Sunday October 31st 2021
A warm welcome to worship this morning. The intimations are on pages 9 and 10.
Hymn 103 Fill your hearts with joy and gladness
Prayer of Approach and Confession (a prayer for climate change from Christian Aid)
You spoke into the silence
Light suffusing darkness.
You spoke into the silence
Blowing clean life, giving air into the space
You spoke into the silence
Warmth and cold infusing the air
You spoke into the silence
Solid ground formed out of gushing water.
You spoke, voice carrying over the sound
People, plants and animals came to life.
You spoke, each creation balanced against the next so life would be abundant and sustainable.
You saw everything you had made and declared it to be very good.
You spoke, choosing to give us humans stewardship over all that You had made.
We speak and act
Darkness of pollution limits light levels and damages the air we breathe.
We speak and act
Ground poisoned, burnt, stripped bare.
We speak and act
Spoiling, limiting, destroying quality of life and life itself.
We speak and act
Without hearing Your call over the noise of the world to be good stewards.
You speak. You create. You want us to be stewards of Your creation.
We come to You to re-learn how to care for the earth and people you have made.
Through Christ our Lord who taught us to pray together saying…
Hymn 149 Let all creation dance
Genesis 1:26-27, 2:15-17, 3:22-24
1: 26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
3: 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
Hymn 500 Lord of creation
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen
I once heard a story about a man who was very proud of his gardening skills. As he was working away in the garden one day, a neighbour passed and stopped to admire. “You and God are doing a fine job on that garden”, she said. “Oh aye,” replied the gardener, “but you should have seen the mess it was in when God was trying to do it all by himself.”
That gardener was not alone in his attitude to the natural world, and we often feel that we can do a better job of organising and using Nature than Nature does itself. The Bible itself seems at times to endorse that view, as we see for example right at the beginning of the Biblical story, in Chapter 1 of Genesis, where God confers on human beings what the older translations call “dominion” over all the creatures in the world.
This idea of “dominion” is interesting, because the original Hebrew word has several meanings that don’t all quite fit together. It could mean to “trample down” or “subdue”. But it could also mean to “rule” or “control”, and that seems to be the meaning intended in chapter 1 of Genesis. But that chapter introduces a vital qualification of this dominion which God has given Man. Verse 26 says that these human beings to whom God has given this dominion are created in God’s image. They are created to be like him , and by implication to act like him with his authority. In other words, human beings are given what one Bible commentator calls “delegated sovereignty”.
That is a critical point, because it means that God has not simply turned people loose to do whatever they like. Instead, they have been given the authority to act as God would act and to act within the overarching purposes of God. They are not free to act differently than God would act. Their role is not to trample Nature down, but to nurture and foster it according to what best fulfils God’s vision of what the earth should be like. Human beings are there to improve the natural order, not destroy it.
So it turns out that this idea of Man’s dominion over the natural world is much more subtle and more limited than we might think at first, and that has important implications these days, as the eyes of the whole world are turned towards the great climate conference that is about to begin in Glasgow.
The story in Genesis, and its implications, means that the climate conference is not merely the business of environmentalists and scientists and multinational companies. It is also the business of everybody who takes seriously the responsibility that God has placed upon the shoulders of every person in the world. It is the business of Christians and it is the business of the Church.
I think it’s fair to say that the Church of Scotland has been one of the most active Christian groups in this regard and every Church of Scotland minister has been supplied with a great deal of material to encourage consideration of the issues which the climate conference is faced with. These resources from the Church are very wide-ranging, far more than I can talk about this morning, but some materials that particularly caught my eye were focussed on the role of trees in the environment.
Now I have to say right off that I like trees. Of all plants they are certainly the most prominent, and they add so much to the landscape and to our general enjoyment of nature. If you live in the Middle East, as I have done, you soon become aware of what a difference there is between the green wooded landscape of Scotland and a Middle Eastern landscape where trees are, comparatively, a rarity.
I suspect some similar feeling influenced the Bible writers also, who make it clear again and again that trees are not just a picturesque addition to the landscape but also have a psychological and spiritual significance.
The Bible writers seem to have grasped that significance intuitively, but what I find particularly interesting nowadays is the extent to which modern science is supporting the Biblical view of trees.
Scientific studies have found, for example, that people actually feel better when they are in green spaces, so that people’s psychological well-being is promoted by walking in the woods while in contrast it is diminished while walking along the drab grey streets of a city.
But of course there is a lot more to trees than that. We all probably know that planting trees is good for the environment. Trees release oxygen into the environment, and woods and forests provide a natural habitat for wildlife. But did you know for example, that walking in the woods is good not just for your psychological health, but for your physical health as well, and for different reasons than you might think. It turns out that it is not just a matter of fresh air and exercise but even of the effect on your immune system. Scientists have discovered that some trees produce a range of gas-like compounds called phytoncides which are anti-microbial and have a tendency in human beings to boost the working of our immune system. So trees might actually be having a medicinal effect on you as you walk among them.
I’m sure the Bible writers would have been delighted to hear of these scientific discoveries, but I suspect they would not really have been very surprised. They knew there was something special about trees, and in fact trees are mentioned in the Bible more than any other living thing apart from human beings and God himself. Trees appear in both the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, and in the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation. And trees appear in lots of different places in between. Abraham met God at the sacred oak of Mamre. God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, actually a small tree. Jonah got very upset when the tree providing him with shade died. Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus. The very first chapter of the book of Genesis refers to the fruit which comes from trees, necessary for food. The very last chapter of the Bible, Revelation chapter 22, refers to the tree of life which bears fruit 12 times a year and whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.
One of the reasons that trees are seen as so important in the Bible is because of the geographical setting of the Bible in the Middle East. As I’ve said trees are not something which grow in abundance, so every tree is special. To have trees available to you to produce food or to provide wood was considered a sign of great good fortune.
Trees are also understood to be a source of life, not just for humans but for animals as well. We see that particularly in Psalm 104, where as well as providing us with food, trees also provide a place for birds to build their nests.
It is not surprising, given the importance of trees in the Bible, that trees also have an important symbolic significance. We see this again in the book of Genesis, where the Garden of Eden has the tree of knowledge and the tree of life---two very important plants whose symbolic significance deserves to be explored in a sermon of its own. Suffice it to say here, that Adam and Eve are cast out of the Garden of Eden which they have spoiled through their sin, when they ate from the tree of knowledge and they are thereby deprived of the blessings of the Tree of Life
At the other end of the Bible, when St John expresses his apocalyptic vision of the new heaven and earth, he does so by reviving the imagery of the Tree of Life, thus bringing the Biblical story full circle. In the book of Revelation, John sees a vision of a world redeemed, with a New Eden in which the Tree of Life flourishes once more.
But there is a very important tree in between Genesis and Revelation. Jesus was crucified on a cross of wood. We often hear this referred to in the Bible as being hung on a tree (Galatians 3:13). In the Bible, being hung upon a tree is seen as a sign of a curse. Yet it was through the curse of crucifixion, that our redemption was won. Once again we see the tree symbolising life. Through his death on a cross, Jesus brought life to us all.
So the Bible fully recognises the importance of trees for life, both in reality and symbolically. For the Bible writers, life itself, in all its aspects, was intimately entwined with the existence of trees.
I don’t know how many people attending the climate conference in Glasgow will be thinking of trees in quite this way, but in some respects I wish they would, because I think it would be a great mistake for the participants to approach the issues they face as merely questions of science and economics.
Science and economics provide us with useful information, and can suggest which solutions might be better and which worse, but that does not seem to me to be enough. They can, for example, tell us about the importance of trees in reducing greenhouse gases, in carbon capture, in anchoring soil to prevent flooding, and so forth. They can tell us about the benefits reforestation may bring to the economy and land management.
But beyond all that we need to be able to see the facts of science and economics in a broader perspective. We need to have a larger vision, a broader philosophy, an overarching idea of the meaning of life itself. And that, supremely, is what the Bible writers realised.
They saw that, above all, mankind needs a spiritual vision that goes far beyond merely tinkering with the mechanics of Nature. Mankind needs a vision of the ultimate purpose of it all, a realisation of what God intends the life of the world to be about.
So, as we, along with all those people in Glasgow, turn to contemplate the future of the woods and forests around us, we would do well to contemplate also that great Biblical vision of the Tree of Life itself.
Hymn 155 Think of a world without any flowers
Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Lord God, our Almighty Creator,
We thank you for our wonderful world that you created for us with all the diversity of the different habitats, creatures and peoples. We pray for the world we live in: that God may open our eyes to recognise the goodness of all creation and help us to do what we can to restore and care for the wonderful gift that we have been given.
We pray for our world, our common home, that through God’s grace we may hear its cry of the damage done and be moved to protect it for future generations to enjoy.
We pray for those people who are already facing droughts, floods and storms: that God may grant them strength and hope for the future as they work to adapt to the changing climate. Help us too to see where our change of actions may improve their situations.
We pray for the Church: that she may be a beacon of hope throughout the world, reminding us all of our responsibility to care for and protect God’s precious gift of creation, and protect and help all that are vulnerable or disadvantaged around our world.
We pray for our parish and our local community: that through the grace of God we may hear the urgent cry of the earth and of the poor and be inspired to respond at this critical time.
We pray that through God’s grace we may be good neighbours to all humanity and all species, making reparation for damage done and restoring and caring for all that God has made.
We pray for world leaders: that God may grant them wisdom to make just decisions which respect the earth and all that lives in it, especially those who are poorest and most vulnerable.
We pray for this COP26 Conference that the scales of righteous indignation and accusations may fall from all eyes and we all can see the positiveness in this meeting and start to see improvements in our endeavours and new friendships formed to our common benefits. We pray that through your Holy Spirit, all hearts and minds, including ours, be open to listen to helpful ideas, and all ears hear your message, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Hymn 251 I, the Lord of sea and sky
Bless our hearts O God, with the love of Christ
Bless our minds O God, with the wisdom of Christ
Bless our bodies O God, with the power of the resurrection of Christ.
Closing voluntary: John Rutter – Look at the world
Tarff and Twynholm Guild
The Guild will meet this Tuesday 2nd November at 7.30pm in the Church Hall with "Our Light in Covid Darkness". Members will tell of the light hearted episodes or activities that they experienced during covid lockdown. Subscription fee will be collected and members will vote for the Guild Projects to support in the coming year.
Sacrament of Holy Communion
Tarff and Twynholm will celebrate the Sacrament of Communion today, October 31st. Gatehouse and Borgue will celebrate communion on November 7th at 10am and 12noon respectively.
There will be an ecumenical service for Remembrance Sunday, November 14th in Gatehouse Church at 10am, followed by an Act of Remembrance at the war memorial just before 11. There will also be an Act of Remembrance at the Borgue war memorial at 11am.
Twynholm will have a Remembrance service at 11:30 in the Church, followed by an Act of Remembrance at the war memorial at 12:30. There will be an Act of Remembrance at the Ringford war memorial at 1pm.
From the Foodbank
It is time once again to think of our monthly collection which will be on Tuesday 9th November, 9 - 9.30am at Kirkcudbright Parish Church Hall.
We have no specific shortages this month and we will be grateful for any food or toiletries.
We are also beginning to prepare for making up Christmas boxes, and if you would like to include items for these in your November donations, it will prevent it all arriving in the December collection.
Christmas boxes contain extra food 'treats' (eg. tinned ham, salmon, sweets, chocolate biscuits, cakes, mince pies etc.) Please check the expiry date of any food items as, although we make them up earlier, they are not distributed until Christmas week.
We also like to include crackers, a card, and a small gift for each member of the family.
If you would like to wrap these, please label with the gender of the recipient and an approximate age of any children (But don't forget Mums and Dads!)
Thank you, as always, for your continuing support.
It has been a hard year for everyone and we know how much your generosity is appreciated by those who have been hardest hit.