by Bishop Philip Huggins, President of the National Council of Churches in Australia, and Director for Ecumenical Studies at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture
SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME
Text: Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another.”
- In her wonderful book, The Art of Advent, Jane Williams has an icon O Root of Jesse.
As she says, “this lovely icon shows Jesus at the heart of the family tree of the house of David. On each branch sits one of the heroes of Israel, gazing at Jesus, who is at the centre of the tree, pointing to the scriptures that witness to him.”
- Jesus our peace, Jesus our hope, calls us to repentance and and renewal.
Our retreat at the UNCOP25 in Santiago, Chile had the theme of Innovative Minds, Generous Hearts as we seek to protect God’s creation and live as good stewards.
- The theme of “trees” suggests itself: In Isaiah 11, the prophet speaks of the “shoot” that will come from the “stump of Jesse”.
With lovely imagery of harmony and symmetry, Isaiah describes the new age of blossoming.
- As Jane Williams reminds us, Paul uses this image of the “root of Jesse” in Romans 15. “This story of the house of David is a story for the whole world. “The nations shall inquire of this root of Jesse”, Isaiah says (11:10), and Paul says that “in him the Gentiles shall hope” (Romans 15:12).
- We can make the link readily then, through scripture, to the tree in the garden of Eden and then to the tree of the Cross, through to the garden of the resurrection where Mary Magdalene meets the risen Jesus (John 20:15), supposing Him initially to be the gardener.
- Hope is what is needed now and, in resurrection hope, our repentance and renewal must be substantial. As John the Baptist says in the Gospel to several Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he baptised, “Let it be seen that you are serious in your conversion” (Mt 3:8) or as in the NRSV, “Bear fruit worthy of repentance”.
- “Hope imagines the future and then lives as if that future is irresistible.” (Walter Wink) It is this kind of hope that we need to create, guided by the Holy
- In simple terms, the one human family on this tiny planet in a vast universe of God’s creation, just have to love each other better!
If we are to give hope by preventing further climate change, more wars and more refugees, humanity has to co-operate together in a quite unprecedented way.
- The reality is, we have to make this lift in unprecedented and sustained co-operation at the same time as powerful forces are undermining global co-operation, such as through the United Nations.
- Moreover, at the same time as this lift is needed, many in the one human family are deeply wounded – carrying the “soul wounds” of history’s unreconciled tragedies.
- It is a time, therefore, of partnerships with all people of good will. It is a time, certainly, when the deepest possible unity is needed between those who are disciples of Jesus
- Today’s scriptures remind us of God’s providence and presence, God’s “steadfastness and encouragement” in our journey as hope-bearers.
Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)
Naomi Klein On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal (Allen Lane, Penguin, UK 2019)
WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES
Gathering & Penitence
A prayer for care of God’s creation
We give thanks afresh that you have entrusted us with the care of all your creation: Every living creature, the earth itself! (Genesis 1:26)
We give thanks, as every for your gift of our life on our beautiful planet in our galaxy, within a universe filled with billions of other galaxies, all of your creating.
With renewed wonder and awe, we recognise your cosmic perspective in our common life as one human family, with stardust in our bones.
We pray thus in the Holy Spirit, through Jesus, the One in whom “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17), that we may have your discernment for our work to prevent global temperatures from rising.
Remembering Jesus’ word to us, that “whatever we do for one of the most vulnerable, we do for you” (Matthew 25: 33-40), we pray now for those already affected by climate change, like those in neighbouring Pacific Island nations and in places of more frequent and extreme climatic events.
We pray thus for the grace to hear and heed the new, young prophetic voices who say “act as if your house is on fire … because it is!”
We pray thus for all involved in upcoming United Nations climate negotiations, including now in Madrid.
We pray for the leaders of our nation as they try to make wise policy amidst many competing voices.
We pray too for strengthened resolve to make our own best contributions in daily life as stewards of all you give us.
All this and much that is in our hearts, we gather and pray, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Service of the Word
Bishop Huggins is travelling to Madrid for the UN Climate Change talks (COP25) as a representative of the WCC.
He will be presenting a song by girls from Lowthem Anglican School in Melbourne
“What the world needs now, is love”
by Bishop Philip Huggins, Australia