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Renew the Face of the Earth - Feast of St Francis 2021

Pastor Julie - Oct 3, 2021



“Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”

These words from Psalm 104 came to me on a field trip with my son, Joel.

It was back in his elementary school days,

And all winter long Joel and his classmates had been raising salmon.

They started by incubating the salmon eggs, and then fed them when they hatched.

Each week they measured their size until they were ready to release into the wild.

The field trip was to take their three month old salmon and to release them into the Farmington River.


It turns out that this work was just one phase of the salmon’s rich life cycle.

Once released, the mini salmon feed on the rich insect material in the river.

When they are large enough, they make their way down the river into the Long Island Sound,

and out to the ocean, where they spend the next 4-6 years of their life.

When they are ready to spawn, they travel back up the river,

smelling their way back to the exact place where they were released years before.


There was a time, of course, when salmon didn’t need elementary students’ help in order to survive.

But with the onset of the industrial revolution, rivers began to be dammed up,

waterwheels clogged streams, and the salmon couldn’t get back to their breeding grounds.

Salmon disappeared from Connecticut, a common fate with many other species of wildlife.


I had this sad story of human intervention and its affects on the earth

when I scooped my bitty salmon into a Dixie cup.

I held the little fish up to my face, inspecting it to see if it seemed vigorous enough for its long journey.

Then I bent down to the river, tilted my cup, and let my fish swim free.

“Be fruitful and multiply!” I called to my salmon. “Swim, little guy!”

And he did. I watched him until he wriggled out of sight.


Lord, send your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.

Psalm 104 is a praise psalm about creation.

We get a taste of it today in a selection of its 35 verses.

The psalm traces the outline of the creation story in Genesis chapter 1,

Praising God first for the heavens, then the earth, the waters, plants and animals.

Notably, human beings are almost a passing mention in this psalm.

We are mentioned only twice: once in reference to the plants being food for human and beast,

And then again in reference to human labor:

“People go out to their work and to their labor until the evening.”

People are not the crowning act of creation in this psalm, but an important of it with a significant role-

To appreciate the abundance and wisdom of God’s created order

And to work in concert with that order to provide for humanity and care for the earth.



My heart was glad the day of the salmon release, because in some small way

I felt I had undone something of the damage that people have inflicted on our earth.

Reintroducing salmon to Connecticut rivers was a chance for me

to work in concert with creation instead of in ignorance of the impact of my actions.

It also felt like an opportunity to be part of the Spirit’s work, renewing the face of the earth.


The Spirit works that way for us all—cleansing us, renewing us, enriching us, healing us.

And we, as Spirit led people, get to pass that same cleansing, renewal, enrichment and healing on.

It’s sorely needed.

I don’t need to tell you about climate crisis – we hear it on the news regularly:

We have lost half of the worlds’ rainforests, which are considered the ‘lungs’ of the planet’

The ocean is two degrees warmer than it was before the Industrial Revolution,

Leading to species loss, bigger storms, melting glaciers, and sea level rise.

Excessive greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels

has increased our global temperature by 1.8 degrees F, and it is driving climate change,

which in turn contributes to stronger storms, and worsening heatwaves, droughts and wild fires.


The Feast of St Francis provides for us an opportunity to consider these sobering facts,

And also the ways we DO recognize our connection to the earth, the ways we DO care for creation.

Francis was known for his love of all living creatures,

and the blessing of the animals in our lives has come to be a beloved tradition on his feast day.

Our pets are a connection for us to the natural world,

A source of companionship and pleasure.

The animals we know so well teach us of the majesty of creation in of itself:

The cat with her inscrutable preferences for her favorite people

The dog with his amazing sense of smell

The snake that unhinges its jaws to each

The bird that can sing back melodies and phrases that we teach.

Our pets and their amazing and varied intelligences point to the truth

that the earth and its creatures are notable without reference to us.

On their own merits they are worth praising God.

Perhaps my favorite verse of Psalm 104 is about Leviathan, the great mythical sea monster,

Which the psalmist says God created “for the sport of it.”

Just because!

God delights in creation, just as we delight in our pets.

Caring for the world around us is our work and our calling,

But it also a cause for wonder, praise, great joy and pleasure.


In 2015, scientists with the state wildlife experts discovered salmon once again

laying eggs in the Farmington River.

Two years before, the Federal government had ended a 45 year effort to reintroduce the salmon,

Citing a high price tag and low success rate.

Environmental policy requires expertise and evaluation, and an educated public.

As people of faith, we are called to be that educated public,

To learn more about the environment in our area and globally

And to advocate for the planet and its health upon which all life depends.


Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.

As we bless our pets today, as we breathe deep of the crisp fall air,

As we taste the sweetness of apples, and relish the bounty of harvest,

Let us also rededicate ourselves to the God given work of caring for creation,

And bless the Lord for the wonder, the joy, and the fragile beauty of the earth. Amen.



Family Service Sunday School Lesson


“Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”

These words from Psalm 104 came to me on a field trip with my son, Joel.

It was back in his elementary school days,

And all winter long Joel and his classmates had been raising salmon.

They started by incubating the salmon eggs, and then fed them when they hatched.

Each week they measured their size until they were ready to release into the wild.

The field trip was to take their three month old salmon to the Farmington River.


It turns out that this work was just one phase of the salmon’s rich life cycle.

Once released, the mini salmon feed on the rich insect material in the river.

When they are large enough, they make their way down the river into the Long Island Sound,

and out to the ocean, where they spend the next 4-6 years of their life.

When they are ready to spawn, they travel back up the river,

smelling their way back to the exact place where they were released years before.


There was a time, of course, when salmon didn’t need elementary students’ help in order to survive.

But with the onset of the industrial revolution, rivers began to be dammed up,

waterwheels clogged streams, and the salmon couldn’t get back to their breeding grounds.

Salmon disappeared from Connecticut, a common fate with many other species of wildlife.


I had this sad story of human intervention and its affects on the earth

when I scooped my bitty salmon into a Dixie cup.

I held the little fish up to my face, inspecting it to see if it seemed vigorous enough for its long journey.

Then I bent down to the river, tilted my cup, and let my fish swim free.

“Be fruitful and multiply!” I called to my salmon. “Swim, little guy!”

And he did. I watched him until he wriggled out of sight.


Lord, send your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.

Psalm 104 is a praise psalm about creation.

We get a taste of it today in a selection of its 35 verses.

The psalm traces the outline of the creation story in Genesis chapter 1,

Praising God first for the heavens, then the earth, the waters, plants and animals.

Notably, human beings are almost a passing mention in this psalm.

We are mentioned twice: once in reference to the plants being food for human and beast,

And then again in reference to human labor:

“People go out to their work and to their labor until the evening.”

People are not the crowning act of creation in this psalm, but an important of it with a significant role-

To appreciate the abundance and wisdom of God’s created order

And to work in concert with that order to provide for humanity and care for the earth.



Invite the adults to pair and share on one or both questions:

A time they felt connected to God in nature

A way to care for the earth.


Invite the children forward to take a look at:

Compost pail

Composting scraps

Soil from garden, compost tea

Butternut squash and tomatoes. Tomato plant.


Composting is more than kid friendly practice. Reducing landfill waste is a top priority.

Next year the trash to energy plant in Hartford is expected to close,

That means we will be shipping more garbage to out of state landfills.

Why fill landfills when you create new soil and food?

A number of towns are preparing to offer curbside composting, but you can start it at home.


Have kids report to group, and hear from a few adults.


My heart was glad the day of the salmon release, because in some small way

I felt I had undone something of the damage that people have inflicted on our earth.

Reintroducing salmon to Connecticut rivers was a chance for me

It felt like an opportunity to be part of the Spirit’s work, restoring a bit of our earth.

It also felt like an opportunity to be live out Ps 104:

Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.


That’s the work we as the people of God do together!




Websites consulted:


https://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-salmon-spawning-20151224-story.html


https://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-news-ct-composting-drive-20210321-kqn3m4qyrzeudfu4d4677uvcom-story.html


https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/conservation-efforts-in-the-lower-farmington-and-salmon-brook-watershed-upcoming-biodiversity-surveys-this-spring-and-summer.htm


https://www.gominno.com/parents/creation-care-for-kids-how-your-family-can-love-the-earth/

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