Resources: Church resources

A service to introduce ‘Climate change and the purposes of God’

Posted in: Church resources, Climate change and the purposes of God
Resource type: Liturgy

A simple service (or part of a service) to pray for the effectiveness of ‘Climate change and the purposes of God’ in enabling the Church to speak out with a clear voice on the issue of climate change.

You can download copies of the service (pdf) here.

Preparation

You may like to plan to follow this short service of commitment with a time of prayer, communion or coffee (to enable discussion).

A service leader is needed to introduce, guide and end the service. A couple of songs or hymns could be included if wanted. We suggest that, if possible, seven different people are asked to read a section of the declaration each. They should read the title, the bible verse and then the content. Then allow a few moments of silent reflection and end each section with a simple prayer – either using their own words or using the suggestions below.

Please distribute copies of the declaration to those attending and ensure people involved in preparing and reading have a copy. Please also have leaflets about Operation Noah to place on chairs or have available. You may like to take a collection for Operation Noah as people leave. You can download or order copies of the Declaration here.

Welcome and explanation

Read out:

Operation Noah is a Christian charity which provides leadership, focus and inspiration in response to the growing threat of catastrophic climate change.

This service will introduce us to the content of their document ‘Climate change and the purposes of God: a call to the Church’ and encourage us to pray through each section. The declaration affirms that the flourishing of the earth is inseparable from the mission of God and that of the church.  It states that as Christians we cannot ignore the scientific evidence of human induced climate change. It is not too late to stop dangerous climate change and to mitigate its consequences for the poorest communities, for our children and grandchildren, and for all other species.

The future of human life on this planet requires a radical and urgent change in direction, seeking an equitable and just solution for all. We need to re-order our lifestyles and seek a fundamental re-alignment of our relationship with the world we live on. God’s Spirit changes hearts and can prompt in us a change of direction.  In this aspect of mission, responsibility falls to every Church and every believer.

As Archbishop Rowan Williams has said; “Living in a way that honours, rather than threatens the planet, is living out what it means to be made in the image of God.”

Suggested song or hymn (Creation sings the Father’s song, For the beauty of the Earth, God is love: let heaven adore him, O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, Great is the darkness, Praise the Lord, ye heavens, adore him, This earth belongs to God etc)

Let’s turn now to the content of the declaration itself;

Each section is read out (using different people if possible) using the title, the bible verse and the content. Then allow a few moments of silent reflection and end with a simple prayer – either in their own words or using the suggestions below.

1: Find joy in creation!

‘How many are your works, Lord!

In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures…

May the Lord rejoice in his works.’ (Psalm 104:24, 31)

According to the witness of our Scriptures, everything that we have, life and the means of life, comes to us as gift. This is the ground of our worship. The beauty and harmony of God’s creation is for all cultures a source of human wellbeing, spiritual nourishment and joy. Christians understand God’s relation to creation in three ways.  All reality comes from God the Father; the flourishing of the earth and its future are foundational to the mission of God (and therefore to the Church’s mission).  God embraces material reality in Jesus in whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17).  God the Spirit gives life to all reality at all times and in all places.  ‘The love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 5:5) overflows in our love and care for all God’s creatures.

Allow a few moments of silent reflection

Prayer  (or use own words):

Let us think back to times when we have been overwhelmed by the beauty of creation. Lord use us to care for your gift of the natural world that surrounds us.Amen

2: Listen!

‘I appointed watchmen over you and said; “Listen to the sound of the trumpet!”’ (Jeremiah 6:17)

In recent decades, and with increasing urgency, climate scientists have warned of the dangers of catastrophic climate change resulting from human activity. Instability in weather systems is already bringing destruction and suffering to millions of people. In the light of the best knowledge we have, climate change could result in the loss of livelihoods and sometimes of life for huge numbers of people and the extinction of countless species.  This matters because the well-being of all creation matters to God (Psalm 145:9).

Prophets are those who speak truth, usually uncomfortable truth, to their generation. In ancient Israel, prophets were always shadowed by false prophets, representing the ruling powers. We must listen to the scientists warning us of approaching dangers, exercise discernment, and be wary of ‘false prophets’ representing the vested interests of the powerful.

Allow a few moments of silent reflection

Prayer  (or use own words):

Listen to the sound of the trumpet. Lord we pray for discernment to seek the truth in learning more of what is happening to this precious earth. Amen

3: Repent!

‘Jesus said; “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”’ (Mark 1:14-15)

Continuing to pollute the atmosphere when we know the dangers, goes against what we know of God’s ways and God’s will. We are failing to love not only the earth, but our neighbours and ourselves, who are made in God’s image. God grieves over the destruction of creation and so should we. Repentance means finding creative, constructive and immediate ways of addressing the danger. It happens when God’s Spirit enables a change of mind and change of heart, prompting a turn from past wrong and a decision to change direction.  For our generation, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels has become essential to Christian discipleship.

Allow a few moments of silent reflection

Prayer  (or use own words):

Lord, we repent not only of the ways in which we fail you personally as believers, but for the ways in which we are failing to take action to address the dangers facing our world through climate change. Amen

4: Take responsibility!

‘The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the heavens languish with the earth. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.’ (Isaiah 24:4-5)

Humans, made in God’s image, have unique responsibility for the wellbeing of creation (Genesis 1:26, 2:15). We are to care for the earth because it is gift, the product of God’s love. No sparrow falls without God knowing. Humanity has always had the capacity to destroy our environment, but today we have this to an unprecedented extent.  Whereas previous generations did not know the damage they were causing, we do.  We must use our power wisely to promote the flourishing of future generations and the diversity of life on earth. This is the responsibility of every Church and every believer.

Allow a few moments of silent reflection

Prayer  (or use own words):

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said; “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”  Lord, help us to take responsibility for this world. Amen

5: Seek justice!

‘He will judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice. The mountains will bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness. He will defend the afflicted among the people, and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor.’  (Psalm 72:2-4)

God is just and requires justice in response from us. This justice applies to poor communities already suffering the devastating consequences of climate change, to future generations, and to all other creatures. The prophets put economic behaviour at the forefront of their call to justice. The primary driver of human induced climate change is the belief that prosperity depends on limitless consumption of the earth’s resources. Today, the challenge is to seek a different, sustainable economy, based on the values of human flourishing and the well-being of all creation, not on the assumption of unlimited economic growth, on overconsumption, exploitative interest and debt.

To seek justice for all, for present and future generations, our authorities must encourage and enable all people to live fairly and sustainably. Acting justly requires us to hold our governments and corporations to account.

Allow a few moments of silent reflection

Prayer  (or use own words):

Lord, help us to play our part in seeking justice for those who suffer now, and who will suffer in the future because of the impact of climate change.Amen

Suggested song or hymn at this point (eg I will speak out, Darkness like a shroud)

6: Love our neighbours!

‘So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.’ (Matthew 7:12)

Christ teaches us to love all our neighbours, not just our own family and friends. This love extends to our grandchildren and future generations. People in poor communities are mostly innocent of any role in causing climate change, whilst the nations that pollute the most, refuse to accept their responsibilities. Loving our neighbour requires us to reduce our consumption of energy for the sake of Christ, who suffers with those who suffer. To live simply and sustainably contributes significantly to human flourishing. As the nations fight over dwindling energy resources, Christians need to bear witness that the way to life, and not death, is the way of non-retaliation. In the future, Christians may also be called to receive into their communities refugees forced to leave their lands through climate change.

Allow a few moments of silent reflection

Prayer  (or use own words):

Lord, you summarized all the law into two commandments; to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds and soul and to love our neighbour as ourselves. Help us to obey. Amen

7: Act with hope!

‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ (Romans 15:13)

Hope in God motivates us to take action that can lead to transformation, for by God’s power at work within us, God is able to accomplish more than we can ask or imagine. Despite the strong probability of very serious effects from global warming, for Christians despair is not an option.  It is when we follow Christ and the way of the Cross, in response to his grace, that we experience the God of hope who gives us joy and peace. We are called to faith and action in trusting response to the God made known by the Holy Spirit in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Lord of all life. As Christians we can live in hope, despite the dangers that threaten us.

Through God we hope for new life for all creation (Romans 8:19-25). Our planet, made new by the meeting of heaven and earth, will have an abiding value in the purpose of God (Revelation 21:1-5). We are called to live and work with hope in response to God’s gift, and in the light of God’s future: the promised coming of Christ’s reign over all.

Act with hope

Allow a few moments of silent reflection

Prayer  (or use own words):

May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in him, so we may overflow in hope. Amen

Closing prayer by leader:

Heavenly Father, we commit this declaration to you now.  We thank you for those who have worked hard to bring it about. We thank you for the work of Operation Noah and pray your blessing on the organisation as they seek to share and promote this Declaration. We pray that this call to the Church will enable Christians to take a stand and show leadership in responding to the enormous challenges that climate change is bringing to our fragile earth. By working together now we can bring hope for future generations and the whole created order.

Let’s close as we say together Percy Dearmer’s prayer:

O God, who set before us the great hope that your Kingdom shall come on earth and taught us to pray for its coming:  give us grace to discern the signs of its dawning and to work for the perfect day when the whole world shall reflect your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing

 

 

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