May 2, 2021 – Fifth Sunday of Easter
Whenever you see this movie reel symbol, you can click on it to view a video segment on YouTube. If you experience any difficulties, please contact our webmaster.
Message from the Rev. Helen Smith
Welcome to worship with Guildwood today. While we have been apart from each other for what seems to be forever, our worship today focusses on our connectedness as part of creation and the part of God’s mission that involves us working together to care for creation. May the Spirit bring us together in this common worship and common work.
Rev. Helen Smith
Call to Worship
You can listen to the audio recording of the Call to Worship — in the Welcome message recording above — with Rev. Helen Smith, joining in unison with her and Rev. Bob Smith, while consulting the text below; or just use the text.
Spoken by One (L) / Spoken by All (P)
Leader: The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.
People: The world, and all who live in it.
Leader: Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
People: Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
Leader: Let the field exult, and everything in it.
People: Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord!
All: Let us sing for joy before the Lord!
Book of Praise – 716 “Pray for the Wilderness”
- Video with on-screen words as in the hymnbook, with the exception of one word different.
- Words (1988) by American hymnwriter and composer Daniel Charles Damon (1955–). Music (1967; tune “Wilderness”) by Lee Yu San. Words copyright © 1991 hope Publishing Co; music copyright © 1967 Korean Hymnal Society.
- Performed in August 2020 by Dr. Alicia Gayah-Batchasingh, Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago.
Prayers of Approach and Confession
God of all creation, our hearts fill with praise and wonder at all you have made. We bask in the abundance of creation and are nourished by all that is good in it. Our thirst is quenched by clean waters. Our hunger is satisfied by harvests. We are comforted and loved by friends and family. We freely create and work and play. Every day we are reminded: all life depends on all life.
Our hearts fill with sorrow and guilt for the destruction we have caused. We misuse the abundance of creation and squander the goodness in it. Our thirst for resources knows no end, the land and water die by our hands. We have polluted and overused river, lake and ground waters. We mourn barren earth stripped of nutrients, no longer supporting bountiful harvests. We lament melting ice and permafrost that threatens Northern life and people. We confess our participation in abusing the sacred trust you bestowed upon us to care for your earthly garden of Eden. Our appetite for power blinds us to the vulnerable and the sacred. We freely consume and pollute and destroy. Every day we forget: All life depends on all life.
Forgive us our thoughtlessness, our selfishness, our disregard for the earth, the air, the water, for all that gives life. We pray in Jesus’ name, and continue to pray as he taught:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever.
Assurance of Pardon
The psalmist writes in the 32nd Psalm: “Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven … While I kept silence, my body wasted away … my strength was dried up. Then I acknowledged my sin to you … and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” Thanks be to God.
The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
It was Christmas Eve, 1968. Apollo 8 was orbiting the moon, the first mission to do so. And one of the astronauts, Bill Anders, began a broadcast back to earth: “We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew on Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth…”
And the three astronauts, in turn, read Genesis 1: 1–10. Frank Borman, Commander of the crew finished off with:
“‘And God called the dry land Earth;
and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas:
and God saw that it was good.’
And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”
The good earth. God saw all that God had made and God saw that it was good. That is the continuing refrain throughout the first story of creation, Genesis 1: 1 – 2: 4.
God saw all that God had made and God saw that it was good.
Last week, 40 countries met for a climate summit. The goal was to marshal a united effort to hold back global warming to 1.5° C instead of 2° C by the end of the century. That will save millions of people from the impact of rising oceans, prevent more plants and animals from going extinct and lower risks of extreme wildfires, floods and droughts, according to a 2018 report from the United Nations Scientific Panel on Climate Change. At the two-day summit last week, Canada pledge to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030. This falls short of the targets of the U.S., the EU, and the UK. We have to do better at this. And yet our response to lower prices at the pumps seems to be buying more gas guzzling vehicles.
Flooding, fires, droughts, air pollution, oil spills, shrinking glaciers, shrinking numbers of dolphins, oysters, sea turtles. Such are the effects of how we are handling the good earth. I remember when we lived in Calgary, the Calgary Herald reported on a new study on shrinking glaciers. The study suggested shrinking glaciers could affect Alberta’s iconic views of white-capped Rocky Mountains, world-renowned trout fishing in the Bow River and even the quality of drinking water by the end of this century. Geoengineering had an answer to this, various sun-dimming approaches. It sounds incredible, to literally “manage” the amount of sunlight that reaches the earth, to spray stuff into the stratosphere to create a permanent haze and make the blue skies of Calgary a thing of the past. This is not the answer to shrinking glaciers.
Then there is the garbage on our city streets, tossed thoughtlessly, a blight on the earth, a thumbing our noses at God the Creator, and the goodness of God’s creation.
The Judeo-Christian ethic is sometimes blamed for the abuse of creation. You know where it says in Genesis 1: 26: Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth … fill the earth and subdue it, well we have interpreted that to mean that we have dominion, we can lord over the creation, we are in charge, we can use and abuse as we please, and we do.
We need to read these passages in context. And note that there are two creation accounts, two authors. The first, Genesis 1: 1 to 2:4a, scholars attribute to the Priestly writer, so called because this writer is concerned with worship. We see the poetry, the cadence in the writing. The second account, Genesis 2: 4b – 3:24, has a slightly different order for the creation of things. This writer is called the Yahwist because the writer refers to God as Yahweh. The second account speaks of Adam as a dirt creature, (his name comes from the Hebrew word adamah, which means earth), made from the earth and placed in a garden to look after it, not to exploit it, not to abuse it, not to destroy it. The Hebrew word in Genesis 2:15 is “shamar”. It means an act of protection and care giving. It is the same word used in the blessing: “may the Lord bless you and keep you”. And then Yahweh goes on to create the animals, and from the man, the woman, both dirt creatures, both part of creation. People are a fundamental part of the world system in which we live. We are not above nature; we are part of it and we are responsible to God for the way we care for the world and for the plants and other creatures with whom we share it.
Living Faith, one of our subordinate standards of faith, says that we believe
“Though life is a gift from God,
human life depends upon the created world.
Our care for the world must reflect God’s care.
We are not owners, but stewards of God’s good earth.
Concerned with the wellbeing of all of life
we welcome the truths and insights
of all human skill and science
about the world and the universe.
Our stewardship calls us to explore ways of love and justice
in respecting God’s creation
and in seeking its responsible use
for the common good.” (Living Faith 2.4)
With all of that in mind, let us go back now to the first story of creation. The whole point of the story is that God has made a world of order and balance out of a state of chaos. And it was good. Men and women are called upon to maintain and preserve the world as God intends it to be. We are made in the image of God, an image of a creator, not a destroyer. God intended there to be a mutual respect and service between people and the world in which they live. We are here to be stewards of creation, to look after it, not to destroy it.
Twenty five years ago, Cameroon, a country in west-central Africa just east of Nigeria, had a rich tropical evergreen forest that provided shelter for animals and birds of all kinds and enriched the fertility of the Cameroonian soils. In the last twenty years, this forest is almost extinct due to the indiscriminate deforestation by foreign timber companies in agreement with the Cameroon government. The result of this is that dry winds from the Sahara Desert find their way easily to the south, causing drought, the effect of which is that animal and human life is at stake. The same story is told in the Netflix film “The Boy who Harnessed the Wind” about Malawi, on the other side of Africa.
Cameroon used to be a great exporter of food crops in the whole of Central Africa but is now experiencing food insufficiency for its local population. Fifteen years ago, the Presbyterian church in Cameroon, in an effort to prevent drought, started an annual event of tree planting every last Sunday of May to the first Sunday in June. Every Presbyterian is committed to do so every year. With this exercise at least 400,000 trees are planted every year in a way to “rebirth” the creation destroyed by the irresponsibility of human beings.
There are so many things we can do. Think twice before you get in your car and drive to the store. Maybe you could walk, save the gas, and improve your health! We have seen some of the benefits, with fewer miles being put on cars during the pandemic. During the warmer months, use a drying rack outside to dry your clothes. Eat local. Have you heard of the 100 km diet? Try to eat foods grown within 100 km of your home. Avoid waste. Enjoy leftovers. They usually taste better because the flavour has permeated through, and you don’t have to spend a lot of time preparing it!
Learn more about the environment, how we can care for it. One of the collateral damages of the pandemic, with the increase in takeout food, is the increased use of disposable food containers. Be creative. How can we use them, or make sure they are recycled? When the election does come ask the candidates at your doors what they would do for the environment. Remember the three R’s, reduce, reuse, recycle.
Listen to our indigenous brothers and sisters. They have much to teach us about caring for the earth. There is no word for garbage in the Cree language. Everything has some use, some value. And while there may be some economic cost to caring for the earth, while we may not be able to continue to live in the grand fashion to which we have become accustomed, we need to heed the grief-stricken words of the Cree proverb: “Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize, we cannot eat money.”
In a letter to the editor this week Roger Smith writes: “I had the privilege and pleasure of living in a small Cree community. I taught in a one-room school, but I am convinced the people taught me more than I taught them. I learned that their eco-accounting is quite simple: Everything in nature is of equal value; while there are many strands in the web of life, cutting one would destroy the entire web.”
Chief Seattle said:
“Every part of the earth is sacred,
all things are connected.
Whatever we do to the web of life we do to ourselves.
Let us give thanks for the web and the circle that connects us.
Thanks be to God, the God of all.”
So many things we can do, some as small as turning off the TV if we are not watching it, turning out lights we aren’t using, putting on a sweater instead of upping the thermostat, using a drying rack for your laundry. Don’t ever think that even the smallest action doesn’t count, doesn’t matter.
At the oceanside, an old woman bent down, picked something up, and threw it into the ocean. She then moved on down the beach a few steps and did the same thing again. From down the beach came a young man, running at the edge of the surf. He passed the old woman and stopped, breathing heavily from his run. He asked the old woman: “What are you doing?”
The old woman answered, “There was a ship gone off course last night. Lots of these starfish were washed up onto the beach. If I don’t throw them back, the sun will dry them out and they’ll be dead by noon.”
The young jogger laughed and said, “You are a fool, old woman. Look! This beach is huge. Why there must be thousands of starfish stranded on it. Most of them are dead or dying already and you can’t get to them all. Listen to me, old woman. What you’re doing just doesn’t matter.”
The old woman did not look up and did not stop. She just bent over and picked up another starfish from the beach and threw it into the safety of the waves, saying gently, “It mattered to that one.”
In all our efforts to care for our environment, God bless all of us, all of us on the good earth.
- “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”. Words and music are a traditional American spiritual, first published in 1927. This version of the words by Canadian composer and musician Andrew Donaldson (1951–). This arrangement by Rachelle Risling. Words copyright © 1997 Andrew Donaldson; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Arrangement © 2021 Rachelle Risling; used by permission.
- Vocals and keyboard performed by GCPC Music Director Rachelle Risling.
- Audio recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
We remind everyone that we must continue to pay our bills; in the absence of Sunday worship, you may sign up for pre-authorized remittance (PAR), donate online, or drop off your offering envelope in the mailbox at the church. Do not leave a cash donation unattended in the mailbox; instead, please call the office (416.261.4037) to ensure someone will be there to receive it. The building will be checked daily for mail and phone messages. If you are not comfortable leaving an envelope, you are welcome to contact the office (once again, 416.261.4037) and someone will pick up your offering.
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Hope
In you, O God, we live and move and have our being. You dance in creation and invite us to dance with you. We dedicate our gifts, our hands, feet and voices to your service, to care for all life.
We give thanks, O God, for the gifts of life you have given to us. For the air around us, the earth underneath us, the water and the food that sustain us. We thank you for the birds of the air, the fish in the sea, the flowers, the vegetables, for all the beauty of your creation. We thank you for our brothers and sisters, our fellow dirt creatures, who encourage us and serve along side us. We find joy and support in each other; we freely share and co-operate and grow.
In this time of pandemic we pray with thanksgiving for those who are working to keep us safe, to keep us fed, to provide for our needs, often at risk to their own health. We give thanks for vaccines, for the hope they bring to us. And we pray for those of us who are struggling, for those who mourn, those who are ill of body, mind or soul. We pray for those of us who are tired of restrictions, and staying home, of virtual schooling, of connecting only on a screen. Grant us all your peace.
We hear your call to care for and restore creation, and are energized by the goodness in that. We pray for people displaced by rising sea levels, drought, and conflict. We pray for thirsty people: where there is drought, where there is no access to clean water, let their thirst be quenched. We pray for hungry people: where rains do not fall; where the soil nutrients have been stripped, where people have no access to land. May we work for change so that all may be able to grow a bountiful harvest.
Life is a gift from you, Creator God. Our survival depends on the flourishing of your world. We pray for scientists, government officials and decision-makers. Make them bold to initiate just policies to mitigate the impacts of our abuse of the world. We pray for organizations that respond to droughts and floods, that work to alleviate poverty and change the systems that produce poverty. Fill them with Christ’s mercy. We pray for people who work to transform unsustainable systems and lifestyles into thriving, sustainable communities that reflect your love of creation. Let your wisdom and a love of creation guide their work.
These prayers we offer in the name of Jesus, Amen.
Book of Praise – 307 “God of the sparrow, God of the Whale”
- Video with on-screen words exactly as in the hymnbook.
- Words (1983) by American hymnwriter Jaroslav J. Vajda (1919–2008). Music (1983; tune “Roeder”) by American composer Carl F. Schalk (1929–2021). Words copyright © 1983 Jaroslav J. Vajda; music copyright © 1983 G.I.A Publications.
- Performed March 3, 2019 by First-Plymouth Congregational Church, Lincoln, Nebraska.
May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (Romans 15:13)
- “Go Now in Peace”. Words by American educator, lyricist and composer Don Besig (1936–) and American lyricist Nancy Price (1958–). Music by Don Besig. Words and music copyright © 1988 Harold Flammer Music, a division of Shawnee Press; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- Performed by Rachelle Risling (keyboard) and the GCPC Senior Choir. Audio and video production by Rachelle Risling.
- Audio and video recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
Copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated on 2021-05-14 at 22:25 – Minor correction to caption for audio of the Prayers of Approach and Confession.