Gen 45:3-11, 15
1 Sam 26:2,7-23
1 Cor 15:35-38,42-50
by Joel Kelling, Anglican Alliance’s facilitator for the Middle East
NOTES ON THE READINGS
Genesis 45:3-11, 15
Somewhat reductive or simplistic issues of creation care are present in the Genesis reading, particularly seen in the beneficial impacts of Joseph’s careful planning and preparation for a time of drought (described earlier in the book). Joseph is able to state that he will provide for his family, despite there being five more years of famine to come. Whilst not stated explicitly here, or earlier in the text of Genesis, there is the implication of a time of rationing during the years of plenty, of careful stewarding of what is ‘enough’ to eat. Additionally, the preparations made, although not explicitly altruistic, allow for others from beyond Egypt’s borders to come and purchase grain. This serves to me as an example of something more than the prophetic comprehension of Joseph, or his fealty to God, but about our responsibility to how we consume, how we prepare and plan, as acts of faith.
Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40
Psalm 37 contrasts the fate of the ‘wicked’ who shall be cut off, and ‘fade like the grass’ with the meek, who ‘shall inherit the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity’. This is symbolic imagery, and a type that whilst alluding to creation, implies that God will bestow good things on the righteous, rather than explicitly tying good stewardship of creation as an activity of the righteous.
“Love your enemies, do good to those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (v27)– challenging words for those of us who accept and trust climate science, and whose theology incorporates the importance of protecting and caring for God’s creation.
Love, mercy, and a lack of judgement (vv35-37) are similarly hard stances for us to adopt in the face of climate change denial or anthropocentrism. Jesus’ words from the ‘Sermon on the Plain’ are a great challenge to us – both in reflecting our need for grace and how we positively engage with those hostile to creation care.
DRAFT SERMON/SERMON OUTLINE
Today’s lectionary readings seem to me to draw three things together across the texts – right and restored relationship with the land, right and restored relationship with our fellow humans, and a right and restored relationship with God.
From a creation care perspective, the readings make some obvious, if simplistic, statements about how we are to relate to the land, and the impacts that result.
However, the deeper and to my mind more interesting question for us as Christians who feel that a commitment to the care of God’s creation as a missiological necessity, is how do we reach out to, and relate with those who we vehemently disagree with?
Reading the texts together, I find myself drawn to the words from the Sermon on the Plain in Luke’s gospel – and love for enemies. Jesus is clear – ‘love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return…be merciful…do not judge…do not condemn…forgive…’
In Genesis we see the culmination of the reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers, those who had considered his murder and sold him into slavery. That their reconciliation comes through an act of desperation on the brothers’ part, in a time of famine, where their rejected, and often mocked dreamer of a brother has planned and prepared for crisis, is poignant if we consider it in light of the climate crisis. Joseph was persistent in sharing his dreams, to the chagrin of his brothers, but he is ultimately vindicated and proved correct in his interpretations.
We know of how climate scientists have been ignored by governments in the past, and in many places the present. We know that the hydrocarbon industry has done much to suppress, smear or repudiate the reality of environmental degradation and scale of human contribution to climate change. Climate activists have been murdered for speaking out with indigenous communities. Out of all this, disinformation is shared and our friends and families are misled by false prophets into a state of denial at best and outright hostility at worst.
So how do we respond? How do we live out the call to love, be merciful and not judge or condemn? This is a great challenge and one I fail at all too frequently, and avoiding the arrogance of how I demonstrate my ‘rightness’ is not easily done. How do we balance the urgent need to address the climate crisis, but in such a way that doesn’t condemn or judge? How do we lovingly engage in these spaces, whether they be around the dinner table at home or the negotiating table at COP? No simple answers, but a loving approach that hopefully seeks to explain, patiently both a theology and the science of climate change is surely a better approach than merely telling people they are wrong and need to change?!
by Joel Kelling, Anglican Alliance