Proper 26 (31) / 23nd Sunday after Pentecost
All Saints day
1 John 3:1-3
by Dr. Elizabeth Perry, Advocacy and Communication Manager, Anglican Alliance, London
NOTES ON THE READINGS
This passage offers a rich vision of a future where the “shroud that is cast over all peoples and nations” has been removed. Death and grief are destroyed and salvation accomplished. In the picture Isaiah paints, “the Lord will make for all peoples a feast of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.” The nations are seen as eating together, sharing and enjoying God’s abundance. They are gathered in a high place –literally a “mountain top” experience. This is a vision of shalom – peace, abundance, rejoicing and relief from pain and suffering. For Isaiah, this is what salvation looks like – and it is a thing of joy and gladness.
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it”.
In this closing passage from Revelation, John describes his vision of “a new heaven and a new earth”. In it, the new Jerusalem is seen “coming down out of heaven from God”. The movement is of God coming towards the earth, not the other way around. John describes a loud voice saying “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them”. And suffering is ended.
“Jesus wept” – the shortest verse in the Bible and arguably also one of the most profound. Jesus – God – weeps. He weeps at the destruction wrought by death; he weeps for his friends; he weeps for their loss and pain and suffering. Jesus is deeply distressed. He is also angry. In verse 38 (as in verse 33), he is described as “greatly disturbed”. The word in Greek (ἐμβριμώμενος) is a strong one, denoting a physical reaction. Snorting (or roaring) with rage reflects the root meaning of the word, though “moved to anger” is how it is often translated. But Jesus’s response is intense, born of his absolute engagement with the reality of the moment. In this passage, we see the divine-human Jesus fully caught up in the suffering of a broken, hurting world. He cares, he reacts and he acts.
DRAFT SERMON/SERMON OUTLINE
Each of the passages of Scripture set for today speaks right into today’s world. It is hard to imagine a set of readings more appropriate for the opening day of COP26, the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it”. This verse is so simple, so clear, so easy to read – but its implications are profoundly challenging. “All that is in it” belongs to God. Not to humanity, not to a nation, not to a corporation. It is entrusted to us “to tend and keep” (Genesis 2) but we do not own it.
The gospel passage sees Jesus weeping and angry at the destruction of the life of his friend Lazarus. Jesus – God – is not a detached observer but chooses “to make his home with mortals”. He loves the world; he loves its people and its creatures; he is caught up in it and knows it intimately – so much so that “not a sparrow falls apart from your Father” (Matthew 10:29).
There is something very earthy about Jesus, about God, and that is seen in the vision of Isaiah. In this profoundly beautiful passage, a shared meal in a natural setting, with all nations enjoying God’s bountiful provision together, is the motif used to portray salvation.
How we see (or envision) the world – how we understand it and relate to it – matters, because what we believe shapes our attitudes, our choices, our behaviours and actions. It determines how we treat other people and the rest of the natural world.
Many people, especially in industrialized countries, hold an extractive worldview which regards the earth as something to be exploited. It is particularly prevalent in societies whose wealth is derived from an economy based on extractive industries, such as gas, oil, and mining, and high levels of consumerism. This extractive worldview, which regards the earth as a commodity that can be used and exploited without regard for the consequences, promotes unsustainable ways of living and is causing catastrophic harm and suffering.
However, there are other worldviews, that take a more holistic view of the natural world and how we relate to it. Indigenous peoples especially espouse a world view that is about relationship and connection. Indigenous Maori and Pacific peoples understand creation as inherently unified with a profound connection among all living things. This relational world view is shared by other Indigenous peoples in Africa, the Amazon and the Arctic. Kinship and connection with the natural world, the need to respect boundaries and protection of the earth are profoundly biblical ways of understanding the world.
We are now reaping the whirlwind of the extractive way of seeing the world. Amidst the ongoing tragedy of the Covid-19 pandemic, the news cycle this year has been punctuated by stories of cataclysmic weather events. Extreme heat, wildfires and floods have devastated communities and environments across the world. The reality of climate change is inescapable.
This is why COP26 matters. To date, the global response to the climate crisis has been wholly inadequate—both in the level of resources dedicated to the response and the level of urgency with which those with most power to make radical changes are taking action. COP26 is an important opportunity to correct these collective failings. It is a milestone that will determine what kind of world future generations will inherit.
However, actions, particularly those that are bold in the face of the current political inaction on climate change, are difficult to sustain unless there is also the transformation of hearts and minds from which such action flows. This is where the Church has such an important role to play.
Those who hold an extractive worldview need to turn away from it (repent) and instead embrace a mindset of relationship–for the sake of the earth, its creatures and our global family.
The Anglican Alliance climate emergency hub
Troubled Waters: a 5-minute visual reflection which looks at impacts of climate change and environmental degradation across our beautiful world and some of the ways people are responding – all seen through the lens of water and Scripture.
A prayer for the Earth (words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu);
A Christian prayer in union with all creation (words of Pope Francis)
A Pacific Prayer for the Moana – Archbishop Emeritus Winston Halapua
On Creation – a letter to the Anglican Communion from Archbishop Emeritus Winston Halapua
Courageous action in the face of the climate emergency – Anglican youth in Tonga. Extract from the Prophetic Indigenous Voices on the Planetary Crisis offering from Polynesia, Aotearoa and New Zealand.
by Dr Elizabeth Perry, London