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Check out this poem:

 

God Works in Cycles and Seasons:

“…He guides the days and the seasons;
He guides the birds through the air.
God works his gracious redemption”
We are but dimly aware.

God has his own eco-logic;
God has his own Kingdom plan.
God works in Trinity wisdom;
God holds the world in his hand.

Cycles of cloud and of water,
Cycles of wind and of rain,
Deep-moving flows of the ocean,
Circling, returning again”

Cycles of love and of spirit,
Cycles of seasons of grace,
Times of refreshing revival,
Gaining fresh light from his face.

God is the world’s great Composer,
Dramatist, Architect, King”
Rhythms of art; sounds melodic”
God gives us music to sing.

God simplifies deepest mysteries;
God complicates best-laid plans.
We walk in wonder before him,
Trusting our ways in his hands.

God in our own lives recycles”
Physically, through blood and cell;
Spiritually, through prayerful rhythms;
Stewardly, as we serve well.

We are a part of the story;
We have our key roles to play”
If we but follow the Master”
Spirit led, day after day.

We are God’s keepers of nature;
We are his stewards of grace.
We live the Spirit’s commission,
Stewarding both time and space.

God makes us all his recyclers”
This is no secular whim.
This is no plot of the devil”
God makes us stewards for him.

God is the Lord who recycles,
Bringing forth things old and new.
God even makes evil to serve him,
Turning the false to the true.

God is the perfect Recycler”
No wastage; nothing is lost”
Whether in storm, wind, or fire,
God wins the world through the cross.

“Praise God in his sanctuary!
Praise him for his mighty deeds!
Praise him with loud clanging cymbals!
Praise him, all that lives and breathes!”

 

This poem is based on Psalm 150 and other Scriptures.  By H0ward A. Snyder, Professor of Wesley Studies, Tyndale University College and Seminary. See here for the full poem.

What do you think…? Do you agree that God works in Cycles and Seasons?

Poem posted on the Evangelical Environmental Network website.

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What drives our environmentally friendliness?

Why do we care?

Why act?

Check out this mini-film, based on the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14.

Director Emily Manthei is a young Christian artist based in California. She’s passionate about

creating words, images, music and films to challenge and inspire the audience.”

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What can a puppet teach us? What story can a puppet tell that leaves us inspired? You’ve got an opportunity to find out…

The Man Who Planted Trees is coming to Australia:

Melbourne Arts Centre: 20th and 21st November.

Sydney Opera House: 23rd November to 5th December.

The Man Who Planted Trees is a performance of beauty, telling a story of a humble old shepherd, Elzéard Bouffier, who, accompanied by his dog, wants to bring trees back to the desolate valley which is his home.

The Puppet State Theater Company brings this classic French story by Jean Giono to life.

The Man Who Planted Trees is a story of hope and inspiration…  Of how normal and rather plain people can do extra ordinary things in normal and rather plain ways. It is simply beautiful and something that greenFish personally recommends.

The story is played out using a delightful combination of puppets and actors. The Puppet State Theater Company has a great knack of keeping both children and adults captivated.

The Man Who Planted Trees is a favorite at the world-renowned Edinburgh Festival.

“An unforgettable story that shows us the difference one man (and his dog!) can make to the world.”

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A message by Kim Cornford at Footscray Church of Christ, August 2010


Ephesians 2:1-10

This passage is yet another one of those brilliant passages of Paul’s which expresses beautifully, almost poetically, and grippingly the power of the God we follow:

…because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ…

…God raises us up with Christ… that he might show the incomparable riches of his grace…… it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…

We’re going to think about salvation: being made alive in Christ, being released from our transgressions and being freed from our sins.

For many of us who have been following the Christian faith or attending church for a while, these words can sound tired to us.  They sound old.  We can think,

“Salvation, yeah, yeah, been there, done that, let’s move on shall we?”

“Jesus died for my sins, yeah, yeah, now I’m saved, I’m going to heaven. Yep, got that.”

These ‘church’ words – that some of us have heard over and over since we were children, teenagers, or young adults – get a bit tired, or we get a bit desensitized to them.

Maybe that’s how you’re feeling at the moment, or maybe you’ve been feeling like that for a while.  I want to especially invite you today to enter into this passage.  The truth of our salvation in Christ needs to be as real to us today, as it was the first time we felt God’s hand upon us.  If this is not how we are knowing and experiencing God, then we need to come back to Him and be made alive again.

Read for yourself Ephesians 2: 1-10.

We’re going to take a look at sin, God’s gift of grace, and our response to that gift – good works.

Sin

What is sin?  What are the first things that come to mind?  What things are you thinking about right now?  Are you thinking about yourself?  Are you thinking about others?

Sin is often a bigger concept than what we allow ourselves to understand.  I want to suggest that sin is anything that separates us from God. That’s pretty broad isn’t it?

To illustrate sin, imagine that sin is like taking a step away from God, or turning around to face away from God.

Faith is a journey, an interactive relationship with movement. Perhaps I’ve sinned, or know I’m living in a way that I’m distanced from God (standing away from God), but I’m facing God and I’m moving in His direction. Or perhaps I’m very close to God, and I just need to turn around and face God. Or, perhaps I’m facing God, but moving away.

Not long ago, I was talking with a friend, and she said to me, the church doesn’t talk about sin in a very helpful way.  When I asked her what she meant, she said:we often understand sin as acts of naughtiness or acts of hurt. How many of us, in a time of confession, start trying to rack our brains at all the naughty or mean things we’ve done in the past week?  And we get through that list, say sorry, and receive God’s forgiveness.  Actually, if we all did go through a process of confessing our sins on a regular basis, like this, we would probably be all the better for it.  But this conversation with my friend, took us to another place.  Are our acts of naughtiness and hurt where our sins finish?

Sin is not simple.  It is not black and white.

For example, let’s consider our acts of hurt.  If I confess my act of using angry words but still have an attitude of anger, am I freed from my sin?  If I confess my lustful thoughts but still have an attitude of sexual desire, am I freed from my sin?  If I confess self-indulgence in material objects, but maintain a budget and an income which can support it, am I freed from my sin?

Sin involves acts of hurt, but it also involves the bigger questions of our attitude.  Sin isn’t so straightforward is it?  No surprise that this is what Jesus talks about a lot.  He asks us where our heart is.  Do not murder says the Law, and Jesus says, if you have anger towards your brother, you will be subject to judgment. Don’t do your acts of righteousness before others to be seen by them, instead, Jesus says: your giving should be done before God. The law says do not commit adultery, but Jesus says looking at another lustfully commits adultery in their heart.

Let’s expand on the idea of attitude and sin. One of the striking things of our faith (and indeed, the book of Ephesians focuses on this directly) is its communal nature. Community and attitude have an important role to play, not only in how we live Godly lives, but how we understand sin.  Let’s consider the idea of communal sin.  I’m meaning here: the attitude of the people around us as a whole.  Ask yourself, what is the attitude of the people around me to faithful relationships?  What is the attitude of people around me to poverty and marginalized people?  What is the attitude of people around me to caring for creation?  The way we live is so intricately bound into the people we hang out with, sometimes, we don’t even know our attitude to things is sinful.

Well! This Christianity thing asks a lot of us, doesn’t it?!

I’ll give you an example of ignorance of my own.  I come from a pretty well off middle class family.  My school and university peers own their homes, work in professional vocations, and enjoy very comfortable lifestyles.  In some contrast, my husband and I rent a small home around the corner from our church, we work part-time, grow some veggies, mostly stay at home, and enjoy life with our kids.  My attitude to life is very different from the people I knew as a young adult, but I am surrounded by others who have a similar attitude and therefore seek similar hopes in life and in God together.  A while back at bible study one night I remember the group leader make a joke about our hotchpotch lounge room furniture and living simply.  I did laugh, but truth be known, I did feel a tinge of embarrassment.  A few days later we had a visit from some new friends, a Burmese refugee family recently arrived in Footscray.  When they came into our house, their eyes opened in amazement.  It was like they had entered a palace.  And with no social etiquette whatsoever, they walked through every room in our house, ogling everything and saying things like, “whoa, so many rooms” and “this is such a beautiful home” and “thank you for having us in your home.”  This was very confronting.  I felt more than embarrassed.  For some reason, I somehow felt sinful.

This same family showed me more of my sin and the sin of our society in the coming months after this.  I have strong feelings and opinions on the issue of global warming.  This wasn’t always the case.

In a period of revelation about climate change a couple of years ago, it was these same friends who helped frame my understanding of how we are impacting our earth.  They were one step in a series of events which God set before me.  (I had been learning about what the world might look like as the temperature rises globally, and how our lifestyle releases gases into the atmosphere which are causing it to heat up, and is changing the weather patterns here in Australia, and around the world.)  One afternoon my girls and I went around to visit Sung (in their tiny one bedroom flat) and with her stilted English Sung asked me to watch a DVD from Burma…  Can people remember Cyclone Nargis in 2008?  It was a massive, devastating cyclone affecting millions of people.  The DVD was a Burmese Christian music video raising awareness and funds for people affected by Cyclone Nargis in Burma.  The images on the DVD were graphic and distressing.  It was very confronting.  It was very confronting for me because pieces started connecting for me, like puzzle pieces falling into place… my comfortable lifestyle, my emissions, changing weather patterns, floods and cyclones, people dying, children crying.  I was looking straight at it.  And sitting on the floor with me were Sung’s 3 yr old daughter who sat with her hands over her eyes, and my daughter, who asked me “Mummy, why are those people floating in the water?”

And the words of the church’s Eucharist liturgy are running through my head,

Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.

Sin separates us from God, and sin separates our world from God.  It is our individual acts of hurt, it is our attitude to life, it is our communal attitude.

And we, as followers of Christ, need to be asking ourselves, where we are.  Where am I heading?  What is moving me away from God, what is moving me towards God?

And what, in the midst of all this, does God offer us?

While we were still dead, while we are engulfed by a world of sin – God offers life.

Grace

Why do we need to understand the depth of our sin? Because only then can we understand God’s amazing grace and the power of salvation.

When we begin to get a glimpse of the enormity of this salvation, we see God.  And it should cause us to fall on our knees with thanksgiving.

…because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ…

God raises us up with Christ… that he might show the incomparable riches of his grace…

…it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…

And, we are inspired to respond to God with acts of love.  Love for God, and for all that he offers us in this life.  A life of good works, for which he has a plan.

Good works

A life of good works.  And this is an important idea to capture.  Our works are a response to the gift of grace from God.

Sometimes we hear preached a dissonance between faith and works.  It’s like a clanging disconnection.  It is the idea that salvation, or freedom in Christ (as Paul also calls it), comes either by faith OR works.

For example, for some reason, people have read the letter of James and interpreted it as a salvation of works.

It is the idea that we have to do good things to earn our way to heaven.  Some examples might be: “if I put in some hours at the local homeless shelter at Christmas,” “if I attend enough working bees at church” or, “if I cook enough meals for others”…

Who’s ever felt like this?  Are we responding in joy to God’s gift of grace?

The flip side of the faith OR works, is equally unhelpful.  It’s the idea that I’ve been saved by grace, and now I’ve got my ticket to heaven!  You beauty!  Thank you God, now let’s get on with my life.  Gee, other people should get onto this God thing, what a relief, I’ve got everything sorted now.  I don’t have to do anything.  Do you know the attitude I’m trying to convey?

But let’s hear what James actually says:

James 2:14-16: What good is it brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

In James 2:26: As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

It is clearly NOT a case of faith or works, they are inextricably linked.

If we are able to truly glimpse the grace and freedom which God offers to us, our good works are an inevitable response.

If we understand salvation as grace only, we will miss the point of living out our life for God.

If we understand salvation as works only, we will miss the point of God’s amazing love for us.

In conclusion, let’s ask again:  Where are you with God?  Which way are you facing?  Which way are you moving?  Who are the people of God surrounding you?

Is the truth of your salvation in Christ as real today, as it was the first time you felt God’s hand you?  Do you need to come back to Him and be made alive again?

Finish with a prayer using the words of Paul in Ephesians 1:17-21.

Amen.

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Bikes parked outside the University of Groningen, Netherlands

This year, the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change is initiating a Ride to Worship Week.

Why?

To care for God’s creation, to express concern for those living in poverty, and because cycling has so many benefits in and of itself.

ARRCC has been inspired by “Ride to Work Day.”

Last year 95,000 Australians celebrated ‘Ride to Work’ at one of the 137 community breakfasts. This year the wheels will be turning around the country on Wednesday 13th October. See here for more details.

Ride to Work is all about health. Held on one day a year, the promoters hope that some participants will be inspired and encouraged to ride a bit more often, whether that be twice a year, once a month, or perhaps everyday.

The day is about encouraging healthy….

  • people – that’s you and I and Bob down the road,
  • lifestyles – because it can be good to get outdoors a bit more and away from the TV set,
  • society – because riding can be fun, especially if you ride with a friend,
  • economics – more riding means less driving, which means less household money spent on fuel for the car tank, and
  • environment – bottoms on bikes rather than car seats reduces emissions, noise pollution, and can even create a safer local environment for our kids playing outdoors

In that same spirit, ARRCC is promoting Ride to Worship Week. As a multi-faith environmental organisation, ARRCC realises that many Australians are inspired and motivated by their faith, and they see Ride to Worship as a catalist for bringing faith together with loving-action.

This first Ride to Worship week will be held from Saturday 9th to Friday 15th October. During that week, ARRCC is encouraging people to ride or walk to and from their place of worship (on whichever day they normally attend worship).

One person can do it on their own, or others at your place of worship may be interested as well.

For more information, leaflets, a poster, power point presentation as well as guidelines on how to participate see here.

To register, see here.

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We’ve recently been away for the weekend, and it wasn’t a difficult decision to relax my self-imposed bucket bath campaign for the duration. (See here for the background story.)

To turn on the tap and have hot water pouring out in abundance was simply divine.

A brief doubt flickered through my mind as I reminded myself that the house relied on tank water. My response: “Never mind, it’s been raining all weekend!”

So, I made the most of these showering opportunities. They were a stark contrast with the never-enough-water-left-to-wash-everything situation I’ve been facing these last few weeks with my bucket-bathing, especially when it’s a day to wash my hair as well. My feet have been sorely neglected, which is OK now, but wait for summer.

While we were away I also indulged in reading a historical romance novel – set in the time of Queen Elizabeth I (during the sixteenth century).

Reading this book made me wonder what Queens, Kings and other nobility would have done to wash. I can imagine that it was sitting in a hot tub with the luxury of a servant standing behind dousing you with pitchers of water.

Not too bad, especially when compared to what the peasants and lower classes did: perhaps one wash a year. Those who lived near rivers would have an outdoor wash when it was warm.

When looking at these two groups, it’s clear that those of us in modern developed countries have most in common with the nobility of old. Instead of a servant at our beck and call in bathroom matters, we’ve bent copper and aluminium to service our liquid needs.

At the turn of a handle we’ve got pure clean water, easily adjusted to the right temperature, pouring over us. And none of this pitcher at a time business – we’ve got our pouring water for as long as we like. It is lavish and decadent beyond what the poor and even nobility in the old days could have imagined.

While the upper classes of old would have had a pretty good bathing experience, can you imagine the expressions of wide-eyed wonder on their faces if they had seen a bathroom like yours or mine?

It’s a reminder to me about how much has changed in our world.  Today there are hundreds of millions of people living at a standard greater than the Kings and Queens of yesteryear, and there are billions more who aspire to. But the question is: how many Kings and Queens can our world sustain?

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“…we join in celebrating with Christ the wonders of creation”.

I’m not a greenie, and I’m not a tree-hugger, but I reckon that caring for creation is an important part of my faith.

So, how can my church learn about and respond to God’s creation?

In September 2004 a resource called Season of Creation was trialled in about 50 congregations in Melbourne and Adelaide. Since then, churches around Australia and the world have incorporated it into their worship services, designed to run over four weeks starting in September. These churches are seeking to reflect on and be thankful for the Creator God and for God’s gift of creation.

“Christ is at the heart of our celebrations.”

This ecumenical resource has been developed for any church wanting to explore God’s love for the earth in their services. It offers suggestions and materials for churches to use in church services including:

  • Themes for each week, and three broader themes that rotate over a three-year cycle.
  • Talks to the children.
  • Bible studies that correspond with the weekly themes.
  • Bible readings.
  • Sermons based on Bible study materials, theology or the childrens’ talk.
  • Entire liturgies.

For each of the three series the Bible readings follow a broad pattern of creation, alienation, passion and new creation.

If you like some ideas and not others, or even agree with some – but not all – of the theology or terminology in the liturgy, the authors say that your church is welcome to adapt it to suit.

Even if your church doesn’t use this resource, perhaps it could inspire you and your church to think about what you believe, and be a catalyst for thinking about how you would like to draw thankfulness to God for the world into your worship.

“…we face the ecological crisis with Christ, and we serve Christ in the healing of creation.”

This resource has been produced by Norman Habel and the Justice and International Mission of the Uniting Church in Australia.

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