 “On the anniversary of the United Church of Christ's historic vote to take action to lessen the impact of fossil fuels on climate change, United Church Funds announced the launch date of a new fossil-fuel-free investment fund. The Beyond Fossil Fuels Fund is a domestic core equity fund that will be free of investments in U.S. companies extracting or producing fossil fuels” 12
We, as the Federated church have looked at our investments and divested from all fossil fuels. I believe the challenge to each of us is too look at our investments and how we use our energy and the land. How do we honor the earth first gifted to us as a garden? We must truly find ways to make this land your land and my land or in other words our land in equity and equality. We must find ways to care and retrain those who have made a living of these fuels so they can still live to support themselves and their families.
Divesting from fossil fuels, caring for the land also requires caring for each other it is a difficult challenge and yet as a people we can make a great and difficult transition work. Amen
A call to prayer
God of All,
gather us into a time of prayer
for our family.
Expand our vision
to understand each human being
as our sister or brother;
and enlarge our hearts
to offer love for each other,
even as you love each of us.
Be with us now as we pray for members of your family.
God who stretched the spangled heavens #556
note the melody is not the one in the hymnal just using the words
Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us
Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen
Invitation to the Offering
Offering our gifts to God is a holy act. In this sacred moment, let us offer our gifts and our lives to the holy work of God.
Doxology #778 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9My-_5s6bBQ
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise God, all creatures here below;
Praise God for all that love has done;
Creator, Christ, and Spirit, one.
God, our Creator, through your love you have given us these gifts to share. Accept our offerings as an expression of our deep thanks and as signs of our concern for those in need, including our fellow creatures on planet Earth. With all creation we praise our Creator.
The office is open for regular hours
We are accepting donations for the kidz cupboard and the food pantry
I am available for one on one virtual visits or phone calls if you need any prayer we will be together again one day, but until then remember you are the hands and the feet of our lord in this world and in this world of no physical contact we can still smile, wave, chat, check in
When in our Music God is Glorified #561 ( V1,2 &4)
Christ calls you to be his disciples, to serve him with love and compassion and to serve Earth by caring for creation, especially the land that God has given life so that we and all our kin may live.
May the Spirit of God, who is above all and in all and through all, fill you with the knowledge of God’s presence in Earth and the pulsing of Christ within you. Go in peace, serving Christ and loving Earth!
2 Carly Simon; Your so vain