by Revd Bonnie Evans-Hills, Priest in Charge, Church of St Margaret, Queen of Scotland
NOTES ON THE READINGS
The Book of Micah, particularly chapter 5, is one which speaks of the need for social justice, along with predictions of how that might come about. The one to bring forth a child is possibly Bethlehem, and this is one of the passages which Gospel writers would have turned to when providing an account of the birth of Jesus. Does this mean they just made up where he was born? Not necessarily! But we do need to remember that the Bible is not necessarily a literal historical account as we would understand it – that would be anachronistic.
But it also talks about the futility of making animal sacrifices to God on the altar. These will be rejected. The people are warned they need to up their game.
The passage from Luke 1 speaks directly of the coming of social justice to be brought about through the birth of a child. This is particular section contains the Magnificat, recited in the daily office – Mary’s call to bring down the mighty.
DRAFT SERMON/SERMON OUTLINE
I tend to focus on the Gospel reading for any sermon, using the rest as background – sometimes setting a wider context, and sometimes not. In this case, the other readings back up the main message of the Magnificat:
- Acknowledgement of, blessing upon, and lifting up of the lowly.
- The scattering of those who are proud, bringing down the powerful.
- Feeding the hungry – not only the hungry in their belly but those hungry in heart and in spirit.
- Helping the people of Israel – who in the context of the scripture, were under oppressive occupation – and their remembrance before God.
This ‘cry’ of the Magnificat is an exclamation of joy by Mary as the sacredness of her child is acknowledged by Elizabeth, and as both of the babes in their wombs leapt in gladness at being near one another.
This is a message of hope and joy for the world.
Where in our world do we need this message of hope, and joy, the most?
Are they not those places where people, and creation, have been brought low, hungry, unable to feed, house, clothe themselves. This can be due to violent conflict, but also the increasing environmental disasters facing our world: droughts, floods, island being taken over by the sea, the crops and food upon which we depend to feed ourselves gradually diminishing due to the greed of multinational corporations. There is so much more than can be listed here. What I have done with this is to related it to my own context, a former mining and coastal area. Workers died in the mines due to lack of safety precautions, and more recently the same has happened on the oil rigs out at sea. One in twenty who go to sea to fish, die in doing so, die in order to support their families and to provide us with food. They have been closest to the sea and the land, with deep knowledge of the patterns of the sea – when to fish, and when to leave well alone to enable the fish to breed. But that knowledge has not been respected by the larger companies taking over the fishing grounds.
What ways is climate change impacting your context? Whether urban, semi-urban, or rural areas – all are being impacted.
What action are we being called to make in our contexts, whether individually, or collectively with our church or other groups? Are we walking with the lowly, or sitting with those on thrones?
What message of hope, and message of joy, can this Gospel passage bring to our context of climate change?
This is a blog, followed by a prayer I wrote for a webinar during COP26:
Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer
Help us to hear the screaming of the earth as glaciers melt, as water dries up and animals and plants faint from thirst.
Help us to hear the cries of your creatures starving, drowning as sea waters rise.
Help us to hear the gasps of our sisters and brothers, of trees and plants and animals as the air they breathe chokes and strangles.
Teach us the wisdom of trees, sharing nutrients through their minute root systems, living in harmony and collaboration rather than competition.
Teach us the wisdom of those living for centuries beside the sea, in harmony with the tides, breeding seasons, the winds, and storms,
Teach us the wisdom of indigenous peoples who know themselves as partners in your creation, not rulers over it.
Guide us to know that enough is the time to stop, and surplus is the time to share.
Guide us to value life, each and every life, from a blade of grass to our most beloved child, companion, neighbour, or stranger.
Guide us to gratitude, for this life which we share with the whole of creation, interconnected and bound by your Love for all.
Help us, teach us, guide us to take the overdue action needed to reverse our sin of greed, selfishness, and fear.
Help us, teach us, guide us to love you, our creator, to love one another, to love your creation, and to love ourselves as part of each. Amen.