Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; Luke 24:36b-48; 1 John 3:1-7

My suggested alternative readings for Earth Day: Genesis 1:1-2:4a or Proverbs 8:22-31; Psalm 104:5-31; Mark 1:35-39; Revelation 22:1-5

Acts 3:12-19 is Peter’s speech to those who had gathered to him and John after a man who was disabled from birth was healed. Peter declares to them that he and John are witnesses to Jesus the Christ, who is the same God as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Peter declares to them that this Jesus is the Messiah that was foretold of through Scripture, and that even though they may have rejected Christ they have the opportunity to repent and believe. So we, today, are witnesses of Jesus the Christ as being of the same God that created heavens and earth–but we witness not only in what we say, but in what we do. Peter’s healing in the name of Jesus restored a man who had been separated from temple worship by his economic status–he had to become a beggar–and Peter’s healing not only makes the man to walk, but more importantly restores him fully to society.

Psalm 4 is a prayer to God for deliverance–at first the psalmist demands for God’s answer, but as the psalm continues, there is confidence and assurance that God will answer, God will deliver–but that one must remain faithful and not do anything rash in their anger–do not sin, the psalmist says, but ponder in silence.

Luke 24:36b-48 is another account of Jesus appearing to the disciples after the Resurrection–last week we read John’s, this week we read Luke’s account. Again, Christ appears with the greeting “Peace be with you.” Very similarly, the disciples are not sure until Jesus shows them his hands and his feet. In this account, however, Jesus “opens” their minds to understand the scriptures. Jesus also declares that they “are witnesses of these things” (vs. 58). As with the Acts passage, the disciples who experienced the Risen Christ are witnesses to not only Jesus but to how the scriptures have also been witness to God’s work in Christ Jesus.

1 John 3:1-7 reminds us that we are the children of God; therefore, we are the witnesses to the world of God’s love. We are witnesses not only in what we say but in how we live, and just like last week’s passage from 1 John, if we say we are without sin we deceive ourselves. Our lives are witnesses of Jesus to the world, because the world does not know Christ. If we have Christ in our lives, we must live as Christ, so that we can be true witnesses to God’s love in Christ Jesus.

We are witnesses with our very lives to Christ as well as witnesses of how Scripture is interpreted. We all know people who witness to the Bible by using passages to condemn and hurt others. Christ uses Scripture to open our hearts and minds to the fullness of God’s message and to witness God’s love to the world. We are the best witness to the Bible and to Jesus, both of which have been used to counter the very message they proclaim: God’s love is for the whole world.

For Earth Day, I suggested two possible first Scriptures: the familiar story of creation in Genesis, in which humankind is created to care for the earth, where the whole of creation is created and called good; and a less familiar story of creation in Proverbs, in which Wisdom personified as a woman recalls the wisdom in which God created the whole earth and humanity. Creation is a joyous event, something to be celebrated, not condemned; creation is to be cared for, not cursed and abused.

Psalm 104 is a song of praise of God’s creation, of all that God has created out of wisdom and goodness. Every plant, every creature, every season–every aspect of creation has a purpose, and God is the creator, the gardener, the provider of all creation.

The Hebrew Scriptures are full of references to the goodness of God’s creation and God as creator, with humankind as both co-creators and stewards of creation. The New Testament has fewer references, but the importance of creation is not lost. In Mark 1:35-39, Jesus takes time away from others and goes out to a deserted place to pray. Jesus often goes to a mountain or hillside, to a wilderness or desert or a garden, to be alone and pray. Jesus also find’s God’s presence in creation as many of the prophets did before him.

Revelation 22 speaks of the new heaven and new earth, and in the new Jerusalem is the tree of life bearing fruit in its season. Even in the heavenly reign, there is new creation. God’s design for the world, for life, is life abundantly–it is not all about us human beings, but about all of creation.

God has called us to be witnesses of God’s love in the world. God has also called us to be good stewards of God’s creation. The best way we can witness to the love of God in Christ Jesus is to love our neighbor as ourselves and to care for God’s creation as God intended with our creation.

Call to Worship (or Litany for Earth Day):
Leader: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God called forth light from the darkness.
People: God said, “It is good!”
Leader: In the beginning God created the clouds and rain and air that we breathe.
People: God said, “It is good!”
Leader: In the beginning God created the earth and all the water upon the earth, and all plants and vegetation.
People: God said, “It is good!”
Leader: In the beginning God created the moon and the stars and the sun, to mark our days and nights and tides.
People: God said, “It is good!”
Leader: In the beginning God created the birds of the air and the creatures of the sea, blessing them.
People: God said, “It is good!”
Leader: In the beginning God created all of the animals on the earth, including us human beings, and God blessed them and us.
People: God said, “It is good!”
Leader: From the beginning, God has called us to care for all of creation, to bless it, to help the earth bring forth life, to keep our water and air clean, so that life can continue to thrive.
People: Let us fulfill God’s call to keep creation good, to bless and grow. Let us worship our Creator God!

Prayer of Confession:
Author of Salvation, we confess to You that we have failed as witnesses of Your love and Grace. We have condemned instead of blessed. We have used Scripture to hurt instead of to heal. We have kept others out in the name of Jesus instead of welcoming as Jesus first welcomed us. We have failed our first calling, to be witnesses of Your love in creation, by polluting our air and water, by contaminating the earth and failing to care for Your creatures. Forgive us for our shortcomings, for not living out the first calling on our life, for not witnesses Your love and peace in our own lives. In the name of Jesus, who calls us back to our first calling, to be God’s child, we pray. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon:
In Christ there is restoration and forgiveness. In Christ we find healing and wholeness. In Christ their is life and resurrection. We repent; we are forgiven; we turn back and are restored to Christ’s ways. Let us go forth, as witnesses to Christ’s love, forgiveness and life. Amen.

Prayer:
Creator God, on this Earth Day we remember that all comes from You. You created this beautiful earth for us to enjoy and live and love upon. We have put our own wants above the needs of other people and other living beings. We have failed to care for creation and failed to witness to the Good News of the Gospel of Christ. We know You continue to call us back to Your ways, to live into Your image as caretakers for the earth You created. Call us forth in this time and place to new ways of witnessing Your love in the world. Guide us in ways we may create instead of condemn, where we can live in this world and bring renewal of resources so that all may live and enjoy Your creation. In the name of God our Creator, Christ our Savior and the Holy Spirit our Guide we pray. Amen.

Music Suggestions:
“All Creatures Of Our God and King” would be an appropriate hymn for Earth Day as well as continuing the Easter season. Another newer hymn found in some hymnals is “Touch the Earth Lightly,” which is all about God’s creation. Several hymns about creation such as “For the Beauty of the Earth” and “Morning has Broken” would also be good choices, as well as several thanksgiving hymns for harvest time.

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