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
2nd Reading
Rev 21:10,22-22:5
John 14:23-29
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), translated by Anja Huebel

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

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Acts 9:36-43
Acts 13:14,43b-52
2nd Reading
Rev 7:9-17
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.”

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,, 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
2nd Reading
Rev 5:11-14
John 21:1-19
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
2nd Reading
Rev 1:4-8
Rev 1:9-19
John 20:19-31
by Sonia Hinds, Rector of St. Leonard’s Anglican Church in the Diocese of Barbados


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.


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.


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:


  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?


Hymns & Songs

(1) Here I am, Lord

ArtistJohn Michael Talbot

AlbumTable of Plenty

Released1997 GenreChristian/Gospel

(2)  Breathe:

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

2nd Reading
1 Cor 15. 19-26
+ Acts 10.34-43

John 20.1-18
John 20.1-9

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


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.


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.’


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


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;
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
2nd Reading
Phil 2:5-11
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)


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.


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.


  • 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
  • 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:

UK – State of Nature Report (2016)

Joy in Enough Confession by Green Christian

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:

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

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


“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?


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


Hymns & Songs

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

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

Fourth Sunday in Lent / Mothering Sunday [by Revd Elizabeth Bussmann]


Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Jos 5, 9-12
2nd Reading
2 Cor 5, 16-21
Lk 15, 1-3.11-32
If celebrated as Mothering Sunday (Church of England):
1st reading: Exodus 2.1-10 or 1 Samuel 1.20-28 / Psalm 34.11-20 or Psalm 127.1-4 / 2nd reading: 2 Corinthians 1.3-7 or Colossians 3.12-17 / gospel: Luke 2.33-35 or John 19.25-27
Notes to 4th Sunday in Lent: reconciliation, the day’s phrase of the day, and righteousness … (2 Cor 5); take that and you’ll find all those who have been lost. (Lk 15)
by Revd. Elizabeth Bussmann, Environment Officer for the Church of England Diocese in Europe


Julian of Norwich (14th C) wrote that Mothering Sunday is a good day to recognise that although we are distinguished by our gender, God is not. Instead God is both mother and father to us.

It is important to remember that God is Spirit but that he chooses to manifest his nature in ways we, as human beings, can relate to: i.e. male and female attributes.

In the Old Testament there many references to the way God acts in what we would consider ‘motherly ways.’  e.g. Isaiah 66.13;  Hosea 11:3-4 ; Deuteronomy 32:18

Although God is ‘non-biological’, Jesus incarnate takes on biological maleness as the Son of God and incorporates the different attributes of God in his earthly life.

God ‘created’ or ‘gave birth’ to all living things. Though there are many different species with different habitats and characteristics, all share one commonality, they all receive life from their ‘mother’. This is God’s will for life to exist. (Deut. 32.18/Isaiah 42.14) see also further reading (below)

The Bible doesn’t give God the title ‘our Mother’ but in dozens of places the Bible uses feminine language for God. These are imagery or figures of speech: similes, analogies, metaphors and personification. See also Matthew 23:37 and Thess. 2:7


The danger of calling the planet: ‘Mother Earth’.

Dominique Browning reflects on the dangers of calling the planet ‘Mother Earth’        . She writes that if we ascribe human features to our planet, we run the risk of lulling ourselves into thinking that those marvellous ecosystems that have sustained us for so many centuries will magically right themselves. That ‘Mother Earth’ will take the abuse we inflict and adjust herself for our sakes. Sometimes the earth can adapt but there are limits and we prefer to block out the difficult truth that our planet could become inhospitable to human life. Dominique Browning (see further reading 8)


As Christians we are called to respond to the above as acting like true followers of Jesus Christ. In discipleship we are called to become more and more like Jesus – who modelled his Father  – with all the mothering and fathering attributes. We are the Church – the living Body of Christ, collectively and individually, called to live as Jesus did.

The great Commandment: Matthew 22:36-40 NIV

See below further reading: 3

Back to our roots: ‘Love’ in Hebrew thinking Ahava-act of giving rather than receiving is fundamental to loving, love is not something that simply happens to us but something that we create through our actions when we give of ourselves to others. (see Luke 6.38) i.e. In the Hebrew, love is directly connected with action and obedience.


God’s call requires a response that is practical and revealed in the way we live out our lives.

How can I live out the mothering qualities described in the Bible, in my family, at work, in the wider world…… what changes in my actions and thoughts does it require? Keeping in mind the
interconnectedness of things – for example what we choose to buy or where we invest our money, can have implications for others on the other side of the world … (See further reading 1 & 3   N.T. Wright)


Old Testament reading / Psalm

Both Old Testament readings are about Mothers / motherly qualities 

Exodus 2.1-10  A Levite woman who bore a son but had to hide him due to the political problems of the times. She hid him in a papyrus basket on the river. Another woman found him (Pharaoh’s daughter) and raised him as her own.   1 Samuel 1.20-end  Different circumstances but also a woman in distress. Hannah had long wished for a child. In those days not to have children brought shame.  One day she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, whom she named Samuel which means ‘heard of God’. So grateful was she to God for this gift that once he was older she ‘gave him back’ to God to serve in the Temple    Sacrifice brought by both mothers…

Exodus reading not just about Moses’ mother – it is about mothering – the qualities that make up maternal love. Moses blessed with the love of three motherly women: birth mother, brave sister and warm-hearted Egyptian princess. They saved his life literally – enabling him to become the saviour of his people. Birth mother – great courage and wisdom, Sister passionately concerned for her little brother’s survival. Princess- compassion  – gave him a home and education.  All showed maternal feelings (protection, care, nurture, compassion, selflessness).

Psalm 127 contains a warning:  unless the Church is built on Christ, belief in Jesus and the atonement of his blood and follows all the Word of God, it is not of Christ and when the Lord comes he will say,
‘Depart from me for I never knew you….’

New Testament reading

Colossians 3:12-17 – the qualities listed here are all ones needed to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in WORD AND ACTION.  Invitation to action – practical living out of the Gospel

Especially powerful when we recall Jesus’ words in Mark 8:34-37

‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it and those who lose their life for my sake, and the sake of the gospel will save it…. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?’


Luke 2. 33-35   Simeon blesses Joseph, Mary and Jesus in the Temple. A sword will pierce your own soul too…….. sacrifice

John 19: 25b-27    Jesus on the cross gives Mary, his mother to John to be his mother and John to his mother to be his son…..

The Gospel readings show that motherly qualities also include suffering – the giving up of self and willingness to step out in faith.

Environmental & Sustainability themes / links:

UN Sustainable Development Goals:

A Rocha: Eco Church resources

Green Christian resources

Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)
  1. Surprised by Hope – N.T. Wright
  2. Jesus and the Earth – James Jones Bishop of Liverpool ISBN:978-0-281-05623-1 SPCK
  3. Talking to Tom Wright – Jesus Fellowship Part 1 & 2
  4. Knowing God by J.I. Packer
  5. The Mothers’ Union have produced a wide-ranging selection of collects, prayers and litanies for use on Mothering Sunday in 2019, exploring the theme: Nurturing Hope in a Hurting World
  6. ‘L’ is for ‘Lifestyle: Ruth Valerio
  7. Just Living: Faith and Community in an Age of Consumerism: Ruth Valerio https:/>Religion>Christian Life>Social Issues
  8. Dominique Browning –


Gathering & Penitence

Loving God – we come before you today aware of how you call us to be like you – remembering that you made us in your own image – that you entrusted to us this world and all that is in it- that you gave to us brothers and sisters – mothers and fathers people to love and to enjoy and to work for and pray for. Help us dear God to remember our own sin before you and how you forgive it – help us to remember the Cross of Christ – and why he died upon it. And make us messengers of your reconciling love, ambassadors for your kingdom, people who show forth your grace, and celebrate with your joy. Amen

Confession      Let us call to mind our sin, our failure to value the love of others and our failure to love as Christ has loved us.

Silence for reflection

Your love gives us life from the moment of conception
We fail to live as your children

Lord have mercy, Lord, have mercy

You call us to do good.
We seek our own good.

Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy

You hear us when we cry for help.
We ignore the cries of others.

Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy

May the Father of all mercies, cleanse us from our sins and restore in us his image to  the praise and glory of his name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

As children of a loving God who always listens to our cries, let us pray to our Father:

After each section this response may be used:  God of love   All hear our prayer

Loving God, you have given us the right to be called children of God. Help us to show your love in our homes that they may be places of love, security and truth.

Loving God, Jesus, your Son, was born into the family of the Church. We pray that all may find in her their true home; that the lonely, the marginalized, the rejected may be welcomed and loved in the name of Jesus.

Response to the Word

Loving God, as a mother feeds her children at the breast you feed us in this sacrament with the food and drink of eternal life; help us who have tasted your goodness to grow in grace within the household of faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you;
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.

Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness;
through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.

Your warmth gives life to the dead,
your touch makes sinners righteous.

Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us;
in your love and tenderness remake us.

In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness,
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us

Anselm (1109)

Holy Communion

Along with the bread and wine, the gifts for the ‘mothers/carers’ could be brought up and blessed.

Sending out


May the Lord who brought us to birth by his Spirit,
strengthen us for the Christian life.

May the Lord who provides for all our needs
sustain us day by day.

May the Lord whose steadfast love is constant as a mother’s care,
send us out to live and work for others.

And the blessing of God Almighty.
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be with you and remain with you always. Amen.

May God who gave birth to all creation, bless us.
May God who became incarnate by an earthly mother, bless us.
May God who broods as a mother over her children, bless us.
May almighty God bless us, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

Hymns & Songs

Let there be love (sung x2) MP411    Words and Music David Bilbrough   Words and music©1979 Kingsway’s Thankyou music (Anglican Hymns Old and New; Complete Mission Praise; Church Hymnal 5th Edition; Church Family Worship)

Let love be real      Michael Forster ©Kevin Mayhew Ltd., (Publishers) Buxhall, Stowmarket Tune H&P238 Londonderry Air (Singing the Faith; Complete Anglican Hymns Old and New)

Will you come and follow me      John I Bell. (born 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958) Copyright 1987 WGRG, Iona Community  (Anglican Hymns Old and New; Common Praise; and many others!)

Children’s / All Age ideas

It is traditional in many churches for the children to give posies of flowers to all ladies’ present.

How about planted bulbs or seeds, with instructions on how to care for them? Warning: this may need to be sensitively suggested and explained as flowers are thought to be ‘prettier’! How about decorating the pots with the children beforehand and adding a card containing the instructions? The bulbs or seeds need to be ones which are easy to tend and care for!

Loving God, who is both our father and our mother,
we thank you for all the love we have known in our homes, among our friends, with God’s people. Bless these (flowers, bulbs or seeds) and, as we share them, may they remind us to be people of thanks, people of love, and people of joy in Jesus; name.  Amen

Action Blessing:
May God who made the whole earth, bless us (make huge circle with arms)
May God who draws us all together, bless us (make hug across body)
May God who loves each one of us, bless us (place hand on heart)
And the blessing of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, be with you, and all whom you love, this day and always. Amen.

by Elizabeth Bussmann-Morton, Diocese in Europe

Third Sunday in Lent [by Rev. Dave Bookless]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Isaiah 55:1-9
Ex 3:1-8a,13-15
2nd Reading
1 Cor 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9
by Rev. Dave Bookless PhD, Director of Theology with A Rocha International


Taking these lectionary readings in context, their message for sustainability is not straightforward or simplistic but concerns our underlying attitudes and values, and how these are reflected in how we live as God’s people in God’s creation. The unifying theme we are taking is that of:


Text: Luke 13.5 ‘Unless you repent, you too will all perish.’ Jesus’ words are deeply uncomfortable for those of us who want to hear words of comfort or reassurance, but perhaps we need to hear them.

  • As we look at God’s creation, which he declared ‘all very good’ in Genesis 1.31, we see human sin and selfishness in the multiple ecological crises we face: climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, waste, pollution etc. (see later for examples and include some from your own context).
  • The word for ‘repent’ is ‘metanoia’, not just feeling sorry but a complete change of heart and mind leading to a change of behaviour. God is calling us to ‘metanoia’ concerning our failure to keep the first command in Scripture – to reflect God’s character in looking after God’s world (Genesis 1.26-28)
  • In each of our readings, the hearers are challenged to accept God’s invitation to metanoia – to repent and be transformed. In Isaiah 55, God’s people in exile had become too comfortable in Babylon and resisted the risky adventure of returning to Jerusalem. Like many today, they’d become addicted to working for does not satisfy (v.2), trying to fill their spiritual void with more and more things and money. In Corinth, the pursuit of pleasure and idols were drawing Christians back from their commitment to Christ, and Paul challenges them to ‘stand firm’ and rely on Jesus to resist temptation (1 Corinthians 10.12-13). In our Gospel, Jesus gives one last chance to a fig tree to be fruitful (Luke 13.6-9) – perhaps something we can apply as we hear scientists’ predictions of only a few years in which we need to change our behaviour to avoid complete climate meltdown.
  • Metanoia – being transformed in order to become an agent of God’s transformation – is a process with several steps to it as we ALTER our attitudes and behaviour:
    1. Admitting we are part of the problem – recognising our contribution to nature’s destruction.
    2. Lamenting and repenting of the mess we make of God’s creation (Romans 8.22 creation’s groaning)
    3. Turning to Christ ‘in whom all things hold together’ (Colossians 1.17) for forgiveness and to receive his refreshing and transforming Spirit (Isaiah 55.1)
    4. Examining our lifestyle, attitudes and behaviour to see where changes need to be made.
    5. Reforming / renewing our lifestyles as individuals, churches and nations to live more sustainably, and to bear good fruit (Luke 13.9) in enabling God’s creation to flourish and all people to thrive.


Old Testament reading / Psalm
  • Isaiah 55 is the climax to chapters 40-55, known as Deutero-Isaiah, probably written to Israel in exile in Babylon. The context is of people who were comfortable and settled in exile, yet God is now challenging them to give up false securities and enter into his risky promise of the great banquet.
  • The passage can be used to avoid environmental concerns, by claiming spiritual things are more important than material ones (v.2 ‘why … labour for what does not satisfy?’; also vs. 6, 9). However, the Hebrew worldview did not make this separation, and saw creation both as infused with God’s character. So, water / wine / milk / bread (vs.1-2) are good things, and God’s blessing is shown in rain, snow and growing plants (v.10) and in creation singing God’s praise as it thrives (vs.12-13).
  • 2 ‘What does not satisfy’ is putting our faith in material things as an end in themselves, forgetting they belong to God and we are dependent on God. A lesson for today’s consumerist cultures!
  • 8-9 ‘The heavens are higher than the earth’: both heavens and earth are part of God’s creation, but since sin entered the world, the heavens are separate as God’s home. In the new creation, the heavens and earth will be re-united when God will dwell among us (Revelation 21.3).
New Testament reading
  • 1 Corinthians 10.1-13 draws parallels between the temptations that faced Israel in the wilderness and those facing the young church in Corinth, surrounded by pagan religions that encouraged idolatry and sexual excess. The key message is to ‘stand firm’ (v.12) knowing God is with us and won’t let us be tempted beyond what we can endure (v.13).
  • What are today’s temptations in a world where the idols of consumerism, hedonism and economic growth are all-powerful? How have our churches compromised the Gospel by ignoring Christ’s radical teaching on serving either God or money (Matthew 6.24)? How can we stand firm against the tide to conform in our lifestyles: our attitudes to money, possessions and waste?
  • Luke 13.1-9 contains two short passages concerning the need to repent and produce good fruit. The heading in some Bibles, ‘Repent or Perish’, shows what a stark choice the Gospel provides.
  • The story of the tragedy of the Tower of Siloam is only found in Luke. It touches on theodicy: why does a good God allow innocent suffering? Jesus is clear God doesn’t send tragedies to punish people but that we should learn from them. Suffering in nature – disease, disasters – have always been there but are increasing in a world of Climate Chaos, hitting the poor and defenceless hardest.
  • Our response should be ‘metanoia’ (vs.3,5) which is more than repentance. It is a complete change of mind and attitude leading to transformed behaviour.
  • Like the fig tree (6-9) our ‘metanoia’ should result in good fruit. We can apply this not only spiritually but ecologically to our lifestyles, our churches. What is good fruit in a situation of ecological chaos?
Stories / illustrations / videos:

We need to look out for and avoid becoming, “The Genetically Modified church, where the DNA of our societies has been patched in such that the Gospel we preach is no longer biblical.” Peter Harris, President & Founder of A Rocha (

Environmental & Sustainability themes / links:

Statistics and Facts on how humanity is affecting Planet Earth:

  • 60% of wildlife populations have disappeared since 1970 (WWF Living Planet Report, 2018)
  • 6 billion people live with potential water scarcity (Swiss Sustainability Management School)
  • More plastic than fish in the oceans by weight, by 2050 (Ellen Macarthur Foundation)
  • We are currently on track for 3°C global warming by 2100 with catastrophic results (IPCC)
  • In 2017 we lost 1 soccer pitch of forest every second (Global Forest Watch)
  • Globally we produce 1.3 billion tonnes of waste per year, rising to 2.2 billion by 2025 (Global Waste Management Conference 2017)
Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)


Gathering & Penitence

Giver of Life, in the midst of a plundered earth, we groan with creation
Have mercy on us
Giver of Life, In the midst of poisoned water, we groan with creation
Have mercy on us
Giver of Life, in the midst of polluted air, we groan with creation
Have mercy on us
Giver of Life, in the midst of mountains of waste, we groan with creation
Have mercy on us
Giver of Life, in the midst of a world of war, we groan with creation
Have mercy on us
Giver of Life, we who are made in God’s image have gone astray and creation groans with us
Have mercy on us

From Worshipping Ecumenically, WCC Publications.  From the ECEN website

Response to the Word
  • If suitable, the intercessions could consist of various people bringing forward symbols of our broken relationship with creation, placing these before the altar / holy table, and returning to God that which is his by creation for renewal and transformation. Items will vary in different contexts but might include: plastic-wrapped fruit & vegetables; mobile phones; car keys; battery-operated toys; weedkiller; TV or A/C remote control; tinned fish; energy bills
  • A response could include David’s words in 1 Chronicles 29.14 ‘Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.’
Holy Communion

Blessed are you, Creator God, for you spoke and all things came into being, light and dark, land and seas, beasts and birds and creeping things. Fruit trees and grain and flowers of the field.

To you be glory and praise for ever.

Blessed are you, Sustaining God, for you cause the earth to bring forth its harvests,
You provide for all your creatures, and give us gifts to cultivate and cook good food,
Meeting our needs and gladdening our hearts.

To you be glory and praise for ever.

Blessed are you, Promise-keeping God, though we turn against you, you continue to provide. When your people were in slavery, you set them free, and fed them in the wilderness with bread from heaven. You led them to a land flowing with milk and honey and taught them to live with you in the land of promise.

To you be glory and praise for ever.

Blessed are you, Redeeming God, for you have sent your Son, our living bread from heaven, to walk this earth and live our life; to sit and eat with sinners, To die for us upon the cross; bread broken, wine poured out, To rise again and lead us to the banquet where all our hungers are satisfied,

To you be glory and praise for ever.

Therefore, with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven,
we proclaim your great and glorious name, for ever praising you and saying:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,

heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Accept our praises, heavenly Father, through your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ,  and as we follow his example and obey his command, grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit these gifts of bread and wine may be to us his body and his blood; Who, in the same night that he was betrayed, took bread and gave you thanks; he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.

To you be glory and praise for ever.

In the same way, after supper he took the cup and gave you thanks; he gave it to them, saying: Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.

To you be glory and praise for ever.

Christ is the bread of life:

When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory. Send your Spirit on us now, that in bread and wine we may feed on Christ with opened eyes and hearts on fire.

May we and all who share this food offer ourselves to live for you

and be welcomed at the heavenly banquet where all creation worships you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

Blessing and honour and glory and power be yours for ever and ever. Amen.

Sending out

May God who established the dance of creation,
who marvelled at the lilies of the field,
who transforms chaos to order,
lead us to transform our lives and the Church
to reflect God’s glory in creation.
And may the Blessing of God Almighty …

From the Eco-congregation Module 2 Celebrating Creation

Hymns & Songs
  • Take my life and let it be
  • Christ’s is the world (a touching place)
  • Beauty for brokenness
  • God in his love for us lent us this planet
  • Over all the earth (Lord, reign in me)
  • Restore, O Lord, the honour of your name

by Rev. Dave Bookless PhD, West London