by Rev. Canon Andrew Sumani, resident priest of the Anglican Diocese of Lake Malawi from Malawi, Central Africa
SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME
LISTEN TO THE WORD:
The Bible version used is the New King James Version (NKJV)
THEME: HOPE IN GOD – REBIRTH OF CREATION
- Our biblical text for reflection is Isaiah 35:1-10
- The chapter is set as an oasis between the visionary wasteland of chapter 34 and the history of war, sickness and folly in chapters 36 -39 (D.A. Carson, R.T. France, et al, eds., New Bible Commentary, 21st Century edition, Intervarsity Press: England, 1994, p 653).
- The chapter offers hope that when God arrives He transforms every inability into ability and every insufficiency into miraculous sufficiency.
- Our inability to care for creation is transformed and we begin to do so because of God’s presence.
- The waters shall burst forth in the wilderness and streams in the dessert. Patched ground shall become a pool (35: 6-7). This is rebirth of creation.
- Note that prophet Isaiah uses language that brings to mind themes of creation such as, wilderness, wasteland and desert. However, he shows that by God’s presence there shall be rebirth of creation.
- God’s salvation does not only affect human beings but also nature (35:1-7). God wants us to strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees.
- A transformed person will be concerned with others’ well being including that of nature.
- Sorrow and sighing shall flee (35:10).
LINK TO THE WORLD:
- In this chapter, the prophet invites us to reflect in this advent season beyond the usual theme of God’s coming in Christ, but also as our return home where sorrow and sighing shall flee and creation transformed (35: 6-10).
- Our return home demonstrates God’s love for His people. He will never forsake us (see Deut. 31:6)
- We may lose hope in the face of many atrocities and happenings, in the face of environmental degradation, deforestation, pollution, and many other environmental issues, but one day God shall bring back all lost glory. In fact, He is our hope.
- This hope ought to be active and not passive. It should make us seek that transformation which comes by God’s presence to be able to change inability into ability, inaction into action.
- God makes the impossible become possible like water busting in the wilderness.
- God transforms every inability into ability and every insufficiency into miraculous sufficiency.
- The whole creation has been groaning but salvation is in God (see Rom. 8:22 – 24 cf. 35:4).
- God loves us together with what He created.
THINK ABOUT GOD’S CALL:
- God is the creator of everything. However, what God created is groaning waiting for believers to act. The fact that creation is groaning means that salvation agenda includes nature. There is need for consolidated efforts in environmental issues.
- Environmental issues are everybody’s concern.
- Pray that we shall seriously be concerned with environmental issues for God loves us together with what He has created. We need to act now for this is our hope in God!
Old Testament reading / Psalm
- The Old Testament lesson offers hope that when God arrives at a situation He transforms every inability into ability and every insufficiency into miraculous sufficiency.
- God is our hope in times of uncertainties (Ps. 146:5).
- He makes the impossible become possible like water busting in the wilderness, a tongue of the dumb singing, and patched ground becoming a pool.
- Though God is the one who saves, He has instructed us to strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees.
- We are also to encourage the fearful- hearted.
- There is a role for us in God’s salvation plan.
New Testament reading
- The Book of James uses a metaphor of the farmer to teach about waiting patiently.
- Believers are asked to live in harmony with each other. Unity is paramount in the Kingdom of God.
- To be able to successfully address environmental issues there is undoubted need for harmony. There is power in togetherness.
- However, harmony or unity without patience is not possible.
- The saying that, ‘action speaks louder than words’ resonates well with the message of the Gospel reading.
- What we do speak louder than what we say (11:4).
- Jesus used nature in his teaching to drive a point home (11:7).
- Therefore, nature must be cared for. It is a teaching aid, of course, among many other uses.
- We need to be God’s messengers on environmental issues as well.
- Always remembering that it is the whole creation that needs salvation (See Rom. 8:22).
Stories / illustrations / videos:
All of us need to take environmental issues as our concern too. In 2014, I visited my home village, some 240 kilometres away from where I stay. While there, I met a man who was selling charcoal and asked him why he was selling charcoal. He gave poverty as the reason. Then I told him concerning his posterity that if he continues to burn charcoal, his children will suffer the consequences. He told me in my face that it will be their problem and not his. I felt sorry that here is a father who has children but don’t care about the future of his own children. This short story clearly shows that for others, care for creation is not their concern. But it shouldn’t be like that. Everyone is supposed to be involved. We are all stewards of God’s property – creation.
Environmental & Sustainability themes / links:
- Groaning of the Whole creation.
- Salvation agenda includes nature. As the Church preaches about going to heaven, we need not to leave out salvation of nature.
- Consolidated efforts in environmental care. There is power in togetherness.
- Environmental issues are everybody’s concern. As Christians, we should be heavenly oriented, yes, but at the same time earthly relevant.
- God is our never – failing hope
Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)
- A. Carson, R.T. France, et al, eds. New Bible Commentary, 21st Century edition, Intervarsity Press: England, 1994.
- The New King James Version (NKJV)
WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES
Gathering & Penitence
Opening sentence: When the Lord comes, he will bring to light things now hidden in darkness, and will disclose the purposes of the heart (1 Corinthians 4: 5).
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Leader: The Lord be with you. All: And also with you.
Confession: God our Creator and Hope, we confess that we have sinned: we have used creation not cherished it; we have lived selfishly; and failed to act where we should have acted; we have been greedy – not sharing earth’s gifts; and our footprints are heavy not gentle. Forgive us the damage that disturbs our planet. Grant us the grace to live for the world’s healing and our own. Bless the seasons of the year, may they be restored to Your design. (https://acen.anglicancommunion.org/media/309609/Season-of-Creation-Five.pdf. accessed 29/11/2019).
Service of the Word
Almighty God, you are the source of our hope in times of hopelessness; Help us to live in harmony with each other and learn to act together as we tackle issues affecting us in this world. Fill me up with hope and give me tangible reminder today that hope is unbreakable spiritual lifeline. Deepen within us an awareness of our own place within creation that we may be able to hear the groaning of the whole creation and as your stewards and servants, moved by passion, take necessary actions. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.
Affirmation of Faith: We believe that God creates all things, renews all things and celebrates all things. We believe Earth is a sanctuary, a sacred planet filled with God’s presence, a home for us to share with our kin. We believe that God became flesh and blood, became a piece of Earth, a human being called Jesus Christ, who lived and breathed and spoke among us, suffered and died on a cross for all human beings and for all creation. We believe that the risen Jesus is the Christ at the core of creation, reconciling all things to God, renewing all creation and filling the cosmos. We believe the Holy Spirit renews life in creation groans in empathy with a suffering creation and waits with us for the rebirth of creation. We believe that with Christ we will rise and with Christ we will celebrate a new creation. (Adapted from: https://acen.anglicancommunion.org/media/334488/Season-of-Creation-Six.pdf. accessed 29/11/2019).
Response to the Word
Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness, O God of our salvation, *
O Hope of all the ends of the earth and of the seas that are far away.
You make fast the mountains by your power; *
they are girded about with might.
You still the roaring of the seas, *
the roaring of their waves, and the clamor of the peoples.
Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your marvelous signs; *
you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy.
You visit the earth and water it abundantly; you make it very plenteous; *
the river of God is full of water.
You prepare the grain, *
for so you provide for the earth.
You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges; *
with heavy rain you soften the ground and bless its increase.
You crown the year with your goodness, *
and your paths overflow with plenty.
May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing, *
and the hills be clothed with joy.
May the meadows cover themselves with flocks, and the valleys cloak themselves with grain; *
let them shout for joy and sing.
MEMORY VERSE: “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God”, (Psalms 146:5)
Invitation to the Table: Jesus invites us to come to the table. Here, in this bread and wine, may we encounter Christ who calls us to care for the poor, the earth, and all who are in need. All who long for Christ are welcome at this table.
Preface: Jesus Christ, teach us to empathise with Earth. Make our spirits sensitive to the cries of creation, cries for justice from the hills and the trees. Jesus Christ, make our faith sensitive to the groans of the Spirit, groans from the deserts, the salt plains, the winds. Jesus Christ, make our souls sensitive to the songs of our kin, Songs of celebration from the sea, the land and the air. Christ, teach us to care. https://seasonofcreation.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/liturgy-outback-sunday-1.pdf
- The altar may be decorated with fresh flowers only.
- Altar vessels (if possible) to be used on this Sunday may be those made from wood.
Post-communion prayer: Creator of all, we give you thanks and praises that when we were still hopeless, you met us in your Son and brought us home. Dying and living, you declared your love for the whole creation. Give us grace to be able to work together for the care and preservation of nature. Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us, so that we and all your children may be free, and the whole earth live to praise your name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Blessings: May God, who is the source of our hope and is above all and in all and through all, fill you with the knowledge of God’s presence in Earth and the impulse of Christ within you and make you able to hear the groaning of the whole creation. Go in peace, serving Christ and loving Earth!
All: We go in peace, serving Christ and tending Earth!
Hymns & Songs
We need hymns for the following parts of the liturgy:
- Introit (someone to choose)
- Gospel Hymn
- Offertory Hymn
- Recession Hymn
In the course of the service, choirs if available, may be given chance to sing.
by Rev. Canon Andrew Sumani, Malawi