Posts Tagged ‘Season of Creation’

Preparation for Worship

  • Something to remind you of the forest. At CBC, we designate the month of September as the Season of Creation. We spend time each Sunday reflecting on our relationship with different aspects of creation. This Sunday we take a look at the forest. So add something to your worship space to remind you of the forest.
  • Two candles. Our worship begins with the light of two candles: one represents Christ’s humanity and the other represents Christ’s divinity.
  • Something to eat and drink to celebrate communion. The type of food and drink does not matter for they are merely symbols which help us celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

The Worship of God

Light two candles in recognition of Christ’s presence.  In our practice, one candle represents Jesus’ divinity and the other Jesus’ humanity.

Gathering for Worship

Passing the Peace
Say to one another, “May the Peace of Christ be with you.”
Respond by saying, “And also with you.”

Call to Worship
Today is Forest Sunday. We acknowledge that we stand in the company of the trees who have lived longer than we have, housing a myriad of creatures, and given us our holy breath. Let us breathe, and pray, and sing today, and worship with the emerald forests.

A Reading from the Hebrew Bible
Genesis 2:4-9

Listen to a church member read the scriptures and/or read below.

On the day the Lord God made earth and sky— before any wild plants appeared on the earth, and before any field crops grew, because the Lord God hadn’t yet sent rain on the earth and there was still no human being to farm the fertile land, though a stream rose from the earth and watered all of the fertile land— the Lord God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils. The human came to life. The Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east and put there the human he had formed. In the fertile land, the Lord God grew every beautiful tree with edible fruit, and also he grew the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Opening Prayer
God, we come before you today to worship you — you who made the trees of the forest and all their companions. All are fearfully and wonderfully made!

We acknowledge that you created trees to be our companions from the beginning of time. When you formed us, you placed us in the midst of trees where we might live. Trees fed us and nourished us. Trees taught us. Trees gave us the opportunity to choose to follow you or to follow ourselves. And yet even though we were made in your image, we chose to worship and serve our desires instead of yours. So with humility we come to worship you today. Our heart’s desire is to honor and glorify you. We pray that our worship will be pleasing and acceptable. Amen.

Song of Adoration
The Trees of the Field

You shall go out with joy
And be led forth with peace
The mountains and the hills
Will break forth before you
There’ll be shouts of joy
And all the trees of the field
Will clap, will clap their hands

And all the trees of the field
Will clap their hands
The trees of the field
Will clap their hands
The trees of the field
Will clap their hands
While you go out with joy

Psalm Reading and Prayer for Others

A Reading from the Psalms
Psalm 119:33-40

Listen to a church member read the Psalm and/or read below.

Lord, teach me what your statutes are about,
and I will guard every part of them.
Help me understand so I can guard your Instruction
and keep it with all my heart.
Lead me on the trail of your commandments
because that is what I want.
Turn my heart to your laws,
not to greedy gain.
Turn my eyes away from looking at worthless things.
Make me live by your way.
Confirm your promise to your servant—
the promise that is for all those who honor you.
Remove the insults that I dread
because your rules are good.
Look how I desire your precepts!
Make me live by your righteousness.

Song of Praise
Walking with You

You’re growing me like a tree,
Your Spirit and love in me.
The glory of all You are is making me new.
O Fullness of Life,
My joy, my delight,
In worship unending I’m walking with You!

Almighty the Lord I Am,
Great Sov’reign and Son of Man,
The touch of the Father’s love so faithful and true,
Beginning and End,
Forgiver and Friend,
My Savior, My Shepherd, I’m walking with You!

You’re growing me like a tree,
Your Spirit and love in me.
The glory of all You are is making me new.
O Fullness of Life,
My joy, my delight,
In worship unending I’m walking with You!

Prayer for Others
Pause after each paragraph to give voice to prayers as prompted. [Additionally, if you would like our church family to pray for someone or something in particular, email the request to or call the church office at 293-9024.]

Merciful God, who shelters us and guides us,
we give you thanks for….

God who comforts,
receive those who are fearful and lonely….

God whose love is steadfast,
be refuge for the ill, the dying, and those who care about them.…

God of righteousness,
we ask for your wisdom and ways of justice
to prevail in our community, this nation, your world….

God who seeks our trust, grow us and guide us in your ways that are life-giving in your world. Amen.

Song of Faith
Canticle of the Sun

Listen to the choir sing and join in on the refrain.

The heavens are telling the glory of God,
and all creation is shouting for joy;
Come, dance in the forest, come, play in the field,
and sing, sing to the glory of the Lord!

1 Sing to the sun, the bringer of day,
he carries the light of the Lord in his rays;
the moon and the stars, who light up the way unto your throne.

2 Praise to the wind, that blows through the trees,
the seas mighty storms, the gentlest breeze;
they blow where they will, they blow where they please to please the Lord.

3 Praise to the rain, that waters our fields,
and blesses our crops so all the earth yields;
from death unto life her myst’ry revealed springs forth in joy.

4 Praise to the fire, who gives us his light,
the warmth of the sun to brighten our night;
he dances with joy, his spirit so bright, he sings of you.

5 Sing to the earth, who makes life to grow,
the creatures you made to let your life show;
the flowers and trees that help us to know the heart of Love.

6 Praise to our death, that makes our life real,
the knowledge of loss that helps us to feel;
the gift of yourself, your presence revealed to lead us home.

Celebrating Communion

Communion celebrates our unity–our unity with God and with one another. At Cullowhee Baptist Church we practice an open communion which means that anyone who seeks to live the Way of Jesus Christ is invited to share in communion with us. Although we are not able to meet together, our bond still remains with one another and God through Jesus Christ.

Imagine Jesus setting a table for us, a place where we may come together and share a meal. Before we “come to the table,” let us set our hearts aright and seek the Lord’s forgiveness for our shortcomings.

Prayer of Confession
God, we acknowledge that in the last five minutes, around five hundred thousand trees were destroyed across the world by human hands. That’s over 600 acres of forest habitat – of homes for birds and bees, monkeys and rabbits, jaguars and tree frogs. God, we pledge to feel this pain and to know that we carry the blame in our own ways. We pray for forgiveness, and for the possibility that we can become assistants in restoring our unity with the forests of the world.

From the moment we are born, we feel the grace of God coming off the wind, and whispering from the forests. We are always whole, and always part of creation’s wholeness, no matter what we do.

Assurance of Forgiveness
2 Corinthians 5:17-18a
If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, to whom we have been reconciled through Christ.

Now let us come to the “table.”

The table has been prepared as Jesus requested,
and we have been invited to the meal.
We come to the table like Peter,
with more enthusiasm than resolve;
like James and John,
dismayed by Jesus’s vision of a kingdom.
We come to the table like Martha,
hosting and leading with confidence;
like Mary,
eager to learn, and full of grief and love.
We come to the table like Judas,
disillusioned and rebellious;
like Mary,
faithful to the end.
Jesus offers us the bread and the cup.
We come to the table of Christ.

Share what you have to eat and before eating, have someone say,
“This food represents the body of Christ.
As we eat, we remember Jesus.”

Share what you have to drink and before drinking, have someone say,
“This drink represents the covenant Christ made with us
that our sins will be forgiven.
As we drink, we remember Jesus.”

Prayer of Thanksgiving
Dear God, thank you for your abounding compassionate love. Thank you for guiding and leading us through these difficult times. Thank you for always being with us. Amen.

Song of Faith
Amazing Grace (NEW BRITAIN)

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I am found,
was blind but now I see.

The Gospel Reading

A Reading from the Gospels
Matthew 18:15-20

Listen to the gospel being read by a church member and/or read below.

If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you’ve won over your brother or sister. But if they won’t listen, take with you one or two others so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses. But if they still won’t pay attention, report it to the church. If they won’t pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector. I assure you that whatever you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. And whatever you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven. Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.

Reflection on the Gospel from Tonya

Listen to the reflection and/or read below.

Have you ever noticed how we Americans are enamored with individualism. Just take for instance the latest Disney movie release, Mulan. Disney has taken an actual ancient Chinese Ballad and dusted it with Disney movie selling points. You know, young romance, animals, maybe a side kick or two, the triumph of good over evil, and yes, individualism.  In Disney’s Mulan, Mulan saves the emperor’s life and defeats the evil Huns all on her own. She needs no assistance from anyone. If it hadn’t been for Mulan, the whole dynasty would have collapsed.

The actual Chinese Ballad of Mulan dates back to the 350-500’s. It tells the story of young girl who volunteers to take the place of her father and younger brother. You see, at that time a male from each family is called upon to serve in the army. Mulan’s father is old and weak. Her brother is younger than she is, just a child.  So she voluntarily takes their place. After 12 years of military campaigns and service to her country, she returns home with honor and gifts from the emperor. Her family is overjoyed to see her. They prepare a feast for her homecoming inviting everyone. She changes back into her normal clothes. She makes up her hair and face and greets her fellow soldiers. They are shocked. Her comrades had no idea that she was a woman.  Missing from the original tale? Individualism. 

Our compulsion and drive and expectations to be self-supporting and independent comes from growing up in the United States. Our country’s foundations were built upon the philosophical ideas of a British man named John Locke. I probably first learned of Locke in high school, but I don’t remember him from then. I was more interested in math. My first memories of Locke come from my studies to be a teacher. Locke’s name was the answer to fill-in-the-blank questions on exams at Clemson, “Who is credited for the ‘tabula rasa’ theory?” “John Locke” is the answer.  Locke said our minds are like blank slates when we are born, without a thought or an opinion yet developed. The environment, experiences, and influences which shape our development and leave a lasting effect on who we become.  It wasn’t until seminary that I learned that John Locke was famous for his call for the separation of church and state. Baptist are all about separation of church and state. But probably Locke’s greatest influence upon the United States can be seen in the establishment of our government. It is from Locke that we get the American ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Locke’s ideas have become our tradition as Americans. They have become our rights. And meshed in our traditions, founding documents, and rights is individualism.

That’s what makes Jesus’ teaching in today’s gospel reading hard to swallow. When someone wrongs us, Jesus wants us to sit down and talk with them. Not about the weather, or how things are going in their life, but Jesus wants us to talk with them how their actions or lack of actions have offended us. Offended is not the right word. It is more than just, “You upset me.” It is those time when we sin against one another. Think of the 10 commandment kind of sins. Now think of the Greatest Commandment that Jesus added in. You are to love others as you love yourself.  It’s those times when we miss the mark in what our relationships with one another should be as God requires it: life giving. Jesus wants us to let others know when they sin against us. When a relationship starts to break, that’s when you start putting it back together before it completely breaks. But also, Jesus is saying, when the sinning first begins, help your sister or your brother see and understand before the sinning becomes a way of living for them.

But let’s say you try to do just that, but the person won’t lend you a listening ear. They won’t sit still long enough to hear you out. It may be pride getting in the way. It is hard to admit our faults. Sometimes it’s just a pure lack of respect. So what do you do then? When the offender won’t listen to you, Jesus says don’t give up. Go and get another person or perhaps two others to come with you to confront the offender. The two or three of you try to sit down with the person again and talk about what they have done. This 2nd attempt towards reconciliation with additional people coming with you isn’t about making a power move or being a bully by numbers. It is about clarity and accountability for the victim and the offender.  Sometimes it takes more than just the two to get repentance and forgiveness right.  If we truly desire to bring out change and healing, if we truly are seeking to restore community, then toss out that individualism of me against them. No, this is in the context of God’s community.

But what if the offender still turns away, stomps off, won’t listen?  What do you do then? Jesus again says you don’t give up–don’t give up on person. You don’t just turn a blind eye to what has happened, but you don’t give up offering and creating a path that leads to life. Jesus says when the offender still refuses to listen, go get the church involved. Tell the church what has happened and let the church talk with the offender. When an offender is so arrogant or stubborn or dismissive of another that they will not listen and they will not take responsibility for their sins, then it will require the involvement of the whole community of faith to hold that person accountable, to teach repentance, and to actively forgive. I can imagine that when refusal to admit wrong gets to this point, it will take all of us to right  the relationship. For in the body of Christ, in the church, there is ample experiences of offending and being offended. There are ample experiences of repenting and forgiving. There are ample experiences of brokenness and healing. We are blessed to be a part of faith community that truly believes and tries hard to practice grace. Grace does not erase accountability, but it lays a path toward healing for the wronged and the sinner.

But what in the world do we do when all of this doesn’t amount to a hill of beans? It is then, and only then, when the sinner won’t listen to the church family, it is then that Jesus says treat ’em like a Gentile or a tax collector. Now it’s easier to move to that part first. Finally, Jesus is telling us to do something that we can do. If a person won’t listen, then we can move on. We can shake the dust off our feet and wash our hands clean of the situation. We tried. Jesus knows that we did.  And we don’t have to worry about it anymore.

But where, tell me, does Jesus say in the Bible not to worry anymore with the tax collectors and the Gentiles?  Where does Jesus say forget about them, they ain’t got no sense? Well, they may not have any sense, but we cannot write them off. Matthew was one of Jesus’ 12 disciples. Matthew was a tax collector before he started following Jesus. Jesus had dinner multiple times with tax collectors. The religious leaders thought less of him for it. If you have your Bibles in front of you, turn a few pages over to Matthew 21:31. I quote Jesus in mid-sentence. “…the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.” 

So when someone sins against you and they won’t listen to anybody, not even to the church, don’t give them up as lost or worthless. The rest of the world reaches a point where they write people off and they teach us that this is okay. But we are members of the body of Christ before we are members of the world. We have chosen to live the Way of Jesus Christ. We follow in the footsteps of Jesus who has taught us to forgive and who has taught us to seek healing. We cannot draw a line and stop extending the love of God and the grace of God to one who has sinned against us. Even when they stick their fingers in their ears, refusing to listen.  If we, the community, write the person off, then there is no accountability. If we, the community, dismiss the person, there is no option for repentance. If we, the community, treat the person as if they do not exists, then there is no opportunity for forgiveness. Like God, God’s children desire to mend what is broken. And please remember that at this point in Jesus’ teaching, it is no longer the “problem” of just the one offended. It is now the responsibility of the whole community of faith. It is not to be a burden to be carried only by the one who has been wronged.  If we expect that as the community of faith then we sin against the one who has already been sinned against.

The kind of relationship Jesus expects us to have with one another as a church family is different from any other group or organization or even blood family. When you mess up, when you wrong someone in your faith family, you are not to be excluded or pushed out. But when you mess up or wrong someone, when you sin against them, you are also expected to listen. In this passage Jesus makes it clear what is required of us when we sin against one another. Look at verse 15. Jesus says to the offender, “Listen.” Now look at verse 16. There’s the word “listen” again in a different form. Verse 17, says it twice. “Listen.” “Listen.”  Four times Jesus points out the fault, the refusal to listen.

Right now, our Black sisters and brothers in the faith are asking us to “listen.” They have tried to speak with us one on one. They have tried to speak with us with just a few. And they have tried to speak to us within the church family. But we still don’t get it. I truly believe that if we wonder why our Black sisters and brothers are so upset, then we just don’t understand. And that means we need to listen. Listen, and participate in the process of accountability.  Listen, and participate in active repentance. Listen, and participate in offering and receiving forgiveness.  Listen, when our sisters and brothers are saying, “Black lives matter.” They are naming the sin. People of color have been devalued in our nation. Do all lives matter? Oh yes! But when we challenge the statement “Black lives matter” with the statement “All lives matter” do you see how we show a disregard for the wrongs we have committed against people of color. The sin has been named. We are guilty of assigning unequal values to people based on the color of their skin.

Unfortunately today, the majority of Americans suffer from poverty, economic insecurity, lack of access to adequate health care, and environmental destruction. Our country was founded on ensuring Locke’s three ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness but to a select few who looked and acted like the handful of men in charge. And for decades we as a nation have practiced indifference to these maladies among the Black community. And now it extends and extends. Our nation’s practice of indifference became a bad habit which we extended to Hispanics, Latinos, and many others.

God requires something more of us. The Lord won’t give up on us and the Lord won’t let us give up on one another either. What does the Lord require of us? Think back to the Old Testament prophet Micah. Micah 6:8 says we are to do justice, to love goodness, and live humbly with God.  That means we have to acknowledge our failures, restore right relationships, and pursue peace building and humility. These are life-giving ways of living.  May we have the courage to confront. May we have the courage to name the sins. May we have the courage to spend the time needed to repent.  May we have the courage to listen to what are faults are and may we have the courage to forgive in the name of Christ. Amen.

Questions for Reflection
1. How does the ideal of being self-reliant get in the way of being community in Christ?
2. How do we keep an open heart when someone confronts us when we have sinned against them?
3. Many would say the church is irrelevant today. So why is the church important to God? to you? to the world?

Prayer of Thanksgiving. Thank you God for constant love. Please help our church family grow deeper and deeper in your love. Amen.

Song of Faith
Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us With Your Love

Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love,
show us how to serve
the neighbors we have from you.

Kneels at the feet of his friends,
silently washes their feet,
Master who acts as a slave to them.

Neighbors are rich folk and poor,
neighbors are black, brown, and white,
neighbors are nearby and far away.

These are the ones we should serve,
these are the ones we should love;
all these are neighbors to us and you.

Loving puts us on our knees,
silently washing their feet
this is the way we should live with you.

Sending Out
May the blessing and peace of God uphold you,
May the compassion and love of Christ enfold you,
and the vitality and power of the Holy Spirit embolden you
today and always. Amen.

Closing Song.  In our tradition, we close worship by singing the first verse of Blest Be the Tie.  Mindy starts us each week, and so she does today as well.

Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above. Amen.

Credits: The image of the forest was taken by Michele. The Call to Worship and the Prayer of Confession are from The Seasons of the Spirit™ SeasonsFusion Season of Creation • Pentecost 2 2020. The Opening Prayer was written by Tonya. The Trees of the Field is a paraphrase of Isaiah 55:12 written by Steffi Karen Rubin and set to the tune TREES OF THE FIELD by Stuart Dauermann. Genesis 2:4-9 was read by Tyler. The Psalm was read by Calley. Walking with You was written by Ken Bible and set to the Bahamian Folk Tune, JOHN B. SAILS. The words to Canticle of the Sun is based on the writings of St. Francis of Assisi, translated by Georgina Pando-Connolly with music composed by Marty Haugen. The song is sung by Kendall, Ally, Elizabeth, Mindy, and Tonya. The communion litany was written by the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee, 2018. Amazing Grace is set to the tune NEW BRITAIN from the Virginia Harmony, 1831. The words were written by John Newton (1807). The song was played by Aidan. Matthew was read by Kendall. Jesus, Jesus, Fill Us With Your Love was written by Tom Colvin set to the tune CHEREPONI, a Ghana Folk Song. Blest be the Tie is set to the tune DENNIS which was composed by Johann G. Nageli (1836) and arranged by Lowell Mason (1872). The words were written by John Fawcett (1782). Scripture readings are from the Common English Bible translation. Hymns were sung by Mindy and played by Tracy. Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-724755. All rights reserved.  All writings have been used by permission from the posting sites or authors.

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