1 Kgs 17:10-16
by The Revd Margot R Hodson, Director of Theology and Education – The John Ray Institute
Notes on the Readings
OLD TESTAMENT Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
The Book of Ruth has two key themes concerning the relationship between people and the land. The first relates to our dependence on the land for food and wellbeing. In the early part of the book we are exposed to our vulnerability to famine, but Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem to find a rich harvest.
The second is the connection between people and specific land. Naomi’s husband had land inherited from his ancestors and belonging to his descendants. . There was a tradition that if a man died, without sons, his widow could marry his closest male kinsman and bear a child to inherit her dead husband’s land. Ruth’s willingness to go with Naomi to Bethlehem opened the potential for a marriage that would reunite Naomi with her husband’s property and provide an heir for her and Ruth. This also brings us to questions of justice for women, who frequently lost their husbands’ land without a male kinsman-redeemer. In our passage we see Ruth approach Boaz who agrees to take this role. In this act we see his respect for Naomi (who he names as the owner of the land in Ruth 4:3) and for Ruth, whom he marries.
PSALM Psalm 127
Home is our refuge and, in making it a safe place, it is easy to feel autonomous within its walls. Psalm 127 reminds us that it is the Lord who provides everything that we possess and we should put him at the centre of everything that we do – otherwise we labour in vain. But the Lord provides not only our homes, but also our food and the blessing of children. It is only when we recognise God’s place in our lives that we understand our relationship to all things and receive them as blessings.
EPISTLE Hebrews 9:24-28
Christ is the only one who was able to make a perfect sacrifice for our sin. His intervention in our world, opened the way for full redemption and restoration of the whole cosmos. Our actions are imperfect but his work was perfect.
GOSPEL Mark 12:38-44
Sometimes our own actions to respond to the climate crisis can seem very small, but this verse teachers us to value small things. Jesus looks at the size of sacrifice that each person has made and by this measure, the widow has given by far the greatest offering. We should beware of politicians who make fine speeches about responding to the environmental crisis and then approve policies that will make the crisis worse. These leaders will be held to account.
Draft Sermon / Sermon Outline
As we reach the end of the first week of the COP26 in Glasgow (in 2021), this is a good opportunity to preach a sermon that considers the importance of the actions of each individual, even if they seem small, against a backdrop of power and leadership that may be self-seeking and unjust. This could be focussed on the Gospel, supported by the passage from Ruth and could also include the Psalm.
The potential to misuse power and positions of authority are universal. These people may seem invincible and yet God will call them to account. We can apply this aspect of the passage to those in power both commercially and politically who have not taken effective action against climate change and the overall environmental crisis. Companies and nations who have continued to exploit fossil fuels, and destroy native forests and other natural habitats, will one day be held to account and false promises will be exposed. But we also need to apply it to ourselves – do we live comfortable lives when others are already suffering from the impact of the environmental crisis? What one thing can we each do to live our lives more authentically?
The widow’s offering reminds us of the importance of each person’s actions. If the agreement at COP26 is a weak one, we may feel that there is little point in our own small actions in the face of massive carbon emissions and environmental damage worldwide. We can learn from the widow’s offering that all our actions are important.
We can learn from the widow and from Ruth the very important message of Faithfulness. Both were faithful, in situations of powerlessness. Ruth, through her faithful support of Naomi and her hard work in the fields, gained the respect of Boaz, her late-husband’s relative, and through that gained a home and security for Naomi and herself. She went on to become a mother of Kings and was an ancestor of King David and of Jesus.
We cannot know the results of our actions but we can make sure that we are faithful in everything that we do. Faithfulness leads to positive change. God sees faithfulness and he will respond.
In the midst of the COP26, we need to be faithful and to pray.
The Big Church Read
How do we respond to COP26? The Big Church Read is a national initiative to encourage groups, individuals and churches to read and discuss Christian books. Join Martin & Margot Hodson as they lead us through ‘A Christian Guide to Environmental Issues’. They explain the key current environmental problems and provide a biblical basis for caring for the environment, with practical ways to respond. Presented over 10 sessions with accompanying videos and questions for reflection and discussion. Sign up for free to receive the reading plan and all you need to take part.
by Revd Margot R. Hodson, United Kingdom