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Weekly worship: Sunday 1 September

World Day of Prayer for Creation

Brazilian embauba plant used for medicinal purposes by indigenous people.

The World Day of Prayer for Creation has been growing in significance over the few years and needs to be supported.   In 1989 the Orthodox Church declared 1 September as a Day of Prayer for Creation.  In what has been regarded as an ecumenical gesture of global significance, Pope Francis announced that the Roman Catholic Church will also recognize September 1 as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.  Other church leaders, including the international heads of various denominations have added their support.  A number of Church organisations, including the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation and the Anglican Communion, have joined in this call for prayer. See www.seasonofcreation.org

Jeremiah 2: 4-13

An important part of Jeremiah’s ministry took place after the death of King Josiah, from 609 BCE to Israel’s exile to Babylon in 587/6 BCE. His message was addressed to Judah and he complains that the leaders, the priests, the teachers and the prophets have abandoned God, have neglected their duty and turned to other things. They have forgotten their roots, the God who had been faithful to them in delivering them from slavery in Egypt, protecting them in the wilderness and who had brought them to a land of plenty.  They had defiled the land; the prophets had turned to Baal. He challenges both spiritual sin and ecological sin.

God, as he promised had brought them into a land flowing with milk and honey. It is God who “bought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruit and its good things.” (Jeremiah 2:7a). But what a powerful indictment “But when you entered you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.” (Jeremiah 2:7b).

Harsh words indeed, and yet the same complaint can be levelled at us, God gave us this beautiful planet to care for. Already one million of the 5 million species on this planet is under threat of extinction due to human activity.  Rivers are polluted, by 2050 there may be more plastic than fish in the oceans. Our children will inherit a bleak and barren planet.

Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and particularly in the prophetic writings it is evident that there is a connection between the people’s relationship to God and the earth itself. Faithfulness to God and justice in the community results in the fertility of the land – the blossoming of the desert. The opposite is also true.  In considering major environmental problems like climate change, fracking, acid mine drainage and plastic pollution, let us explore the link between unjust and exploitative political and social systems and the destruction of the planet.  What can we do to work for environmental justice – justice and fairness in the way both human beings, the land, the seas and the atmosphere are treated? How can we hear both the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth?

The complaint in Jeremiah is that people have forgotten and turned from God. they “have committed two evils: they have abandoned me, the fountain of living water, and have dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:12-13)

They no longer listen to God. Our society has also turned to other gods – gods of materialism and wealth.   The earth is no longer regarded as a gift from God to be used and enjoyed by all for the common good.  We privatise nature and attach a market value to it. 

The symbol of the cracked cisterns is a powerful one.  We are reminded of the precious gift of water, where it comes from, where it is stored and how it is distributed. How much does our water cost?  Why do so many people die from water-borne diseases and lack of adequate sanitation?  Should access to drinkable water not be a basic human right?  What can our church do to ensure the water supply in our community is clean and affordable?  How can the voice of the church be used in advocacy to amplify the voice of the voiceless? How do we:Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” (Proverbs 31:8.) Who can we partner with to address crucial issues of water and sanitation justice?

Prayer

This we know: the earth does not belong to us.

The earth is the Lord’s and so are all its people

This we know: we did not weave the web of life.

The earth is the Lord’s and so is all that breathes on it.

This we know: we are called to till and work the earth.

The earth is the Lord’s and so are all who work the land.

This we know: that we are called to take care of creation.

The earth is the Lord’s yet we have polluted and abused it.

This we know; that whatever befalls the earth

Befalls the sons and daughters of the earth

This we know: that the earth is the Lord’s

And so we will serve Him in it

Amen

 

Bishop Eric Pike, adapted from Ray Simpson

The weekly pointers for the Season of Creation www.seasonofcreation.org have been provided by Reverend Canon Rachel Mash, Environmental Coordinator at Anglican Church of Southern Africa

Points for prayer

Pray for the flourishing of all creation in the face of the current ecological crisis and climate emergency.

Pray that we would be good stewards of all that God has given us, for the good of all Creation and the glory of God.

Visit www.seasonofcreation.org for more ideas for prayer and worship.