Proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ

Environmental Stewardship

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Green Sprouts Blog: Wilderness

A week ago, those of us who observe Ash Wednesday and want to encourage others to practice those things that give us a holy beginning to Lent were wondering how much of a shadow Valentine’s Day would cast over the beginning of Lent in the greater culture. What would people be thinking about Wednesday evening — hearts and flowers, or the beginning of our forty day wilderness journey? By evening, though, the nation’s focus was on yet another in a series of horrible acts of violence, this one a school shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed seventeen people. Once again, American children were killed at school. Once again, our nation’s leaders were big on thoughts and prayers but not so interested in talking about what substantial policy changes they proposed to help protect our children from deadly violence at school.

We are in the wilderness, and not just the figurative wilderness of our Lenten journey. We are lost in a place that is empty and disorienting and frightening. Taken as a group, the adults of our nation have forsaken our responsibilities to our children. We have said we love our nation’s children even as we allow greed and sloth and probably several other deadly sins to keep us from having policies such as those in other nations that would make our public places, including our schools, much safer places for children.

That we Americans allow sin to keep us from protecting our children is no new revelation, of course. We have been in the wilderness a long time, watching global temperatures rise along with concentrations of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere while greed and sloth and probably several other deadly sins keep our leaders from developing policies that could mitigate the effects of climate change.

Much has been made of the hollowness of “thoughts and prayers” without action after events like mass shootings. Prayers of confession and repentance, though, necessarily result in action. Truly changed hearts result in truly changed lives. Truly changed hearts in our nation’s adults would produce genuine love that would not let sin get in the way of protecting our children. That said, we as a culture are far from that point of conversion. So long as a short-sighted desire for a perceived private gain trumps any impulse toward the public good in the hearts of voters and the people they choose to develop our public policies, we will remain in the wilderness.

At its best, the wilderness is a place where so much is stripped away that we see ourselves as we are — our sins along with the gift of being beloved children of God — and repent. This is why many Christians choose some sort of discipline for Lent that echoes the wilderness experience; that wilderness experience can bring us closer to God when it results in penitent hearts. When we see clearly who we are and the things that tempt us and then choose to turn our backs on the temptations, we are ready to leave the wilderness.

But some of us won’t even acknowledge that we are in the wilderness.  If we refuse to acknowledge the reality of our situation, if we pretend that we can continue living as we do and putting our sinful desires before our love of God and our neighbors — including our children — we will remain stuck in the wilderness, lost in a place that is empty and disorienting and, if only we would let ourselves feel it, frightening.

This week, much of our nation was shaken by yet another school shooting. This week also the Bering Sea lost a shocking amount of sea ice, something that should not be happening at all in February. The upshot of these big changes in the Arctic region is that changes in the Arctic create changes in weather patterns further south that promise to be very disruptive. An unstable Arctic means an unstable planet, and an unstable planet means a terrible legacy for our children and grandchildren.

We are in the wilderness. Some of us want to do what we must to get out of the wilderness, and some of us don’t care enough about ourselves or others to even tell ourselves the truth about where we are. Our work is to do our own work of repentance, and then take the news — both the news of the reality of our situation on earth and the good news of repentance and restoration — to others.

For everyone this year, not just observant Christians, Ash Wednesday revealed just how far astray we have gone. Jesus calls us back to the discipline of love that will make all the difference in how we live.

 

Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennet

You can follow Archdeacon Betsy’s Green Sprouts blog at https://nebraskagreensprouts.blogspot.com/

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The Coming Light: Prayer and Reflection for the Fourth Week of Advent

Advent Prayer Offerings from the Diocese of Nebraska Creation Community

The light outside us grows dimmer; the light within us grows brighter. 
 
Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (p. 212, The Book of Common Prayer)
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
 

With Christmas Eve on Sunday this year, we have only a few hours to experience the Fourth Week of Advent and prepare ourselves before beginning our celebration of Christmas. Already sunset is a minute later than it was at the Winter Solstice on Thursday. Though winter’s chill remains awhile more, the light outside us will soon be noticeably brighter. The darkest days are behind us for another year; the inner light we’ve been kindling in our journey through Advent continues to glow, soon to be matched by brighter light outdoors.

As we pray this Sunday for God to purify our conscience, we might consider how we can more justly share God’s gifts to us so that the poorest people among us might not only live, but thrive. Our nations and institutions need some deep, systemic changes so that that the earth, worn down like the poor by our greed and selfishness, can be renewed and restored. Working for justice for all is daunting at this point of our history, but we know that just when the days get darkest, the light becomes more apparent. Advent prepares us to recognize and embrace the Light that is born on Christmas and to count on God’s promises, and our faith in Jesus in turn gives us strength for the work of environmental justice.

God of hope and promise, forgive us for squandering our gifts in ways that cause suffering for others. Help the approaching light to shine so brightly in our hearts that we happily change our ways so that all your children can share in the bounty of your gifts. Help our hearts and minds to be ready to receive the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, and to readily follow his way of justice, peace, and love. We pray in the name of Jesus, the Light of the world. Amen.
 

A note about these Advent offerings:
 
The focus of the Diocese of Nebraska’s Creation Community this year is to create and pray daily prayers appropriate to each liturgical season that remember the natural environment. Our intention is not only to add these prayers to our own regular daily prayers so we know that others in our little community are praying with us, but also to offer them for use by others in the diocese in their daily prayers. For each week of Advent, we are offering a short reflection and prayer.
 
It seems especially important this year to remember both the firm and proven expectation that the natural light will indeed grow brighter and also our deeper hope that metaphorically brighter days will return at a time we can’t pinpoint. Because we live in Christian hope, even as the light outside us grows dimmer, our inner light shines brighter against the darkness.
 
You can follow Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennett’s blog here:
https://nebraskagreensprouts.blogspot.com/
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Joy in Creation: Prayer and Reflection for the Third Week of Advent

Advent Prayer Offerings from the Diocese of Nebraska Creation Community

The light outside us grows dimmer; the light within us grows brighter. 
Collect for the First Sunday of Advent (p. 212, The Book of Common Prayer)
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

When I was a child, the December days before Christmas Eve dragged along , and I wanted nothing more than for Christmas to be here now. But my memories of a mid-twentieth century midwestern childhood also include memories of snowball fights, games of fox and geese, feeding birds, tracking animals, and going for evening walks with my dad as the streetlights illuminated big snowflakes falling. It seemed Christmas would never come, but now I realize that the fun of early winter made those days of waiting rich and full.

Our Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent asks God to “speedily” help and deliver us. At Church of the Resurrection in Omaha, we sing “Soon and Very Soon” during Advent. As adults waiting for Christmas, we yearn not only to know more fully Christ’s presence among us, but also for help in amending our own lives so that we are ready to receive Christ when he comes.

The Winter Solstice comes during the Third Week of Advent this year. As we light the pink candles on our Advent wreaths and take up the theme of joy, we know that the light outside will “soon and very soon” begin to slowly but surely grow brighter.  We have preparations to finish at home and church this week, but we also have the joys of God’s creation in this time and place to help make these days of waiting rich and full. Taking time just to be outdoors for even a few minutes can feed our souls and prepare us to fully be ready for Jesus. This small pause lends support to the hard work of more fully amending our lives, and helps us remain joyful as we do the work of preparing in all ways for the coming of Jesus. This week we pray:
God the Creator and Sustainer of the world, help us to wait with joyful purpose. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear the beauty and joy of your creation, and give us hearts and minds willing to pause in childlike wonder at the richness of the world around us. Through Jesus Christ who was and is and is to come. Amen.
 

A note about these Advent offerings:
 
The focus of the Diocese of Nebraska’s Creation Community this year is to create and pray daily prayers appropriate to each liturgical season that remember the natural environment. Our intention is not only to add these prayers to our own regular daily prayers so we know that others in our little community are praying with us, but also to offer them for use by others in the diocese in their daily prayers. For each week of Advent, we are offering a short reflection and prayer.
 
It seems especially important this year to remember both the firm and proven expectation that the natural light will indeed grow brighter and also our deeper hope that metaphorically brighter days will return at a time we can’t pinpoint. Because we live in Christian hope, even as the light outside us grows dimmer, our inner light shines brighter against the darkness.
 
You can follow Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennett’s blog here:
https://nebraskagreensprouts.blogspot.com/
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Prophets and Joy: Prayer and Reflection for the Second Week of Advent

Advent Prayer Offerings from the Diocese of Nebraska Creation Community

The light outside us grows dimmer; the light within us grows brighter. 
 
Collect for the Second Sunday of Advent (p. 211, The Book of Common Prayer)
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
 
Some of today’s prophets are scientists and environmentalists who warn us of the long-term dangers of pollution and overconsumption. From the growing problem of plastic pollution to using unsustainable amounts of resources to our dependence on fossil fuels that are extracted from the earth in ways that endanger land, water, and human health before emitting carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming, these prophets warn us that our actions endanger us, future generations, and other living things.

“Sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation,” according to the Catechism in The Book of Common Prayer. By that definition, our disregard for the environment is indeed sinful. Our repentance this Advent season requires us to examine our neglect of the environment that sustains life on this earth and to change our way of life so we are better stewards of the gift of God’s creation.

 

Advent is also a time when a walk outside can reveal much to bring us joy: winter birds, sometimes footprints in the snow, soft pink light at sunset, and dazzling stars at night. When we look around and notice the wonders all around us, we realize that repentance returns us to a place of great love and great joy in God’s creation.

 

This week we pray:

Merciful God, you have sent us prophets in the form of scientists and environmental advocates who can teach us how to better care for the gift of your creation that sustains every living thing on the earth. Help us to better hear them and learn from them, that we can continue to find joy in your creation and pass along the gift of your creation to future generations. Give us penitent hearts and such joy in your creation that our desire is to do what is right. We pray this in the name of  the Son that you sent to live among us because you so loved the world. Amen.

 

A note about these Advent offerings:
The focus of the Diocese of Nebraska’s Creation Community this year is to create and pray daily prayers appropriate to each liturgical season that remember the natural environment. Our intention is not only to add these prayers to our own regular daily prayers so we know that others in our little community are praying with us, but also to offer them for use by others in the diocese in their daily prayers. For each week of Advent, we are offering a short reflection and prayer.
It seems especially important this year to remember both the firm and proven expectation that the natural light will indeed grow brighter and also our deeper hope that metaphorically brighter days will return at a time we can’t pinpoint. Because we live in Christian hope, even as the light outside us grows dimmer, our inner light shines brighter against the darkness.
You can follow Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennett’s blog here:
https://nebraskagreensprouts.blogspot.com/
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Hope: Prayer and Reflection for the First Week of Advent

Advent Prayer Offerings from the Diocese of Nebraska Creation Community

The light outside us grows dimmer; the light within us grows brighter. 
 
Collect for the First Sunday of Advent (p. 211, The Book of Common Prayer)
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
 
Outdoors it’s late fall. The days grow shorter and the sun lies low in the sky. We know with certainty, though, both that longer days and brighter light lie ahead and exactly when the winter solstice will bring the gradual return of the light, but still sometimes the weeks of darkness seem unending.
 
Our situation with climate change caused by global warming can seem hopeless when we look at the scientific data and the global and national political situation. Unlike our knowledge of the returning natural light, we have no certain knowledge that better days lie ahead. Any genuine hope in this case is deep hope, hope that something better and brighter than the most likely outcome — and perhaps something even better and brighter than anything we can imagine — will come to pass. In these waning days, we pray a prayer of hope:
 
O God of all power and all goodness, the days are dark and our future seems uncertain. Send us in this season of Advent deep hope and the will to do what we must to help that hope become a real possibility. We ask that even when it seems foolish, you give us wisdom to put on the armor of light so all can live in hope of a future when humankind and all living things both not only live, but flourish. In the name of Jesus, the true light of the world who is not overcome by the darkness. Amen.
 
 
A note about these Advent offerings:
The focus of the Diocese of Nebraska’s Creation Community this year is to create and pray daily prayers appropriate to each liturgical season that remember the natural environment. Our intention is not only to add these prayers to our own regular daily prayers so we know that others in our little community are praying with us, but also to offer them for use by others in the diocese in their daily prayers. For each week of Advent, we are offering a short reflection and prayer.
 
It seems especially important this year to remember both the firm and proven expectation that the natural light will indeed grow brighter and also our deeper hope that metaphorically brighter days will return at a time we can’t pinpoint. Because we live in Christian hope, even as the light outside us grows dimmer, our inner light shines brighter against the darkness.
 
You can follow Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennett’s blog here:
https://nebraskagreensprouts.blogspot.com/
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Daily Prayers for Ordinary Time – Nebraska Creation Community

Our DioNeb Creation Community has written a set of short prayers for each day of the week, to be used during this season of Ordinary Time. These collects are unique to our Nebraska setting, and would be appropriate for use in both public and private prayer.  May they enrich your prayers in the months to come.

Click here to download the prayers as a PDF document.

 

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Prayer Vigil for the Climate – Saturday April 29th

Bishop Scott Barker, Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennett, and Brother James Dowd invite the Diocese to join us in a vigil of prayer for the climate.

On Saturday, April 29th, people will be marching in Washington, DC and in cities across the country to advocate for stronger policies to address climate change. Participants will advocate for climate change policies that not only effectively mitigate climate change and its effects, but that will also open up new jobs that bring justice for poorer communities in the United States and around the world where the effects of climate change are often experienced first and worst.

Our suggestion is to pray at home, at your church, or wherever you might be between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM CT, or 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM MT. Suggestions follow as to how you might mark this event with prayer.

For those who might want to participate in a march in Nebraska, Lincoln will host a climate march beginning at 10:30 am on Saturday at the UNL Student Union, and Omaha has a march beginning at noon at the Gene Leahy Mall.

Suggestions for prayer:

  • Gather around a candle, light the candle and pray this from the Book of Common Prayer (p. 827)
    Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
  • Pray for the leadership of our country that they may come to understand the seriousness of climate change.
  • Pray for the safety of the marchers.
  • Meditate (Centering Prayer, the Jesus Prayer, etc). for some or part of the three hour period.
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Environmental Stewardship – Praying the Earth’s News: March 23, 2017

We pray this week for people affected by floods and fires that have been made worse by warmer global temperatures, and we pray for our planet and the future of the human race as warming takes us into “uncharted territory”.

Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Collect For the Conservation of Natural Resources (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 827)

Please pray for:

People in Peru affected by severe flooding. Unusually intense rainfall — “the deadliest downpours in decades” according to this story from Reuters — has resulted in severe flooding in Peru. More than sixty people have died, and the rains and flooding are expected to continue.

People affected by wildfires in the Great Plains. Fires in the Great Plains have contributed to a “furious start” to the wildfire season in the United States. Dry conditions and very warm late winter temperatures contributed to the fires. Ranchers lost cattle to the fires, leading ranchers to call the fires “our hurricane Katrina”. Here in Nebraska this week, a wildfire near Lake Mcconaughy burned 800 acres and destroyed eight homes.

The earth as we enter “uncharted territory”. The Guardian reports on a World Meteorological Association report on the 2016 global climate, which reports that we have reached a level of warming that takes the planet into “uncharted territory”. NASA reported that on March 7 sea ice extent at both poles reached record lows. The need for action on climate change has never been clearer, but political prospects for such action in the United States at least look slim.

O God our heavenly Father, you have blessed us and given us dominion over all the earth: Increase our reverence before the mystery of life; and give us new insight into your purposes for the human race, and new wisdom and determination in making provision for its future in accordance with your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer For the Future of the Human Race (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 828)

As we pray for others, we might also pray for our own hearts to be open so we can see the needs in the world around us and gladly respond to those needs:

O heavenly Father, who has filled the world with beauty; Open our eyes to behold your gracious hand in all your works; that, rejoicing in your whole creation, we may learn to serve you with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for Joy in God’s Creation (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 814)

 

Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennett

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Exploring a Creation Connections Community

Experiencing God deeply through experiencing the wonder of God’s creation leads many of us to have a passion for caring for God’s creation. Throughout our diocese, there are people who share both a spiritual connection through outdoor experiences and a passion for environmental justice and environmental stewardship. Because we are scattered throughout the diocese, though, we may find that while our connections with God and with God’s creation are profound, connections with others who share similar experiences and passions are more tenuous because others in our local parish don’t necessarily share the same passion.

Some folks in the Diocese of Nebraska have begun gathering via email, phone, and video conference to create ways for us to better connect with God, one another, and God’s creation that are spiritually nourishing, sustainable over time, and possible in our geographically large diocese. Our initial efforts have yielded ideas about worshipping together in a beautiful outdoor location, creating opportunities for people to participate in outdoor activities in community, praying for one another and for the earth, supporting each other in local efforts to build awareness about environmental stewardship, and sustaining community through a combination of electronic communications and in-person get-togethers. People in the Diocese of Nebraska will be invited to plug into whatever pieces of this best fit you.

If helping to create a new kind of community that gathers around a love of God and God’s creation is something you would like to explore, please contact Archdeacon Betsy Bennett:

deaconbetsy@windstream.net

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An Invitation to Stand with Standing Rock

add11cd788A resolution from the Executive Council  of the Episcopal Church asks the Episcopal Church at all levels to prayerfully and financially support the planned winter encampment of the people bearing witness to and peacefully and prayerfully protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  The route under construction intrudes onto the sacred grounds of the Sioux Nation, and the pipeline endangers the water supply from the Missouri River.

 

To show our support of our brothers and sisters in the Diocese of North Dakota, people from across the Diocese of Nebraska are invited to show their solidarity in a variety of ways.

We encourage people throughout the diocese to be part of the Tuesday, November 15 at the Nationwide Day of Action.

In DioNeb, we invite you to create and share a video via Facebook or Twitter of a person or group of people reading Psalm 18:1-20 and/or the prayer For the Conservation of Natural Resources on p. 827 in the Book of Common Prayer to be posted the week of November 14th.

Use the hashtag #DioNebStandsInPrayer when you post your video.

We will combine all the videos into a final DioNeb video to share with the parishes and people at Standing Rock to show that people in the Diocese of Nebraska are standing with them in prayer.

If you want to create a video, but prefer not to share it on social media, please contact the diocese at dioadmin@episcopal-ne.org for information about sharing your video privately, but keep in mind the finished video will be shared publicly.

 

Additional Acts of Solidarity:

If you are in the Omaha area, join fellow Episcopalians as we stand together in prayer and solidarity with Native allies at the Army Corps of Engineers office (1616 Capitol Ave.) from 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.  We’ll stand peacefully on the sidewalk as drummers and singers pray with us, calling on the Army Corps and President Obama to revoke the permits for this dirty oil pipeline. Please bring art and banners. (Some sample messages for art: Stand in Prayer. Stop the Pipeline, Solidarity with Standing Rock and Iowa #NoDAPL, or Pres. Obama: Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.

 

The Diocese of North Dakota is accepting monetary donations for supplies needed by the people camped at Standing Rock. Go to the Diocese of North Dakota website and look for the Donate button in the lower right corner. This will take you to the donation page, where you can add special instructions that your donation is to go to support the Standing Rock water protectors.

 

Include the people of the Standing Rock Sioux and the people camped there to protect the water in your daily prayers, and encourage your parish leaders to include prayers for Standing Rock in the Prayers of the People.

 

Use the resources below to learn more and then stay up-to-date on the situation at Standing Rock. Help us all to remember what is happening there by sharing news stories on social media and talking about it with other people. When we are asked to write, or call government officials on behalf of the people of Standing Rock, take the time to follow up on that request.

 

Resources

 

Statement by the North Dakota Council of Indian Ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Dakota Access Pipe Line (August 19, 2016)

 

Presiding Bishop tells Standing Rock protectors ‘the way of Jesus honors the water’

Presiding Bishop tells Standing Rock protectors ‘the way of Jesus honors the water’

 

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry: Statement in support of the advocacy of the people of Standing Rock Sioux Reservation

http://www.episcopalchurch.org/posts/publicaffairs/presiding-bishop-michael-curry-statement-support-advocacy-people-standing-rock

 

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