6th Sunday after Trinity [by Sally Shaw]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Hos 1:2-10
Gen 18:20-32
Psalm
85:11-12
2nd Reading
Col 2:6-15
(both)
Gospel
Lk 11:1-13
(both)
by Sally Shaw, A Rocha Australia

SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME

THE INTER-CONNECTEDNESS OF GOD, LAND AND PEOPLE

  • The theme of God’s judgement and mercies that affects both the land and the people, is found throughout the Old Testament. For Hosea the land is not just real estate where the drama of salvation is played out or where Israel receives agricultural blessings – the land is a major participant in the story. Hosea assumes that God, land and people are bound together as an interconnected whole.[1] When anything in the relationship goes wrong it affects God, the people and the land. Disobedience brings God’s judgement on the people as they have disregarded their covenantal relationship with God and instead become self-serving, arrogant and wicked.
  • However, there are glimmers of hope evident in Hosea (1:10-11) that reveal God will be gracious and willing to forgive. There is a similar message in Ps 85 where the people remember God’s past mercies and therefore can realistically pray for God to forgive and restore them again. The land and its good products will bless the people. This is a clear message for Christians today. We must seek God’s forgiveness for our greed, selfishness and destruction of his creation so he will be merciful and restore the land.
  • Paul’s letter to Colossae challenges similar beliefs, as well as the dualistic view of making heavenly things more important than things on earth. These views create false attitudes to God’s creation as well as devaluing Christ’s Lordship over heaven AND earth.
  • Today, gnostic beliefs as well as idols of consumerism continue to subtly influence Christians. These false teachings have come about by misinterpretations of Biblical passages, and tend to view creation as merely a stage on which Christ’s redemptive story takes place. Earth is put on the back stage and therefore considered not important. These idolatrous beliefs and practices have led, and continue to lead, to much suffering in the human and non-human world.
  • We need therefore to pray as the Lord’s Prayer teaches, that Jesus has conquered all evil powers and authorities in our own lives and in our societies. These evil powers are behind the destruction of God’s creation. Luke reminds Christians that we must pray humbly, persistently, with sincerity, and authority.
  • Today’s environmental crisis needs urgent prayer and much persistence. Our prayers must include lament, seeking forgiveness and asking for wisdom in order to bring about restoration to his creation. We must also, as Ps 85 reminds us, to cry out to God for his mercies, so his Kingdom will come … on earth as it is in heaven.

DETAILED NOTES

Old Testament reading / Psalm

Hosea 1:2-10 Human unfaithfulness to God

Hosea 1:2. When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, ‘Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of vilest adultery in departing from the LORD’.

  • The story of Hosea demonstrates the inter-relatedness between God, the land and the people. The Israelites have failed to keep their commitment to God’s covenant and as a result their disobedience not only brings judgement from God but deeply affects the land. The land is not just a vehicle for God’s work, it belongs to God (Hos 9:3) and Hosea depicts this intimate relationship between God, the land (earth) and the people (Israel).
  • Even though the early verses in Hosea speak of God’s judgment and rejection, the last verses (10-11) reveal glimmers of hope that God will be gracious and willing to forgive. This promise of restoration is found in the name Jezreel, whose name initially meant God scatters (v4) referring to God’s judgement on Israel’s kings. In v10 ‘God scatters’ now has a positive interpretation which refers to sowing or planting. Thus, we see glimmers of hope ‘yet’ suggests that the threat of punishment would be for only a limited time, and a period of blessing would follow.[1] Verse 11 (and 2:22-23) speak of the restoration of land, vegetation and people (2:22-23), thus emphasizing God and Israel’s intimate association with the land.
  • The book of Hosea reveals the intimate relationship between God, the land and Israel, as well as employing a widespread biblical picture of God as creator (Ps 139:13; 15; Job 1:21; 38:28-29). In addition, the land is seen as the source of nurture for Israel who are God’s son(s) (Hosea 1:10), as well as being seen as Israel’s mother who conceived them (Hosea 2:1-2, 4-5). As such, God desires offspring who will serve and worship only him. When his children (Israel) are faithful, he blesses them and the land with fertility of offspring and agricultural produce (Hos 2:8). However, when they are unfaithful, the opposite happens (8:7-10). [1]
  • Hosea refers to the land (’erets) as Yahweh/God’s house(hold) (Hos 8:1; 9:15), it is the place where Yahweh, Israel, plants and animals dwell (see Hos. 4:3) but it ultimately belongs to Yahweh (Hos 9:3).[1]

 Psalm 85 God restores the land / harvest

  • This Psalm is a communal prayer for the renewal of God’s mercies to his people at a time when they are once more suffering distress. Many believe vv1-3 refer to the return from exile and that the troubles experienced are those alluded to by Nehemiah and Malachi. Verse 12 suggests that a drought has ravaged the land and may reflect the drought with which the Lord chastened his people in the time of Haggai (see Hag 1:5-11).
  • The people remind God how he showed favour to the land and restored the fortunes of Jacob. They ask God to do this again so that faithfulness will spring forth from the earth.
New Testament reading

Col. 2.6-15 living out Christ’s Lordship over all; (link to 1.15-20)

  • In Colossians, Paul refutes the various hollow and deceptive heresies in the Colossae church. He challenges them by endorsing the belief that Christ was one with the Father when the earth was created, and thus continues to be intimately involved in creation. The disobedience in the church relates in particular to a spirituality that focuses on heavenly things rather than things on this earth. Paul exhorts them by suggesting that these deceptive philosophies and idolatrous relationships are totally inadequate and lack any ability to restrain the old sinful nature (2:23).
  • Paul’s response is to stress the supremacy of Christ; that Christ is the very image of God (1:15), the Creator (1:16); the pre-existent sustainer of all things (1:17); the first to be resurrected (1:18); the fullness of deity in bodily form (1:19;2:9) and the reconciler of ALL things in heaven and on earth (2:8).
Gospel

Luke 11.1-13 (Gospel) teaching on prayer – praying ‘your Kingdom come …on earth’

  • This prayer teaches that God is not separate from the world. Nor is he banished to a remote heaven, removed from earth. He is not simply living up in heaven, instead he is very much involved in this earth.
  • ‘Your Kingdom come … on earth’ does refer to the final establishment of God’s rule over his creation, but here Jesus is emphasizing the centrality of the kingdom in the present age (the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’). In other words ‘come more completely’ until its full and final consummation. Importantly we must not equate the coming of the Christ’s return with environmental destruction.
  • Jesus does not want us to utter these words by rote (as can commonly happen), but instead wants us to practice as illustrated the parable found in verses 5-8. Here Jesus urges a boldness (or persistence) in prayer, not because God will not answer but as if he would not. Verses v9-13 gives us assurance that God does answer prayers.[1]
Stories / illustrations / videos:

Questions:

  • Hosea and Psalm 85 remind us of the clear connection of God, land the people. Does your church exercise this connection in its ministry? Could Chris Wright’s illustration of this interrelatedness with a triangle that places God at the top, land (earth) on one side and Israel (people) on the other side where all are intimately related be a helpful way to help Christians understand this connection?[1]

  • Given that Paul speaks of Christ being the very image of God, the pre-existent sustainer of all things, what implication does this have when we see the environment and non-humans being destroyed by human greed, waste and misuse of the land?
  • While we may despair over so much destruction of God’s earth, what comfort and glimmers of hope can we find in these passages?
  • How do any of the four texts help you to understand better our responsibility to protect the environment?
  • It is popular today to picture the inter-relationships of the environment in terms of a house or oikos, from which we derive the prefix for ecology. Is this a helpful idea?
Environmental & Sustainability themes / links:

Statistics and Facts on how humanity is affecting Planet Earth:

Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)
  • Chris Wright, God’s People in God’s Land: Family Land, and Property in the Hebrew Bible (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990),
  • Craig Bartholomew and Thorsten Moritz, eds., Christian and Consumerism: A Critical analysis of the Spirit of the Age (Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Press, 2000)
  • Nick Spencer and Robert While, Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living (London: SPCK, 2007)

WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES

Gathering & Penitence

Prayer: The Anglican Church in New Zealand and Polynesia

Creator, we disfigure your world.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord have mercy

Redeemer, we reject your redemption and crucify you daily.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord have mercy

Giver of life, we too often choose death.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord have mercy

Response to the Word

Another Voice Janet Morley

Let us name what is evil in our world,
And in the name of Jesus proclaim its defeat.

In a world where the rich are protected
From understanding the lives of the poor
Let us believe the words of Jesus:
I have seen Satan fall

 In a world where the demands of international debt
Are more important than the health of children,
Let us believe the words of Jesus:
I have seen Satan fall.

In a world where unjust laws and practices
Privilege while people over others,
Let us believe the words of Jesus:
I have seen Satan fall.

In a world where the earth and its forests
Are plundered and destroyed,
Let us believe the words of Jesus
I have seen Satan fall.

Hymns & Songs

(1) Here I am, Lord https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcxOkht8w7c
Artist: John Michael Talbot
Album: Table of Plenty
Released: 1997 Genre: Christian/Gospel

(2)  Breathe:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-0EgzOWkvc:
The Lord’s Prayer + Creation Care http://www.sarabytheseason.com/2013/09/22/the-lords-prayer-creation-care/
Sam Hamilton-Poore, A Guide to Prayer for God’s Creation, (Nashville: Upper Room Books, 2008)

by Sally Shaw, Australia

5th Sunday after Trinity [by Revd Elizabeth Bussmann]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Amos 8:1-12
Gen 18:1-10a
Psalm
52
2nd Reading
both
Col 1:15-28
Gospel
both
Lk 10:38-42
by Revd. Elizabeth Bussmann, Environment Officer for the Church of England Diocese in Europe

SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME

AMOS a prophet for our times – especially in the West!

In Colossians 1: 21-23 we read: And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, Christ has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him—-PROVIDED THAT YOU CONTINUE securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.”

760 years before Christ, Amos’ message was also a warning. He saw how peace and prosperity encourage complacency and self-sufficiency, leading people to take God’s abundant generosity and goodness for granted.

Amos had and still has a message for Israel, for all the nations, for the church and for each individual.

Although he prophesies the fall and destruction of Israel, emphasizing that no one will escape what is coming, he also has a message of hope.  The very fall of Israel will be a warning to the whole world for God has promised another Day of the Lord. A Day of the Lord still to come. God also promises that he will ‘raise up the booth of David’. This is a Messianic prophecy. It mentions very simply that God will rebuild the ‘fallen house’, restore the foundations which had been laid long ago. God will not ‘blot out what he had once built, and he will not surrender his claim upon the nations who ‘had been called by his name.’ Destruction is never the end of the story with God. In Amos 9.11-15 God promises hope by restoring a believing remnant of Israel. This remnant, together with believing Gentiles will one day be gathered like wheat to dwell in the Son’s earthly kingdom.

Response: Certainly through prayer but we are also called to be active in our Christian lifestyle. ‘Let justice roll down like a river, righteousness like an ever-flowing stream …’

We may not be directly involved in many of the injustices in society but we are very often involved indirectly. For example: where is our money ‘parked’ or invested. Do we know how ethical our savings are? How ethically our pensions are invested? Where does our food come from? How was it produced? Was it fairly produced? Who was involved?  Animals are often ill-treated to provide us with cheap meat….Just a few examples! Websites such as Avaaz (avaaz@avaaz.org) Christian Concern (www.christianconcern.com) and SumOfUs (www.sumofus.org) are ways in which we can voice our concerns about many injustices.  Last week’s Gospel reading was about the ‘Good Samaritan.’  Can we really sit back and say it is all too complicated, cross the road, avert our eyes and hurry on? Or are we called as followers of Christ, to stop and try to change things one small step at a time? Does what we proclaim with our lips show in our lives?

DETAILED NOTES

Old Testament reading / Psalm

Amos does not appear very often in the Lectionary – it is a very short book! That is why he is one of the so-called ‘Minor’ Prophets – not because they are less important than the others …  Amos listened, probably in ‘stunned silence’ to God’s message that no one would escape from the coming calamity. Israel would once again face the true Yahweh, not the Yahweh of their sanctuaries and pilgrimages but a Yahweh they had neglected who was coming to do new things with his people.  Amos’ mind must have been in a real turmoil as he went about amongst a people who had been condemned to death. But he began to see his environment with new eyes and he became acutely aware of the abuses around him. The charges God brought were pointing distinctly in two directions, contempt of God’s law and religious complacency. Pray that God will open our eyes, too!

New Testament reading

A brilliant summing up of God’s purposes through his Son Jesus Christ. Purposes for the whole of creation. ‘Through him (Christ) God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of the cross.’ But see also the warning against complacency and apathy in verses 21-23!

Gospel

The account of Mary and Martha. Jesus is not saying we shouldn’t bother with the housework, he is making the point that we should get our priorities right and not neglect our relationship with God. In our world it is so easy  to be ‘busy’ all the time and not take enough time to be with God.

Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)

The Hebrew Bible for Beginners – A Jewish and Christian Introduction by Kaminsky and Lohr in Abingdon Press

The Prophecy of Amos – A warning for today by Mathew Bartlett and Derek Williams published by Faithfuilders Publishing  www.biblestudiesonline.org.uk

12 faith journeys of the minor prophets by Nathan Jones and Steve Howell published by Lamb and Lion ministries.

WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES

Gathering & Penitence

New Patterns of Worship – Intercessions ‘For God in Creation’ F49  pg. 193

by Elizabeth Bussmann-Morton, Diocese in Europe (Church of England)

Proper 10 / 4th S. after Tr. [by Artwell Sipinyu]

Proper 10 / 5th Sunday after Pentecost / 4th Sunday after Trinity

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Amos 7:7-17
Dtn 30:10-14
Psalm
82
2nd Reading
Col 1:1-14
Col 1:15-20
Gospel
Lk 10:25-37
(both)
by Artwell Sipinyu, National Coordinator for the Anglican Relief and Development in Zimbabwe (ARDeZ)

SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME

GOD IS WATCHING OVER US AND HE WILL COME TO JUDGE US BY OUR DEEDS.

  • In the book of Amos, God made Amos a prophet to go and tell Israel what was about to come.
  • The prophet of God delivers the message to the people as it is from God but people sometimes choose not to listen.
  • God always fulfil his promise to the people even if the people do listen or not listen to the prophets
  • Whatever God does or say he will do to the earth, he always gives a warning first to his people
  • Amos 7 vs 14 “I was not a prophet by profession, No, I was a headman who also took care of sycamore fig trees”. This was Amos telling Amaziah the priest of Bethel, to show that God can qualify anyone to convey his message to his people
  • In the book of Psalm, David pleads with God to come and execute his judgement to the earth
  • It was after David saw the oppression which was done to the poor and needy. There was unjust rulings against the poor yet the wicked were being rewarded
  • In all our readings we are being reminded that God is watching over us and He will come to judge both the living and the dead.
  • We have to exercise our faith, show love and do what is right for the Lord so that when He comes our ways will be righteous to see the kingdom of heaven
  • No one can stand on the way of God’s sent prophet and thus God will always vindicate those who come against his word

DETAILED NOTES

Old Testament reading / Psalm

JUSTIFY YOUR JUDGEMENT

God is the overseer of all judges. This psalm is designed to make kings wise and to instruct the judges of the earth, to tell them their duty and their faults

David noted that there were unjust legal decisions made against the poor, orphans and yet favouritism was being shown to the wicked. He was the making a plea that there is need to rescue the poor and the needy from the wicked rulers of the earth

There so many times where the poor and the needy are neglected in our today’s life. The fact that they are poor denies fair opportunities and judgement in their lives. Even today’s church has cast a blind eye and a deaf ear to the poor. Thus David pleads with God to rise and execute the fair judgement on earth, for God owns all the nations.

Whatever we do in our daily lives let us know that God is watching and will one day rise to us all. Psalm 82 vs 8

New Testament reading

Paul wrote to the Colossians to affirm them of their faith in Jesus Christ and also to thank them for their love of the saints.

Paul speaks of the levels of their faith that has risen so much and so much hope that they have about the message of truth – that’s the gospel

The word of God had been bearing so much fruit to the Colossians from the first day they heard and understood the Grace of God.

This teaches us that when we hear and understand the word and grace of God, it starts to bear fruits in our lives. This will be our love of God will be more and hence our deeds will show that we are the children of God.

Gospel

Luke 10vs 25 “Teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life”

In this reading we see our Lord Jesus Christ answering the religious law expert’s questions. In his response Jesus redirected the question back to the owner and he made him say what is required of the law. This means that in our everyday life we know what is expected of us by God. However we choose to do the opposite but knowing what is right. You might have the same question like the law expert had, but Jesus is saying do the right thing and live.

The parable of The Good Samaritan illustrated and explained from Luke 10 vs 30-37, teaches us that going to church or being a priest does not make you righteous but doing good, showing love and compassionate to others qualifies you to be a Christian.

by Artwell Sipinyu, Zimbabwe

3rd Sunday after Trinity [by Uwe Hesse]

by Revd Uwe Hesse, Ev Church of Kurhessen-Waldeck, Germany

Luke 10:1-20

The text describes the sending of the disciples, 72 in number (70 according to other witnesses), and sets out the standards of conduct to be followed during missionary journeys. These include not only simplicity and restraint in dealings and in the demands made, but also the need for urgency (the advice „greet nobody on the way“ in v.4, see 2 Kings 4:29, can only be understood that way). The disciples are commissioned to heal the sick and proclaim the closeness of the kingdom of God. A synoptic comparison, also takes into consideration the call to penitence in Mathew‘s Gospel, which he sets out as the basis, not only of John the Baptist‘s proclamation (Matt. 3.2) but also of Jesus Christ himself (Matt. 4.17). These are set out in various central passages. In Matt. 10 and Lk 10.17 there is also reference to the casting out of evil spirits by the Disciples.

The passage, which is at it were, the basis of Christian proclamation and Christian commissioning, speaks for itself about the related issue of sustainability. First, a message is proclaimed, which despite considerable resistance (see the whole book of Acts!) cannot be stopped, but finds its way to the very heart of the former Roman Empire, the city of Rome itself.
The reason for this triumphal procession of the Gospel is despite the heavy losses – due to the inner conviction of the faithful.
In addition, the message is connected to the message of peace, as well as to salvation and healing. At the same time, the text is full of dynamic and intensity. It is fair to say that it shouldn’t be too difficult to discern through this text that, for example, the principles of sustainable economic activity, the commitment to the care of creation, social justice and the protection and assertion of human rights, are the issues on which we are called to bring the light of the Gospel to shine in this age.

All in all, a text which encourages us during frustrating times, when for example an act of commitment is thwarted or where nationally or internationally, setbacks are experienced – such as the drafting of the agenda for the upcoming conference of the UN on sustainable development in Rio in 2020!

Not least, the text portrays the disciples, who were sent out in pairs, happily reporting what they have achieved. Although maybe seemingly only small successes, they were shown that it had been worth all their efforts. A sermon could point to the fact that we all work in the areas suited to our gifts and that many tasks can be mastered and carried out with enthusiasm.

by Uwe Hesse, Germany, translated by Elizabeth Bussmann-Morton

3rd Sunday after Pentecost [by Dr Rachel Mash]

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

SINNING AGAINST THE EARTH?

In 1997, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew stated the following

“To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. For human beings to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests, or by destroying its wetlands; for human beings to injure other human beings with disease by contaminating the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances – all of these are sins.”

In the Galatians passage  5:1, 13-25 there is a list of those issues which we normally consider to be sins:

5:19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,  idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

These are  mostly individual sins and the Church has tended to focus very much on one or two of them such as sexual immorality or drunkenness. And yet the passage goes on to say:

5:14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

God has given us certain commands, how can we say we are loving our neighbour if we are destroying the web of life on which our neighbour depends for life? When our lifestyles are causing misery for the poorest of the poor in terms of flooding, drought and soaring food prices?

The Law of God includes some basic teachings:

The creation of the world by the loving Creator (Genesis 1.26), Genesis 2.15 (we are commissioned  to serve and preserve creation), Genesis 9.8-17 ( the covenant between God and the world), and Ezekiel 34.18-19 (abuse of creation and injustice to our neighbour), as well as the Lord’s Beatitudes (Matthew 5.2-12) and Mark 16:15 (the Great Commission – preach good news to the whole of creation)

So therefore if we break the law of God, by not caring for creation and by not loving our neighbour, we are sinning.  Our neighbour is not just the person who lives downstream of our waste and carbon emissions, “our neighbour” also refers to  the generations to come.

And yet, it is not only the command to  “love our neighbour” that we are breaking. A powerful quote from Gus Speth, former Environmental  Advisor to President Bill Clinton said the following

“I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”

Selfishness, greed and apathy – these are all ‘individual sins”. Climate Change is a symptom of the  underlying cause which is greed and inequality. Our access to cheap consumer goods comes from abuse of the environment and abuse of workers. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer.  Authentic Christianity has always been deeply suspicious of materialistic views of prosperity – “ you cannot worship God and Mammon”, and yet over the centuries we have rationalised this saying away.  We need to move from a vision of development as ever increasing industrial growth, to a vision of  life and community sustaining civilization.

Biblical archaeology studies looking at the ruins of ancient Israel reveal that during the period when houses were more or less the same size, the prophets  grew silent. At other periods when huge houses stood next to tiny dwellings,  the voice of the prophets rose  and they thundered for justice.

A sense of sinfulness , of lament can lead to repentance and change.

We live in a global community , where our selfish actions impact on those most vulnerable.  In the words of Bono: “I think that God is on His knees to us, to the Church, waiting for us to turn around this supertanker of indifference. Waiting for us to recognize that distance can no longer decide who is our neighbor. We can’t choose our neighbors any more.”

by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, Southern Africa

2nd Sunday after Pentecost [by Carolin Springer]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
1 Kings 19:1-15
Sach 12, 10-11; 13, 1
Psalm
AL
2nd Reading
Gal 3:23-29
(both)
Gospel
Luke 8:26-39
Luke 9:18-24
by Carolin Springer, Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg, Germany
Zech 12: 10-11; 13, 1

In our passage God promises that he will stand by his people and also Jerusalem. He will send his spirit over the inhabitants and the house of David and will let a fountain of cleansing flow over them. They will be empowered for compassion and supplication. This image holds my attention. What does it mean that we will be empowered for compassion and supplication? What does it mean that we will look upon him whom they have pierced, that when we look we will be moved by this?

Dorothee Sölle describes in her autobiography “Against the Wind” how she met Dorothy Day in a soup kitchen in Manhattan: “Dorothy Day, a distinguished, humorous, and reflected journalist, lived in a state of being without property, serving those who had been abandoned by society and who in most cases had also abandoned themselves. The other focus of her life was radical pacifism.”

Deeply moved by Day, Sölle writes how important it is to not grow weary of prayer for the gift of tears: “Like every person who is hungry and thirsty for justice and peace, Dorothy Day also falls into phases of absolute exhaustion, grieving, and pain (…) In these times, it was told to me that she would retire and cry. Cry for hours and days. No conversation, no food, just sitting there and crying. She did not retreat from her active life fighting for the poor, and also did not stop seeing war and preparation for war as a crime towards the most poor. But sometimes she cried bitterly for prolonged periods of time. When I heard this, I understood better what pacifism is; what God means in the middle of defeat; how the Spirit comforts and leads us to truth, whereas one does not cancel out the other and comfort cannot be bought by avoiding the truth. (…) When we learn to share pain and joy with others, then our everyday life will be healed: wishes and desires are illuminated.” (from: Dorothee Sölle, Gegenwind – Erinnerungen, München 2003, p. 164-166)

Compassion, praying with tears, letting ourselves be moved by the affliction of creation- this itself can be a cleansing activity. It is an important step in changing one’s self, our own interaction with nature, with animals and people. When we are moved, then the decision to no longer accept the suffering of creation grows. We receive power to scream for the silent and participate in the building of God’s kingdom.

Helpful questions for the sermon could be: What today causes tears in my eyes? What do I purposefully want to approach with my fellow congregation – or even where something has already caused us pain?  As Christians we are asked: if God’s creation is suffering, we are not allowed to look away. In order to sustainably preserve God’s creation, we need God’s gift of compassion and supplication, just as we need courage, strength, and decisiveness.

Gal 3:23-29

The Magna Carta of Christian freedom – a common way to refer to the Epistle to the Galatians. In his epistle, Paul argues for an aggressive missions concept. Through baptism the community has been opened for gentiles. In our text it is made even more clear: through baptism we have put on Christ and therefore are a unity.

Christians back then attempted to live this out. All should have the same rights, all were involved in the life of the congregation, whether slave or lord, Jew or Greek, rich or poor, man or woman.
This idea of lived-out siblinghood was attractive and the church was able to enjoy continual growth. The churches were a place of freedom and stood in stark contrast to that which one normally experienced in society: significant differences between those of different backgrounds, nationalities, religions, and sex.

In the 21st century we live in a globalized world and experience in many places growing challenges. There is a difference between those who live in peace with a place to work and access to health and consumer services and those who are unemployed and destitute and in many places have to live in war-torn regions.

We experience violence between natives and foreigners, towards children and women, we experience racism and anti-semitism, we experience unequal opportunity and discrimination based on skin color, sex, religion, and nationality.

The pauline Magna Carta of Christian freedom must be lived out just as much today in order to create sustainable peace and justice between human beings.

Paul makes clear, what unites us is baptism. It is like a garment which unites all those under it. When God’s spiritual power begins to work then differences become meaningless. With this we also surely have the strength to look beyond our own horizon and take note of the needs of our siblings worldwide.

Are we able to make sure the Magna Carta of christian freedom is not only a document but rather a lived out faith?

Luke 9:18-24

Who am I? – Jesus asks. How would we answer this question today? He was an extraordinary person? God’s anointed one? The first thesis of the Barmen Declaration proclaims: “Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.” – or with other words – he was and is the role-model as savior, Son of God, and the living Word. It is not an easy task to follow this role model. Can we take up our cross? It is often already difficult enough to follow the footsteps of another human, such as the footsteps of our parents. Not even to mention the footsteps of Mother Teresa or Dietrich Bonhoeffer. But in the footsteps of Christ? Aren’t they a few sizes too big for us?

Maybe we have to ask this differently: what are role-models for? To put it roughly: they help us to orient our own actions and thought after theirs. Especially for young people, they are influential figures. Good role-models represent the values of charity, tolerance, and moral courage which are absolutely necessary for a self-determined life and the social cohesion of a society. They give us orientation to survive the trends, the current zeitgeist, and some historical turning points – just like parents and grandparents who can also be role-models for a whole lifetime. Such role-models help us to find our way. They help us to be ourselves and continually reflect on our actions and our thoughts. They exemplify how to work with others to accomplish goals. God’s anointed, our savior, did this with all consistency, and entrusts his followers to imitate him in doing the same. To provide orientation and values to together make the world a better place.

What do we want to leave to the following generation? How can we act as role-models in shaping the world? Is it even possible to live sustainably without acting as a role-model? Don’t I need to in following Christ always consider the consequences of my lifestyle? If someone asks us: who are you? How do we answer? A cyclist, a car-lover, a vegan, or a meat-eater? Someone who loves strawberries even in December or who intentionally buys from an organic farmer? A throw-awayer or upcycler?

What will the following generations say about us?

by Carolin Springer, Germany (translated by Dr. Jared Wensyel)

1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a

Elijah is accused, threatened, and doesn’t want to continue; an angel brings him food in the desert; natural forces on the mountain of Horeb (‘and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.’) … Help him and yourself: Find your own links from Elijah to Creation care and sustainability!

Trinity [by Revd Margaret Bullitt-Jonas]

Holy Trinity: Joining the dance

by Revd Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Missioner for Creation Care for both the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts and Mass. Conference, United Church of Christ

As I wrote today’s sermon, I had to do some wrestling. How in the world does Trinity Sunday, which we celebrate today, connect with climate change? How does understanding God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit help to inform and inspire our struggle to stabilize the climate and to pass on to our children and our children’s children a sustainable, just, and habitable world?

That is not an idle question, for the news from climate scientists in the last few months has been increasingly grim. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group, shows, in the words of one reporter, that “climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans… and [that] the problem [is] likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control…[I]ce caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct. The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants…”

The environmentalist Bill McKibben has commented that it’s as if we were running Genesis backwards.

Given the perilous situation in which human beings and all other living creatures now find ourselves, what can we learn from the doctrine of the Trinity? What gift of hope can we receive as we consider the God we meet as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

A quick word about history: probably no doctrine of the Church developed with more contentiousness and controversy than the doctrine of the Trinity. After the life and death of Jesus Christ, generation by generation Christians searched the Scriptures and found hints and clues that suggested how to think about the nature of God. They pondered passages such as the ones we heard this morning. At the end of Second Corinthians, Paul blesses his community by invoking “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor. 13:13), and at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus commissions his disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18). From these biblical hints and clues, from their ongoing lives of prayer, and from their forays into Greek philosophy, in the 4th century the teachers and scholars of the Church began to hammer out the doctrine of the Trinity. It took many acrimonious arguments to work out the phrasing of the Nicene Creed, and it took decades for that Creed to be accepted across the Church. In fact, one of the causes of the Great Schism between East and West was whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father or whether it proceeds from the Father and the Son – the so-called “filioque” debate, to use the Latin word. That is how much it mattered to the Church that we get it right when we think about the Trinity – a one-thousand-year-old Church split over who proceeds from whom!

I am grateful that our Christian forebears thought so rigorously about the nature of God, and that they gave us an intellectual framework for speaking about the divine. It matters how we think about God. But no matter how subtle, even brilliant, our analysis, there are limits to what the intellect can do. God is not an object – even a very big object – that we can separate from other objects and then analyze, dissect, and probe, as we might study a star in the sky or a specimen in a lab. God is not an object at all, but a mysterious Presence that abides within and beyond all things; not another being among many beings, but the very Ground of all being; not a monolithic, omnipotent Man in the Sky but a dynamic communion of self-giving love. We can’t know the Trinity from the outside, by thinking about it, but only from the inside, by experiencing it. As St. Augustine put it long ago, “We come to God by love, not by navigation.” And he describes the Trinity very simply as the Lover, the Beloved, and the love that flows between.

Step into that flow of love, and we are caught up in a love affair that has been going on since before time began. The divine Mystery that we call “God” is an ongoing exchange of love between God the Father – the Lover, the Creator – and God the Son, the Beloved. Flowing between them is the never-ending, tender love of the Holy Spirit. God is one, and yet God is also three, a dynamic relationship, a giving and receiving of love. When the early Councils of the Church debated the nature of God, they came up with a wonderful image of the Trinity as a dance. The word in Greek is perichoresis and it means a “dance-around” of love. Imagine that! At the center of reality, a dance of love is in full swing!

Jesus came to invite us to join the dance. He was completely caught up in a love affair with God, his beloved abba, which is the Aramaic word for Father, and through the Holy Spirit, our counselor and comforter and the guide who leads us into all truth, we, too, are drawn into the flow of love between God the Father/Mother and God the Son. Our baptism in the name of the Triune God signals the fact that God is not just “out there,” but also “in here,” and that from the very beginning, God has made a home in us.

At its most basic level, that’s what it means to be a Christian: someone who, through the power of the Spirit, connects with and trusts in the ever-flowing love of God that is circulating everywhere. Someone who bears witness in very tangible ways – even in the face of suffering and death – to the ongoing love, power and presence of God that fills the whole creation. Someone who knows, as we heard in the creation story from Genesis, that we are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26), who is a dance-around of love – which is why, when we give and receive love, we feel most joyful and alive, and most truly and fully ourselves. The so-called “dominion” that God gives to human beings in the Genesis story is permission not to dominate or exploit the other creatures of the earth, but rather to love as God loves, to exercise a dominion of love that protects the wellbeing and integrity of God’s creation.

So in the face of the climate crisis, we Christians have a chance to show who we really are: people whose very nature and truest identity is to love as God loves; people who are willing to face squarely the most challenging, even devastating facts; people who can reach into our reserves of courage, faith, and hope and can step out to bear witness to the God who entrusted the world to our care.

There is so much that we can do. We can recycle more, drive less, and be sparing in our use of water. Maybe we can eat local, organic foods and support our local farms and land trusts. We can install insulation and cut back on AC. As individuals we can and should do everything we can to reduce our use of fossil fuels, but the scope and speed of the climate crisis require action on a much broader scale, too. We need to join with other people and make it politically possible to do what is scientifically necessary. We need to push our political leaders to get this country and other countries on track to bring down the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, the uppermost level that many scientists say is safe for life as we know it to continue on this planet. So we have work to do. And the dance of love that is circulating within us will empower us to do this work.

On this Trinity Sunday we celebrate the living God who is beyond us, and among us, and within us, the God in whose image we are made, the God who meets us in every Eucharist and who sends us out to make love tangible and visible in the world. “Go,” the Risen Christ says to his disciples in today’s Gospel reading from Matthew. Don’t hang around and worship me. Go. Take part in my mission of mercy, justice, and compassion. Step into the dance and invite everyone else to join in, too. And, whatever comes, “remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

by Revd Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Massachusetts, USA

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)

 

Pentecost: Do you have some thoughts …?

Do you have some thoughts about Pentecost and Creation Care? We could publish them here … Of course we need the Holy Spirit for good ideas and the power to heal God’s world from not sustainable lifestyles – not only as individuals but also as Christian Churches.

by Rachel Mash: Become courageous!

by Dave Bookless: Earth, Wind and Fire …

by Jaiye Edu: According to the lectionary … (Gen 11:1-9, Acts 2:1-21, John 14:8-17-27)

 

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