24th Sunday after Pentecost [by Revd Margot Hodson]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Jer 23:1-6
2 Sam 5:1-3
Psalm
46
2nd Reading
Col 1:11-20
both
Gospel
Lk 23:33-43
both
by Revd Margot Hodson, Director of Theology and Education for the John Ray Initiative, UK

SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME

Salvation for the whole Creation

Text: Colossians 1:19-20, For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

  • The Key environmental teaching theme of this passage is that salvation is for the whole of creation and not just for humans. The passage from Colossians explains this in cosmic terms and gives a backdrop to the harrowing Gospel passage describing the crucifixion of Jesus.
  • In Col 1:20, Paul explains out the connection between creation and salvation and reveals the sheer scope of the cross of Christ.
  • The implication of this understanding of the cross is a discipleship response to God’s creation. Christ died for the whole of creation and so, in response to Christ and his work on the cross, we should be active in caring for creation and calling individuals and governments to take action against the deepening of the environmental crisis. A redemptive understanding of the connection between cross and creation, means that creation care and eco-justice are Gospel issues.
  • It is easy to slip into despair over the environmental crisis, both on a global scale with issues such as climate change, and with local and regional difficulties, such as destruction of habitats and pollution. We can gain strength from God’s promises in scripture. In Col 1:15-17, Paul explains the cosmic role of Christ in creation and that he holds creation together. In Psalm 46 we are encouraged that God is our refuge and strength and ever-present help in trouble.
  • Christ gives us strength (Col 1:11). He died to reconcile the world to himself and his Kingdom is a renewal of creation (Lk 23:43).
  • Our positive actions in creation care, however small, point towards Christ’s kingdom – the coming renewal of creation.
  • You might like to think of one action that you could take this week that would reconcile one small part of creation and bring peace.

DETAILED NOTES

Old Testament reading / Psalm

Jeremiah 23.1-6: Farmers and shepherds are mostly people who really care for their land and animals but every so often there is a case in the news of someone being prosecuted for cruelty to the animals in their care. Jeremiah uses this image to highlight the irresponsibility of political and religious leaders if they do not care for all that is in their charge. He brings a stark message of judgement and a promise of restoration. In an age of environmental crisis, we can consider the leadership of our nations and churches. God will judge those who have not acted to care for our world, but he has also promised the coming of a wise and gentle King who will do what is just and right in the land.

Psalm 46: As the ecological crisis deepens, we can feel that the Earth is giving way, but it is important to remember that God is our refuge and strength. Even as environmental pressures lead to political instability, God is our fortress. He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ God is our refuge when we face ecological disaster (vs.1-2)

New Testament reading

Colossians 1.11-20: This great passage explains who Christ is in relation to God, creation and people. Jesus is revealed to be the source, sustainer and saviour of all creation (not just humans). He is God made visible. The word “firstborn” is not used to describe Christ as a created being – if that were the case then all things could not be created through him. It is used to proclaim him as the heir of all creation – creation belongs to him. I used to think that Jesus died on the cross, so that humans could have salvation and eternal life. This passage pulls back the lens and shows a much bigger picture. Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross was to reconcile all of creation! Therefore, when we care for God’s creation, we care for something that Jesus has died for. As Christians, we are redeemed and strengthened with power to live out a Christian life. In the midst of environmental crisis, we can find strength in knowing that Christ holds creation. We are his body and, if he holds creation, then surely we are called to hold it with him?

Gospel

Luke 23.33-43: Having considered the cosmic picture of Christ in Colossians, the Gospel passage lays bare the pain and sacrifice of the Cross. Jesus, the source and sustainer of creation, enters into his world and tackles its sin and suffering, head on. The pain and anguish of the cross is unimaginable and yet, Jesus entered this willingly so that he could redeem his whole creation and bring peace through reconciling all things to God. One of the criminals insults him and asks him to save them from their fate. He is rebuked by the other criminal, who accepts that they cannot escape death, but asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. In this moving encounter, Jesus promises him that he will even today be with him in paradise – a word meaning “restored garden”. Jesus’ kingdom is creation restored. When we respond with actions to reduce, prevent or end environmental crisis, we point towards creation restored and the promise of salvation for all.

Stories / illustrations / videos:

www.assets-kenya.org  A good illustration of positive Gospel actions that help to reconcile people and creation is the A Rocha Kenya, Arabuko-Sokoke Schools and Eco-tourism Scheme (ASSETS). This supports needy children living around the forest and Mida Creek with secondary school bursaries funded by local sustainable tourism activities. The local forest has been protected through this scheme and local families are able to afford schooling for their children. Tourists are encouraged to care for creation.

Environmental & Sustainability themes / links:

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300  The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 targets to improve life for humans, while also protecting and restoring the natural environment. The followed on from the Millenium Develop Goals that had a far lesser emphasis on environment. These gained substantial improvement for people but the increasing damage to the environment by human activity threatened the improvements made. The STGs were developed as a more holistic way forward. In this they demonstrate the need to care for creation and people together.

www.cres.org.uk  Is a distance course that helps Christians understand the link between environment and the Christian faith.

Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)

Bauckham, R. (2010) The Bible and Ecology: Rediscovering the Community of Creation, London: Darton, Longman and Todd.

Hodson, M.J. and Hodson, M.R. (2011) Climate Change, Faith and Rural Communities, Northampton: Agriculture and Theology Project. (for a longer discussion on Colossians 1)

WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES

Gathering & Penitence

Christ the King

Introduction to confession:

Jesus says, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’
So let us turn away from sin and turn to Christ,
confessing our sins in penitence and faith.

cf Matthew 4.17

Based on Church of England, Common Worship, intercessions for the Festival of Christ the King: www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/churchs-year/times-and-seasons/all-saints-advent

Service of the Word

Collect for Christ the King

Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven
that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Informal Collect for Christ the King

God the Father,
help us to hear the call of Christ the King
and to follow in his service,
whose kingdom has no end;
for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, one glory.
Amen.

Based on Church of England, Common Worship, intercessions for the Festival of Christ the King: www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/churchs-year/times-and-seasons/all-saints-advent

Response to the Word

Litany for creation

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth
and established its boundaries?
Lord, you can do all things; your purpose stands for ever.

Where were you when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
Lord, you can do all things; your purpose stands for ever.

Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment?
Lord, you can do all things; your purpose stands for ever.

Have you commanded the morning
and caused the dawn to know its place?
Lord, you can do all things; your purpose stands for ever.

From whose womb does the ice come forth
and who gives birth to the hoar-frost of heaven?
Lord, you can do all things; your purpose stands for ever.

Who has endowed the heart with wisdom,’
and given understanding to the mind?

Lord, you can do all things; your purpose stands for ever.

cf Job 38; 42.2

 

From Church of England, Common Worship: www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/churchs-year/times-and-seasons/agricultural-year#mmm340


Introduction to the Peace for Christ the King

To crown all things there must be love,
to bind all together and complete the whole.
Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.

cf Colossians 3.14,15

Based on Church of England, Common Worship, intercessions for the Festival of Christ the King: www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/churchs-year/times-and-seasons/all-saints-advent


Intercessions on the Festival of Christ the King

Jesus our exalted Lord has been given all authority.
Let us seek his intercession,
that our prayers may be perfected by his prayer.

Jesus Christ, great high priest, living for ever to intercede for us:
pray for your Church, your broken body in the world …
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Jesus Christ, King of righteousness,
enthroned at the right hand of the majesty on high:
pray for the world, and make it subject to your gentle rule …
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Jesus Christ, Son of man, drawing humanity into the life of God:
pray for your brothers and sisters in need, distress or sorrow …
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Jesus Christ, pioneer of our salvation,
bringing us to your glory through your death and resurrection:
pray for all who are dying, that they may trust in your promises …
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Jesus Christ, Lord of all things,
ascended far above from the heavens and filling the universe:
pray for us who receive the gifts you give us for work in your service,
to care for your creation….
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Jesus Christ, first-fruits of the new creation,
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit
and in the bond of peace,
until you bring the whole created order to worship at your feet;
for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Based on Church of England, Common Worship, intercessions for the Festival of Christ the King: www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/churchs-year/times-and-seasons/all-saints-advent

Holy Communion

www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/holy-communion/additional-eucharistic-prayers The Church of England has produced two Eucharistic prayers for use when children are present. Both of them has a very positive emphasis on God’s care for and redemption of all creation.

Sending out

Blessing for Christ the King

Christ our King make you faithful and strong to do his will,
that you may reign with him in glory,
and the blessing of God Almighty
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Be with you and all creation
Now and in all eternity

Amen

Based on Church of England, Common Worship, intercessions for the Festival of Christ the King: www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/churchs-year/times-and-seasons/all-saints-advent

Hymns & Songs

Modern songs

Indescribable – Chris Tomlin

Across the Lands – Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townend

Creation Sings – Stuart Townend

The Creation Song – Kate Simmonds

Classic Hymns

All Creatures of our God and King

O Lord my God (How great thou art)

O worship the King (This links gives a version that ends: “Your ransomed creation with glory ablaze, in true adoration shall sing to your praise” https://hymnary.org/text/o_worship_the_king_all_glorious_above )

Children’s / All Age ideas

Jesus died for the whole of his creation and so we should care for it

Items needed: One or more holding crosses (with a small group of children you might like to purchase some to give one to each child).

Pass round the holding cross(s). Ask the children to feel how smooth it is and how beautiful the wood looks. It is easy to hold – our hand and the wood just seem to fit together.

Jesus died to bring all things together:

  • So that we can have a special relationship with God
  • So that people are come back together and love each other
  • And so that people start to love the natural world again and care for it.

Sometimes it is hard following God:

  • he sometimes feels far away (though he never is)
  • sometimes people hurt each other and it’s hard to forgive
  • and people damage God’s lovely creation and spoil the beautiful world he made.

As we hold the cross, we can trust in God to make us strong. He is with us and he will help us, even when things are difficult.

He also helps us to care for his world. As you hold the cross, pray to God and ask him to help you think of one thing that you can do today to care for his creation.

by Revd Margot Hodson, United Kingdom

23rd Sunday after Pentecost [by Rev Dr Rachel Mash]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Is 65:17-25
Mal 3:19-20b
Psalm
98
2nd Reading
2 Thess 3:6-13
both
Gospel
Lk 21:5-19
both
by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, Environmental Coordinator, Anglican Church of Southern Africa

A VISION FOR A NEW EARTH

Reflections on Isaiah 65:17-25

A fundamental question for us as Christians is this – what does “New Earth” mean?  Does God promise us a Planet B?

We sing choruses such as “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through, if heaven’s not my home then Lord, what will I do?”

This theology teaches that the new Earth is not here, it is somewhere else still to come. God will usher in a New Earth “ Heaven is described as a new creation in which we shall move in new bodies, possessed of new names, singing new songs, living in a new city, by a new form of government, and challenged by new prospects of eternity with social justice for all. The paradise that man lost will be regained, but it will be much more. It will not be the old one repaired, patched up, and made over. When God says, “Behold, I make all things new,” the emphasis is on all things. One day we shall live in a brand-new world..” Billy Graham

This type of Eschatology (teachings about last things) entered our theology about 100 years ago and has become standard in many places. “my home is in heaven , I am just passing through this world”

However, when we consider the original Greek for the word “new” we see that there are two words used in Greek for new . There is ‘Neos” and “Kainos”

As Dave Bookless of A Rocha  explains – Neos means ‘brand new’, and Kainos means ‘renewed’. He gives the example of a car in a serious accident, the one is written off and the insurance company gives you a brand new ‘neos’  car. The other is sent to the panel beater, restored, renewed, given a new engine, this is ‘kainos’- renewed vehicle. The word in this passage is kainos-  new heaven and earth – means restored, renewed heaven and earth.

This is the same word for “if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation” –  when I turn to Christ  I am still the same person – my family will still recognise me when I walk through the door – but I have been renewed, restored I am a ‘kainos creation” 2 Cor 5:17

Rom 8 :21 tells us that  the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. This is a picture of renewal, not of a brand new earth – there is no Planet B.

VISION FOR THIS RENEWED EARTH

This passage of Isaiah gives us a wonderful vision of what this New Earth will look like. The picture begins with humans in a right relationship with God.

V 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem,  and take delight in my people;

The starting point of this new Earth is a restored relationship between God and God’s people. This wonderful relationship with God is seen in practical differences in people’s lives and it is fascinating how some of those changes are seen in relationship with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Infant mortality rates will plummet, life expectancy increase

A key marker of inequality in a country or a region is seen in the difference in infant mortality rates and life expectancy. There is nothing more heartbreaking then to lose a little child.

20 “Never again will there be in it  an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years;

Reducing infant mortality and improving life expectancy depend on some of these goals:

SDG Goals 1, End poverty in all its forms, Goal 3 – Good health and well being, Goal 6 Clean water and sanitation.

Malnutrition, poverty, lack of access to health care – all these issues will be met in this vision of the new creation.

One of the leadings causes of infant mortality is lack of access to clean water. According to UNICEF, At any given time, more than half of the developing world’s population is suffering from one or more of the main diseases associated with unsafe water and poor sanitation. a lack of clean water and sanitation is responsible for 1.6 million preventable child deaths each year.  What a vision of a renewed earth where clean water flows and hunger and poverty are defeated!

Build houses and live in them, Eat from your own fruit

One of the markers of inequality – of which South Africa is the worst in the world, is to see workers who live in shacks building luxury homes and hotels. Due to poor wages and lack of access to healthy food, their lunchtime meal is a cheap brand fizzy drink, half a loaf of white bread and some slices of ‘polony’ (bologna)

21 They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

This vision of Isaiah brings to mind the following SDGS: Goal 2 : Zero hunger, Goal  11 Sustainable cities and communities, Goal 12: responsible consumption and production

What a vision of fair work, and a  sustainable city where there is decent housing and healthy food  for all.   In poorer communities access to healthy foods is limited, due to cost and distance. A study of young women in Soweto found the following:

One said: ”Small businesses that are opening up in my community and they all sell fries, literally they just all sell fries…”

Women said  that cheap and unhealthy fast foods are on every street corner: “bunny chow” – hollowed out bread stuffed with curry – vetkoek (a fried dough bread stuffed with different fillings) and fried chips are affordable and available within a few steps of most houses.  They didn’t feel able to demand that healthier food be bought for their homes, because many were not contributing financially and were therefore not in a position to control food purchases.

As food prices rise, oil and sugar are rising more slowly in price – and unhealthy foods are becoming relatively cheaper, leading to an increase in type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other diet-related conditions.

In this alternative vision of a sustainable city – people have decent jobs and can grow their own healthy food.  Abundant life!

They will not bear children doomed to misfortune

23 They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune;

This is one of the saddest phrases in the Bible – children doomed to misfortune – children trapped in cycles of poverty, or abuse or neglect.  Studies show that what happens to a child in the first 1000 days will impact  their future. The right nutrition and care during the 1000 day window influences not only whether the child will survive, but also his or her ability to grow, learn and rise out of poverty. As such, it contributes to society’s long-term health, stability and prosperity. (Unicef)

SDG  Goal 8 : decent work   – can give the families a chance to break out of poverty

The lion and lamb will feed together

25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together,  and the lion will eat straw like the ox,  and dust will be the serpent’s food.

Our eco-systems are breaking down, humans are threatening almost 1 million species with extinction. The SDG goal  15: Life on land – halt biodiversity loss gives us a vision for the restoration of depleted eco-systems.

This is why we lament that God’s creatures are disappearing from the Earth at a rate we can scarcely comprehend. From humble insects to majestic mammals, from microscopic plankton to towering trees, plants and creatures from across God’s dominion are becoming extinct, and may never be seen again.

This devastation is, in itself, a tragic loss. We contemplate this loss and pray that it ends. We also pray for justice, as the most vulnerable among us suffer most deeply as the web of life begins to unravel. Our faith calls us to respond to this crisis with the urgency born of moral clarity. (www.seasonofcreation.org)

Thy Kingdom come on Earth

by Rachel Mash, Southern Africa

Links / Resources

https://www.unicef.org/media/media_21423.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7HlvT59uvo&list=PLYGxDL2dvuo6myoWfGs-quOs-JXuc6IUO&index=5&t=0s

https://www.news24.com/Analysis/young-women-in-soweto-say-healthy-living-is-hard-heres-why-20190610-5

https://www.unicef.org/southafrica/SAF_brief_1000days.pdf

https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report

22nd Sunday after Pentecost [by Nadia Shahzad]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Hag 1:15b-2:9
Macc 7:1-2,7a,9-14
Psalm
145:1-5,17-21
or 98
2nd Reading
2 Thess 2:1-5,13-17
2 Thess 2:16-3:5
Gospel
Lk 20:27-38
both
by Nadia Shahzad, teacher at Cathedral school II under the management of the Diocese of Sialkot in the Church of Pakistan

Reflections on Psalm 98 and Lk 20 and their relations to creation care and behaviour

Psalm 98 shows God is a great Creator. Creating the world in order: God created light, water and then land. The grass, plants and the trees on the land depend upon the light and water to survive. Then God created the creatures that swim in the sea, fly above the land and roam the land. These creatures depend upon the plants for food. All things are connected.

Then God created us in his image, knowing that we would depend on his beautiful creation for life, for air, for water and for food. Everything in the world is telling us by itself that someone very wise person is behind all this creation: behind the light, land, water and air. For example, Pakistan has blessed by enough natural resources: land, water, mountains, forests and much more. We must praise the lord for all his great work. Because he made all the things with love. And we, in turn, must love Gods creation.

When I think about the issue of pollution in Pakistan I do not see us loving Gods creation. The word pollution refers to the introduction of contaminants in the environment having an adverse effect on it. Pollution is caused mainly due to human induced factors like industrialisation, deforestation, inefficient waste disposal etc. For example, in Pakistan about 50% of diseases and 40% of deaths occur due to poor drinking water in Pakistan. In addition, the rapid growth in the urban population, increasing industrialisation and raising demands for energy and motor vehicles air pollution levels are worsening. How do we turn trend like this into a display of love for God’s creation?

The gospel passage also challenges us in our behaviour here on earth. Being God’s people in a time of environmental crisis also means spreading the word of God and the importance of caring for creation over which we have been entrusted as stewards. Luke 20: 27-38 is a story of the woman who had seven husbands. Someone asked who will be her husband on the day of judgment. Jesus told them everyone will be like angels. God is a God is of the living, not of the dead. This means God does not want us to be sinners but to be His people. He wants to take us to the holy place where he is. What does it mean to be Gods people in a time of environmental crisis? It means caring for creation above profit and above a life filled with flashy new things.

We need to respond effectively. A polluted environment is a global issue and in the future the global community could bear worst results than are already being faced. In Pakistan, the government has undertaken initiatives including introducing the environmental protection act. Under the ‘billion tree project’ millions of trees are being planted. The government is subsidising the water treatment plant industry for treatment of water. However, Education, research and advocacy are lacking in the region as a preventative strategy for pollution. In the light of Genesis 2:15 God has created human being and gave them responsibility as the caretakers of the world. Now it is our duty to obey the commandment of God and try our best to save the world. So let us take some initiatives to save the world and to celebrate our love of God’s creation like the Psalmist in Psalm 98.

by Nadia Shahzad, Pakistan

21st Sunday after Pentecost [by Paulo Ueti]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Wisd 11:22-12:2
Psalm
119:137-144
2nd Reading
II Thes 1:1-4,11-12
2 Thess 1:11-2:2
Gospel
Lk 19:1-10
both
by Paulo Ueti, Theological Advisor & Latin American Director for Anglican Alliance

SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME

We are being called to see, to mind, pay attention, to direct our perception to the cries of the creation. “I will stand at my watch post, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint”. Habakkuk reminds us that justice and perception (care for) are core to the faithful life in God. This is the path to pursue and to recruit for. God is the God of justice, care and love. The creation is his gift of love, it is his child, all creation. Through creation we got the amazing opportunity to meet God and acknowledge his loving and caring presence. “When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”. Jesus is interested to reconnect. He wants relationship. The anthropocentric, imperialistic and only development perspective and interpretation on the narrative of Creation (Gn 1) let part of humanity to think of and treat the source of life (creation in relation and collaboration) into re-source, transforming all, including most of the humans as things to be used to satisfy a very small portion of privilege people. Relationship was cut off. A system of usurpation was sacralised and institutionalised. But there were always discordant voices, prophetic voices reminding those in power, using religion as shield and justification for their privileges, that the path of God is the path of relationship, equality and just relationships. Instead of “dominion and submission” (Genesis 1) we must choose “cultivate and watch out” what was given to us as a token of love and care. Jesus always wanted to restore the capacity of linking, connection and relations all of us have. Jesus is trying hard to teach the community and those who follow him that people like Zacchaeus must be reached and shown the power of just relations and loving connections. Meeting with Jesus changes lives, perspectives and economic development perspectives. From accumulation and dishonesty to privilege wealthy into transparency, detachment and sharing (not giving, but sharing) with other who are more in need than ourselves. We are called to pray for improvement in the consciousness and capacity to share resources. We are called to inspire and influence systems and social norms to “take care and cultivate” not “dominate and subdue”. Let’s get more involved in sustainable practices in our communities of faith and inspire/influence people to see, acknowledge, pay attention and do something to help save the planet and its biodiversity.

DETAILED NOTES

Old Testament reading / Psalm
  • It is our right to cry out, as a prophetic public lament to call attention to those in power and in our communities. It helps to unveil and acknowledge the emergency crises in which we live in. Pray is a powerful way to raise consciousness, to vent our sorrows and connect with others and nature
  • God is a God of presence and strengthening. His presence and spirit support us “watching our”, making a stand and keep resilient and resistant to the temptation of giving up.
  • The righteous live by their faith. Faith is movement to connect, transform and glorify (make his presence real and perceptible) God. Care for creation and do something to have a future is pivotal to our Christian spirituality and theology.
New Testament reading
  • Faith is movement. Faith is transforming realities and people. By faith we reveal the Kingdom of God, we DO something to address inequality and resist the temptations of the imperial ideo-theologies.
  • Churches have the responsibility to be a parable of God’s love and desire to reconnect. Even during hard times like persecutions, afflictions and desperation God is there in your sister and brother struggling with you, in the whole creation who is crying for help.
  • It is Church’s ministry to make people experience the grace of God, which is transformative and connective. The grace granted for free and because of love from God transforms us and led us to learn, care and live WITH the whole creation as ONE.
Gospel
  • The Gospel of Luke is very concern about economic management, stewardship and sustainable administration. The whole session “on the way to Jerusalem” (there is nothing of this in the other gospels) insists on money, material possessions, management, detachment and new ways of connect with each other.
  • Jesus wants to connect, to be in relationship. Relationships shape the world. The kind of relationship exercised is pivotal to the way we organise our resources and manage them.
  • Jesus teaches us, by example, to care for, to be interested in looking for opportunities for new relationships that leads to transformational acts and perspectives.
  • And “the lost”, the most vulnerable, the forgotten or undervalued are the “locus” where we reveal God’s love and transformational economy.
Stories / illustrations / videos:

Dear Future Generation, sorry

by Paulo Ueti, Brazil

20th Sunday after Pentecost / Proper 25 (30)

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Joel 2:23-32
Sir 35:15b-17,20-22a
Psalm
AL
2nd Reading
2 Tim 4:6-8,16-18
both
Gospel
Lk 18:9-14
both
No preaching suggestions available. Find your own links (tell us)!

Notes: Realize the visions the Spirit sends to you, live them (Joel 2). / What means justice in our days, with respect to the next generations? (Sir 35) / Don’t fear the lions’ mouth’ around you, the Lord will give you the strength (2 Tim 4). / Have respect for what is created by others and by God (Lk 18).

19th Sunday after Pentecost / Proper 24 (29) [by Revd Jaiye Edu]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Jer 31:27-34
Ex 17:8-13
Psalm
119:97-104
2nd Reading
2 Tim 3:14-4:5
both
Gospel
Lk 18:1-8
both
by Revd Jaiye Edu, Nigeria / London
Old Testament reading / Psalm

Jeremiah 31:27-34

The theme here is cultivation of new order. The passage uses images and symbols of a gardening and cultivation: sow and seed of human and animals (Jeremiah 31:270, to plant (v28), grapes (v30). God shows himself as someone who cultivated and grows and grows and weeds out those things that are rotten and bad and not productive.

Early in the Old Testament in Genesis, God planted a garden in Eden (Genesis 2.8). God is intimately involved with his creation: humankind and animals, trees, plants and all vegetation and all fruits.

Here in Jeremiah God will cultivate and build a new House of Israel and Judah with the seeds of mankind and animals is likened to the cultivation of a field. It is done with care and love and with patience. The new nation with be his and the people will have his laws written on their hearts. The law of God is the Torah – the commandments to love one another and all creation and to seek justice so that all those who have the law written in their hearts will know God for he will have forgiven them for their sins and wickedness. (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

Gospel

Luke 18:1-8

Theme of persistence in prayer and seeking the justice. This is a story of salvation. The widow is persistent is expressing her needs. She kept asking for divine help and kept praying. She kept believing God and in due course she seeds in the process and gets saved/ gets justice from the judge, parable tells us that God always hears the cries and pleas of his people and will surely act. But as in Luke 18:8 God wonders whether people have enough faith to believe that God will always enact justice. What is required is faith in the power of persistence. Do not give up.

Luke 18:8 refers to the second coming of Christ. When he comes will he be ready he asks. Do will have the stamina to endure the temptations and sufferings of this world with faith and patient endurance so that when Christ come she will find us faithful and justify us.

Sermon and Application:

Bible Passages: Jeremiah 31:27-34; Luke 18:1-8

Link to the World/ Context

Th recent UN Summit Action Summit 2019

Environmentalism, pollution, climate change. To limit climate change and achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. To try and do what we can to help the environment and create sustainable living and development.

Message

In Jeremiah, God gives his people hope. God ‘planted’ a new house of Israel and Judah and wants us to cultivate the world and all that God created by planting it with resources that our sustainable and renewable and lead to the fruition and flourishing of mankind, animals and all living things. We can bring hope to the next generation that the world they grow in will be just, beautiful and like a cultivated garden where God’s creation will bloom and will not have been destroyed and have decayed. God is a just God and we Jeremiah is a call for justice and a heart nurtured by compassion for the world and peoples and moral judgement on the use of scare and precious resources of the beautiful world. When God’s word is written in our hearts, we will have the favour of God if we do what is pleasing to him and as we also work with him to usher in His Kingdom on to the earth so that it will be as it is in Heaven. God planted a garden in Eden and so he is beginning to work so that the earth will be like a new garden reflecting the new earth in a way God desires it to be.

The passage in Jeremiah is about salvation of not just humans but salvation is about the world, all creation.

Luke 18:1 reminds us of the justice of God and his readiness and speed to action. The passage implores us to be persistent in prayers and action so that God will find us faithful to him when he comes again to judge those who love him and those who are against him. The passage tells us that for Christ to find us faithful he must find that we have not exploited this world and indulge in it to satisfy our own lusts and desires but that we have been faithful servants and stewards of this earth: loving creation, the climate, the environment and all people just as Christ loves all of us and gave his life for us.

Response

The message from our readings is a call to us to be persistent in seeking justice for the earth by limiting climate change. We are asked to do whatever we can in our local communities and cities to save them from the scourge of climate change, pollution and local flooding due to rising sea levels and infrastructural problems such as overcrowding. Let us individually as the church cultivate and nourish our hearts and minds with the word of God (the Scriptures) as we are instructed to do in our reading in 2 Timothy. Let us feed on the rich teachings of the faith that creation is a gift given by God for our care and nurture. Let us cultivate strengthen through our faith in the power of prayers and perseverance to see climate change limited. Let us cultivate a vision of the world as a sustainable home for all humanity. A world that truly reflects and radiate the glory and splendour of God.

Sustainability projects / links

https://www.un.org/en/climatechange

by Revd Jaiye Edu, Nigeria / London

18th Sunday after Pentecost / Proper 23 (28) [by Dr Michael Gaertner]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Jer 29:1,4-7
2 Kings 5:14-17
Psalm
AL
2nd Reading
2 Tim 2:8-15
both
Gospel
Lk 17:11-19
both
by Dr. Michael Gaertner, Diocese of Speyer, Germany

Most of the readings for this Sunday don’t have an obvious connection to the issues of worldwide justice, peace and the integrity of creation. In particular, an ecological perspective is absent. For that reason, only two of the readings will be explored: Jos 2:1-21, the Protestant preaching text for this Sunday, and Luke 17:11-19, the Anglican and Catholíc Gospel reading.

Joshua 2, 1 – 21

This is a wartime story. Doubtless, the description in the Book of Judges of the twelve tribes of Israel conquering the Land of Canaan is not historically accurate. But this tale about the prostitute Rahab and the spies may still be interpreted as being one of moral courage. Two men spend the night at the house of Rahab. Messengers from the king reveal them to be enemy spies. Rahab hides them and helps them escape. As a reward, when the Israelites subsequently conquer Jericho, she and her family are spared, while every other living thing in the city is destroyed on God’s orders.

It’s impossible to tell what prompted the two spies to choose to stay the night with a prostitute of all people, or what prompted Rahab not to denounce them. But the behaviour of these three people recalls many a wartime story: men seeking to relieve their sexual tensions, and women having relationships with enemy soldiers. We don’t know whether money played a role in Rahab’s behaviour, or her position as an outsider in Jericho society. But what we do know is that what she did was risky and courageous. First and foremost, she protects lives in the midst of war. Her actions prevent the deaths of two men, which seems more than faintly absurd in light of God’s genocidal order to destroy every living thing in the city. But perhaps there’s always an element of absurdity in actions of this kind, like in World War Two, when people risked their lives to hide and protect their Jewish neighbours when at the same time, millions of other Jews were being murdered. Rahab succeeds in saving two lives because she resists the logic of war –of strike and counterstrike.

All she sees is the two men who are actually standing before her. She can, and does, help them. She doesn’t think about any consequences. Because these two spies play a part in Jericho’s downfall and the destruction of every living thing. So although she manages to save her family, Rahab is ultimately a tragic figure, who was unable to prevent her city’s downfall, and indeed, may even have contributed to it.

Luke 17, 11 – 19

Out of ten lepers who are made clean, only one shows gratitude, and he is a Samaritan, an “unbeliever”. This is one of the gospel stories that breaks through the boundaries of Jesus’ mission to the People of Israel. The one sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel crosses this boundary again and again. And the leper who is healed shows his gratitude.

Gratitude is relevant to the issue of worldwide justice, peace and the integrity of creation, because it is gratitude that prompts us as Christians to work in and for the world. It is our gratitude for the loving acceptance of God, who loves us despite of all the things that separate us from Him. And it is our gratitude for nurturing us day by day. Here in Western Europe, most of us have far more than our daily bread, we are not subject to state despotism, nor are our lives in danger as is the case for so many people in other parts of the world, and was once the case for our forebears here, too. Gratitude for God’s loving affection and for the bountiful care which we are privileged to receive can be a powerful motivation to take action for others and for creation. To this end we need to call our privileged circumstances to mind time and again. We are in a similar situation to the leper who was made clean – freed from the huge burdens of life. Gratitude is not something that can be forced. And, as the story stresses, it is perhaps always the mindset of a minority. But in my opinion it is one of the gifts of God’s spirit that Christians can ask to receive.

by Dr Michael Gaertner, Diocese of Speyer (Germany); translated by Anja Huebel

Harvest Thanksgiving / 17th Sunday after Pentecost

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Lam 1:1-6
Hab 1:1-4;2:1-4
Psalm
AL
2nd Reading
2 Tim 1:1-14
2 Tim 1:6-14
Gospel
Lk 17:5-10
both
No preaching suggestions available at the moment. Find own links (tell us)!

Reflections about ‘Thanksgiving’ by Rev. Rosalind Gnatt

American Thanksgiving was born out of the tradition of european harvest festivals, first of the Spanish and French colonists and later by the colonists from the British Isles. It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that Thanksgiving became a national holiday, the 4th Thursday in November being selected. The earliest colonists would not have survived without the assistance of the indigenous people, who taught them how to catch fish and grow crops that were unknown in Europe. Sadly, the gratitude for this lifesaving assistance was short-lived; the Europeans, though religiously at odds with each other, were unified in believing themselves to be the superior race which was entitled to the riches of what they saw as the “New Canaan.”

More than being a “thanks for the harvest fest,” Thanksgiving among Americans isn’t tied to the religious calendar; it is mainly a time when families and friends come together. It is the most heavily trafficked day of the year, the highways resembling the first day of summer vacation in Germany. Food, conversation, games together, getting reacquainted after, for many, a year apart, are parts of the landscape of the day. Though Turkey is thought of as the necessary element in a Thanksgiving meal, people whose families immigrated from Italy or Greece or any number of countries across the globe, will often have their own traditional dishes – it’s the dance of tradition; coming back to people and places and food that are familiar – that are tradition.

I’ve been thinking about these differences between American Thanksgiving and Harvest Thanksgiving (or German Erntedank). Apart from a similarity concerning gratitude the difference lies in the weight that is put on God’s gift of the earth and our responsibility on this planet (I feel and hear this message much more in Erntedank / Harvest Thanks); and in the more family party atmosphere that one feels in America. I love the Isaiah 58, calling the pious out for their self-satisfied behavior, all the while abusing their workers. Feed the hungry; help those in need; remove the yoke of oppression. That’s where gratitude for the earth shines through: it’s about sharing …

Season of Creation (6) – St Francis Day: Oct 4th

Season of Creation

Please visit our plastic waste site, too.

St Francis day

by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, environmental Coordinator of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa
Texts (Revised Common Lectionary):

Lamentations 1: 1-6
Psalm 137
2 Timothy 1: 1-14
Luke 17: 5-10

Introduction

Today’s service focuses on the life and ministry of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis was born in Italy, in 1181 AD, into a wealthy family. His father was a wealthy cloth merchant and made frequent trips to France, and their family life was lived amongst the  bourgeoisie of the day. Growing up Francis received elite schooling and as a young man was  known for his flamboyant lifestyle and extravagance. As a young man, St. Francis enduring a prolonged period of illness during which Francis would spend time in the forests and caves surrounding Assisi and it is here that he is believed to have received a vision in a dream. Francis was convinced that he was called to follow a life of poverty, in following the way of Jesus. Francis would later give back all his belongings to his father, including the clothes in his back, and choose instead to live amongst the lepers. Francis was known for preaching not only to people but also to nature, as seen in one of his most well-known writings, The Canticle to Brother Sun.

Hearing the Word

Comments on Lamentations 1: 1-6

The prophet Jeremiah laments the fall of the once great city of Jerusalem. The city was once was the home of many and a favourite amongst travellers is now empty. A great, autonomous city is now subject to others. A city once characterised by joy and is now known for its weeping. The people of the city, who saw themselves as God’s chosen, and thus set apart  from other nations, now live amongst other nations, away from the symbols that were to remind them that they are God’s covenant people.

Jeremiah was sent to the people of Jerusalem to prophesy that God would bring calamity upon them if they did not obey God’s commandments. The people of Israel ignore the prophet’s calls resulting in the destruction of their city and their enslavement by the Babylonians. Today there are many in our world working tirelessly in the advocacy for our care of creation. Resource into the cause of climate change has concluded that it is no longer in doubt that human activity is the primary cause of climate change. We are being called to live our lives in such a way that the earth is able to recover. Our failure to do so might lead to our lamenting at the destruction of the places we call home.

Comments on the Psalm 137

This Psalm captures the spirit of the Israelites in captivity in Babylon. From the first verse see the posture of sitting, an indication of the sorrowful mood that they are in. The rivers of Babylon as a location likewise make it clear that they are away from the promised land and living in a foreign land. They have moved from the known to the unknown This Psalm is a lament of the people of Israel who are captive in Babylon. They are separated from the places and worship and long for the temple and the gathering of the community of faith. The Psalmist however is clear that they although they are being mocked by their capturers and feel the separation from their homeland, their connect to God remains and this is what give them the strength to face what life throws at them.

As we remember St. Francis today and we see the separation of the people from the promised land, it serves as a symbol of how far humanity has moved from being connected to creation. Our care for animals has been broken, as we see in the poaching of rhinos, to the extent that the world’s last male Northern White Rhino has died and that subspecies now faces extinction. The ongoing battle between humans and baboons in the Western Cape is another example of the inability of humans and animals to co-exist. Our recent water crises around the country was a reminder to consider how we use our natural resources.

Today we also consider that St. Francis chose to live amongst those who were removed from their homes to live in leper colonies. This Psalm also helps us to consider those who have been moved off their land for political and/or economic reasons and yearn to return. We hear the cries of those who long for their land to be restored. We think of the many in our country who have been moved off the land and have a desire to return. As we hear the cries of the people of Israel as they remember Zion, we remember all those who are weeping as they remember where they have come from and we pray for the landless throughout the country.

Comments on 2 Timothy 1: 1-14

In this passage St. Paul reminds Timothy of his personal  suffering for the sake of the Gospel. In much the same way St. Francis believed that his calling to a life of poverty was to follow the example of Christ. St. Francis, though born into a wealthy family believed that he should give up all and follow Christ, who emptied himself and took the form of a servant. The examples of Jesus, Paul and Francis call us to consider what it means to be Christian in a world driven by greed and a desire for possessions. How do we live Christ-like lives in our time?

As we consider St. Paul’s sufferings, we are reminded also of all others who suffer. Our water crisis in particular called on us to consider how we would live on limited resources. But there are many in our country for whom living on limited resources is a reality. There are many for whom piped water and proper sanitation remain a dream. There are also those who breath in polluted air, eat food that is not sufficiently nutritious and live in areas prone to extreme natural events that could lead to disasters. Can we also consider those for whom the environment therefore means illness and destruction?

Comments on Luke 17: 5-10

There are two main themes in today’s Gospel; faith and service. In the first two verses we have a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples in which the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith. This is an honourable request because they realise their need only for faith but for and ever increasing faith. Jesus tells them that if we have true faith we could perform mighty works. It is interesting that this request does not come when they are in trouble and are seeking faith so that they may endure, but rather they are seeking a growing faith for the living out of their lives. Jesus tells them faith the size of a mustard seed is sufficient to move a mountain. All things are possible to those who put their faith in God.

In the next five verses Jesus poses a question. He asks his disciples about their practice of managing their servants. He tells that a servant’s duty is to serve and to ensure that the work that has been assigned is carried out. The servant doesn’t get to rest unto the work is done. Jesus reminds them that when a servant has done their duty they are never thanked for it nor have their done anyone any favours, they are servants and they have served. Our duty, as servants of God is to do the will of the one who calls us. Our service for God is no guarantee that things will work out in our favour or a promise that God owes us something. We are servants.

Christians, God calls on us to be good stewards of God’s creation. At this time when so many of the earth’s systems are suffering, we are to work for the restoration of creation. it is good to have faith that things will work out, but as St. James reminds us,  “faith, if it is not accompanied by works, is dead” (James 2:17). Thus as Christians we should follow the example of St. Francis and commit ourselves to caring for all that God has placed in our care.

Interpreting the Word

We live in a world that is suffering because of human greed. So many of the problems we face are as a result of being disconnected from creation, from God, from each other and even from ourselves. Our two readings from the Old Testament tell of the disconnect between the people of Israel and the promised land. This disconnection is seen in the destruction of the land (Lamentations 1: 1-6) and is heard in the cries of the people (Psalm 137). The Biblical disconnection comes after God has warned His people to turn from their ways or else face his anger. But the people refused, knowing that they are God’s own people and God would always act on their behalf.

St. Paul in the same way tells Timothy that, although he has dedicated his life to the service of God, he still feels the pains of suffering. St. Paul’s service to God is in no way a guarantee that he would not suffer. Jesus likewise tells the disciples that they are to have faith but not forget to work.

The story of St. Francis is the story of a man who had all the material possessions he could ever dream of. His family ensured that he received the best education and he found himself in the company of the elite of his day. Francis only really found himself once he discovered his connection to God and not to things. This connection made Him see himself as connected to those who suffer, to the point that Francis lived in a leper colony in order to be closer to the people of God. Francis also spoke of the elements of nature as being connected to him, calling them Brother Sun and Sister Moon. St. Francis is remembered as the patron saint of the environment, but his true legacy is in showing us the importance of being connected and that this leads us to seeking for God in everything.

Preaching the Word

One way to illustrate the theme for this sermon is to talk about connections. How are different things connected to each other to make a car work? Or how do ingredients and processes together become a cake? What happens when components no longer work together? Can we see how our disconnection from creation (people, plants, animals and processes) has led to the destruction we see around us?

Living the Word

How can we find God in the people and nature around us? Can we see ourselves as connected to creation  and connected to all people? Can we see God in others? And once we do, how does that make us live differently?

by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, Southern Africa


Henry, M “The Complete Commentary on the whole Bible” Kindle edition

Viviers, H. 2014, “The Second Christ, Saint Francis of Assisi and ecological consciousness”, Verbum et Ecclesia 35(1), Art #1310

Season of Creation (5): Sept 29th

Season of Creation

Please visit our plastic waste site, too.

The curse of affluence

by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, environmental Coordinator of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa
Texts (Revised Common Lectionary):

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15
Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16
1 Timothy 6:6-19 (Roman Catholic, too)
Luke 16:19-31 (Roman Catholic, too)

Introduction:

The story of Lazarus and the rich man is a living parable for South African Society. According to a report just released by the World Bank South Africa is the most unequal society in the world.[i]After nearly two decades of progress following the abolishment of apartheid, South Africa’s societal gains are now deteriorating. While overall the country’s poverty levels have fallen since 1994, at least 2·5 million more South Africans since then have become poor. Over half the population lives under the poverty line. Unemployment stands at a staggering 28%. Most worryingly, the gap between the rich and poor has worsened for this upper-middle-income country—71% of wealth is now held by a 10% elite; the bottom 60% of the population hold just 7% of assets—making South Africa the most unequal country in the world. The triple challenge the report describes—poverty, unemployment, and inequality—is a toxic mix for health. The warning signs for a future health crisis are here: 39% of South Africans live in overcrowded housing. Food security, stunting, and child malnutrition are worsening since 2012”. [ii]

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.” Luke 16:19-20

Hearing the Word

 Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

For those who live in comfort, complacency is a special temptation. We can sink into a lethargy that says all is well, or at least not too bad. Meanwhile the environmental situation is rapidly deteriorating with huge implications for the poorest of the poor and vast numbers of God’s creatures.  The starting point for those who are affluent is to open our ears to God’s voice and our eyes to the real world around us.

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 gives us a divine perspective on possessions. Jeremiah is being held prisoner by King Zedekiah. Jerusalem is under siege and Jeremiah is unflinchingly prophesying God’s coming judgement.  And then Jeremiah’s cousin comes to him with a business proposition. He is being given the opportunity to buy a piece of land from his uncle in his home village.

Israel had property laws (Leviticus 25:25) which aimed both to prevent extremes of wealth and poverty, and also to protect family inheritance. And so, Jeremiah was asked to purchase a field from his uncle. Even though he is prophesying destruction, he purchases the land in a powerful symbolic action that shows Jeremiah’s faith in God’s future plans. He believes that judgment is coming, and yet he also believes in redemption beyond the disaster. From this we can draw hope.. While corporate greed, corruption and individual greed are the prominent characteristics of society – there is little hope of ecological flourishing or the wellbeing of all. And yet God also promises to renew the face of the earth. We must challenge economic and environmental injustice, but we are also working and living the redemption of God’s Earth

Comments on Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

This beautiful Psalm reminds us that whatever our fears may be, God will protect us. In Cape Town the fears of Day Zero woke many people up to the reality of environmental challenges – they can change your life completely. Many people now feel anxious about the future of the Earth.  The Psalm has a wonderful picture of a chick being kept safe under the shadow of its mother’s wings. One imagines an eagles nest high up on the mountain. The chick may fear being left alone and being attacked by a predator, but once their parent returns they feel safe and secure. Just as with the story of Jeremiah who bought a field trusting in future redemption, we know that God’s plan ultimately will be fulfilled “I will show my salvation”

Comments on 1 Timothy 6: 6-19

1 Timothy 6:6-19 also speaks into the danger of setting our hearts on wealth as a life goal. Instead we should aim at contentment (6-9). Our current economic system creates insatiable demand and continuous consumption. Happiness does not come from having more, but from desiring less. Consumerist materialism in a world of limited resources is destroying the planet. There is enough for our need, but not for our greed. Rather than aiming for more and more, those who have assets are encouraged to use them creatively and generously, “be rich in good works”(17-19).[iii]

Luke 16:19-31

 The story of Lazarus and the rich man has a similar warning to the rich. The rich man displays all the characteristics that 1 Timothy condemns – pride and living the ‘good life’ through luxury and selfish ease. He ignores the poor man living at his gate, hungry, ragged and sick. After he dies, he still has no respect for Lazarus, he asks Abraham to send him if he were his slave (24, 27).

This is a very harsh story. The rich man had no excuse of saying “I didn’t know” for Lazarus sits at his very gate.  In the afterlife he will suffer endless pain. Why can his family not be saved? They also know the situation, they are rich and know of the poverty of others and do nothing. They know the words of the prophets about poverty and injustice.  If Lazarus was sent back to them, they would only chase him away.

We often like to focus on the love of God and find this story jarring, and yet it is true to the key message that runs through Scripture that God is on the side of the poor. Society tips the balance the other way.

Christians cannot look at the current state of the world, the inequality, the climate challenge, loss of biodiversity, and claim ignorance. If we refuse to accept our complicity, then we will find the hardest judgement of God. There are real challenges here for all Christian churches and this is not a ‘feel good’ message.[iv]

Interpreting the Word

We live in an inequal world. Eighty two percent of the wealth generated last year went to the richest one percent of the global population, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw no increase in their wealth, according to a new Oxfam[v] . The rich and getting richer and the poor and getting poorer. South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world. [vi]

Into this situation these passages are very important. They make it clear that it is not ok for churches to accept the status quo. We must be on the side of the poor and disadvantaged and be the voice for the voiceless.  As followers of Christ, we are challenged to make a preferential option for the poor, namely, to create conditions for marginalized voices to be heard, to defend the defenseless, and to assess lifestyles, policies and social institutions in terms of their impact on the poor.

Preaching the Word

How can we then be ‘rich in good deeds’ – how do we hear the “Cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor “in the words of Pope Francis.

Jeremiah reminds us of the Biblical view of wealth – there were laws in place to prevent the build-up of wealth over many generations. The Jubilee principle was a way of redistributing wealth. In South Africa the rich have become richer and some people from previously disadvantaged communities have joined the ranks of the super-rich. But the reality is that life for a huge number of South Africans is harsh, they are living the life of Lazarus. The capitalist society makes is worse, the rich gain interest and the poor pay interest.

The story of Lazarus shows us that in our culture we separate ourselves from suffering, we build security fences and keep poor people away. But the reality is that we are locking the suffering out and also ourselves in. The richest communities are the most isolated.  These patterns are destroying community. Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in South Africa.

Lazarus is the only person in all of Jesus’ parables who has a name. And that is significant – poverty is not “them out there” it is people with names, and children and stories and talent and resources to enrich others. The rich man is not given a name. We know he  is a religious man for he does call out to Father Abraham for help, but he had locked the poor out of his life.  The challenge for us is to rewrite the end of the story, to break down the barriers and to get to know the names and faces of those outside of our comfort zones.[vii]

When Jesus says ‘the poor will always be with you” (John 12:8). He is not saying – there will always be poverty so we don’t need to worry about it. He is quoting from the Torah :”If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be … For the poor you will always have with you in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ (Deuteronomy 15:7-11). What he is saying is the poor will always be with you – so open your hands to give. The poor should always be with us, in our prayers, in our giving, in our decision making, in our social networks.  If the poor are not part of your life and ministry and parish priorities then Jesus challenges you – the poor should always be with you.

Living the Word

So how as South Africans can we address the inequality issue? The reality is that the income gap has widened since 1994. The Bible principles of Jubilee encourage us to look at what does restitution mean for us. Inequality has developed over many generations. The children of the rich inherit: a good education, access to transport, networks of influence which makes job seeking easier, access to resources such as internet , and wealthy relatives who can assist with down payments or inherited money from family members.

According to the Restitution Foundation “restitution involves seeking to set right the generational ills of inequality by engaging those who have benefited from the system, directly or indirectly, in transferring wealth and social capital and reinvesting in communities that are still suffering.

We need to also recognise that often our wealth (from stocks and shares) came with an environmental cost, often borne by those in the poorest communities. A share in a coal mining company contributes to air pollution related health issues to townships in Mpumalanga. Our consumerist society has produced vast swathes of plastic pollution in the oceans.

Restitution is a key component of justice, which we understand as the restoration of right relationships between ourselves, other people, and our environment, in which there is enough for everyone and no one goes without, and the dignity of every human being is revered.” Our actions through generations have increased patterns of injustice, increased poverty and caused great environmental degradation. For this we make restitution, following the Biblical Jubilee principles.

Many churches are involved with great love and compassion in acts of charity: food donations, winter clothes drives, Christmas gifts. These actions are often: once off, non –relational, giving of surplus, giving what the giver things the person needs.  Charity does not look at long term solutions.  Restitution is long term, relational, potentially costly and developed in conversation with those to whom restitution is being made. Restitution, unlike charity, is: – “Highly relational; – Potentially costly; – Long-term; – Developed in conversation with those toward whom restitution is being made”[viii]

by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, Southern Africa


[i] Overcoming Poverty and Inequality in South Africa. The World Bank. March 2018

[ii] The Lancet , Volume 391, April 2018

[iii] Eco congregation Scotland Creation Time 2013

[iv] Eco congregation Scotland Creation Time 2016

[v] https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2018-01-22/richest-1-percent-bagged-82-percent-wealth-created-last-year

[vi] https://www.fin24.com/Money/Home/sa-inequality-grows-as-rich-take-larger-share-report-20171214

[vii] https://cac.org/both-praying-and-doing-2016-05-20/

[viii] http://restitution.org.za/ the Restitution Foundation