The pattern of fall thanksgiving services for the harvest is well established in most North American churches. Less often observed is an even older tradition of springtime prayer services around the time crops are planted. But interest is growing again for spring services of intercession, which provide a counterbalance to fall thanksgiving services. For example, many churches are now planning services on the World Day of Prayer (March 7, 1997—always the first Friday in March) or, in the United States, the National Day of Prayer (May 1, 1997—always the first Thursday in May).
Jack Westerhof writes of a fresh approach to the annual spring prayer service that made a positive difference in his church: "The focus of prayer was on the greatness of God and only secondarily on crops and industry. And we focused on God's hand in creation in a graphic way, most notably with some well-chosen slides." Many congregations have talented photographers who could contribute slides to such a service; public libraries often have slide collections available as well.
Welcome and Introduction
[Lights are dimmed; a teenage girl reads the poem "The Earth Reflects God's Greatness" (see box); seven or eight slides illush-ate the theme.]
Hymn: "All the Earth, Proclaim the Lord" PsH 176, SFL 21
solo/choir on stanzas, all on refrains
God's Good Creation
Scripture: Psalm 24:1-6
Prayer of Adoration
Hymn: "Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above"
PsH 465, PH 483, RL 146
Contamination by Sin
[Two members read from the contemporary testimony Our World Belongs to God (see box); five or six slides illustrate waste, pollution, death.]
Hymn: "O Christ, the Lamb of God" PsH 257, sFL 44
Redeemed by Christ
Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-10
Hymn: "If You But Trust in God to Guide You" PsH 446, PH 282, RL 151, SFL 210, TH 670
Prayer for Illumination
Scripture: Colossians 1:15-17
Sermon: "If He Made It for His Son ..."
Hymn of Response: "Praise the Lord! O Heavens, Adore Him" PsH 148, RL 3, TH 17
Prayers of the People
[Spoken prayers are interspersed between the stanzas of "For the Beauty of the Earth" Psh 432, PH 473, RL 5, SFL 89, TH 116]
Prayer to our Awesome God
[sing stanza 1]
Prayer for Blessings on the Earth
[sing stanza 2]
Prayer for Blessing on Humanity
[sing stanza 3]
Prayer of Thanksgiving to God
[sing stanza 4]
The New Heavens and the New Earth
[Reading of Isaiah 65:17-25 accompanied by slides of sunset and sunrise.]
Hymn: "Let All Things Now Living" PsH 453, PH 554, TH 125
OUR WORLD BELONGS TO GOD
When humans no longer show God's image,
all creation suffers.
We abuse the creation or idolize it.
We are estranged from our Creator,
from our neighbor, and from all that God has
All spheres of life—
marriage and family, work and worship,
school and state,
our play and art-
bear the wounds of our rebellion.
Sin is present everywhere—
in pride of race,
in arrogance of nations,
in abuse of the weak and helpless,
in disregard for water, air, and soil,
in destruction of living creatures,
in slavery, deceit, terror, and war,
n worship of false gods,
and frantic escape from reality.
We have become victims of our own sin.
—from the contemporary testimony of the Christian Reformed Church, found in the worship edition of the Psalter Hymnal, p. 1024
THE EARTH REFLECTS GOD'S GREATNESS
The earth reflects God's greatness;
his art is everywhere—
from tiny snowfiake patterns
to flowers wondrous fair.
The mountains tell his power,
the streams his gentle ways,
he made the changing seasons
and thought of nights and days.
The earth reflects God's caring;
his creatures large and small
can find their food and shelter—
there is a place for all.
The people God created
received his special skill;
he made them in his image
with spirit, mind, and will.
The earth reflects God's mercy;
the marks of greed and gain
have hurt the world of beauty,
made so many a barren plain.
And so he calls his people
to help him heal the earth,
to ease the pain and suffering
till love can bring rebirth.
Praise God for all earth's blessings;
praise him for time to live,
to think and be creative,
to care and share and give.
Praise to our Friend and Savior,
the Christ, whose feet have trod
this earth—he knows our weakness,
forgives, and shows us God.
—Marion Settle, 1988. Published in Rural Gleanings. Used by permission.