A Life of Grace for the Whole World, Adult book

A Life of Grace for the Whole World, Adult book

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780819233783
Publisher: Church Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 03/15/2017
Pages: 64
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Jerry Cappel, an ordained Episcopal priest serving St. James Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Kentucky and as Environmental Network Coordinator for Province IV of The Episcopal Church, has an MDiv from Harding Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tennessee, and a PhD in Religious Education from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He also serves as President of Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light and is a fellow with the Center for Religion and the Environment and for GreenFaith. He has worked as an author and editor of youth and adult education materials for Smyth & Helwys Publishing in Macon, Georgia, and as a Learning Consultant for Humana, Inc. in Louisville.

Stephanie M Johnson spent 20 years as an environmental planner and educator before entering ordained ministry. For 4 years, she worked as the Environmental Missioner for the Bishops of New England (Province 1). She holds a M Div and MST on environmental ministry from Yale Divinity School. She gives talks and lectures on faith and the environment, while also leading workshops on grief in the face of climate change and biblically based social justice and community organizing. She works extensively with youth on exploring current events and faith formation.

Read an Excerpt

A Life of Grace for the Whole World Adult Booklet

A Study Course on the House of Bishops' Pastoral Teaching on the Environment


By Jerry Cappel, Stephanie M. Johnson

Church Publishing Incorporated

Copyright © 2017 Jerry Cappel and Stephanie M. Johnson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8192-3378-3



CHAPTER 1

SESSION 1

A Time for Repentance and Renewal (Paragraphs 1–5)


Goals

• To recognize and respond to the bishops' call for confession, compassion, and attention to the present crisis of the earth

• To identify ways to speak and act on behalf of God's good creation


From the Bishops' Teaching

[1] We, your bishops, believe these words of Jeremiah describe these times and call us to repentance as we face the unfolding environmental crisis of the earth:

How long will the land mourn, and the grass of every field wither? For the wickedness of those who live in it the animals and the birds are swept away, and because people said, "He is blind to our ways." (Jer. 12:4)

[2] The mounting urgency of our environmental crisis challenges us at this time to confess "our self-indulgent appetites and ways," "our waste and pollution of God's creation," and "our lack of concern for those who come after us" (Ash Wednesday Liturgy, Book of Common Prayer, p. 268). It also challenges us to amend our lives and to work for environmental justice and for more environmentally sustainable practices.

[3] Christians cannot be indifferent to global warming, pollution, natural resource depletion, species extinctions, and habitat destruction, all of which threaten life on our planet. Because so many of these threats are driven by greed, we must also actively seek to create more compassionate and sustainable economies that support the well-being of all God's creation.

[4] We are especially called to pay heed to the suffering of the earth. The Anglican Communion Environmental Network calls to mind the dire consequences our environment faces: "We know that ... we are now demanding more than [the earth] is able to provide. Science confirms what we already know: our human footprint is changing the face of the earth and because we come from the earth, it is changing us too. We are engaged in the process of destroying our very being. If we cannot live in harmony with the earth, we will not live in harmony with one another."

[5] This is the appointed time for all God's children to work for the common goal of renewing the earth as a hospitable abode for the flourishing of all life. We are called to speak and act on behalf of God's good creation.

— The Pastoral Teaching (paragraphs 1–5)


Before the Session: Graceful Intentions

Science confirms what we already know: our human footprint is changing the face of the earth and because we come from the earth, it is changing us too.

In 2011, author and environmental activist Bill McKibben published a new book with the title, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. The spelling in the title was not a typo. McKibben deliberately changed the spelling of Earth to Eaarth to illustrate the point of the book: human activity has already altered the living systems of planet earth to such an extent that the planet is fast becoming a different place; it is less hospitable to human thriving and to the ongoing existence of countless other creatures. Future generations will have to adapt to living on a planet that is very different than the one upon which we were born.

This means that the church is living, worshipping, serving, and proclaiming in a world in many ways unlike the one inhabited by earlier generations. We face many converging trends, from climate disruption to deforestation and species extinction, from toxins and pollution to a growing scarcity offresh water and arable land. All of these trends, along with a growing worldwide population, have together altered the earth in fundamental and sometimes irrevocable ways.

Questions to Ponder about Our Planet:

Do you agree with Bill McKibben's conclusion that human activity on the planet has already made it a different place?

What in your experience confirms or contradicts it?


Given the new reality in which we ind ourselves, the church needs to revisit its inherited faith and practice. How do we apply our values and teachings in the midst of this unprecedented situation? The language, priorities, and practices of our parents and grandparents cannot function unaltered in the context of an altered earth. In other words, the faith of the past generations that made sense on planet earth may need to adjust to become the faith for future generations who live on planet Eaarth.

Of course, the church has always been making adjustments to its faith and practice. In response to big social changes such as war, women's suffrage, civil rights, and other movements, the church continues to make changes to its priorities, policies, and practices. As the church has in the past, we are called to reengage and reimagine Christian faith for our own day.


Questions to Ponder about Social Change:

Have you been witness to or been involved in large social changes in the past or present? What were the issues? What kinds of challenge did they present to your faith? What kinds of change do they continue to demand from the church?


The pastoral teaching acknowledges this reality:

Christians cannot be indifferent to global warming, pollution, natural resource depletion, species extinctions, and habitat destruction, all of which threaten life on our planet. Because so many of these threats are driven by greed, we must also actively seek to create more compassionate and sustainable economies that support the well-being of all God's creation. We are especially called to pay heed to the suffering of the earth.


In many ways, these are new challenges presented to the church, and they challenge the church to reconsider its role as both participant in the problems and actor in the solutions. Greed, of course, is nothing new, and acts of compassion have always been hallmarks of a faithful life in Christ. But what is new for human societies today is that the consequences of our choices have unparalleled consequences for the whole web of life. Continuing with business as usual is already causing great suffering worldwide and could inflict unspeakable harm in the very near future.

Larry Rasmussen uses a biblical metaphor to capture this essential idea:

Our present condition is new wine without new wineskins. This does not bode well ... The new wine is not the vintage we expected. It is a planet undergoing sufficient change in its core surface processes that it tallies as geophysical, and not only economic, political, cultural, or religious, change; change of such an order of magnitude that some scientists have named it a new geological age.


The impact of our species on the planet in just a few hundred years is comparable to the changes wrought in geologic time over hundreds of thousands of years. While the planet has undergone such extensive changes before, it has never experienced them in such a short span of time. This is something new on the earth, and something new set before the church as a challenge to its faith and practice.

We all need to recognize the relevance of these issues to the life of the church today and to invite new forms of repentance and renewal that connect to these realities. As Christians, how are we to live in this new age? What does the gospel of God's salvation say to us in this day? What does it call us to say to others about these things?


Questions to Ponder about Repentance:

How open is your faith community to entering into "new forms of repentance and renewal"? What are some potential opportunities for repentance and renewal in your faith community?


Questions to Ponder about Your Own "Graceful Intentions":

What changes in your own life of faith, prayer, and behavior have you made that are ways to "speak and act on behalf of God's good creation"? What further changes might you consider?


What changes in your faith community have been made to "speak and act on behalf of God's good creation"? What further changes might be considered?

Take a walk through your living spaces, and as you walk, ask, "How does this space speak and act on behalf of God's good creation? In what ways does it speak against it?" What changes could be made? What changes seem impossible or impractical?


After the Session: Graceful Living

One option during the group session was to read and discuss Jeremiah 12:4, where the prophetJeremiah recognizes that the land mourns and the grass withers. Can you think of times and places where you have witnessed that the land was mourning and the grass was withered? As you go about your day and the week to come, prepare to take an inventory of times and places where you see that the land is mourning around you, and that the grass has withered. Where are such places? What are the root causes of this phenomena?

A second option during the group session was to reconsider the Ash Wednesday Litany of Penitence in light of our present-day environmental crisis. As you go about your day-to-day business, notice the times of opportunity for confession of things done or left undone as it concerns the environmental crisis. Create a list of items that could be added to a confession, and plan a time to make that confession sometime this week.

Consider the land, air, and water you will encounter during the week. Determine ahead of time to take an action on behalf of creation if the opportunity presents itself. Be alert for things done or left undone. Turn off wasted water, pick up trash, and turn off un-needed lights. Lighten your footprint by avoiding wasteful packaging and unnecessary driving. Be aware of the impact of the food you eat. Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

CHAPTER 2

SESSION 2

A Time for Grace for the Whole World (Paragraphs 6–7)


Goals

• To recognize that God's grace and plan for redemption encompasses the whole world

• To embrace the whole world as fellow recipients of grace


From the Bishops' Teaching

[6] Looking back to the creation accounts in Genesis, we see God's creation was "very good," providing all that humans would need for abundant, peaceful life. In creating the world God's loving concern extended to the whole of it, not just to humans. And the scope of God's redemptive love in Christ is equally broad: The Word became incarnate in Christ not just for our sake, but for the salvation of the whole world. In the book of Revelation we read that God will restore the goodness and completeness of creation in the "New Jerusalem." Within this new city, God renews and redeems the natural world rather than obliterating it. We now live in that time between God's creation of this good world and its final redemption: "The whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for ... the redemption of our bodies" (Rom. 8:22-3).

[7] Affirming the biblical witness to God's abiding and all-encompassing love for creation, we recognize that we cannot separate ourselves as humans from the rest of the created order. The creation story itself presents the interdependence of all God's creatures in their wonderful diversity and fragility, and in their need of protection from dangers of many kinds. This is why the church prays regularly for the peace of the whole world, for seasonable weather and an abundance of the fruits of the earth, for a just sharing of resources, and for the safety of all who suffer. This includes our partner creatures: animals, birds, and fish who are being killed or made sick by the long-term effects of deforestation, oil spills, and a host of other ways in which we intentionally and unintentionally destroy or poison their habitat.

— The Pastoral Teaching (paragraphs 6–7)


Before the Session: Graceful Intentions

In the end, we will protect only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.

— Baba Dioum

These words from the Senegalese environmentalist Baba Dioum succinctly describe the goal of this section of the teaching — to recognize that God's love and purpose encompasses all creation and to join in that love. The corollary to these words would be:

We will not save what we do not love, and we cannot love what we do not know.


So, the heart of the work of embracing grace for all creation is to "familiarize ourselves" (make family) not just with our human kin, but also with the whole family of God's created order. For that, the church will need to invite God's good creation more fully into its liturgy, prayer, and fellowship, which are the places where the church learns how to recognize each other and be family.

This could be called sacramental work. A sacrament is often defined as "an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual divine grace." Christian baptism is a sacrament, in that the visible presence of water points to the underlying presence of God's work of salvation in Christ in the life of the baptized. The pastoral teaching calls us to recognize how the saving work of God is also present in the entire web of life and the planet itself:

The Word became incarnate in Christ not just for our sake, but for the salvation of the whole world.

— The Pastoral Teaching (paragraph 6)


What outward and visible signs might help the church recognize the inward and spiritual divine grace at work on behalf of the whole earth? What would help the church to expand its understanding of family to include the entire earth-community?

Perhaps the first step is to identify the places where the church traditionally celebrates love and family. When does the church most feel like a family? Is it in excellent worship? Good fellowship? Shared service? Where are words of love and appreciation commonly spoken? During the peace? At potlucks? How is grace and salvation most openly recognized and celebrated? In church music? In the Eucharist? In the presence of children? These are the times and places that make church life together become sacred life together. The challenge presented in the pastoral teaching is this: How can the church expand its sacred community to more fully encompass our nonhuman kin?


Questions to Ponder about Celebration:

What are the celebrations of fellowship in our faith community? Where do we celebrate each other and recognize each other as family? How within these might we include the larger creation?

Affirming the biblical witness to God's abiding and all-encompassing love for creation, we recognize that we cannot separate ourselves as humans from the rest of the created order.

— The Pastoral Teaching (paragraph 7)


But we do separate ourselves if, in our acts of worship and fellowship, we include only human concerns and recognize only human salvation. We separate ourselves if, while being thoughtful and careful with each person present, we are then thoughtless and careless with how we behave toward the rest of creation. In our day, it perpetuates that separation to enjoy our human fellowship while thoughtlessly wasting water and food, polluting our surroundings, and sending to our landfills the waste of our convenience. It is important to recognize that such thoughtless and careless behaviors are not simply poor stewardship. They are also violations of fellowship and God's abiding and all-encompassing love for creation. It is not only that they contribute to human injustice; they also dishonor the work of the incarnate Christ to save not just human beings, but the whole world.


Questions to Ponder about Separations:

What choices and actions can you identify in your own life that separate you from the rest of the created order? What choices can you identify in your faith community?


The implications of this understanding of God's work in the world are deep and wide. If the flourishing of creation is a sign of God's unfolding reconciliation of all things in Christ, then our waste and pollution ofthe world is violation of our gospel witness. If God's work in the world is to save it, then our destruction of the world is not only human foolishness; it is a failure of fellowship with both God and creation. This points to the deep spiritual work within this challenge from the pastoral teaching.

Our need is to recognize the salvation of all creation as the work of Christ in the world and to include it in our very work of being Christ in the world. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said, "The act of reconciling us to all of God's creation is Christ's supreme work." This deep work of recognition cannot be accomplished through occasional lessons for children or annual celebrations in honor of St. Francis. This kind of transformation must engage the daily and weekly life of the church. The church is being challenged to more fully include in its worship, prayer, fellowship, and service the proclamation of Christ's redemption and reconciliation of all things.

If it is true that we will save only what we love, the converse is also true: we will be saved only by what we love. By inviting the rest of creation into our worship, prayer, and life together, we in turn will learn to love all aspects of creation and to recognize their holiness and worth. As we acknowledge their holiness, we will more fully recognize the holiness of all things, including our own lives.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from A Life of Grace for the Whole World Adult Booklet by Jerry Cappel, Stephanie M. Johnson. Copyright © 2017 Jerry Cappel and Stephanie M. Johnson. Excerpted by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Welcome and Introduction 1

Session 1 A Time for Repentance and Renewal 7

Session 2 A Time for Grace for the Whole World 15

Session 3 A Time for Justice and Sustainability 23

Session 4 A Time to Renew Ancient Practices 32

Session 5 A Time to Commit and Act 42

Appendix A A Pastoral Teaching from the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church 49

Appendix B Resources on Creation Care and Eco-Justice Concerns 57

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