Materials for Worship on the Third Sunday of the Season of Creation

Peter writes: In this Season of Creation we focus on celebrating God’s goodness but also the threats to the environment. We have heard about ways we can react. But today I want us to take a step back, and consider how all this is underpinned by our Christian faith and teaching.

Anglicans-Episcopalians express their belief through their prayers and liturgy. So, to see what lies behind our Christian response to the climate crisis, let’s look at our liturgy. We can start with the Creed. Its opening words are repeated in our Eucharistic Prayer for the Creation season, which we offer in praise and thankfulness to God, “Creator of all things, visible and invisible”. We go on to say that, in Jesus Christ, God became incarnate, took on human form. And so, for God, matter matters. Unlike some earlier heresies – and indeed what some still maintain – orthodox Christians believe that all things visible are important to God and he has not created them for nothing.

Still less did he create it for us to do with as we wish regardless of the consequences. Interestingly, Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York, recently suggested that we should go back to the earlier phrase in the Lord’s Prayer and say “your will be done in earth as in heaven”, because in expresses, quite literally, a superficial concept of creation, whereas God is involved in all that goes on; his kingdom is made manifest in his creation. In fact, the opening section of our Eucharistic Prayer picks this up when it says “the earth, the sea and all that is in them [praise him] in every place and at all times:”

The prayer goes on to say that God formed us in his own image and “entrusted us with the priesthood of his creation”. Our concern for the environment revises an earlier understanding of the creation narrative in Genesis. God did not create the plants and the animals solely for our benefit. They have value in God’s sight and our rôle is to be stewards, with responsibilities for their well-being. Jesus said “I come among you as one who serves”. Being formed in God’s image means that we are also to be servants, not dictators, of the environment.

When we are considering the theology of creation, we should also recall that our fundamental act of worship requires bread and wine, “which earth has given and human hands have made.” That is, the fruit of the earth becomes the outward and visible matter of God’s undying love. It is longer food for our bodies alone but also becomes food for our souls.

Our Celtic ancestors were keenly aware that God is manifest in the rhythm and beauty of nature. For some today this has morphed into a pagan new-age spirituality – “God is in every stone and blade of grass”. Celtic Christianity was (and is) much more trinitarian and orthodox, however. It professes that the whole of creation contains tell-tale signs of something infinitely greater beyond it and giving it purpose.

Today’s climate crisis has forced us to re-learn this lesson and to act accordingly. By abusing God’s creation we risk obliterating these outward and visible signs. Not only will the material resources of the world be exhausted, we ourselves will be spiritually impoverished.

In this Creation Season – as always – let us pay special heed to what we say in our liturgy so that, through God’s life-giving Spirit, we may be called to new birth as children of his redeeming purpose in a world restored by love.

For Reflection and Prayer

William Blake, The Ancient of Days setting a compass to the earth (Public domain)

This world
is not the accomplishment
of a moment of your time, Lord,
that we can see clearly.
Those rugged cliffs,
thrust from the depths of the sea,
filled with the evidence of the past,
were not created in the blinking of an eye.
The diamond’s hardness,
did not come suddenly.
This is the work of an infinite patience,
the creation of something
of which its creator could be pleased.
And now Lord, this infinite patience,
this creative love is directed towards us,
formed as we are from the very elements
of the world in which we live.
Your creative Spirit still at work,
tireless, ceaseless,
endlessly creating in our hearts the
image of your likeness.
The only difference being,
the diamond had no choice
in whether it would be transformed
into such beauty.
A Celtic prayer from “Faith and Worship” compiled by John Birch

Bishop Ian’s prayer on the death of Queen Elizabeth

Gracious God,
we give thanks for the life of your servant
Queen Elizabeth,
for her faith and her dedication to duty.
Bless our nation as we mourn her death
and may her example continue to inspire us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.