1 Sam 2:18-20,26
1 Sam 1:20-28
by Rev Dr Joshua Samuel, Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, Richmond Hill, New York City
NOTES ON THE READINGS
This Psalm, similar to psalms 146 to 150, begins and ends with Hallelujah. The Psalm comprises of two sections. The first section is on praise from above focusing on the heavenly realm and the second is on praise from below i.e. from the earth. Each of the two sections begin with an imperative exhortation to praise Yahweh. Together the Psalm contains seven strophes, three for the heavenly part and four for the earthly section. The main message of the psalm is to emphasize that the heavens and the earth, meaning the entire universe, manifests the glory of God. The entire nature owes its existence to God and therefore, is invited to praise God. One can recognize here the interconnectedness of all creation including human beings. In this imagination, humans are not at the top. They are not the crown of creation. They are part of and in inseparable and mutually dependent relationship with all that exists in the universe for one purpose, to glorify their creator.
Colossians 3: 12-17:
This Pauline text is similar to his other letters where he gives instructions for ethical and harmonious living. Here, the Colossian congregation is invited to have compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience toward each other, bearing with and forgiving one another. And, as always, Paul foregrounds love which is the overarching attribute of this Christian community. Placing the text within the larger literary context, one notices that the entire passage (3:5-18) is an exhortation to the community to put “on the new man/self” and go beyond human-made divisions in the knowledge that “Christ is all, and is in all.” In that sense, Paul’s ethical imperatives are written with the objective of building an inclusive community that is bound by the love of Christ. One may infer that such a community of love is also called to live in harmony with the rest of God’s creation. Recalling Paul’s observation elsewhere about the groaning creation, a life of love and compassion within the body of Christ is not limited to humanity alone. In fact, one may say that the body of Christ includes non-human creation. In other words, the whole earth is the body of Christ/God that is bound together in love inviting us to respect and love and care for each other.
Luke 2: 41-52:
This passage on Jesus being left behind at the Jerusalem temple is bordered by two summary passages that emphasize the wholistic growth of Jesus. The text exhibits both a sense of commonness as well as a radicality. Jesus’ parents visiting the temple and perhaps even the child getting lost in the crowd is nothing unusual in a pilgrimage setting. On the other hand, there is also the response of Jesus that he must be in his Father’s house which indicates a different (though not entirely new) way of relating with God. Importantly, in this passage, Luke notes that Jesus was sitting among, or, to be precise, in the midst of, the Jewish teachers, listening and asking questions which could refer to a sense of family that transcends one’s biological family. Moreover, we also needs to pay attention to the significance of conversation, in this case, not among equals, but between learned and socially respected religious leaders and young peasant boy from Galilee. This spirit of conversation is indeed critical when we recognize the need for us to listen to the powerless ones in the midst of an ecological crisis. Acknowledging, respecting, and listening to the questions and challenges of the ‘little ones’ is indeed important to actualize the healing of our broken planet.
DRAFT SERMON/SERMON OUTLINE
Several important decisions were made at the recently concluded United Nations Climate Summit held in Glasgow. However, as many environmental activists have noted, there are also many issues that were left unaddressed. One of the major concerns is the continuing domination of the Western nations and big multinational companies in calling the shots when it comes to acting to mitigate the effects of climate change. But, voices from the global south who are facing mass displacement and loss of their homes caused by the rising sea levels and those in the margins pushed into extreme poverty by capitalism have warned that the current ‘top-down’ mode of climate justice cannot work. Rather, it is becoming more clear that it is those who are belittled, discriminated, and exploited who need to be at the center of any conversation or action to counter global warming.
The gospel lesson from Luke reminds us of the importance of recognizing and paying attention to the voices of children and those who are ‘treated as children.’ Being treated as children here refers to the infantilization and silencing of those who are considered to be inferior. As the Climate Summit demonstrated, those who are at the margins are pushed to the peripheries and simply seen as silent recipients of the decisions of the powerful western nations and rich companies. Under the current model, climate change response appears to be limited to making (often unkept) promises of financial aid to the poorer countries. It is precisely in the context of such patronizing attitudes, it is imperative to place these exploited and silenced, not to mention, infantilized voices at the center of climate justice talks and action.
This also applies to our churches. Any action/activism for environmental justice in our churches will have to prioritize and place those who are at the margins in the middle and listen to their questions and challenges, and indeed, their wisdom. In some cases, the church has to step aside and hold the microphone to the marginalized to listen to and learn from them. All this is to remind that all of us, including the supposedly ‘inanimate nature’ (like land, mountains, or seas) are mutually interconnected and interdependent. All things influence and ‘cause’ each other to exist. Our Buddhist sisters and brothers call this prathithyasamutpada (dependent co-arising). We are and we become because others are. And, we need to be especially attentive to our vulnerable sisters and brothers, and our exploited planet as a whole. But, are our churches ready to listen to marginalized voices? Aren’t our churches, more often than not, power driven, paying attention to those in authority?
Suggestions for action: We could visit and learn from poor and marginalized communities in our neighbourhood. We could also take initiatives to listen to vulnerable people within our own faith communities. We could also make effort to learn from the wisdom of our religious neighbors.
“COP 26 closes with ‘compromise deal on climate, but it’s not enough,” https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/11/1105792
“What the world did and didn’t accomplish at COP26,” https://www.vox.com/22777957/cop26-un-climate-change-conference-glasgow-goals-paris
“’One day we will disappear’: Tuvalu’s Sinking Islands,” https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/may/16/one-day-disappear-tuvalu-sinking-islands-rising-seas-climate-change
by Rev Dr Joshua Samuel, New York City