Pentecost Monday [by Rev. Rosalind Gnatt]

Lectionary: EK sermon text Matt. 16, 13-19; 1st reading Acts 19, 1b-6a (Roman Cath.); 2nd reading Numbers 11, 11-12,14-17, 25-29 (Roman Cath.); Gospel John 3, 16-21 (Roman Cath.)

by Rev. Rosalind Gnatt, United Church of Christ, Wiesbaden (Germany)

When we talk about sustaining anything, be it the environment and its multiplicity of life – from plants and animals to the air we breathe and the water we drink – or the striving for humane and respectful living on this earth for all of God’s creatures, we need to practice sustainable thinking.  For anything to be sustainable, it needs to have roots; it needs to grow, be flexible, stay connected – like the parts of a tree. A leaf cannot exist without its connection to the root. Interconnectedness is vital to life in all its forms.

Whether we like it or not, we are connected. We can’t go it alone. This is one of the reasons we need to read, preach and include the readings of the First Testament in our theological learning and teaching.

Numbers 11, 11-12,14-17, 25-29  When Moses couldn’t take it anymore…

You know the story – people are complaining. They’re tired of eating the same stuff day in and day out. They miss the comforts of the good old days in Egypt. They don’t see an end to the months and years of wandering. Moses complains to God: “Did I give birth to these people?” he asks. “Why am I supposed to carry them in my arms like a mother with a nursing baby? I can’t do this alone! I can’t carry them all myself! If this is the way it’s going to be, just kill me now. Do me a favor and spare me the misery!”

Don’t we all, in our service to family, church, the worthy causes we strive to support, sometimes feel like Moses – like it’s beyond our power to go a step further? I do. God’s remedy was not to just fix the problem, but to help Moses ask for help. God told him to gather a core of reliable people together to help carry the load. God spread Moses’ spirit among the group so that Moses wouldn’t be carrying the burden alone. Interesting, isn’t it? God spread Moses’ spirit among the group. The spirit was already there, waiting to be shared. God’s magic was the magic of sharing – sharing the burden.

Acts 19, 1-6 Repenting, believing and action

Paul visits the small group of believers in the city of Ephesus – the home of the great temple to the Goddess Artemis. He asks them if their change of heart – their belief – transformed them – if the Holy Spirit came to them. They said no – what is a holy spirit?

As a child, I used to wonder what the grownups meant by believing… it certainly didn’t seem to mean what Jesus had in mind. It was just a word, a phrase: I BELIEVE. It seemed to have little to do with Jesus and the way he tried to teach us to live. Just “believing” isn’t enough – If belief doesn’t lead to change, the declaration alone is an empty gesture.

There are three things in play that are essential to change:

Repentance – something is wrong; I am a part of the problem; I need to change.

Belief – Jesus gave us a roadmap to the kingdom of heaven on earth; this roadmap guarantees the reign of peace and justice. But building the kingdom is too great a task to accomplish alone. Like Moses, we need to ask for help.

Action – the Holy Spirit, the God-voice in Moses and in us, accomplishes with us, what we cannot do alone.

Jesus asked his followers, “why do you call me Lord, Lord, but you don’t do what I tell you?” If we do what Jesus told us to do; if we believe what he told us about how we should live, we would, he promised, have the power to move mountains.

Matthew 16: 13-19 – Peter; not the best and the brightest.

From what we know about Peter, he was neither the most loyal nor the most intelligent of the group of friends Jesus had gathered around him. A fisherman by trade, he was a laborer and would have had no formal education. We see him in his various misadventures as a hothead – one who leaps to action without thinking about the consequences. Historians suspect he was a Zealot – one of the groups that advocated violent resistance against Roman rule.

Peter wanted Jesus to say that he, Peter, was the greatest of his followers. Jesus shows the group a little child: if you want to be the greatest among you, be like this child – quite a put-down since Peter was among those who had tried to shoo the children away from Jesus. Peter, among the small group that witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration as he talks with Moses and Elijah, jumps in an offers to build each of them a hut – he just had to make himself important. The list goes on: Peter cutting off the ear of a soldier sent to arrest Jesus; Peter denying he even knew him after Jesus was arrested. The hothead big shot Peter was constantly getting it missing the point, doing the wrong thing. Despite his bravado, he wasn’t brave enough to stand by Jesus in his hour of crisis. He wasn’t able to understand Jesus and his message of peace.

But Peter got one thing right: when Jesus asked his friends, “who do you say I am?” Peter spoke up: “You are the anointed one, the living son of God.”

When the Spirit calls someone to action, that someone may not seem the best person for the job. Peter certainly wouldn’t have been my choice to be founder of the church of Jesus. But the Spirit does call us to the work of building the kingdom of God on earth. We can refuse, of course. But we can also take Jesus’ advice and, like children, say, “Okay – I’ll give it a try.” God knows, the world needs us – imperfect as we are and yet perfectly made as children of God.

Songs:

I want Jesus to walk with me (African-American hymn)

Vertraut den neuen Wegen – EG395

Von guten Mächten – EG65

Brother, let me be your servant (Sacred Harp tradition)

Words of Wisdom:

A human being is part of the whole, called by us “Universe”; a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts, and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of our consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures, and the whole of nature in its beauty.

(Albert Einstein, 1879 – 1955)

 

Seventh Sunday of Easter / World Environment Day: June 5th

by Dr Rachel Mash, environmental Coordinator of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa

Lectionary: 1st reading Acts 16:16-34 (Anglican), Acts 7:55-60 (Roman Catholic); 2nd reading Rev 22:12-14,16-17,20-21 (both); gospel John 17:20-26 (both)

Yearly United Nations’ World Environment Day is June, 5th.

Paul and Silas heal a slave girl who is doubly oppressed (Acts 16). Firstly she is a slave and secondly she is possessed by an evil spirit that controls her. When she is healed, her owners are furious because they have lost their source of income. Paul and Silas  are beaten and thrown into jail. Their response is to sing hymns and praise God. When given the chance to escape, they do not take it. Their sacrifice and attitude leads to the jailer and his whole household being saved.

There are people who are now being willing to face being imprisoned to protest against environmental degradation. It is a reality that climate change is impacting on those most vulnerable to drought and flooding. It is also a reality that the transition that is so urgent from fossil fuels to renewable energy will impact on the stocks and shares of some of the wealthiest people on the planet. The status quo is being challenged.

But the damage being done to God’s people and to God’s Earth is unconscionable. Just like Paul and Silas, we must protest and advocate for change. This may place us against the political and economic elites.

This week is World Environment Day (June 5th) and the theme for this year is Air Pollution “Greening the Blue”. Here are some facts on air pollution.

  • Globally more people die prematurely from air pollution than from HIV and Malaria put together.
  • 92 percent of the world’s population does not breathe clean air. This leads to huge health care costs for governments.
  • about air pollution in China: https://youtu.be/MhIZ50HKIp0

South Africa – the country I live – has one of the dirtiest electricity supplies in the world, as most of our electricity comes from coal. When I waste electricity in Cape Town at the Southern end of the country I am adding to air pollution in Mpumalanga, 1700 km away.

So what can we do to speed up the rapid transition away from fossil fuels? The young people are rising up –  School strikes involving 1.3 million young people have taken place in 128 countries.  The extinction rebellion is calling for non violent protest to get the governments to listen. In the UK after blockading roads in central London and causing traffic chaos, they received a lot of publicity and the UK government responded by declaring a Climate Emergency.

Sue Parfitt (www.christiantoday.com)One of the people arrested in those protests was Rev Sue Parfitt – aged 77. The reason that she joined the protests she said was “I cannot bear to leave a bleak and barren world for my beautiful grandchildren”.

Throughout history there have been those who have been willing to face imprisonment like Paul and Silas for standing up for what is right.

The African-American abolitionist Sojourner Truth, the suffrage campaigner Susan B Anthony, the Indian independence activist Mahatma Gandhi and the US civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King have all convincingly argued for the power of peaceful protest.

  • In 1986, millions of Filipinos took to the streets of Manila in peaceful protest and prayer in the People Power movement. The Marcos regime folded on the fourth day.
  • In 2003, the people of Georgia ousted Eduard Shevardnadze through the bloodless Rose Revolution, in which protestors stormed the parliament building holding the flowers in their hands.
  • Earlier this year, the presidents of Sudan and Algeria both announced they would step aside after decades in office, thanks to peaceful campaigns of resistance.

In each case, civil resistance by ordinary members of the public trumped the political elite to achieve radical change.

There are, of course, many ethical reasons to use nonviolent strategies. But compelling research by Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist at Harvard University, confirms that civil disobedience is not only the moral choice; it is also the most powerful way of shaping world politics – by a long way.

Looking at hundreds of campaigns over the last century, Chenoweth found that nonviolent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns. And although the exact dynamics will depend on many factors, she has shown it takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change.

Chenoweth’s influence can be seen in the recent Extinction Rebellion protests, whose founders say they have been directly inspired by her findings.

Climate scientists tell us that we have less that 12 years to avoid uncontrollable climate change. Individual change, though important, is not enough to change the systems. We need to amplify the voice of the voiceless and pressurise companies and politicians to effect those changes. And just like Paul and Silas, some of us may risk imprisonment for doing so.

https://www.greeningtheblue.org/event/world-environment-day

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190513-it-only-takes-35-of-people-to-change-the-world

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/16/more-people-die-from-air-pollution-than-malaria-and-hivaids-new-study-shows

 

LITURGICAL RESOURCES

Forgive us, Lord God our Creator.
In haste and hunger for progress we have laid waste the good earth you have made.
We have mined landscapes, spoiled coastlinesand polluted air and water.
We have brought health and wealth to some and suffering and deprivation to others, exploiting the earth and threatening its creatures.
Make us hungry now for generosity and balance.
Make us brave enough to choose more wisely for the future of the earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

© The Anglican Church of Australia

Creator God, let all countries live with love and respect for the environment, including the air that surrounds us and fills our lungs with the breath of life. Help us find ways to prevent air pollution.

Prayer in Chinese and English by Bishop Andrew Chan, Diocese of Western Kowloon, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui

世界環境日禱文
天父啊,我們感謝祢賜給我們這美好的大地:有陽光、雨水,更有空氣,藉此滋養地上,海
裏及天空萬物。我們也為人類的貪念,及過份的開採與消耗資源,以致污染了祢所賜給我們
的空氣,我們懇求你寬恕。更求祢給我們一顆珍惜祢所創造一切的心懷,好讓我們能夠共同
努力,為我們的大地作出保護,又求祢讓世上各國都能攜手努力,制訂更好的環保政策,讓
我們的空氣得以淨化,使我們從萬物的生長中更看到祢賜給世界的生命力,並藉此讓我們能
和你的生命聯上更親密的關係。此乃我主耶穌基督之名而求。阿門。

Prayer for World Environment Day

Heavenly Father, we thank you for giving us this beautiful land: we have sunshine, rain, and air to nourish earth, sea and sky. For our greed, our excessive exploitation and consumption of resources, polluting the air you have given to us, we beg for your forgiveness. Give us hearts to cherish your creation, so that we can work together to protect the land. We also pray for all countries in the world that they may work together to formulate better environmental policies to improve our atmosphere so that we can again see the life-force provided to the world through the growth of nature, and in so doing find a closer relationship with you. In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Amen

Sixth Sunday of Easter [by Revd Margaret Bullitt-Jonas]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Acts 16:9-15
Acts 15:1-2.22-29
Psalm
67
2nd Reading
Rev 21:10,22-22:5
21:10-14,22-23
Gospel
John 14:23-29
(both)
by Revd Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Missioner for Creation Care for both the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts and Mass. Conference, United Church of Christ

Receive the Peace of Christ

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”    (John 14:27)

Today’s Gospel passage is a good text for an in-between time, a time of transition in which something is coming to an end and the new has not yet come.  Jesus is saying farewell to his disciples at the Last Supper and preparing them for his crucifixion.  But because we read this passage in Easter-tide, we also hear it as the risen Christ preparing his disciples for the ascension, when the vivid resurrection appearances will come to an end.  Jesus assures his disciples that the Holy Spirit will come in all its fullness – but it has not come yet.  It is an in-between time.

Can you touch into that sense of living in an in-between time?  Maybe you are between jobs, or studying and keen to get on with the next stage of your life.   Or maybe you will soon complete a big piece of work, and you haven’t yet launched, or perhaps even discovered, whatever work comes next.  Life is full of in-between times.  I think of the interval between realizing that a relationship with someone or something needs to change, and finding a way to change what you can.  I think of the interval between becoming engaged and getting married, or the interval between becoming pregnant and giving birth.

It is  an in-between time for the planet as a whole, as we sense the approaching end of an old way of being and wonder what new way of being we can create in its place.  Scientists tell us that modern industrial society, with its sudden expansion of our human capacity to extract and consume the planet’s abundance for the sake of short-term profit, is simply not sustainable.  For the past 250 or 300 years, human beings have been extracting goods faster than they can be replenished, and dumping waste faster than the Earth can absorb it.  Those who are rich live in a luxury once reserved for kings, while the billions who are impoverished struggle for clean water and a mouthful of food.  Species are going extinct at a rate unprecedented since the death of the dinosaurs.  The global climate with its delicate balance of gases turns out to be more fragile then we ever imagined.

I know I don’t need to go on.  Many of us walk around with a more or less vivid awareness that a chapter of human history is coming to an end.  Just as the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago ended one form of human society and brought a new one into being, and just as the industrial revolution 300 years ago also changed the way that society is organized, so we now find ourselves on the brink of what some thinkers call a “third revolution.”  [1] Modern society as we know it is coming to an end, and more and more people around the world are searching for ways to create something new – to bring forth a human presence on this planet that is “environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just.” [2] We don’t have much time to do this and to get it right, so it is a precarious and precious time to be alive and to take part – if we so choose – in this great work of healing.

We live in an in-between time and we feel the ground shifting under our feet.  So with great interest we turn to see what Jesus has to say at an in-between time: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.”  Jesus’ gift at an in-between time is the gift of peace – shalom, to use the Hebrew word – but you’ll notice that it is not any old peace.  It is, he tells us, his peace, the peace of Christ, something that is evidently quite different from the peace that is offered by the world.  Right at the center of the Eucharist, we exchange that peace among ourselves, when we say, “The peace of the Lord be always with you,” and we let that peace flow from one person to the next until everyone in the room is strengthened and lifted up by its presence.  And at the end of the service we often refer to it again, when the celebrant, quoting from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, blesses us with “the peace of God, which surpasses … understanding” [Philippians 4:7].

What is the peace of God, and how is it different from the peace of the world?  To answer that question, I’ve invited two guests to join me this morning at the pulpit.  My first guest is Industrial Society, who would like to speak to you about the peace it has to offer and the worldview that lies behind it.  Then we’ll hear from our second guest, the Holy Spirit, who will say a few words about the peace of God.

“Ladies and gentlemen – or, shall I say, consumers, for that is who you really are – my name is Industrial Growth Society,[3] and boy, do I have something great to give you: the peace of this world.  The main thing you need to know about yourselves is that you are alone.  You’re alone as individuals and alone as a species.  You are limited to the envelope of your skin – that’s who you are.  Your identity ends here – and your task in life is to focus on that isolated self – what it wants, what it needs, what kind of shampoo it likes best, what kind of breakfast cereal.

“You know, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and self-advancement is the name of the game.  The only peace an isolated self is ever going to find is the kind it can grab for itself.  Wielding power over everything around you – that’s the ticket to peace.  Domination is the path to peace – protecting your own interests, guarding your own small self.  So go ahead – drain the aquifers, clear cut the forest, over-fish the oceans – it’s all yours for the taking.  Never mind if indigenous cultures are being decimated, to say nothing of non-human creatures.  So what? It’s every man for himself.

“Peace grows by focusing on what you like and by surrounding yourself with pleasant things.  You’ll definitely feel more peaceful if you pile them up – gadgets, information, boats and planes, credentials, clothes – and then go all out to keep them safe.  Don’t think about the collapse of honeybees or the deaths in Mozambique – ouch!  That doesn’t concern you.  Thinking about stuff like that just messes up your peace of mind.  Put up some walls – don’t take that in.  There, that’s better.  It makes much more sense to put your head down and focus on yourself and your family.  Get that promotion.  Get your kid into a good college.  Get that mortgage paid off.  Lose those five pounds.  Finish organizing your slides.  Then you’ll have peace — or something like it, anyway, and hey, if you still feel restless inside, or start feeling lonely, you can always go shopping, have another drink, pop a few pills, or stare at some TV.  We’ve got plenty of entertainment for you, plenty of distractions.”

Thank you, Industrial Growth Society.  Now let’s hear a few words from the Holy Spirit, who has consented to make a brief appearance before fully arriving at Pentecost, two weeks from today.

“Friends, you are not alone and have never been alone.  You were loved into being by God the Father-Mother of all Creation, and God so loved the world – so loved you – that God sent God’s Son to become one of you, to enter every aspect of human life and to draw you and all Creation into the heart of God.

“The peace that Jesus gives you springs from your connection to the flow of love that is always going on between the Father and the Son and me, the Holy Spirit.  God has made a home within you, so there is nowhere you can go where God is not.  The Creator and Redeemer of the world dwell within you through the power of the Holy Spirit (that’s me), and with every breath you draw, with every beat of your heart, God is breathing into you and flowing through you.

“When you really understand that, you begin to see that you are much more than an isolated self – at every moment you are connected with God – and not only with God, but also with every other human being and with your brother-sister beings,  [4] to whom God also gave life and with whom God has a loving relationship, just as God has with you.

“So when you feel pain for the world – when you weep for rapidly disappearing species or the forests and wetlands we’ve already lost, when you feel morally outraged when narrow self-interest or short-term political or financial gain trump a larger good and a longer view – when you let your defenses drop and feel your sorrow and anger and fear about what is happening in the world around you, you are expressing how big you are, how connected you are with the whole web of life.

“The peace of God is spacious enough to stand at the Cross and to open itself to the pain of the world without closing down, without running away.  Christ bears that pain with you and for you, and by allowing it into your awareness – by opening the doors of your senses and the door of your heart so that sorrow and joy can flow through – then you allow the power of healing, the power of the Risen Christ, to move through you, as well.

“So now the walls around you can come down.  The peace of God is open to life, and it may impel you to move into the world’s most brutal and broken places, to be a warrior for life and to protest the unjust powers of this world.

“God bless that peace that is in you, a peace that the world cannot give you and that the world can never take away.”

Listening to these two voices in an in-between and turbulent time, it seems to me that if we steep ourselves in the peace of Christ, we will have everything we need.    We have glimpses of what we and our neighborhoods will need to do – draw down our carbon emissions, buy locally produced goods and food, build different kinds of dwellings, develop new, sustainable and non-polluting energy sources – and there are changes that each of us can make now.  But only a shift in consciousness can sustain us in that crucial work, a deep rooting in the ground of our being, which is God.  We are engaged, together, in a great turning [5] – a third revolution – that will require new depths of wisdom, compassion and courage.  These are the depths that pour forth eternally in the peace of Christ.

So today, and every day, as we celebrate the gift of being alive at this crucial moment in the planet’s history, may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

by Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Massachusetts

Fifth Sunday of Easter [by Ursula Kuhn]

Prot. sermon text Cath. / Anglican first reading Cath. / Anglican second reading Cath. / Anglican Gospel reading
Acts 16, 23-34 Acts 14, 21b-27
/ Acts 11:1-18
Rev. 21, 1-5a John 13, 31-33a, 34-35

Preliminary comments on the day

Easter joy unfolds on the Sundays between Easter and Pentecost. In the protestant church, the fourth Sunday after Easter is called Cantate after Psalm 98 verse 1: “O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things.”

Acts 16, 23-34

Prisoners and yet free

Paul and Silas are travelling through Europe to tell people about Jesus and about God. Hoping that they, too, will be captivated by this astounding message.

But that’s not how things turn out. The message they proclaim, of peace, justice, the breaking down of social class barriers, makes people afraid. And makes Paul and Silas politically dangerous individuals.

They are accused, imprisoned, beaten, put in chains. And what do they do? They don’t moan, they don’t complain: they pray. And sing. Loud and clear. So that everyone can hear them. They pray and sing so loudly that all their chains are burst and their mission can continue.

It’s 1945. He is in prison, and has been for a long time. He’s spoken about his faith and about what unites Christians and Jews. What he proclaims strikes fear in the hearts of some. And makes him a politically dangerous person. What does he do? He writes letters and poems and prayers. He refuses to be cowed. And although the outward chains don’t burst, he has long since freed himself from the inward chains with which they wanted to crush his soul. He is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and his faith still inspires us today.

It’s 2015. The civil war in Syria is escalating. The Palestinian-Syrian refugee Aeham Ahmad is living in Yarmuk. And playing the piano. To protest against the war. And the terror. The town is surrounded. Living here is like being in prison. With his music he is able in some way to burst the chains that are crushing the souls of Yarmuk’s residents.

The music he plays, the hope he broadcasts through it, strikes fear in the hearts of some. And makes him a politically dangerous person for ISIS.

And what does he do? He tries to flee to a safe country, and uses his music here in Germany to raise awareness of his compatriots and their plight.

In music, in praise and in prayer, there is a power that we can only dimly sense. It doesn’t heal all wounds. And not everyone comes through alive. And yet: they all possess an inner freedom that strikes fear in the hearts of their gaolers – and that makes a change of heart possible.

Paul and Silas’ gaolers wash their wounds. Bonhoeffer’s letters are smuggled out of the prison by a sympathetic guard. Aeham Ahmad managed to leave the country, and although the civil war is not over, ISIS no longer controls Yamuk.

Music, praise and prayer can free us from the outward and inward chains that can bind us and crush us.

Revelation 21,1-5a    

Easter – a new kind of peace has broken into this world. We want and need to call this to mind again and again.

With his vision of a new heaven and a new Earth, the mystic John paints an astonishing picture: no tears, no death, no more mourning, crying, or pain. Safety, refuge, peace – and in the midst of it all, God Himself.

May we, too, dream of these things – in a world that seems never to have been more dangerous, a world full of war, a world in which right-wing populism is once again raising its voice?

Yes, we may. Indeed, we must. Not only that: the new heaven and the new earth have already come to pass. They are plain to see time and time again – in every resurrection story, big or small.

John also speaks of the new Jerusalem, prepared as a bride adorned. And that certainly doesn’t justify any misuse of this city for political ends, be it by Israelis or Palestinians or the USA.

When we hear about the new Jerusalem in the joyful, hopeful season of Eastertide, we also hear a message of hope for peace in the Middle East.

The message of this new peace in a new world extends all the way from Christmas to this season of Easter.

We must never cease our efforts to make this new heaven and this new earth a visible and tangible reality, right where we are.

John 13, 31-33a, 34-35

Nonviolent Communication

A gospel reading from Jesus’ farewell discourse for the Easter season. It points beyond what is to come to the new age that will break upon us.

The central theme is love. The love of God that has been shown to humankind in Jesus. The love of God that we are to show towards one another, following Jesus’ example:

Looking at each other with love.

Treating each other with love.

That doesn’t mean ceasing to criticise or object. It embodies a way of thinking and acting that we need to practice until it becomes second nature. This is the principle being fostered by the seminars and workshops on Nonviolent Communication that are taking place in more and more schools and nursery schools.

Treating others with respect, attentiveness and empathy, without denying one’s own convictions.

To bring about world peace, we first need to bring about peace in our own little worlds: in the family, at school, at work. That creates a new culture that transforms how we behave towards one another. Let’s begin in our churches. Let’s practice treating one another with empathy (without accepting everything uncritically) – following the example of Jesus.

Then the world will know that we belong to God and to Jesus.

Ursula Kuhn, Wiesbaden (Germany)

Fourth Sunday of Easter [by Revd Margaret Bullitt-Jonas]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Acts 9:36-43
Acts 13:14,43b-52
Psalm
AL
2nd Reading
Rev 7:9-17
(both)
Gospel
John 10:22-30
John 10:27-30
by Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Missioner for Creation Care for both the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts and Mass. Conference, United Church of Chris

Good Shepherd, Good Earth

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. On the Fourth Sunday of Easter our Gospel reading is always taken from chapter ten of John’s Gospel, where Jesus speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd. So it is a good morning to reflect on our call to care for Creation, a good morning to see if we can listen more deeply to the Good Shepherd’s voice.

The Good Shepherd cares for his sheep. A good shepherd makes sure that his flock has clean water, clean air, fresh grass, and a safe place to sleep.  A good shepherd knows that the only way to care for the sheep is to protect the web of life that sustains them.

We need our Good Shepherd today more than ever, for the web of life is unraveling before our eyes.  All the sheep – and everything we love – is at risk.  Unless we change course fast, civilization itself may not endure. The title of Bill McKibben’s new book, Falter, carries a sub-title that says it all: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?  McKibben is one of our clearest thinkers and writers about climate change. A few years back he wrote Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, in which he made it clear that global warming is not just a future threat.  It is, he writes, “no longer a threat at all. It’s our reality. We’ve changed the planet, changed it in large and fundamental ways… Our old familiar globe is suddenly melting, drying, acidifying, flooding, and burning in ways that no human has ever seen.”1 “We’ve undermined the basic physical stability of this planet,” he says. “The atmosphere holds about five percent more water vapor than it did forty years ago…[which] explains all those deluges and downpours. The ocean is 30 percent more acidic, as it absorbs all that carbon from the atmosphere..”2

And there is no going back. Human beings have irrevocably altered the earth into which you and I were born. As Bill McKibben puts it, “The world hasn’t ended, but the world as we know it has….”3 Our task now is not to stop global warming, because that is impossible. Our task is to “keep it from getting any worse than it has to get,”4 and to find ways to live more “lightly, carefully, and gracefully”5 in this new world.

The starting point for every shepherd who wants to care for his or her sheep is to understand the landscape and to recognize the risks: sheep can’t drink from a stream that is polluted, and they can’t eat from a meadow that is filled with poisonous plants.  Sheep can’t survive unless they are protected from wolves.

So our starting point must be to face the reality of climate change and to underscore the facts of science. As McKibben explains, global warming is basically not a debate between China and the U.S., or between Democrats and Republicans. Basically “it’s a debate between human beings and physics and chemistry.”6 Physics and chemistry are not going to back down.

But climate change is not only a scientific issue — it is also a spiritual and ethical issue, as well. People of all faiths the world over are rising up and speaking out about the moral imperative to stabilize the climate and to protect low-income and historically marginalized communities, the people who are least responsible for global warming and yet most vulnerable to its effects.  Science and religion are coming together to speak to this issue with a single voice: the world is precious and the world is in peril.  Now is the time to stop burning coal, gas, and oil, to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and to make a swift and just transition to a clean energy economy built on renewable energy, like sunshine and wind.

The task before us is urgent, but it is one that can bring great joy.  Just think of that famous line from John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  God so loves the world that he gives his only Son.  God loves the world, and we who are made in the image and likeness of God – we love it, too. If God created us to love each other and our brother-sister beings — if deep in our guts, our bones, our genes, is a God-given affection for the rest of the created world – then rising up to protect that world is an act of love, an act of faithfulness to God. The face of the Good Shepherd, the face of the Risen Christ, shines out in every leaf and blossom, in every chickadee and butterfly, in every worm and wren. The actions we take to protect God’s Creation and to re-weave the fabric of life that is so swiftly unraveling — these actions are an act of reverence to the Creator.

The love of the Good Shepherd is also a balm to my anxious and guilty heart. It seems to me that when it comes to the very first task that God gave human beings — the responsibility to care for the earth, to be good stewards of its bio-diversity and bounty — right now we are doing a pretty poor job of it. The fossil fuels that we have burned cannot be unburned. The carbon emissions that we have poured into the sky cannot be un-poured. What we have done, we have done; we have changed the earth forever. And my response, and perhaps yours, too, is one of deep sorrow, guilt, anger, and regret.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, the Nobel Peace Prize-winner who has witnessed at close hand what he calls “the cruelties, hurts, and hatreds”7 of the world, writes about guilt and failure in his book, Made for Goodness:

“The pain cannot be unmade,” he writes,
“The life cannot be un-lived,
The time will not run backward,
You cannot un-choose your choice.”

And yet, Bishop Tutu goes on, “…the pain can be healed,
Your choices can be redeemed,
Your life can be blessed,
And love can bring you home.”
8

We come home whenever we listen again to the Good Shepherd, whose voice is always speaking in our heart. We come home whenever we face the fact, as Isaiah says, that: “all we like sheep have gone astray” (Is 53:6). We come home when we turn again to the divine love that always dwells within us and in whose image we are made, the divine love that longs to guide us “to springs of the water of life, and … [to] wipe away every tear from [our] eyes” (Rev 7: 17).

In an unsettled and unsettling time, prayer is the staff on which we lean when we need the guidance and loving care of the Good Shepherd. Bishop Tutu calls prayer “the staff that supported me during the darkest periods of our history,”9 and his words echo the 23rd Psalm, “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). Jesus assures us in today’s Gospel, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me” (John 10: 27). So we trust that in prayer we can listen deeply to the inner voice of divine love, and attune ourselves again to its call.

We also trust that God’s love can move through us — through our words and hands, our thoughts and decisions. We trust that the Good Shepherd will guide us to take actions that can heal and set free. In every moment, we can make a choice for love. In every moment, we can make a choice to reach beyond narrow self-interest, and to encounter and embrace those most in need of care. We may not perceive ourselves as having the miraculous power of St. Peter, who apparently raised the disciple Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:36-43). But we dare to claim that the power of God can flow through us, and accomplish infinitely more than we can ask or imagine (Eph 3:20) — although we may know nothing about it.

I invite you to think of one way you can listen more deeply to the land and to learn from it. Maybe you want to start up a compost pile or to check out a farmer’s market; maybe you want to make a donation to a local land trust, or invite the neighbor you’ve never met before to come over for a cup of tea. We need to build up our local communities, to live in ways that are closer to the earth, more life enhancing, more about sharing than about consuming, more about self-restraint than about self-aggrandizement, more about generosity than about fearful survivalism, so that we can take care of each other when the hard times come.  Maybe there is more you will feel led to do – maybe you will drive less or look into getting an electric car; maybe you will fly less or buy carbon offsets if you have to fly; maybe you will divest from fossil fuels and push your college alma mater to divest; maybe you will join the grassroots climate action group, 350.org, and join the worldwide movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground.  Maybe you will become one of the countless people of faith who feel called to carry out peaceful civil disobedience to stop new pipelines and to disrupt fossil fuel companies’ ongoing assault on the Earth.

There is joy that comes in living like this, a joy that has nothing to do with proving anything or deserving anything, but which springs up simply from being true to the basic goodness that God has planted in us.  God created us in love and sent us into the world to bear witness to that love in everything we do.

The Good Shepherd is calling us by name. How will you answer his call?

by Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Massachusetts

Third Sunday of Easter [by Revd Dr Joachim Feldes]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Acts 9:1-20
Acts 5, 27b-41
Psalm
AL
2nd Reading
Rev 5:11-14
(both)
Gospel
John 21:1-19
(both)
by Revd Dr Joachim Feldes, Anglican Church in Germany

Focussing on Participation

Participation means having the chance to be a part of the society at an eye-to-eye level. It is opposite to any limitation, segregation, let alone exclusion in terms of money or culture, in terms of ethnic or religious characteristics. Participation means realising what article 1 of the German constitutions claims, i.e. the dignity of the human being is inviolable.

Given God’s great plan of a creation living as a whole organism whose members live with and die without the others, I see participation as a thoroughly biblical issue. This is most significantly illustrated and practiced by Jesus who passionately cares about those socially marginalised and segregated. It is one of his core effort to do everything possible get them back into contact with society, back to the tables, back to life, to God. Thus (re-)integrating and sharing are key parts of our calling as Christians and are opposed to an utterly non-sustainable economy seeking short-term profit alone. Our vocation is contrary to global segregation as it is neglecting or exploiting humans of this generation or those to come. We cannot but opening our minds and hearts to others who have been denied access to common wealth. We cannot but do everything we can to love and care for creation as God himself does.

Acts 5.27b-32,40-41

Apostles are pretty bold upright. Before the high priest they pronounce the sentence upright people all over the world will keep repeating: You have to obey God more than men. Looking at history, it was such people who were promoting our planet: Copernic, Gandhi, Bonhoeffer and many others – all of them resisting to any attempts of repression by authoritarian authorities. So they stamped our world more than those who pretended to be damn sure of their cases and positions. Taking this into account, dissidents today should not be marginalised, but be given a voice in the middle of society. They are a crucial part both of society and common sense, maybe the one who will eventually be proved right.

Acts 5 highlights how deeply the mission of the early church was rooted in her members’ faith. In spite of all obstacles and prohibition the apostles’ talk becomes a forceful sermon. They cannot help doing so, there’s no fussing around. There’s only bold proclaiming from the heart of the belief, as if their creed could protect them – kind of weird, crazy.

And yet, this has an impact, much stronger than expected. The high priests do not dare having them killed, but limit punishment to the apostles being whipped. Right afterwards the apostles go back, not scared at all, but even more encouraged than before, as if there was no ban or prohibition. Mission is crucial to them, opening to all the chance to share their faith, to participate in their belief. There’s no thought to be wasted about fear of being killed, yet they enjoy suffering for the sake of the name of Jesus.

Rev 5.11-14

What a future is being promised here: it is not an aggressive live, but a peaceful lamb that will be sitting on the throne. Might, wealth, wisdom, power, honour, glory and praise, everything that counts on earth will be with the lamb sacrificed for us, Jesus nailed on the cross. What a marvellous rehabilitation, what a great hope for the powerless, poor, weak, scorned and despised. In the end they will take part in the divine life. They will be raised, as they have been cast down on earth. The lamb makes sure that this future world is surely to come, a world where they are not marginalised anymore, but going to be members of a divine, welcoming, hospitable and comprehensive society.

Jn 21.1-19

Come and eat! Most welcoming is Jesus when offering the fish the disciple just did catch – thanks to his help. 150 big fish, symbolizing whole mankind, symbolizing a mankind united. And none of the disciples claims the fish his own, no one complains that the fish now are Jesus’s and his very gift to us. One or the other of the disciples most certainly had good reasons to keep the fish, to use them, to sell them.

The disciples do understand what Jesus makes clear: these fish – mankind – we come from God and belong to him. As well it is God’s trustworthy power that fills the net, feeds us and meets our longings. Without him, without the Son of God you do not get anywhere. Without him you labour, you struggle in vain.

By his support and invitation Jesus illustrates the kingdom of God and shows that it has already arrived and is realizing in this, in our world. And he makes clear that we are not spectators, but followers. It is our duty to share. Sharing the goods of this world is a key part of God’s kingdom. God wants us to share in order that everyone may participate – in society, culture and education. Becoming and being a member of God reconciled universal family, this is the way the kingdom of God is spreading. Come and eat! You are invited. You are invited to participate.

by Revd Dr Joachim Feldes, Anglican Church in Germany

Second Sunday of Easter [by Revd Dr Sonia Hinds]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Acts 5:27-32
Acts 5:15-16
Psalm
118:14-29
2nd Reading
Rev 1:4-8
Rev 1:9-19
Gospel
John 20:19-31
(both)
by Sonia Hinds, Rector of St. Leonard’s Anglican Church in the Diocese of Barbados

SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME

God’s Creation and the Caribbean’s Call

SUMMARY: Christians have a responsibility to care for the Environment; it is an integral part of our Christian Stewardship.  In the Caribbean, we are blessed with many islands that many North Americans and Europeans pay thousands of dollars to experience particularly during their winter season.  Yet, we, like them, are challenged to become more faithful stewards of God’s creation as we accept God’s call to be co-creators. Today’s readings for the second Sunday of Easter guide us in this responsibility.

In the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we have a dramatic and bold assertion from Peter “We must obey God rather than human beings . . .” Even as the disciples stood before the Jewish Sanhedrin, there is this powerful witness that invites us in the Caribbean too to be bold when confronting the political and capitalistic policies that push agendas to the detriment of our environment. Our political leaders must hear the Church’s bold assertion as it challenges policies that are unhealthy for our well-being.

The Psalm seems to have been composed for and used as the litany in a public thanksgiving ceremony. Here, we have the king who returns victoriously from battle and reports to the audience on his triumph as he enters his temple amid acclaim and jubilation.  The king then offers a prayer of thanksgiving and sacrifice. He proclaims “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. With almost every Caribbean country having annual Carnival seasons, we have opportunity to use this context of celebration that is grounded in our history to celebrate God’s goodness.

In the passage from the book of Revelation, there is promise and threat.  God’s judgment would be universal. Verse7 tells us that “All peoples of the world shall lament in remorse.”  The Church in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean must act decisively in changing how we respond to God’s creation.

The Johannine text provides the Easter theme of resurrection and so the appearance of Jesus to the disciples is critical.  This, however, was not the initial experience for Thomas who had to struggle with doubt and denial before Jesus came to prove that he is present. And his response? Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” May we too be led to believe in Jesus Christ when we recognise God in creation.

DETAILED NOTES

1st Reading (Acts)

Obedience to God rather than human beings is critical for us who, with God’s help, are serious about sustaining the earth.  In this reading from Acts, the theme of obedience to God, we meet the apostles being  arrested and challenged for speaking the truth about Jesus.  However, they are bold enough to respond: “We must obey God rather than human beings . . .  We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”  It is an example for us who are co-creators to let others know that the voice of God has to be heard and obeyed above the voices of human beings. This particularly so if we accept the challenge and so speak out to those especially those in power (including political power) and who want us to obey the human beings who are involved in the capitalist agendas.  Indeed, we must obey God in our stewardship of creation rather than corporate companies that see profits and not people.

Psalm

The 118th psalm is not silent concerning God’s goodness.  As the king returns from battle as victor offering prayers of thanksgiving, we recognise its relevance to the Easter message of the resurrection of Jesus.  Recognising that Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is about restoring our relationship with God and with the whole of creation, we too can recognise God’s goodness to us.  What is our response? Like the psalmist, we too can sing a psalm of thanksgiving to God for it would be restoration worth celebrating!

2nd Reading (Rev)

In the book of Revelation, Chapter 1:8, we read “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” This verse reminds us of the God who created us from the beginning, the God who became one of us in Jesus Christ and the God who would return to us.  In affirming God, the Creator of the world, we affirm that God continues to be with us from the beginning and the end. Therefore in this text, there exudes a feeling of triumph and confident hope.  God has done mighty acts for God’s people (v.5b-6). It declares that the present, past and future are God’s in an absolute sense.

Gospel (John)

In this passage, Thomas is now in the presence of Jesus but was absent when Jesus earlier appeared to the other disciples.  He requires proof that the crucified Jesus is alive.  While our situation in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean might be different than in other countries, we must recognise the causes and consequences of climate change too.   The doubts that we have must not lead us to denial.  The proof is all around us. Our water system is changing and we are now purchasing drinking water.  Our land which produced foreign exchange is no longer doing so and we are relying on tourist industry as our main foreign exchange earner.  This is not sustainable for future generations.  This passage leads us to ask: What does this mean to people who do not want to see?  There is also more than ample scientific proof that we cannot ignore. Neither can we sit back and blame North America or Europe for our challenges. Like Thomas, we must be moved to belief that Christ is among us.

Environmental & Sustainability themes / links:

Questions:

  1. Given our Christian belief that creation is a divine gift, what are the implications of understanding that pollution is an assault on the environment?
  2. What message does our passage send to Christians who are hesitant to speak to and engage in indiscriminate dumping, pollution and any other environmental issue?
  3. As a Christian how does your might faith help you to give thanks to God for God’s goodness in the context of a church service focused on the Fifth Mission?

How do any of the three texts help you to understand better our responsibility to protect the environment?

Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)

Questions (Cont’d)

  1. Are there any endangered species in Barbados? If so what contribution are you making to their preservation? In what ways is human greed a threat to the environment?
  2. How can the belief that water is a precious gift of God influence the way we use it?
  3. We are currently experiencing water shortages across the island. What should be our Christian response to our water scarce status? Are there water saving guidelines in your family?

Do you think that climate change is a threat to our food supply?

WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES

Hymns & Songs

(1) Here I am, Lord https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcxOkht8w7c

ArtistJohn Michael Talbot

AlbumTable of Plenty

Released1997 GenreChristian/Gospel

(2)  Breathe:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-0EgzOWkvc:

by Revd Sonia Hinds, Diocese of Barbados

Easter 2019 [by Revd Elizabeth Bussmann]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Is 65:17-end
John 20.11-18

Psalm
118.1-2,14-24
2nd Reading
1 Cor 15. 19-26
+ Acts 10.34-43

Gospel
John 20.1-18
John 20.1-9

by Revd. Elizabeth Bussmann, Environment Officer for the Church of England Diocese in Europe

SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME

Easter is the consummation of the Scriptures which began with the Creation of the World in Genesis and how it was desecrated by Adam and Eve’s disobedience – or more pointedly their wanting to be ‘God’. (A goal that humans still pursue today, even though it is not necessarily explicit. Examples: gene manipulation or the recent ‘success’ of creating a baby from 3 different sources, mother, father and another woman’.)

The Easter message often limited to ‘just’ the salvation of people from their sins – and yet there is SO MUCH more. How we see the Easter message will affect how we act as Christians in all areas of our lives.

Isaiah 65:17-end   Too often we sing and say, that the goal of Christianity is to leave earth behind when we die and go to ‘heaven’.  The early Christians had other priorities. For them Jesus’ resurrection was the launching of God’s new creation HERE on earth, starting to fulfil what Jesus had taught them to pray: that God’s kingdom come ‘on earth as in heaven’. (Matt. 6.10) See Isaiah’s words,promised also in 2.Peter 3.13/Rev.21.1 – the joining together of new heavens and new earth, the resurrection of the body affirmed by Jesus’ physical resurrection – a resurrection that would create new human beings to live in the renewed world.

The resurrection of Jesus is the affirmation of the goodness of creation, and the gift of the Spirit has been given to make us the fully human beings we were supposed to be, in order that we can at last fulfil the mandate given at the beginning – to look after the garden. Gen. 1.27 God made HUMANS in his image, to rule over the earth. In ancient days a ‘king’ represented his gods to his subjects with the belief that the gods reigned over their people through the king’s commands. Humans appointed to reign over God’s creation, to be God’s representative on earth! If we represent a loving God (and are made in his image) our calling is to show kindness and wisdom toward the rest of creation.

Theme of HUMANS as ‘priests and rulers’ throughout the Bible. Worshipping and reigning the twin vocations of the new people in the new city – Rev. 1.5-6;3.21;5.9-10;20.4-6;22.3-5;

Paul writes in his letters that we have to start preparing for full coming of the Kingdom here and now. Loving God with all our MIND. Paul explains that Jesus’ death and resurrection was to bring about our re-humanisation! Becoming what God made us for in the first place. But this doesn’t just happen – the Fruit of the Spirit has to be worked out by each individual ‘denying oneself and taking up one’s cross’ It involves the hard and painful work of changing our mindsets – getting rid of old habits and learning new ones. The mind seems to be automatically tuned to bad thoughts – or have you ever had to struggle to be rude, angry, resentful, jealous etc. etc.!

We cannot ‘earn’ our salvation – that is God’s great gift to us – through his grace. But we are called to work on ourselves to start becoming what we will be when Jesus returns. To be lights to others – being made in the image of God means reflecting God’s loving ways to others.

Summing up: The work of ‘salvation’ in its full sense is 1. About whole human beings, not merely ‘souls’ 2. About the present, not simply the future, and 3. About what God does through us, not merely what  he does in and for us.

DETAILED NOTES

Old Testament reading / Psalm

Isaiah 65.17-end

‘For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth, the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I am creating.’

This was the promise not only in the Old Testament but also in the New. See 2.Peter 3:13; Rev. 21.1

New Testament reading

I Corinthians 15.19-26

‘For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being: for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.’   Interestingly the only title Jesus used for himself was ‘The Son of Man’. Reference to Adam the first Man? Luke in his genealogy of Jesus traces him right back to Adam.  (Adam in Hebrew means dust/ground ‘adamah’ – Adam made from the earth) Jesus title ‘The Son of Man’ and affirmation of our Humanness.

Acts: 10:34-43   ‘He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’

Gospel

John 20:1-18

‘Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.’   Reference to Psalm 16.10

Do we understand it?

Environmental & Sustainability themes / links:

A true understanding of the meaning of Easter will transform all our thinking and connection to Environmental, sustainability and justice themes …

Paul writes in Romans that ‘the whole creation is waiting with eager longing – not just for its own redemption, its liberation from corruption and decay, BUT FOR GOD’S CHILDREN TO BE REVEALED!’ In other words creation is waiting for the unveiling of those redeemed, restored humans THROUGH WHOSE STEWARDSHIP CREATION WILL AT LAST BE BROUGHT BACK INTO THAT WISE ORDER FOR WHICH IT WAS MADE.  This is a clear mandate to all born-again Christians that what Paul writes to the Romans can’t be put off until the ultimate future, it must begin here and now. It is as Tom Wright writes, ‘our mandate for every act of justice and mercy, every program of ecology, every effort to reflect God’s wise stewardly image into his creation.’

Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)

Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus – ‘How the Jewish words of Jesus can change your life” by Lois Tverberg – published in Zondervan

After you believe: ‘Why Christian character matters” by N.T. Wright  in Harper One

Surprised by Hope by Tom Wright   SPCK

Jesus and the Earth by James Jones    SPCK

WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES

Service of the Word

God of glory, by the raising of your Son you have broken the chains of death and hell:
fill your Church with faith and hope;
FOR A NEW DAY HAS DAWNED
and the way to life stands open in our Saviour Jesus Christ. OR

Lord of all life and power who through the resurrection of your Son overcame the old order of sin and death TO MAKE ALL THINGS NEW IN HIM: grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Jesus Christ, may REIGN WITH HIM in glory; to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be praise and honour; glory and might, now and in all eternity.

Sending out

God of Life, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross and by his glorious resurrection have delivered us from the power of our enemy: GRANT US SO TO DIE DAILY TO SIN, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his risen life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

by Elizabeth Bussmann-Morton, Diocese in Europe

Palm Sunday [by Dr Rachele O’Brien and Rebecca Boardman]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Is 50:4-9a
both
Psalm
31:9-16
2nd Reading
Phil 2:5-11
both
Gospel
Lk 23:1-49
Lk 19:28-40
by Revd Dr Rachele (Evie) Vernon O’Brien and Rebecca Boardman, Theological Advisor and Programmes Manager for the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel)

SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME

In Luke’s gospel (23:1-49) we see Jesus on the way to his crucifixion – the most horrible act in the world.

When human beings deliberately set out to destroy someone who had only done good, only shown mercy, only been just. Whom they thought was only a good human being

But whom we believe to be the second person of the Trinity; God manifested in human flesh.

So human beings in their blindness put to death the one whom we believe to be the Eternal Word, who spoke creation into being

Jesus warns the people that the horror of what they are doing now (when the tree is green) is nothing compared to the horror of what is to come (when the tree is dry).

We are now in the dry time.

We were willing to kill the creator.

We are now engaged in killing the creation.

Human beings murdered the Son of God. We were not there physically to take part in this act, but we signify our consent by our taking part in the murder of God’s creation. We consent by our action and our inaction.

We are taking part in the destruction of creation:

  • By putting profit and wealth over our planet.
  • By choosing convenience, single-use items and fast fashion -that generate huge waste amount of waste both in terms of energy to produce and by discarding things before their time- as opposed to truly valuing God’s creation;
  • By extracting minerals, tearing up the landscape and polluting water resources with little mind for local communities or workers;
  • By intensifying agriculture to the detriment of the long-term health and fertility of the land.
  • By the overuse of water depleting aquifers and in places intensifying drought;
  • By continuing to use and demand fossil fuels knowing full well that they are causing unthinking damage due to climate change.

Passion tide is a call to repentance.

Through the gospel reading, we are called to face the horrors done to Jesus; to confess our collusion in them and to demonstrate our turning away by committing to work alongside others in the saving of his creation.

Our commitment must include re-centering our own lives and choosing lifestyles that demonstrate that we understand the true cost of the resources that we use. By living simply. But above all we must also challenge the systems and structures that reinforce ideas that the rich can live ‘cheap’ and ‘easy’ lives at the expense of the rest of creation and their global brothers and sisters. We must demand action from all – from our local community to our national and international policymakers. We must demand justice for this generation and the next.

DETAILED NOTES

Old Testament reading / Psalm

In the context of the Sunday of the Passion, both give testimony to the suffering of God’s servant

Old Testament:

  • The musings of the prophet Isaiah who is trying to make sense of exile. This text deepens our understanding of Jesus’ journey to the cross, highlighting injustice and describing the suffering of the servant at the hands of his enemy. It vividly depicts human willingness to destroy someone who had only done good.

Psalm:

  • Expresses the suffering and pain of the rejection, betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus. The same pain that we continue to cause as we destroy God’s creation
Gospel
  • In Luke’s gospel (23: 1-49) we see Jesus on the way to his crucifixion- the most horrible act in the world.
  • Vs 1-15 establish Jesus as innocent finding “no basis of charge against this man” (4 and 14) and that “he has done nothing to deserve death” (15)
  • Vs 18-25 show that in knowing this the crowd demanded the crucifixion of Jesus shouting “Crucify him! Crucify him!”, thus showing humans deliberately set out to destroy someone who had only done good, only shown mercy, only been just. Whom they thought was only a good human being.
  • Vs 29-29 Jesus says: “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’” We are challenged by the intergenerational injustice of the destruction of God’s creation. We weep for ourselves as we are experiencing the impacts now, but also for future generations who will pay a greater price for our actions and inaction.
  • Vs 31 –we are in a time that is dry. Willing to kill the creator and engaged in killing creation.
Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)

Faith in a Changing Climate – USPG resource: http://www.uspg.org.uk/docstore/175.pdf

UK – State of Nature Report (2016)

www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170206-religion-can-make-us-more-environmentally-friendly-or-not

www.bbc.com/bitesize/guides/zr3c7ty/revision/3

www.treehugger.com/culture/stewardship-over-creation-christianity-the-environment.html

www.equip.org/article/christians-and-the-environment-how-should-christians-think-about-the-environment

Joy in Enough Confession by Green Christian https://joyinenough.org

Our climate is changing, and we are changing it. We confess our carbon footprints, our failure to consider the consequences of our actions, our slowness to react. We are sorry for all the times we knew the right thing to do, but chose convenience.

Your earth is exploited, and we are complicit in its exploitation. Species are lost, soil erodes, fish stocks decline, resources dwindle. We confess that many of us have taken too much, and not considered the needs of future generations.

We have become consumers. We have turned a blind eye to greed. We confess our hunger for more, and our failure to appreciate what we already have. We live in a time of unparalleled luxury, and we are sorry that we have not been more grateful.

The poor are left behind, even in this age of plenty. Human rights are pushed aside for profit. Wealth accumulates for the rich while the poorest still do not have what they need. We confess our apathy to injustice, and our haste in judging others.

This is not who you made us to be. We have not been good caretakers of your garden Earth. We have not loved our neighbours. Forgive us, creator God.

Forgive us. Renew us. Inspire us.

And in your strength, God, we declare:

  • Enough climate change: help us to take responsibility. Give us the wisdom to live appropriately, the urgency to act, and the courage to make changes. Give us the voice to call for change from our leaders, and the perseverance to keep asking.
  • Enough consumerism: give us what we need, God our provider. Then help us to find satisfaction and contentment. Help us to be grateful and generous.
  • Enough inequality: nobody should be left behind. You care for the poor, and we want to follow your example. Make your church a living example of equity and inclusion, and a powerful advocate for justice and sharing.

We thank you for your kindness and your mercy. We look to your promise of restoration, and we move forward. Give us the strength to speak and to act – not out of guilt or duty, for we are forgiven and we are loved. Instead, we speak and act out of joy:

  • joy in the living hope of knowing you
  • joy in serving each other
  • joy in the beauty and diversity of creation, your gift to us
  • joy in your provision and your care – joy in enough

In your name we pray, Amen

Holy Communion

Lord’s Prayer video meditation: https://vimeo.com/228292829

by Revd Dr Rachele (Evie) Vernon O’Brien and Rebecca Boardman, USPG, UK

Fifth Sunday in Lent [by S. C. Dulnuan]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
 Is 43:16-21
both

Psalm
126
2nd Reading
Phil 3:4b-14
= 8-14
Gospel
Jn 12:1-8
Jn 8:1-11
by Sunshine C. Dulnuan, St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary, Philippines

SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME

“Water cannot be owned”, my mother emphasized to me while I was leafing through numerous pictures of my father who used to work as a senior forester in our city. Her statement is a strange concept given our global water situation where some natural sources of water are converted into dams to cater to the growing demand for electricity and water. In the Philippine context, more often than not, the conversion of rivers into dams has met oppositions from indigenous communities who have been sustained by rivers for generations; their very lives and security revolving around their confident reliance to the rivers and the land around them which they perceive as sacred. Village leaders were killed, communities displaced, and sources of livelihood were pillaged; a group of people considered a minority, sacrificed for the nation’s upkeep. Yet in all these depressing events, there is one truth that lingers among the ruined villages that once thrived along the rivers of the earth – water has a sense of sacredness to it. Without water, all will perish. Water carries with it messages of hope, life, and growth.

The prophet Isaiah paints a vivid imagery of God who “gives water in the wilderness, rivers in a desert” (Isaiah 43:20); who gives drink to people so that they may not thirst. Those who have experienced drought or extremely dry seasons could easily relate to this text. And perhaps the experience of the Israelites in Babylon could take us deeper into understanding the text in light of our call to be stewards of God’s creation. Displaced from their homeland and longing for deliverance, Isaiah gave them a message of hope – it is a promise that the people who dwell in the wilderness shall never thirst. The gushing sound of the river will be heard once more. And with that water comes life; people will sing songs of harvest for God will restore the watercourses of Negeb just as the psalmist said, “those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.” (Psalm 126)

Macliing Dulag, the slain pangat or village elder of the Butbut tribe of Kalinga, who fought against the construction of the Chico river dam, presents to us a challenge when he said, “If you destroy life in your search of what you say the good life, we question it.”

Indeed, the waters of the earth and the people who sought to protect them were made to suffer in the name of development. The question then remains: to what extent would we sacrifice life for development?

DETAILED NOTES

Old Testament reading / Psalm

Isaiah 43:6-12

– Written in the context of the Babylonian exile, the prophet Isaiah illustrates God as the deliverer; reminding them of their ancestors’ experience in Egypt where God made “a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters … who brings out chariot and horse”.

– The prophet Isaiah aimed to usher the people into a future of hope in view of the sufferings they endured under Babylonian rule. Isaiah emphasized to them not to consider the “former things” but to look forward to God’s redemption symbolized as water in the wilderness.

– This text shows the solidarity between humans and nature, and exudes the idea of the “divinity” of nature. The power of nature brings life. This is a stark contrast from the materialistic view of nature which reduces nature into mere “things” which can be manipulated and exploited for human purposes.

Psalm 126

This joyful song refers to the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity after 70 years in exile. The song is metaphorical expressed through imageries of a dream, streams in the desert, and abundant harvest.

Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)

Article on Macliing Dulag

WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES

Hymns & Songs

“Lord, your hands have formed this world”, Episcopal Church in the Philippines Hymnal

https://hymnary.org/tune/gayom_ni_higami

by S. C. Dulnuan, St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary