To assist you in this worship, I suggest you have before you an unlit candle and some symbols from nature that might help you worship and pray on this day. A flower, leaves, a stone, some water in a bowl, shells, animal figures and a cross may be useful to help you reflect.
out of the darkness, life emerged
(light a candle)
In light and breath
you gave birth to the world
(Take a deep breath in and out)
Jesus is the light of the world.
In him all things are made whole
(Cup your hands together and then make them into
a ball. Hold them together for a few moments).
Reading: Genesis 1: 1-31
1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
6 And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
9 And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
20 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” 21
So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind[c] 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.”
27 So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Reflecting on the Word: “And God saw that it was very good”
This creation story contains many powerful images. God turns dark watery chaos to order by speaking. The Spirit broods over the waters. God creates sun and moon, the great lights of the sky. Then come the plants and creatures and creation is teeming with life and is described as “very good” by God a number of times. Human beings, male and female, are made equally in God’s image. The Sabbath is blessed as the holy culmination of creation. There is food for all, room for all and rest for all.
Today, we are far from a world in balance. Much of our world pursues a decidedly unsustainable environmental course due to poor human choices which have resulted in our climate gradually warming. Even worse, a disproportionate share of the consequences of climate change is borne by the very poor, those 40% of our fellow human beings who live in “poverty” (1.5 billion people) or “extreme poverty” (the 1 billion people who earn less than $2 a day). Without significant changes, planet earth will exact a heavy price for our choices.
Theology, as well as science and environmental expertise, ought to inform our motives and choices. If God created the world and called it good, and then made a covenant after the flood not only with Noah’s family and his descendants, but with every living creature, all life, and with the very earth itself, then surely we should be reaffirming our commitment to caring for creation as responsible stewards.
If nothing else, simple self-interest should remind us that all life remains fundamentally dependent upon being an integral part of a functioning planet with healthy ecosystems. Our fate is bound up with the fate of the planet.
I feel frustrated that we, as a society, are being irresponsible with our only home, and that our children, grandchildren, and poor people around the world will pay the price. What exactly are we signing those who will inherit the earth from us up for?
Are we willing to stop being like the rich man hoarding his goods and learn to be content with enough? Will we learn to treasure the plants and creatures around us more than inanimate goods? Are we willing to commit to living ethically in a broken world, a world in which human beings are dependent on each other for their collective survival? Are we willing to not only change our own habits, but to actively lobby our government to change theirs, and develop policies which will nurture and create life, rather than destroy it? Do we care enough to stop the sixth great extinction of species on the planet that God created and called “very good”?
Reflecting on the passage
As well as reflecting on the questions above, you might like to use the following meditation to help you think about God’s good creation, what we are grateful for, and how we might protect it.
We are going to use our gardens as a metaphor to help us. If you don’t have a garden, think of a beautiful place in nature or another’s garden you know and use that in your reflecting. You task is the complete each sentence as you imagine your garden. You could then repeat the exercise, but substitute ‘world’ for garden.
Let us think about how we connect to our common home, this earth we share.
Let us think about how we till and keep it.
In our garden we have …
I remember a garden that …
My ideal garden would have … in it
My favourite thing in our garden is …
I wish our garden had …
I would like to grow …
I don’t like it in our garden when …
I feel excited in our garden when …
We give thanks for gardens and gardeners. We give thanks for the earth that nurtures us, and our Creator God, giver of life. Amen.
breath and source of life,
in love you called the world into being
and in grace you made us and call us your children.
We stand in awe of the wonder of your creation:
its beauty and wildness; complexity and power;
resilience and fragility.
God of life,
you call us to be participants in the web and wellspring of life:
to be nurtured by the planet;
to be nurturing of the planet;
to cherish the world and all that lives.
But we have failed and creation groans under our weight.
God of grace,
forgive us in our brokenness: when we have taken too much from the earth;
when we have not spoken out against greed and destruction;
when we have allowed our most vulnerable neighbours to be harmed.
We seek courage and forgiveness to be made whole.
God of love,
we pray for those people, communities and nations
already suffering the devastating effects of climate change;
and we pray for the diversity of life on earth,
so much of it already threatened by our actions.
God of hope,
we pray for the world’s leaders.
Bless them with wisdom and creativity,
and a shared vision of hope for all creation.
May they find the determination to take strong action against climate change,
and the political will to act together for the common good.
we pray for us all,
that we might restore our relationships with each other
and work together to heal the earth.
Renew us in your grace, for the sake of your creation. Amen.
© 2015 Uniting Church in Australia Assembly
THE LORD’S PRAYER
We are blessed with the diversity
and uniqueness of creation,
Filled with beauty, mystery and life.
As you leave now and go out into this new day
Carrying God’s love and healing energy
to enable you to work and live in newness of life
For the glory of God’s creation. Amen.
Written by Rev Elizabeth Raine
Elizabeth is minister at Tuggeranong Uniting, beginning her ministry here in December 2018.
Over the years, she has had a number of diverse and interesting placements, such as a school chaplaincy, a tenancy worker with UnitingCare, a congregational minister, a lecturer at UTC, a Presbytery minister, and as an Intentional Interim minister.More from Rev Elizabeth Raine