“All the trees of the forest sing for joy” (Psalm 96:12).
“Let the field exult, and everything in it” (Psalm 96:12).
“Let the wilderness lift up its voice” (Isaiah 42:11).
“The river of God is full of water” (Psalm 65:9).
The church seasons of Advent, Epiphany, Lent and Easter help us trace the life of Jesus. Pentecost draws us into the life of the Spirit. So why not also take four Sundays in the year for a special focus on God as creator? After all, caring for creation is not optional, an add-on “issue” or a political agenda intruding on worship. God has called us to serve and protect the Earth.
We worship God as creator of all, Christ as redeemer of creation, and the Spirit as sustainer of creation. The purpose is never to worship creation. We are called by Scripture to worship God in solidarity with creation — with the roaring of the seas, the whispering of the trees, the fruitfulness of the land and the sounds of all God’s creatures. During this season, ELCA congregations can lift up the Earth as the sanctuary in which our community praises God.
How does it work? Congregations that observe a “Season of Creation” typically do so on the four Sundays in September leading up to the “Blessing of the Animals” (near St. Francis Day, Oct. 3). Using resources available at www.letallcreationpraise.org, they follow an optional version of the Revised Common Lectionary with alternative lessons, liturgies, ideas for decorating the sanctuary and suggested actions.
The season’s roots go back many centuries, but the practice was revived several decades ago by Norman Habel, a Lutheran pastor and Old Testament professor for the Uniting Church in Australia. Hundreds of U.S. Lutheran churches and others around the world now celebrate this season.
Each Sunday is devoted to a different domain of God’s creation, such as “Land Sunday,” “Mountain Sunday” or “Animal Sunday.” Lessons draw on biblical passages that relate to each domain. Many congregations also engage the artistic imaginations of their members by:
• Draping blue streamers from the baptismal font to other parts of the sanctuary (“River Sunday”).
• Taking worship outdoors and planting trees (“Forest Sunday”).
• Having children dress up as sea creatures (“Ocean Sunday”).
• Showing video of hurricanes and tornadoes (“Storm Sunday”).
• Projecting pictures of outer space (“Universe Sunday”).
• Sharing images of Jesus from around the world (“Humanity Sunday”).
• Displaying pictures of endangered species with lighted prayer candles (“Animal Sunday”).
• Creating banners and paraments.
• Composing hymns and litanies.
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© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers