Each Sundays during the summer months, there is an outdoor ecumenical prayer service at the Lake Harriet Bandshell. A different Catholic or Protestant parish runs the service each week. This week the service was in the hands of the parishes of Christ the King and St. Thomas Apostle. Last year at the service run by this team, Bill Nolan (Pastoral Associate at St. Thomas Apostle) presided and I gave the homily. This year we reversed roles and I presided, with Bill offering the homily.
I recognize these services are not everyone’s cup of tea. But I enjoy these opportunity to come together with people of different Christian denominations as members of one Body of Christ to worship together.
In today’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that “some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” Bill’s homily (which moved through both CS Lewis and a wonderful running analogy) talked about the difference between our world of winners and losers, haves and have nots and the kingdom, observing that
The centrality of the Gospel message is not a prediction of a cosmic role reversal, nor a replacement of one hierarchical structure with its polar opposite. Jesus’ message – Jesus’ invitation to all is, I believe, to be builders of a kingdom, where there are no winners and losers, have and have-nots, firsts and lasts.
You can access a recording of Bill’s homily here or stream it from the icon below. The podcast runs for 10:49.
Thanks to Bill…
And to the choir…
And to all who joined us for worship this morning…
I pulled out my bag last night a brochure I took from a Lutheran church during my visit to Seattle last weekend. The brochure was for an organization in Washington called Earth Ministry, a faith-based organization concerned with engaging the Christian community in environmental stewardship.
In the almost twenty years it has existed, Earth Ministry has assisted religious congregations in integrating care of creation into all aspects of church life, offered resources to assist clergy and lay leaders to speak knowledgeably on environmental issues and trained people to be effective advocates on environmental matters. Its website has an enormous amount of useful information on environmental issues.
Earth Ministry partners with “Greening Congregations”, i.e., churches that “develop a written annual plan for integrating creation care into their congregational life in the areas of worship, education, facilities, and outreach. These goals should be achievable but also challenging, and the commitment is renewed annually to demonstrate a congregation’s long-term dedication to environmental stewardship.”
What was so compelling to me was that the list of Greening Congregations includes churches that are Unitarian, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, UCC, Episcopal and several other denominations. The website includes a page titled Denominational Statements, which excerpts statements from documents of the various denominations setting forth that church’s understanding of the Christian commitment to stewardship and the environment.
There are certainly things that divide Christians and non-Christians and that divide different denominations of Christians. And there is certainly value in talking about those things. But it is also vitally important that we recognize those areas in which diverse religious communities can take united and concerted action – especially on issues as important as care of this world over which we have been appointed stewards. We need more organizations like Earth Ministry.
Note for my local readers: the Minnesota analogue to Earth Ministry is Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light…which I sheepishly confess I never heard of until what I read about Earth Ministry made me wonder if there was a similar organization here.