Creative Living in a Consumer World (Week 3)

Field Guide Home Study: Week 3
Creative Living in a Consumer World
Caretakers of Creation 

Thus far on our now three week journey of Creative Living in a Consumer World, we have walked through doing the work of believing that we are made of sacred worth and named beloved, and training our eyes to see those truths in others. We also have been working into our tasks as co-creators. Because we have been created and so loved by our Creator, from our gratitude, we are invited to become co-creators of love in this world. This means that we do not prioritize or give privilege to insatiable consumption or competition to perpetually out-do others, but rather, our eyes are on creating a beloved community that functions with interconnectedness. xhW71IaFSp2NVhXf3+wDEw

To this end, theologian Sallie McFague, suggests that kenosis should be a part of our everyday living. Kenosis, she defines, is a “self-limitation so that others may have place and space to grow and flourish… [kenosis] is the way that God acts toward the world and the way people should act toward one another.”

A friend of mine taught me a South African phrase, which is Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a Xhosa word which represents a deep belief and practice of interconnectedness; it essentially means: I am only because you are. Think about who you are and who helped form you in becoming you. Whose shoulders do you stand on? It is very good to think about these things because it reminds us that we do not exist in a vacuum. We are because of so many people. So many people are because of us. We are made to be deeply interconnected with each other and with the One who created us to be so. We are also made to need and be needed by nonhuman creation. The way that we live deeply affects other parts of creation because we are so connected.

Genesis 2:15 reads: “The Lord God took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it.” This is a powerful command that we must take very seriously as co-creators. In his book, Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith, Fred Bahnson wrote: “Give back to the soil more than you take. An addendum to this credo might be this: goodness in people, like goodness in soil, must be preserved and nurtured. Give people more than you take. Tend not just the soil, but the soil people. Avad and shamar them.”

Sidenote: Avad and shamar are Hebrew words; they are found in God’s first command to the Adamah or “grounding”– the groundling should “avad and shamar” (Gen. 2:15) the fertile soil. It often gets translated to “till and keep” but a better translation is to serve the soil and watch/keep/preserve it.

Bahnson continues: “Give people more than you take. Tend not just the soil, but the soil people. Avad and shamar them, working and watching, serving and preserving them as if you own life depended on it. Which, of course, it does. Our role in creation is to offer everything back to God.”

Our role in creation is to offer everything back to God. May it be so.

Scripture Readings: (CEB Bible)

Psalm 8

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name throughout the earth!   You made your glory higher than heaven! From the mouths of nursing babies, you have laid a strong foundation because of your foes, in order to stop vengeful enemies. When I look up at your skies, at what your fingers made– the moon and the stars that you set firmly in place—what are human being that you think about them; what are human being that you pay attention to them? You’ve made them only slightly less than divine, crowning them with glory and grandeur. You’ve let them rule over your handiwork putting everything under their feet—all sheep and all cattle, the wild animals too, the birds in the sky, the fish of the ocean, everything that travels the pathways of the sea. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name throughout the earth!

Genesis 1:1-5, 2:15

1 When God began to create the heavens and the earth— 2 the earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind swept over the waters— 3 God said, “Let there be light.” And so light appeared. 4 God saw how good the light was. God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God named the light Day and the darkness Night.

There was evening and there was morning: the first day.

2:15: The Lord God took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it.

Matthew 6:26‭-‬30

26 Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Creator feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? 27 Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. 29 But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. 30 If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith?

Questions to Consider:

  • How will we handle this holy assignment of God, our Creator, entrusting the planet to us?  What sort of stewards will we be? What do we owe the tigers and turtles that the Creator declares as part of a supremely good work of art and engineering? What legacy will our consumption leave for our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren?
  • What practices do you engage in which may be inconvenient but you do them for the betterment of others?
  • What does it mean to be responsible for creation? How easy could it be to pass it off, saying “someone more qualified will handle this”?
  • What does it look like in your life for you to create space for others to live?
  • How does living kenotically (self-emptying) change you? Does it detract from your life negatively or does it add beauty to your life?

Spiritual Practices:

+Center this thought in prayer, and post it on the fridge, phone or mirror:

Created and known,
invited to co-create with our Maker
Creation cries out for our attention,
we have work to do.

+At the dinner table with your family or with a friend, consider the food that you are eating. Do you know where it came from? Think about the farmers who farmed what you are eating for dinner. Consider their livelihoods and stories. You may not know them, but if they are growing the food you are eating, you are connected to them.

+If you can, make time to watch a sunrise or sunset this week. Soak it in. Consider how deeply you are connected to the earth and how much the creation is connected to you because we share the same Creator.

+Consider practices that you can add or eliminate from your life because of your responsibility to care for creation. Dedicate these practices as holy practices for they honor God in doing them and help you put feet to your faith. Consider how the community of Belmont UMC can encourage each other in these practices. Are you part of a small group at Belmont who could share these holy commitments together?

Prayer for the Week:*

Creator God, we thank you for the beauty of your Creation, and for giving us the privilege of caring for it. We confess that we have not cared for the earth with the self-sacrificing and nurturing love that you require of us. We mourn the broken relationships in creation. We repent for our part in causing the current environmental crisis that has led to climate change.

Faithful God, show us how to be faithful with the creation you gave us. Help us get creative in caring for it. Change us for the better, O God, as we seek to be faithful in this way.

Loving God, help us to turn our lives around to be people of restoration. Help us build just relationships among human beings and with the rest of creation. Help us to live sustainably, rejecting consumerism and the exploitation of creation.

God of justice, give us courage and persistence to work for justice for those most affected by environmental degradation and climate change.

God of mercy, hear the cry of the poor who are already suffering and will continue to suffer water and food shortages and who will be displaced by climate change.

Creator God, give us Your Spirit to work together to restore Your creation and to pass on a safe environment and climate to our children and grandchildren. Let our care for creation be our act of worship and obedience to You. Your kingdom come, and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

*Adapted from Pray Act 8 Days posted on the Micah Challenge website.

 

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Creative Living in a Consumer World (Week 2)

Creative Living in a Consumer World (Week 2)

New Creations

 If you missed week one, check it out here!

We have heard the Good news:

God loves us. We have deep, sacred worth. We have been named “beloved.”

Sometimes these truths are very hard to believe. In her book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott writes: “You have to make mistakes to find out who you aren’t. You take the action, and the insight follows: You don’t think your way into becoming yourself.”1 Sometimes in order to come to believing we are beloved, we just have to start living into it. The “living into” part takes some faithfulness because it isn’t easy, but eventually, it becomes more of a rhythm. Over and over and over and over, we live as new creations, beloved of God.

So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!

If we are new creations in Christ, then we cannot hoard God’s love, grace or forgiveness; we are compelled to be conduits of divine love in the world. We have a call to create rather than consume, to slow and see beauty rather than speed by it, and to be persons who choose to forgive those who have harmed us because we know that holding onto the pain becomes toxic bitterness.

The creative process of becoming a new creation never ends. The old stuff is always passing away because we have so many complex layers as humans; we are always being transformed, sanctified. Thanks be to God for this wonderful gift and may it be so as we live as new creations of Christ!

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Scripture Readings: (CEB Bible)

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived! 18 All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. Christ has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.

20 So we are ambassadors who represent Christ. God is negotiating with you through us. We beg you as Christ’s representatives, “Be reconciled to God!” 21 God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through Christ we could become the righteousness of God. So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know Christ now.

Genesis 1:1-5 & 31

When God began to create the heavens and the earth— 2 the earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind swept over the waters— 3 God said, “Let there be light.” And so light appeared. 4 God saw how good the light was. God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God named the light Day and the darkness Night.

There was evening and there was morning: the first day.

31 God saw everything God had made: it was supremely good. There was evening and there was morning: the sixth day.

Questions to Consider:

  • What does it mean to live as a new creation? Where do you need reconciliation in your own life? Who do you need to seek reconciliation with? What shame is keeping you from doing this? Who might help with this and what simple steps might it take?
  • What burden do you hold that is no longer yours to hold? What are you counting against people. Is that fair? Do you know enough to make that call?
  • In the most literal and practical way, what does your life look like this week as a new creation?
  • On a larger level, what is your life mission as a new creation in Christ?  What do you long to create with your life? What is it that makes you come alive?
  • If we are new creations because of God’s forgiveness and grace, then how are you extending forgiveness and grace into the world that others may come to know it?

Spiritual Practices:

+Center this thought in prayer, and post it on the fridge, phone or mirror:

The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!

Reconciled and given the ministry of reconciliation,

We go as ambassadors of reconciliation who represent Christ to ourselves, each other, and our world.

+At the dinner table with your family or with a friend, share a story about a way in which you have grown emotionally or spiritually. For example, how has your life story changed in the last 10 years? What, in you, is new?

+As autumn slowly comes, take a walk outside and notice the old leaves passing away. Consider the seasonality of life and wonder how living seasonally can help you let go of the things which are no longer yours to hold.

+Consider what heavy burdens you have. Write it/them on a sheet of paper. Center yourself in prayer as you work to give those to God. You may consider having a fire and burning these pieces of paper as a symbolic way of releasing these burdens (Safety first!).

+As new creations, we are still responsible for the harm that we have done and part of being a new creation is seeking reconciliation. What reconciliation do you need to seek this week? Maybe it is reconciliation with God, or with yourself, or with another human being?

Prayer for the Week:

Reconciling Christ, bless my efforts to bring about reconciliation.

Give me the strength to persevere without counting the hurts,

and to find within myself the capacity to keep on loving.

Give me the grace to be able to stand in the middle of situations,

and to be a conduit for the deep listening

which can lead to healing and forgiveness.

Help me to conduct myself with dignity,

giving and expecting respect, moving from prayer to action,

and from action back again into prayer.

Grant that I may be so grounded in Your love,

that my security is not threatened if You show me a

better way to live as a new creation.

Reconciling Christ, bless me and bless all who engage

in the sacred work of envisioning new wholeness,

and bringing people and nations together.  Amen.2

Footnote citations:

1. Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Anchor Publishing, 1995), pg. 9.

2. Adapted from a prayer written by Ann Siddall, in Lent to Easter liturgies: Year C. Posted on the website of the Stillpoint Spirituality Centre.  http://stillpoint.unitingchurchsa.org.au/

 

Creative Living in a Consumer World (Week 1)

**I wrote this Field Guide as an accompaniment for a church-wide series that the congregation I serve is journeying through. So while the minutia is relevant to the congregation I serve, the theme is, I hope, is accessible to anyone. The increments are in weekly segments.**
-Kate, Fall 2020

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This fall we will do the good and hard work of training our eyes to see the sacred worth of God’s creation. On the surface, this may seem easy; however, it is anything but. It takes training, it takes community, it takes faithfulness, and it takes grace. In this moment in time, nothing is more critical than doing the work of seeing the image of God in ourselves and our neighbors. This holy work dispels fantasies that we may have created about ourselves or our neighbors which are untrue, unhelpful, and even destructive. So, I invite you into this holy work.

If you find this work hard, you are doing it right. May we stay faithful and do this holy work, side by side.

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Week 1

Creative Living in a Consumer World

Observing Beauty: God made us all ‘very good’

If you watch a group of children on a playground, you will observe motion, energy, and beauty. Why isn’t this as inspiring as a sunset watched from a national park’s most popular scenic overlook? Perhaps it is because we see each other every day that we miss the extraordinary beauty of each other’s humanity. It is easy to forget to delight in the mundane beauty of human life. Though it is pervasive and easy to measure our worth upon an outside standard of wealth, contribution, body image or something else, our true worth comes from our Creator. We are made with a deep, sacred worth that names us ‘beloved.’ It is hard and holy work to claim this and live abundantly in it.

Scripture Readings: (CEB translation)

Genesis 1:26-28, 31

Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.”27 God created humanity in God’s own image,
 in the divine image God created them,
 male and female God created them.28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.” 31 God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good. There was evening and there was morning: the sixth day.

Isaiah 43:1

But now, says the Lord—the one who created you, Jacob,   the one who formed you, Israel:Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.

Matthew 10:29-31

29 Aren’t two sparrows sold for a small coin? But not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father knowing about it already. 30 Even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 Don’t be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Questions to Consider:

+Where do you see God’s beauty in those you share life with?

+How have you seen the image of God in another person? If you are doing this study with a group, name this in the group, or journal it, or send someone a text or post on Instagram or Facebook with a hashtag of: #IseeGodin

+Now, the harder part for so many of us is seeing the image of God within ourselves; why is that so hard to see our own belovedness?

+How does our consumer culture measure, judge, and hold us back from knowing our sacred worth?  If you are with others right now, take a minute to name how you see Christ, The Spirit and the Creator in others in the group.

+If we struggle to see our own sacred worth how does that affect our ability to see sacred worth in others?  When do you notice sacred worth in others? Who might we treat differently if we looked harder for God’s holy threads within the tapestry of their lives?

Spiritual Practices:

+Reach out to someone and share how you have seen God in them.

+Reach within and contemplate a list of seven things about yourself that reflect God’s image in your life.

+Post this prayer to your phone or on your refrigerator or mirror. When you see it, look hard to see God in yourself and in others this week:

 Bodies beautifully woven together,

I am created in the divine image.

 Breath-filled lungs,

 You are created in the divine image.

 God looks at each of us and can’t help but smile.

 We are created in the divine image.

Prayer for the Week:*

Creative God,

Your Spirit swept over the waters of creation;

You are sweeping over us now, creating.

Call us away from the distractions of the world

and the voices inside and out that question if we are enough

smart enough

attractive enough

kind enough

good enough

God you created us in Your image and called us good.

Open us to a new awakening, a new beginning,

where we look through the lens of the goodness of Your creation,

experiencing all possibilities in You.

In the name of the Creator who breaths life into us, the Redeemer who gives us new life, and the Sustainer who holds our lives together, Amen.

*Adapted from Genesis Prayer on Rev-o-lution blog

 

 

Autumn Dusk

A southern autumn finally makes its way into the hickory, maple, and oak forests,

we’ve been waiting. Longing for it.

Yet, it has been lingering — barely ready to descend – – – until now.

It brings a soft glow that feels like a warm blanket when you’re cold,

you know how it feels, and you need it.

 

It calls to us softly – – – slow down, slow down – – – winter is coming.

It holds us after a deep and wide year,

A year that has torn our hearts open,

until we come face to face with love,

Are we going to love or are we just going to say we’re going to love?

There’s no time for false faces in autumn. (Except for maybe Halloween)

 

Is love alive or isn’t it?

Love is too big, too pervasive, too good to fake.

you know how it feels and you need it.

Is love alive or isn’t it?

 

 

The Kin-dom of God is like…

The Kin-dom of God is like a beloved waking up at 3am to call to make sure you’ve awakened for your alarm…

The Kin-dom of God is like a dear friend loving on your dogs…

The Kin-dom of God is like another dear friend bringing you a delicious dinner, unsolicited.

The Kin-dom of God is like a sunset so beautiful that the sky lingers with it, dancing between darkness and the bright orange colors as long as it can…

The Kin-dom of God is like a hug from your kid…

The Kin-dom of God is like a stranger on the way home from rugby practice, helping you for an hour to try to get into your locked car that’s still running…

The Kin-dom of God is like parents going out of their way to spend time with you…

The Kin-dom of God is like friends gardening together…

The Kin-dom of God is like people–busy, busy people– going out of their way to live into the commitments of love to you.

The Kin-dom of God is like these things, and so much more.

Thanks be to God.

I have seen the Lord!

I can’t believe I am back on my neglected blog, writing anything other than sermons and services on Holy Week! Holy Week for pastors spells s-w-a-m-p-e-d and it has certainly lived up to that this 2019 year. But as I set an intention on gratitude today in a last-ditch effort to deflect some of the anxiety about Easter’s logistics (and also as I sermon write for Easter Sunday), I found myself stepping back 10 years into time.

As I read John’s Gospel story, I am captivated by Mary. How she came to weep over Jesus’ death at his tomb and how she was the first one to see the Resurrected Jesus. She needed Jesus to say her name so that she would know who he was; that means she knew him, she knew his voice, she knew how he said her name. She was commissioned by Jesus to go and tell. And gee, did she ever! We have the Gospel story because of her. She went and said, “I have seen the Lord!”

“I have seen the Lord.”

“I have seen the Lord.”

What an honor to be the first human commissioned with the Gospel.

As I am reflecting on this for Holy Week, the gratitude that captured me was gratitude for all of the women in my life who have shouted “I have seen the Lord!” over and over and over until I believed that this Good News was for me too. They have been witnesses of this Love that was made flesh in the form of Jesus.

From my mom, to my grandmothers and aunts, in my raising who introduced me to God’s love. To writers like Anne Lamott and most especially Rachel Held Evans who kept saying, I think the Gospel is more expansive and inclusive than we think it is. To my pastors who said this is what “I have seen the Lord!” looks like for a woman in ministry. To my Divinity School professors who taught me that being commissioned with the good news means that “you cannot be a poster child of the status quo.”1 To so many women who have changed me because they have taught me the unforced rhythms of grace when I was so burnt out with the Church. To the women who have loved me deeply and said, “remember who you are; you are named beloved and you are a woman made in the image of God.”

For me, it will always be a woman who says on Easter’s Sunday:

“I have seen the Lord.”

Notes:

  1. Rev. Dr. Emilie Townes

Dance with me…

Dance with me,
Under the stars,
Across the plains,
Through the sequoias,
Hold me tightly,
when I just can’t.

Come with me,
to the edges,
edges of who we are,
who we want to be,
our best selves.

Take a chance with me,
for the rest of our lives,
smile with me in joy,
pray with me in uncertainty,
and miss me in separation.

Work with me,
to illicit change,
to grieve injustice,
to sit at the table
of the full menu,
of human rights.

Do life with me,
let’s find out,
about the mystery
of grace, and mercy,
and love.

Walk with me,
through my fears,
and hesitancy,
show me what
vulnerability means.

Dance with me,
Through the shadows of
what we might be,
if we, as humans,
would realize our
interconnectedness.