First Congregational Church of Hartland, United Church of Christ
An Open and Affirming Congregation in Hartland, Vermont
Whoever you are, wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.
Welcome! We are glad that you chose to worship with us today.
An Earth Day Celebration April 26, 2020
Gathering time –
You are welcome to start gathering at 9:30 to talk and check in.
At 10:00 we will mute for worship.
Welcome and Announcements
Welcome to worship this morning!
Thank you for joining us, we serve a God of resurrection and we claim that promise of resurrection even now, especially now.
I have a few announcements.
*Everyone will be muted for the worship service and I will unmute you for the Lord’s prayer!
*You will find a “chat” function on your screen –- we will use it for the time of prayer concerns.
*get the bulletin from the website and music suggestion – play on your own device.
*We are having Bible Study via zoom on Monday nights at 7:00 and a “check in” meeting for anyone interested on Wednesday nights at 7:00. On the church website – you will see a “meeting id”, to access, you go to zoom.us and then simply type in the meeting id and you can join. You will need the password which will be sent via Mail chimp. If you don’t get it, please email me for the password.
*Wednesday Night’s check in will be the quarterly meeting for the church!
“Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal” (arr. A Parker) Sung by the Sante Fe Desert Chorale
Lighting our Candles
If you have a candle, let us light our candles together to remind ourselves that there is light in the darkness and that we can share that light with one another in our own times of darkness and we can share that light of love with the world. Please light your candles if you have one as we enter into our time of worship.
Let us pray: We come to this place to be fed by God’s word, to be nurtured by God’s grace, and to be strengthened by the power of God’s Spirit.
Speak to us in this time of Worship, O God, that we might recognize the abundance of your goodness, and find in your presence things that sustain us. Amen.
Call to Worship
All creation is a song of praise to God. (Hildegard of Bingen)
And so let us sing Praise to God in worship today.
Let us pray: Oh God of all, at this time of our gradual awakening to the dangers we are imposing on our beautiful Earth,
open the hearts and minds of all your children,
that we may learn to nurture rather than destroy our planet,
our home, this your beautiful and bounteous creation. Amen.
A Litany for Honoring Creation “Satisfy the earth” by Ken Sehested
In the beginning the Verdant One saw everything that was made,
and behold, it was lavish and delightful. (Genesis 1:31)
The earth is satisfied with the fruit of God’s greening hand. (Psalm 104:13)
Let the heavens be glad and the earth applaud. Let the sea roar,
and the field exult, and all trees of the forest rejoice. (Psalm 96:11-12)
For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof. (Psalm 24:1)
Give thanks, sun and moon; praise God, shining stars!
Fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling God’s command!
Mountains and hills, fruit trees and cedars! Beasts and cattle, creeping things and flying birds! Let all praise the name of your Maker. (Psalm 148:3, 7-10, 13)
The heavens are telling the glory of God. (Psalm 19:1)
Why then is there no faithfulness or mercy, no knowledge of God?
Lo, the envoys of peace weep bitterly and the land mourns.
From every house framed in greed, the stone cries out from the wall
and the beam from the woodwork responds.
(Hosea 4: 1, 3; Isaiah 33:7, 9, 10; Habakkuk 2:9-11)
If you defile the land, it will vomit you out. (Leviticus 18:28)
Nevertheless, the days are coming, says the Beloved,
when the mountains shall drip sweet wine.
On that day I will make a covenant with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air,
and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword,
and war from the land, and make you lie down in safety. (Amos 9:13; Hosea 2:18)
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills will burst into song, and all the trees will clap their hands.
Ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. In God’s hand is the life of every living thing. (Job 12:7-8, 10)
Give applause and acclaim to the bounteous Name
who grants beauty its grandeur and fame!
©Ken Sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org
A Hymn “All Things Bright and Beautiful”
Listening for and Responding to the Word
A Scripture Reading from Psalm 148
This psalm is one of five doxological hymns that conclude the book of Psalms. Likely intentionally placed at the end of the book to shape the Psalter into a document of praise, these psalms all begin with “Hallelujah!” (“Praise the LORD!”) and are repeatedly punctuated with the imperative, “Praise!” The command to praise is the sole theme of Psalm 148. Apart from two verses that explain why God deserves praise (6 and 14). The psalm first addresses the heavens (1-6), then the earth (1-7), and finally ends with a summary and a repeat of its opening line: “Praise the LORD!” These structural features cast humans as equals with the rest of creation. In its middle section addressing the earth, the psalm makes no formal distinction between mountains, wild animals, kings, and people of all ages and genders. Throughout, the sole object of praise is God.
As we read these ancient words of praise, please note who or what is being praised and who or what is doing the praising.
Listen to the word as inspired by God:
Praise God! Praise God from the heavens; praise God in the heights!
Praise God, all you angels of God; praise God all you host of heaven!
Praise God, sun and moon; praise God, all you shining stars!
Praise God, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of God, for God commanded and they were created.
God established them forever and ever;
God fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Praise God from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling God’s command!
Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!
Beast of the forest and all cattle, crawling things and flying birds!
Rulers of the earth and all peoples, nobles and all leaders of the earth!
Young men and women alike, old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the Sovereign, whose name alone is exalted;
whose glory is above earth and heaven.
God has raised up a horn for the people, and praise for all the faithful,
for the people of Israel who are close to God.
Praise be to God!
Here ends the Reading Thanks be to God.
A Visual Meditation
“The Canticle of Creation” written by St Francis
A Reflection on Earth Day “Praise!”
We are blessed to live in a beautiful place here in Vermont. And being here, in this time particularly, fills us with gratitude. I have noticed how much being outside, right now, is a healthy, healing gift. When we asked the youth group – what is working well for you? What makes you feel good? – amid the other answers, they all talked about getting outside for a walk in the woods, or to play or to exercise. It is true for all of us. Especially now, getting outside and appreciating the beauty of where we live restores us. Whether that is going for a walk or a hike, sitting on the deck breathing fresh air, or getting hands into the dirt of the garden. Did you know that seeds and gardening supplies are selling out? This is the year to plant gardens! To turn the soil, plant seeds and wonder at the gift of life that grows out of darkness.
Scientists tell us that being outside, in nature, is proven to be good for your mental health and your physical health. Being outside, in the natural world, is proven to reduce stress, to strengthen your immunity, calm your mind and improve your memory. [ https://askthescientists.com/outdoors/ ]
But, you already knew that! You are a being created to be outside in the natural world where you are mentally and physically and spiritually healthier. Your spirits are lifted when you are in touch with THE SPIRIT of God and that is easier, somehow, outside in the beauty of God’s creation.
I know that for many of you, a walk in the woods or a weekend at camp is a touchstone. You have told me that being in the outdoors is an act of worship or that walking on the beach and listening to the steady rhythm of the waves heals you.
Praise God indeed!
So too, in our scripture reading, the ancient psalmist notes that all of creation praises the creator. Think about that. WOW.
Here is the interesting thing about praise –
Praise is other focused. Praise is active.
Praise changes the person doing the praise because it is so other focused.
Praise is a humble act.
Finally, the act of praise puts the focus on God – the creator.
How do we keep the focus on God?
Do we keep our focus on God?
Or do we fall into the self centered habit of thinking of ourselves as the center of the universe? Able to control and create at will? To think that humans control creation and can re-create the world at will is dangerous thinking. When we forget that God is the creator and we are stewards, when we forget that creation is a holy and sacred thing, we abuse and take for granted the bounteous world around us. Instead, as stewards of God’s creation, we are commissioned with the holy work of caring for the earth and all that is in it.
A lot has been written in the last month about the miraculous healing happening. The Earth is healing. As our lives have ground to a halt, as our incessant making and doing and flying and driving and consuming has ground to a halt, the earth is getting a breather. Nature is taking a breath it seems, while we are holding ours. It makes me sad that it took a deadly pandemic and economically catastrophic shelter at home orders to make us stop and thus allow the earth time to heal.
An unexpected gift of the stay at home orders – skies are clearing and mountain vistas are coming into view as the smog lifts. And did you know that seismologists have noticed that the earth’s surface is quieter as city trains have stopped rumbling and cars stopped moving? Plus, noise pollution is tremendously reduced and city dwelling people in places like Whuhan report hearing birds singing for the first time in well . . . ever. This has been reported as birds returning to the cities and being more active, but it turns out probably that people just couldn’t hear them over the noises of traffic before. And the oceans are quieter too, which means that the whales are singing to one another again. “Just pulling those cruise ships out of the water is going to reduce the amount of global ocean noise almost instantaneously,” says Marine Biologist Michelle Fournet “We’re experiencing an unprecedented pause in ocean noise that probably hasn’t been experienced in decades.” Quieter oceans reduce stress levels for whales and a reduction in stress increase the whales ability to reproduce. Oh, and the drop in air pollution has the concurrent effect of saving lives. “The cleaner air could lead to a brief respite in parts of the world with severe air pollution even as they battle the coronavirus. According to an analysis by Marshall Burke, a professor in Stanford’s Earth-system science department, a pandemic-related reduction in particulate matter in the atmosphere—the deadliest form of air pollution—likely saved the lives of 4,000 young children and 73,000 elderly adults in China over two months this year. “There’s a quantifiable temporary benefit,” Joseph Majkut, the director of climate policy at the Niskanen Center, in Washington, D.C., says in referring to Burke’s analysis. But—and it’s an important “but”—“as we go about our recovery, I think we’ll go back to business as usual,” he said. A drop in emissions this year, including carbon dioxide, the pollutant that causes global warming, won’t make a dent in the long-term effort to manage the climate crisis. “We’re not solving climate change by having a global pandemic,” Majkut said. [ https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/04/coronavirus-pandemic-earth-pollution-noise/609316/ ]
We are not solving climate change by having a global pandemic. And please note that plastic pollution is on the rise – there has been a huge increase in discarded surgical masks and latex gloves as litter on land and in the sea.
How do we sing praise then given these facts the nature is getting a breather even while we are holding ours?
Professsor Gus Speth of the Yale Forestry School said “ I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that with 30 years of good science we could address those problems. But I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy . . . . . . and to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural transformation – and we scientists don’t know how to do that.” – Gus Speth (Yale Forestry School)
The act of Praise is the opposite of selfishness, greed and apathy. Because praise is other focused and humble, the act of praise fills one with selflessness, altruism, gratitude and energy. The very act of Praise centers us, orients us, returns our focus to the holy, to the one we praise, God the creator. “The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy . . . . . . and to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural transformation . . .”
We, the church, are in the business of spiritual and cultural transformation. We know how to do that. Or we should.
Which leaves us with something to consider in the days and weeks to come. What do we hope and dream for a “new normal”? Because you and I both know that things are going to be different as we emerge from our homes and try to move forward with our lives. So we have to ask ourselves what we have learned from this time and what the new normal will be. Let us dream of a better world – as this pandemic has highlighted the many inequities of our society: the dramatic disparity in wealth and health, access to health care, livable wages and an earth in crisis. As we emerge from our homes, let it be like butterflies emerging from cocoons – as creatures transformed.
The choices we make in how live our lives in the months to come – in how we structure our world going forward – choices about who gets paid how much as we realize what is and is not essential, how wealth is distributed and health care delivered, choices about how we generate and use electricity, choices about the vehicles we drive and or don’t drive and how often we use our cars, choices about working from home or changing how we work, choices about recycling & reusing, choices we make everyday about what we buy or don’t buy, how we eat, choices about what we really need for a quality of life, choices about how we invest our money, build our homes, make our livings – those choices impact generations to come.
“The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy . . . . . . and to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural transformation” –– Gus Speth (Yale Forestry School) Who are the leaders for spiritual and cultural transformation? WE are. You and me together, people of faith believing that what we do and say matters, believing that God calls us to love one another as we have been loved. The choices we make in how we live our lives now and in how we structure our world going forward– those choices impact generations to come. We have been given a unique opportunity in this terrible crisis – individually and collectively – to be transformed. And note that spiritual transformation is firmly grounded in the act of praise – recognizing fully the other, the holy, the sacred, the ground of our being. Let us join our voices, our very lives with the sun, the moon, the stars, the ocean, the earth, the creatures.
Praise God! Praise God from the heavens; praise God in the heights!
May it be so. In The greatest of hope. Thanks be to God. Amen.
The Prayers of the People
Sharing our Joys and Concerns
(please share via the “Chat” Feature on Zoom)
Breath of Creation, stir in us.
Open our hearts that we may see,
all of creation’s glory.
Open our hearts that we may know,
life is holy.
Open our hearts that we may love
with wonder and awe and reverence.
We understand that we live within creation,
all woven together by the sacred breath of life.
We confess the times we have chosen to forget;
we name to you our careless greed
when habitat has been denied,
when invasive species have been introduced,
when thoughtless destruction has been allowed,
We name to you the flight of bob-o-links,
the thump of bullfrogs,
the discreet beauty of the painted turtle,
the majesty of elm trees,
the upright strength of the ash,
—all of your creation that is diminished
and threatened by our disinterest,
by our complacent greed.
Help us to discover the second chance
of a growing awareness,
a deepened understanding,
an active love.
May we live wisely,
with reverence for Creation.
May we live gently on this earth,
providing for all.
We celebrate the steps taken to redeem this earth,
the tall grass prairie replanted,
the wild turkeys returned,
groves of trees re-established.
Bless us as we better love your creation.
To you we give our praise and thanksgiving
for all that delights,
for all that teaches,
for all that is wondrous,
for all of creation.
Thank you. Amen
(from What Is Creation Saying to Us? written by Pat Milliken. Posted on the United Church of Christ website. http://www.united-church.ca/)
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom 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 kingdom and power and glory forever and ever Amen.
Closing Hymn: “God of the Sparrow, God of the Whale”
May the word of God take root in your heart,
grow strongly in your life, and bear much fruit for God’s Kingdom;
And may the blessing of God Almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer,
Be with you and with all God’s creation, Now and evermore. Amen.
Church Facebook page: www.facebook.com/HartlandCongregationalChurch
Organist: Virginia Dow Director of Christian Education: MaryJo Ramsey Choir Director: Rebecca Wood Church Members: Ministers to the World
Though we can’t gather you can actively participate in Earth Day!
Trees contribute to their environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, climate amelioration, conserving water, preserving soil, and supporting wildlife. During the process of photosynthesis, trees take in carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen we breathe.
Trees help reduce the effects of climate change.
During one year, a mature tree will absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen in exchange. Nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide are produced from burning one gallon of non-ethanol gasoline. [Arborday.org]
The UCC is sponsoring a “Plant a tree” campaign. Please let me know if and how you choose to participate so that we can note how many trees we, as a community, “plant” by our donations or by actually planting! Check out the options here: https://www.ucc.org/plantatree?utm_campaign=tree_planting_campaign_msg_4&utm_medium=email&utm_source=unitedchurchofchrist
This from the UCC: “A recent column in the New York Times passed along the advice that one should “patronize the business that you want to see survive in the future.” As we mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, one could also say that when it comes to charities and causes we should give and dig deep for the kind of world we want to see survive in the future. Do we want a world in which we have a safe and stable climate? Do we want a world in which the air is clean and healthy for our lungs? Do we want a world full of trees that grow and blossom in the spring? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, then today is the day to make a donation that enables the planting of trees in fire ravaged National Parks or abroad in places like Palestine, Kenya, and Zambia.” Check out the options here: https://www.ucc.org/plantatree?utm_campaign=tree_planting_campaign_msg_4&utm_medium=email&utm_source=unitedchurchofchrist