Presiders: Dave DeBonis, Terri Kersch, Lynn Kinlan ARCWP, Bernie Kinlan, Dennis McDonald ARCWP, Judy Stamp, Mary Theresa Streck ARCWP, Jean Talbot
Lynn: Welcome and Theme: Today is the first Sunday of the Season of Creation which lasts for the next month or so and concludes with the feast of St. Francis. The giftedness of Creation is so vast and diverse as to boggle our minds when we try to take it all in so each week will focus on the splendor of one glorious part of the whole. Today’s celebration is of the forests which offer sanctuary, provide life-sustaining oxygen and unmatched beauty. As psalm 96 says, Let all the trees of the forest sing for joy” and we with them.
Dave: Opening Prayer
Gracious Creator, help us discern
your vibrant presence among us, especially in the mysteries of the forest. Let us be reminded of the quiet of the forest where the sound
of an acorn dropping to soft soil echoes; where the scampering of forest animals shows the sweetness and dynamism of Creation.
As the oak and elm stand as sentinels outlined against a vast sky, may we also grow to stand tall as witnesses
to beauty and truth. May we stretch beyond our grasp to make lasting peace and bring restorative justice
to all of Your Creation. Amen.
MONG the lofty peaks of the Lebanese Mountains one tiny, dot of green can be seen in the expanse of snow on the mountains. Once a luxuriant blanket covering the entire mountain range, today the famed cedars of Lebanon survive in two limited groves. The ‘sherri grove of cedars, estimated to be 2,000 years old, are survivors from biblical times.
What brought about their disappearance? The wood was prized for its lasting quality, easy workability, and fragrance. King Solomon, commanded “that cedars of Lebanon be cut. . .” in order to “build a house for the name of the Lord my God.” Thirty thousand workers were sent to hew cedars for the temple. Early Phoenicians felled the tough, water‐resistant cedars to build ships. Invading armies burned the wood for fuel. Settlers cut and cleared the land for farms and pasture. Erosion resulted and goats concluded the final destruction.
Like pilgrims to Mecca, my family traveled to see these living monuments to antiquity. A three hour drive along the coast led to the mountain town of B’sherri, birthplace of Kahlil Gibran. A few kilometers beyond, on an outcropping of rock formed by glaciers, stand the majestic cedars of B’sherri, guarded by watchmen day and night. Every August, a festival is held honoring them. A cedar graces the national flag of Lebanon.
The cedars cast a majestic silhouette against the pristine snow of their landscape. The trunk of the Cedar grows to a height of 120 feet and measures 48 feet around. Like Bible poets, we admire the cedars of Lebanon for their noble stature, abundant shade, delicate fragrance and determined fruitfulness. They are a testament to the need for conservation—a story old but ever new. In the wisdom of The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran tells us, “Let today embrace the past with remembrance.”
Let us live as if the future depends on it.
These are the inspired words of Deni Seibert and we affirm them by adding, Amen.
|photo by MT Streck|
Mary Theresa: Gospel Reading from John 1: 1-10 and 12, 14
IN THE BEGINNING
there was the Word;
the Word was in God’s presence,
And the Word was God.
The Word was present to God
From the beginning.
Through the Word
all things came into being,
And apart from the Word
Nothing came into being.
In the Word was life,
And that life was humanity’s light—
A Light that shines in the darkness,
A Light that the darkness has never overtaken.
The Word was coming into the world—
Was in the world—
And though the world
Was made through the Word,
The world didn’t recognize it.
Yet any who did accept the Word,
Who believed in that Name,
Were empowered to become children of God—
And the Word became flesh
And stayed for a little while among us;
We saw the Word’s glory—
filled with grace
filled with truth.
These are the inspired words of the biblical writer known as John and we affirm them
by adding, Amen.
(Pause for consideration of the readings)
Lynn: Homily Starter
There are over 100 references to the cedars of Lebanon in scripture like: “the righteous will grow like a cedar”. To build his palace, King David had them exported from what was ancient Phoenicia and as we heard, Solomon used them for his temple. They were not only dignified and majestic but also plentiful.
And now, these sturdy and fragrant sentinels of the ages are endangered.
Of course, we know that Cedars aren’t the only victims of deforestation. Half of the rain forests in the world have been lost in just the last 60 years. The need of firewood, agricultural expansion (rather than efficiency of current land use), the plunder of mineral extraction and building of ranches and roads sacrifices 31,000 sq. miles of forest annually—an area equivalent to the entire state of South Carolina.
And when we lose forests, we lost not merely their beauty or the home for wildlife but their functions of flood control, sustaining clean water and air and preventing erosion. Deforestation causes 11% of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions; a level equal to the impact of all the cars and trucks in the world.
So there is reason and planning to how the Divine saw fit to include forests as part of Creation. Todays’ gospel opens up the idea of there being a reason, a Divine plan, a conscious gifting of The Word at the heart of all Creation.
John explains how and why Creation has come to be. “In the beginning there was The Word” is reminiscent of the only other bible verse that starts this way: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. The Genesis story of was written first, but John’s Gospel posits a sacred consciousness that precedes Genesis.
The Word that exists before all recorded time is our eternal intimacy with God in Christ. The Word is life, love personified, visible as light itself. The Word is sacred and ultimately becomes Jesus in the flesh of humanity. The Word is the love of God entwined with Christ, revealing all that is sacred in the delightful, heavenly dwelling place we call Creation.
The idea of Christ as existing even before Creation is also found in Colossians, where Christ is described as “the firstborn of all Creation” — there at the beginning. In Revelation, Jesus Christ is called the Alpha and Omega. Jesus wasn’t created 2,000 years ago as a remedy for human sin. The Holy One didn’t start revealing Love to us when Jesus arrived and died tragically some 30 years later. God has always so loved the world. And Creation is the proof, the revelation of Divine Love.
Richard Rohr asks us to see The Word and the Genesis story as the first incarnation of Divine Love. He calls Jesus becoming human the second incarnation.
So we celebrate Creation as Incarnation. All of creation, including animals, people, places and things like the endangered Cedars of Lebanon or the path to your front door or your annoying Aunt Felicia are what Rohr would call the “hiding place for Spirit and for the Body of God”. Ilia Delio indicates that “the world is created as a means of God’s self-revelation so that like a mirror or a footprint, it might lead us to love the Creator.” This is the love story of Creation. May the Season of Creation lead us away from fear and anxiety and into the Divine plan for love.
What did you hear in the readings? How will it affect your choices? What will it cost?
Shared Reflections: everyone is encouraged to add comments, reactions or insights on the readings. We all benefit from a diversity of views and we are richer for the participation of the whole membership.
|Photo by MT Streck |
Bernie: Let us pray our Statement of Faith together
We believe in the Holy One, a divine mystery
beyond all definition and rational understanding,
the heart of all that has ever existed,
that exists now, or that ever will exist.
We believe in Jesus, messenger of the Divine Word,
bringer of healing, heart of Divine compassion,
bright star in the firmament of the Holy One's
prophets, mystics, and saints.
We believe that we are called to follow Jesus
as a vehicle of divine love,
a source of wisdom and truth,
and an instrument of peace in the world.
We believe in the Spirit of the Holy One,
the life that is our innermost life,
the breath moving in our being,
the depth living in each of us.
We believe that the Divine kin-dom is here and now,
stretched out all around us for those
with eyes to see it, hearts to receive it,
and hands to make it happen.
|Photo by MT Streck |
LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST for our SEASON OF CREATION
Dennis: As we prepare for the sacred meal, we bring to the table our prayers and intentions:
Lynn: We pray for these and all unspoken intentions. Amen.
Bernie: With open hearts and hands let us pray our Eucharistic prayer in one voice:
O Holy One, you are always with us. In the blessed abundance of creation, we gather to celebrate Your nourishing gift of life. May our hearts be open as You invite us to participate in the wise and wonderful work of co-creation. May we be ever aware of Your Spirit within and among us as our world unfolds amid pain and beauty into the fullness of life.
We are grateful for Your Spirit whose breath inspired the primal waters, calling into being the variety and abundance we see around us. Your Spirit sustains and animates our every endeavor, inviting us to act in wisdom and in truth.
In gratitude and joy we embrace our calling and we lift our voices to proclaim a song of praise:
Here in this Place https://youtu.be/sgkWXOSGmOQ
Judy: As a community, we gather in the power of your Spirit, refreshing wind, purifying fire and flowing water, for the variety and diversity of Creation. We seek to live as Jesus taught us, wise and holy as Spirit-filled people, courageous and prophetic, ever obedient to your will.
Please extend your hands in blessing.
We invoke Your Spirit upon the gifts of this Eucharistic table, bread of the grain and wine of the grape, that they may become gifts of wisdom, light and truth which remind us of our call to be the body of Christ to the world.
On the night before he faced his own death, Jesus sat at the Seder supper with his companions and friends. He reminded them of all that he taught them, and to fix that memory clearly with them, he bent down and washed their feet.
All lift their plate as the community prays the following:
When he returned to his place, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and offered it to them saying:
Take this bread and eat it;
This is my very self.
(consume bread and pause)
All lift their cup as community prays the following:
Lynn: Jesus then raised a cup of blessing, spoke the grace and offered the wine saying:
Take and drink of the covenant
Made new again through my life in you.
Whenever you remember me like this,
I am among you.
(drink and pause)
Ginny: In union with all peoples living and dead, we unite our thoughts and prayers, asking wisdom to discern more wisely your call to us in the circumstances of our daily lives. We seek to act justly and courageously in confronting the suffering that desecrates the Earth and its peoples.
We look to take risks in being creative and proactive on behalf of the poor and marginalized who suffer from environmental injustices of fouled air, tainted water, food deserts and a poverty of public space for community socializing.
Holy One, your transforming energy is always moving within us and working through us. Like Jesus, we will open up wide all that has been closed about us, and we will live compassionate lives,
for it is through living as Jesus lived,
That we awaken to your Spirit within,
Moving us to glorify you,
O Holy One,
At this time and all ways.
Lynn: Let us pray as Jesus taught us with an eye toward this Season of Creation:
Generous Creator, the intricate and elegant biodiversity of our world is your hallowed autograph on our lives, on our souls and in our hearts.
We yearn for the wholeness of being One with Your will and with all living things.
Each day we draw on your creative, life-giving energy with gratitude and awe as we find nourishment in, seed and field, river and forest.
May we be stewards and co-creators with you in caring for the gifts of Your Creation.
We acknowledge our shortcomings, especially our neglect of the environment on this Creation Sunday. We seek to be reconciled with those we have hurt and we resolve to do better.
With your unfailing wisdom and the wind of Your Spirit, inspire us that we may reach out and love one another and care for the world, our home.
Strengthen us to work for local and global justice so that we may one day reap a harvest of equality and fairness as if they were wildflowers, propagating spontaneously, unerringly and in surprising abundance. Amen.
Terri: We are called to live the Gospel of Creation in harmony and gratitude with all our sisters and brothers across the Earth. We will live justly, love tenderly and walk with integrity in Your Presence.
Communion song: Flowers of the Forest ~ Mike Oldfield
Terri: Let us pray together our closing blessing:
Creator most generous and kind, your gift of Earth and sky reveals your omnipotence and glory. May we go forward boldly to live in the glory. May we treat all of Creation as sacred and discern the best path to an equitable distribution of the resources we share with our sisters and brothers across the globe. May we live as if the future depends on it. Amen.