In Stevens Point, Frame Memorial Presbyterian Church has been celebrating a new season in the liturgical year since 2006: the Season of Creation. We are following the lead of the Australian Lutheran Church, although we do it slightly differently. You can learn a lot more about their approach at www.seasonofcreation.com (yes, com). I first learned about this season at a St. Olaf Conference for Theology, Worship and the Arts in 2006 in a weeklong seminar with Christian ethicist Larry Rasmussen.
Basically, the Season of Creation, as we approach it, takes Psalm 19 very seriously: “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, their voice is not heard, yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” We approach the Season of Creation as an opportunity to experience Earth-honoring, Christ-centered worship. We continue to preach from the Bible, but we look at creation as an additional text, asking ourselves, “What can we learn about the Creator from creation?” In addition to the Season of Creation website, there are helpful resources at www.webofcreation.org – a website developed by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in cooperation with McCormick Theological Seminary.
We decorated the sanctuary with a fabric “river” running down from the baptismal font (in 2006), as well as with trees, plants, and rocks. In 2007, we had a seashore running across the front of the sanctuary, with fishnets and shells. This year, we will introduce 4 banners commissioned especially for Season of Creation from Philip Cox-Johnson of Gospel Colors.
Each year, we have celebrated the Season of Creation for 6 weeks, beginning with the first Sunday in September. Each week has a theme. In 2006, they were: Planet Earth, Rivers, Trees, 4 Compass Points/4 Basic Elements (Wind, Water, Fire, Earth), Humanity (World Communion Sunday) and Cosmos. In 2007, they were: Ocean, Grasses, Storm, Fauna (when we also held a Blessing of the Animals in the afternoon), Wetlands, and Eco-Justice (World Communion Sunday). In 2008, they will be: Forest, Wilderness, Sun and Moon, Lake, Symbiotic Relationships (World Communion Sunday), and Land.
So, for example, when we celebrated Wetlands Sunday, we learned that God values people and elements in Creation that humans discard as useless. We were reminded that although people used to regard wetlands as unusable space that should be filled in or paved over, wetlands are critical to the health of the earth. Similarly, women and children used to be regarded as less important people, but our Lord Jesus urged us to receive the Kingdom of God as a child, and his resurrection was first revealed to women.
We learned on Grasses Sunday that grasses are one of the few plants that grow from their roots, and we were reminded that our lives are shaped by what we “plant ourselves in”. Are our roots in God? Or in material goods?
On Oceans Sunday, I learned that there is a substantive difference between shallow ocean and deep ocean, and so Job 38:16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?” acquired new meaning for me, as did Psalm 42:7 “Deep calls to deep….” I was challenged to go deeper in my prayer life, to allow myself to rest deeply in God.
The premise of the Season of Creation is that the Bible was written, originally, to people who lived intimately with Creation, whose lives were woven into the wonders of God. We, in our modern, wealthy, western world are insulated from heat, cold, the lapping of the river on its banks and the wildness of storms. We need to intentionally draw close to God’s Creation in order to fully appreciate the nuances of God’s Word in Scripture. And in so doing, we are reminded of the preciousness of God’s creation to God, and challenged to care for God’s created world as part of our love for and faithfulness to God.
It has also been a time for us to reach out to those who are more drawn to nature and skeptical of Scripture to learn about how God’s Word affirms their love for the earth, and that such love is consistent with Christianity.