Each year, The United Methodist Church designates one Sunday as Festival of God’s Creation. The purpose of this festival is to recognize and celebrate God’s gracious work as Creator of the earth and all of its amazing biological life. The festival highlights God’s mandate that humans care for the rest of creation.
The Festival of God’s Creation falls on the Sunday closest to Earth Day, which is observed April 22. Since Earth Day is on Wednesday this year, the festival has been designated for this coming Sunday, April 19. However, it could also be observed on April 26 or some other date, if that date is a better fit for the liturgical life of a particular congregation. For example, April 26 might be a good option to celebrate the festival for churches planning to use Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.'s recorded message this weekend.
This year is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Across the Great Plains Conference many groups were planning major events to celebrate Earth Day. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has forced most of those events to be cancelled or drastically scaled back.
Nevertheless, faith communities still can observe the Festival of God’s Creation, even when we are still observing protective social isolation. We will just have to be creative in modifying or re-creating what we would normally do with our congregations actually worshipping together in our church. Listed below are some ideas for observing the Festival of God’s Creation, even during a time of social distancing.
Consider broadcasting your worship outdoors: Most of us are providing worship services through live streaming. Instead of broadcasting your festival worship service from inside an empty sanctuary, consider broadcasting outside your church building in a location that your congregation will instantly recognize. This is spring, and there are plenty of opportunities for broadcasting outside.
If you must broadcast inside, consider setting up a garden of flowers, green plants, and desktop water fountains around where you will lead the worship.
Scripture for Festival of God’s Creation
These four scriptures have great potential as the basis of a creation sermon:
Genesis 1 — When God creates humans, God gives them “dominion” over all of Creation. Historically, this has been misinterpreted to mean that humans could do with Creation as they pleased. However, in the actual meaning of the text, all humans are given responsibility for protecting the environment. What should that look like, today?
Genesis 2 — In the second creation story, God creates Adam first; then a Garden in which Adam can live and flourish. When God places Adam in the Garden, God instructs Adam to “till it and keep it” (verse 15). The Hebrew word used here is abad. But the principal meaning of abad is “to serve.” What does it mean for Christians “to serve” creation?
Psalm 19:1-4 or 148:1-13 — Each of these psalms calls upon all of creation to praise God — not just humans. Every aspect of creation praises God in their own way, even if they don’t use words. What does it mean for all creation to praise God? Are there ways in which we can see creation praising God, without using words?
Romans 8:18-25 — The Apostle Paul speaks of “creation … groaning in labor pains” as it looks forward to God’s redemption of the whole world. As we celebrate the Festival of God’s Creation, how should we think about creation groaning? Would that suggest a closer bond with creation than we have assumed?
Have children draw pictures of their favorite animals — If you are streaming on Facebook Live, begin the service with a Children’s Time focusing on caring for creation. Ask the children to draw a picture of their favorite animal during the service. Have parents take a picture of their child holding the picture and then post it to the service on Facebook. By the end of the service, there should be a montage of pictures from your congregation. (Adults might also want to participate.)
Integrate Creation Care themes throughout your liturgy — Even if you are not able to focus an entire worship service on the festival this year, there are still ways in which you might lift up the importance of celebrating and caring for God’s creation. For instance, include celebration and care of creation in the pastoral prayer, or other prayers during the service. Include a hymn, such as “For the Beauty of the Earth,” which lifts up these themes.