Material for Worship on Climate Sunday

Nerys writes: You can’t but feel sorry for Jesus in our Gospel passage today, Mark 7.24-37. His attempts to lie low are constantly doomed to failure. Even in Phoenician territory to the north of Galilee, the home of Israel’s traditional enemies, he is sought out by someone in need. And it’s hard to imagine a more inappropriate request from a traditional Jewish point of view. As a religious teacher, Jesus should not have any dealings with a woman or with a Gentile and the fact that her daughter is possessed by an unclean spirit makes the situation even more inappropriate. Other rabbis would have turned from her in horror. Even Jesus struggles with her request, intent on bringing his message of salvation first to the Jews, but he listens to her, gives her an opportunity to challenge him and responds to her persistence.

Today we are called to follow Jesus’ example – we are called to listen, to be challenged and to respond. Today is Climate Sunday when we join with over a thousand churches in Britain and Ireland to consider the damage we are doing to our natural environment and to start prayerfully preparing ourselves for the crucial COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November.

You may be wondering why we should spend our worship time thinking about these things, why church should get involved in politics. You wouldn’t be alone in thinking like this. In today’s New Testament reading, James 2.1-17, we find that the Letter of James was written to a Christian church that had the attitude that belief doesn’t need to affect ordinary life in any way. Its first readers call themselves Christians and meet regularly to worship but they don’t see the Gospel as a matter that affects the rest of their lives or their understanding of the society and the wider world they live in. Instead, they seem to regard their faith as a kind of insurance policy which allows them to carry on with their normal lives without any worries about the consequences of their selfish actions. They are not ready to listen to the Gospel, to be challenged by its demands and to respond in their everyday lives. Are we?

Faith changes the way we live, says James. Faith is a commitment to trying to see the world with the eyes of God. As that desperate mother showed Jesus, God doesn’t have favourites. God loves all his children and we are called to do the same. Over and over again, the Gospels tell of Jesus interacting with those who would have been considered marginal by the rest of society. Today it is the woman who is also a Gentile and a deaf man who cannot communicate but there are many others. Indeed, it is mostly marginal figures whose lives are transformed by their encounters with Jesus, suggesting that being an insider, comfortable in the world we live in, makes it harder to hear the message of the Gospel for our time.

Are we ready to listen today to the voices of the young and the poor which tell us of the human cost of Climate crisis caused by the way we in the West live our lives? Will we allow them to challenge us to play our part in attempting to limit the rise in global warming and to join with them in putting pressure on our governments to make tackling climate change a priority as they seek to rebuild the economy? In St Mary’s over the next five weeks we will be focussing in our services on these challenging issues and praying for the leaders who will be at those crucial talks in Glasgow in November. We will also reflect on our own lifestyles, on what we can do as individuals and as a church to make a difference and how we can influence and inspire our wider community in Dunblane.

I wonder how you feel about this? Before you pray, you may wish to read Shirley Erena Murray’s hymn or reflect on the picture by an unknown artist entitled ‘Fragile, handle with care’.

Where are the voices for the earth?
Where are the eyes to see her pain,
wasted by our consuming path,
weeping the tears of poisoned rain?

Sacred the soil that hugs the seed,
sacred the silent fall of snow,
sacred the world that God decreed,
water and sun and river flow.

Where shall we run who break this code,
where shall tomorrow’s children be,
left with the ruined gifts of God,
death for the creatures, land, and sea?

We are the voices for the earth,
we who will care enough to cry,
cherish her beauty, clear her breath,
live that our planet may not die.

Collect for the Season of Creation
God Most High, maker of heaven and earth, you created humankind in your own image and entrusted the whole world to human care: give us grace to serve you faithfully, that we might be trustworthy stewards of your creation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.