Sunday, September 6, 2020

The 14th sunday after pentecost -Forest Sunday

Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….
Opening Reflection:
 Forest Sunday in the Season of Creation

Creator of Life, At Your word, the Earth brought forth plants yielding seed and trees of every kind bearing fruit. The rivers, mountains, minerals, seas and forests sustained life. The eyes of all looked to You to satisfy the needs of every living thing. And throughout time the Earth has sustained life. Through the planetary cycles of days and seasons, renewal and growth, you open your hand to give creatures our food in the proper time.

In your Wisdom, you granted a Sabbath; a blessed time to rest in gratitude for all that you have given; a time to liberate ourselves from vicious consumption; a time to allow the land and all creatures to rest from the burden of production. But these days our living pushes the planet beyond its limits. Our demands for growth, and our never-ending cycle of production and consumption are exhausting our world. The forests are leached, the topsoil erodes, the fields fail, the deserts advance, the seas acidify, the storms intensify. We have not allowed the land to observe her Sabbath, and the Earth is struggling to be renewed.

During this Season of Creation, we ask you to grant us courage to observe a Sabbath for our planet. Strengthen us with the faith to trust in your providence. Inspire us with the creativity to share what we have been given. Teach us to be satisfied with enough. And as we proclaim a Jubilee for the Earth, send Your Holy Spirit to renew the face of creation. In the name of the One who came to proclaim good news to all creation, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

let us begin today’s worship
L: In the name of the Creator, the fountain of life, the name of Christ, the pulse of life, and the name of the Spirit, the breath of life. Amen.
P: Holy! Holy! Holy! Earth is filled with God’s presence. 
L: Christ, we come into your presence today to worship in this sanctuary called Earth, 
P: A planet filled with your presence, quivering in the forests, vibrating in the land, pulsating in the wilderness, shimmering in the rivers. 
L: God, reveal yourself to us in this place and show us your face in all creation.
P: Holy! Holy! Holy! Earth is filled with God’s presence. 
Creator God we sing #39

Matthew 18:15-20

Reproving Another Who Sins
15 “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

The word of God for the people of God!
Sermon: sinning against the earth?

We are faced with a new theological question for our time –  how do we respond to  Church members who are sinning against God’s Creation? For a long time the Church has focused on individual sins, particularly sexual sins. And yet our lifestyle is destroying the web of life and hurting the most vulnerable of society.

The Patriarch of the Orthodox church says this:
“We have traditionally regarded sin as being merely what people do to other people. Yet, for human beings to destroy the biological diversity in God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by contributing to climate change, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, land and air – all of these are sins.”

The question is deep – how do we challenge our brothers and sisters in Christ to stop sinning against Creation and the generations to come?

“Julian of Norwich, the fourteenth-¬‐century Christian mystic, said most simply but most radically that we are not just made by God, we are made of God. We are not just fashioned from afar by a distant Creator. We are born from the very womb of the Divine. This is why Julian so loves to refer to God as Mother as well as Father. She sees us as coming forth from the essence of the One who is the Source of all things.

What does it mean that we are made of God rather than simply by God?

In part it means that the wisdom of God is deep within us, deeper than the ignorance of what we have done.   It is to say that the creativity of God is deep within us, deeper than any barrenness in our lives or relationships, deeper than any endings in our families or our world. Within us—as a sheer gift of God—is the capacity to bring forth what has never been before, including what has never been imagined before.

 Above all else, as Julian says, the love-¬‐longings of God are at the heart of our being. We and all things have come forth from the One. Deep within us are holy, natural longings for oneness, primal sacred drives for union. We may live in tragic exile from these longings, or we may have spent a whole lifetime not knowing how to truly satisfy them, but they are there at the heart of our being, waiting to be born afresh.”1 

Today is the first Sunday in the season of creation.  Forest Sunday. Uniquely this year we will follow the Common lectionary and yet address the concerns of our home, the earth. This year for the season of Creation it is declared a jubilee year.

“Each year, the ecumenical steering committee that provides this Season of Creation Celebration Guide suggests a theme. The 2020 theme is Jubilee for the Earth. 

Climate change is a result of the intersection of greed, inequality and destruction of God’s Earth. The theme of Jubilee is chosen for this year’s Season of Creation as it reflects those three interlocking themes. Jubilee is a time to renounce overconsumption and economic systems based on constant economic growth at the cost of the Earth and those who are poor. Jubilee is a time when those who have consumed the most must make restitution to those who have suffered the most. Jubilee is a time of rest for the land from constant exploitation, to restore ecosystems and people. 

The concept of Jubilee is rooted in the holy wisdom that there must exist a just and sustainable balance between social, economic and ecological realities. When one variable is exploited to maximize growth of another, the whole system will eventually suffer. When one part of the Earth community is stressed, every part is affected. In 2020, the novel coronavirus pandemic demonstrated this reality on a global scale. While the experience of living with the COVID-19 outbreak points back to this need to maintain justice, the lessons that we learn may point us towards the need for a Jubilee and motivate us to restore balance to the very systems that sustain life. 

And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family. (Leviticus 25:10, NRSV) 

Jubilee means “a ram’s horn”. It was blown to mark the start of a time of universal redemption. The year of Jubilee involved release from indebtedness, when injustices of the past fifty years were to be restored. It was also a time for rest for the land.
The theme of Jubilee has clear links to the root paradigms fueling unjust exploitation, such as neoliberal and capitalist approaches to the world economy. It brings together the need for a prophetic voice on climate injustice and actions for the restoration of the Earth. The theme of Jubilee affirms the need for equality, justice and sustainability, and a transition to sustainable economies. It honors the Jubilee 2000 Campaign, which successfully called for an amnesty on debt for global South countries and redistribution of wealth. And 2020 marks 50 years since the first Earth Day when the environmental movement was born.” 2

And so with all this in mind it begs a question

How do we love our neighbor in the current ecological crisis? How do we seek just and fair communication when seeking to make right the way we treat the earth? For too long the churches theology, preaching and ministry has been involved in ambulance work, seeking to heal the damage done by self-centered misbehavior. We know that we must feed the hungry – but the question today is “how do we stop people from becoming hungry?” How do we establish justice and equity for people and all of life? There is enough on this planet for our needs, but not enough for our greed. The destruction of planetary life is not God’s will. This must be loudly proclaimed from every pulpit and Bible study around the world. Environmental care must become a priority.

The church in the past has been apprehensive that in caring for nature we might be accused of Pantheism – that is the worship of nature. What is needed is Panentheism, that is “God in everything”. All life is sacred and we must recognize that we are inextricably part of the rest of life, part of the web of life. In the extinction which we humans are bringing about, we are unravelling this web of life which is leading to our own demise.

This is not God’s will. There are those who say they wish to hasten the second coming of Jesus. That can only be in God’s time. As it is, it is we humans who are now bringing about “the end of the world” as we understand life on this planet. This is not God’s plan. Let us recognize the need for urgent action to care for Life.

We are commanded to love our neighbor, the vulnerable, the future generations and the whole web of life. To do so, we must consciously seek to live in harmony with God, one another and the natural world.  And we must be an example to all of humanity that we must stop being so selfish in the way we treat nature and our fellow human beings.

We are an Eco Justice Congregation and so, we must continue our due diligence to keep informed about social and environmental issues, and develop a voice to encourage political authorities, locally and nationally, to recognize their environmental responsibilities and to take appropriate action. By establishing Eco-Justice, that is ecological and economic justice, we shall overcome the huge inequality and poverty existing in our world today.
Forty percent of food is wasted every day while two and a half billion people go hungry. Examine your life style and commit to reducing food waste.

We must establish natural reserves, both on land and in the oceans, so that all God’s creation can not only  survive but thrive. Connect with your nearest reserve, grow indigenous plants. Don’t use pesticides that destroy biodiversity.

Don’t litter – it is a contemporary form of blasphemy, so much for your world God as we throw our plastic out of the car window. Campaign for the end of all plastic packaging and advocate for responsible, returnable containers.

Advocate for the end of fossil fuels.  We have been given all the energy we need through renewable energy resources. It is blowing in the wind and shining on us daily.
Insist on sustainable fishing practices.

Reduce your meat consumption. Modern meat production is both cruel and a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions.

Resolving the ecological crisis of our planet, however, is no longer a problem we can leave to the scientists. Just as we are all part of the problem, so we are all also part of the solution. We all need to come to terms with the forces that have created this crisis and the resources within our traditions that can motivate us to resolve the crisis. One of those traditions is our biblical heritage.- Archbishop Tutu 3 

In the words of Pope Francis, let us hear the “Cry of the poor and the Cry of the Earth’ and commit to loving our neighbour.
by Bishop Geoff Davies, South Africa 4

Being forest Sunday, I just find the forest a magnificent place to walk with God.  The forest Gives us a sample of what life was once like when man and animal lived in harmony.  Muir woods or better yet Armstrong woods are great examples of the wonder of these glorious examples of Gods hand here on earth. We were blessed enough to live in the region to explore both.

Yesterday I received a postcard from a friend back in LA. He said; “I just wanted to send you some love from the other coast…here is a lovely pic of our beautiful sequoias before they all burned down.”
It broke my heart. I wrote back in 2017 while still living in CA, “If you have an opportunity to visit the Coastal redwood forests I encourage you to do so because your soul and the way you look at this earth will never be the same again.

The coastal redwood forest is a unique and beautiful creation and it exists only here. ‘Coast redwoods range from southern Oregon to central California, extending not more than fifty miles inland- only as far as the coastal climate has its influence. Fog plays a vital role in the survival of these trees, protecting them from the summer drought conditions typical of this area. They also need abundant winter rain and moderate year-round temperatures. In ideal conditions a coast redwood can grow 2-3 feet in height annually, but when the trees are stressed from lack of moisture and sunlight they may grow as little as one inch per year.’5  The Climate shift and our now extreme heat is a threat to coastal redwoods.

If the redwoods are threatened then so are all that live under them.  For you see the forest is not just the trees and there is a communal life that depends on the redwoods. First off they have a shallow root system and so the intertwine with each other and provide support so that they can grow tall.  Their canopy allows for other trees and shrubs to grow with it.  Such as DOUGLAS FIR, BIG LEAF MAPLE, CALIFORNIA BAY LAUREL, TAN OAK, CALIFORNIA HAZEL, WOODROSE, REDWOOD TRILLIUM,REDWOOD SORREL, SWORD FERN, and the BRACKEN FERN. 6
All these plants exist cooperatively because of the canopy the redwoods provide.  The forest is a cooperative community that exists in peace.  Its only true enemy is man for we are the cause of its pain, its deforestation.  We are the cause of the increase in greenhouse gasses that make it hard for our earths lungs to breathe.  We because of our arrogance and ignorance, we now have to work to correct the damage that we have done.  Even though there may be a forest fire when all is said and done the forest emerges again like phoenix.” 7

Unfortunately , last Sunday The Headline read; “Sequoia National Forest fire grows to 34,000-plus acres, with evacuations still active

Fire crews continued Sunday to battle the recently renamed SQF Complex wildfire, with flames having burned more than 34,000 acres in Sequoia National Forest.

What had been called the Castle and Shotgun fires, spreading near and beyond the southeastern Tulare County mountain community of Ponderosa, are now being fought as one major blaze with the new designation.

The fire was at 34,283 acres, with containment as of Sunday morning still at 0%. There were 485 personnel battling the blaze, with additional resources still on order.”8 

When I checked today the report is nearly 56000 acres burned and only 1% contained
So today I would encourage you to take some time explore our woods and forests.  Take a step into the awe inspiring cathedrals that are our forests and walk with God for a minute.  If you pause you will hear the gentle sound of creation, you will hear God walking besides you in the gentle trickle of the creeks, in the buzzing of the insects and in the chirping of the birds.

Let your heart be filled and inspired by the Gift that God has left for us so close by and offer a gift in return.  Pledge to plant a tree, maybe to contribute to preservation of the forests around the world.  Pledge to try and recycle more so we cut down less trees and allow the forests time to heal so that our planet can breathe properly again and in doing so perhaps we can begin to stop sinning against nature and start to reconcile ourselves to Gods creation. amen.

A call to prayer
This is a time of sharing.
A time of lifting, lifting up our hearts
In gratitude and supplication.
What joys do you have to share,
What blessings?
What needs weigh on your heart?
Bring them here in community that we may all lift them up to God.
Please write your joys and concerns in the comment section and I will lift them up after this hymn
Pray For the Wilderness #557
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
In gratitude for all that we have received from you, O Lord,

we offer our tithes and gifts for the ministry of this church in this world

which hungers and thirsts for love and peace. AMEN.
Donate Here!
Doxology #778

Offering Prayer
With great joy, we present these tithes and gifts for the ministry of this church.
Be with each of us as we, too, commit ourselves to lives of joyful, thankful service.
 In Jesus’ name, AMEN.
Celebration of Holy Communion
(Please if you have not already prepared elements for communion do so. Remember that even an English muffin can become a sacrament, even a cup of water or tea can become a remembrance of God’s redeeming love)

For Holy Communion this morning,
I invite you to lend Christ your table.

We recall that once a long time ago Jesus gathered with his friends in a room. Men, woman, children, free and slave, Jewish, roman, tax collector and priest all gathered as friends to celebrate a feast.

We do not know all the conversations that were shared. We do not know the menu of the day. Yet by faith we proclaim these words.

The Communion words sent to the church at Corinth.

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed
took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks,
he broke it and said,
“This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

Sharing of the Elements

Leader:    Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Bread of Heaven.
Unison:    We are one in Christ in the bread we share.

Leader:    Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Cup of Blessing.
Unison:    We are one in Christ in the cup we share.

Prayer of Thanksgiving


Let us pray in thanksgiving for this meal of grace,
rejoicing that, by the very method of our worship,
we have embodied the truth that Christ’s love
is not limited by buildings made with human hands,
nor contained in human ceremonies,
but blows as free as the Spirit in all places.


Spirit of Christ, you have blessed our tables and our lives.
May the eating of this Bread give us courage to speak faith and act love, not only in church sanctuaries, but in your precious world,
and may the drinking of this Cup renew our hope
even in the midst of pandemic.
Wrap your hopeful presence around all
whose bodies, spirits and hearts need healing,
and let us become your compassion and safe refuge. Amen

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
The Trees of the Field
 You shall go out with joy
And be led forth with peace
The mountains and the hills
Will break forth before you
There'll be shouts of joy
And all the trees of the field
Will clap, will clap their hands
And all the trees of the field
Will clap their hands
The trees of the field
Will clap their hands
The trees of the field
Will clap their hands
While you go out with joy

Closing Prayer
Lord, we have listened to your word for us this day. We are grateful for the love of Jesus who takes our burdens and lightens our spirits. Be with us today as we leave this place. May we continue to place our trust in you, for it is in the name of Jesus that we pray. AMEN.
Benediction/Sending Forth
Weary travelers, go now in peace with the love of Christ in your hearts. You are released from your burdens! Go with joy to serve God. AMEN.

  1 John Philip Newell, The Rebirthing of God: Christianity's struggle for New Beginnings (Woodstock,         Vermont: Christian Journeys/SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2014).

  Earth Bible, volume Five “The Earth story in the New Testament”.

  4“Coastal redwoods,” Ca Department of Parks and recreation, 2017, accessed August 29, 2017, 
 6  Ditto

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