Second Sunday in Lent [by Rev. Ken Gray]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Gen 15:1-12, 17-18
2nd Reading
Phil 3:17-4:1
Luke 13:31-35 or
(both:) 9:28-36
by Rev. Ken Gray, Dean and Rector of St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Kamloops British Columbia, Canada


The Voice of Ecological Complaint – A Characteristic pose for today’s Christian communities

  • Creation is a gift of God, from God to God’s people, not just to the people who wandered with Abraham, who received the promise of a blessing, not only of future generations, but of land
  • Indigenous wisdom and experience continue to revitalize and deepen our own understanding of the human/land connection
  • We not only stand upon the land, but depend upon it, though is so many ways we spoil what we have been given
  • Local and global Christians communities are increasingly finding our voice of complaint, though such advocacy is costly. We are assaulted by those who seek to gain wealth from improper stewardship of what we have been given. Both Ps 27 and Paul to the Philippians encourage us to cast aside fear and stand firm.
  • There is a place for lament, as Jesus looks across Jerusalem and grieves–for what has been, for what unfolds in his own (and our) time, and we likewise grieve not for the Holy city alone, but for all creation
  • The Voice of Ecological Complaint – A Characteristic pose for today’s Christian communities


Old Testament reading / Psalm

“As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.” We can but guess at Abraham’s terror and obliquely compare it with our own. Where I live, uncertainty about forests, rivers, employment and community survival distress many. Some deny and ignore the present challenge; others try to mitigate the effects of climate change and adapt to fast-changing realities. God speaks wonderfully and beautifully to Abraham’s uncertainly. More so God reminds the patriarch of the presence, value and reality of the land beneath his feet. He assures him that his future, though uncertain in detail is secure, not through circumstance but through grace. “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates . . . “

The psalmist (27) understands the challenge of remaining faithful amidst insecurity especially evident through inter-personal conflict. He is however optimistic, defiant, certain of divine blessing and community, despite all threats

When evildoers assail me
to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes
they shall stumble and fall.

And best of all, he is patient:

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

For myself, patience and resilience are in short supply some days. I turn often to this Psalm for re-assurance, and a way forward. I turn especially to the wonderful setting of this text from the Iona Community (cited below).

New Testament reading

Paul writes beautifully to what must have been a favourite church of his planting the young church at Philippi. He leads not with stick but with carrot; he is the encourager, the motivator. He asks his readers and hearers to make a concrete decision–seek those things which are of God and not of human creation. It is easy to insert ecological concerns and realities into his formula. WE have a choice as Christians: Invest in things here and now, and gain pleasure and wealth, and prestige and security from them now. Or invest (literally) in God and in those things, ideas, and relationships which take us beyond the ordinary:

For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.

Knowing this is difficult to do, day after day, Paul reminds us also to do as he has done, to remain both faithful and firm in our resolve. With the Psalmist he exhorts us to “stand firm in the Lord.” Such standing may involve standing with indigenous peoples, in protesting the wanton extraction of fossil fuels, of investing our wealth in helpful and impactful ways, of flying less. The list grows daily. The opportunity for our witness is everywhere. And we are not alone; we have each other, and God is with us.


If the other lections assigned for today are feisty in spirit, this Gospel, where Jesus looks painfully across the Jerusalem landscape, is doleful and sad. He laments the history, the current situation, the lost and frustrated potential of Jerusalem of its peoples, of its temple, rituals and religious practices. Possibly he begins to sense the danger which awaits him there. The mood is foreboding, disheartening, and most of all, sad.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”’

He longs for a brighter day, as do so many both in church and in global society, who sense how our economies, our industry, our consumer engagement, our relationships, how all of these could function better and could embody, represent and enact true justice, a justice where all are heard and respected, human, non-human, all living beings, earth and all stars (see hymn suggestion below), all hopes and dreams, all in all.

To lament is to stop everything, and simply be sad, to cast aside for a moment all activism, and simply be reminded why we do what we do, sometimes against all odds, not because we see a clear end in sight, but because we can do no other, by virtue of our baptism, or a particular vision of the future, because we have received inspiration, because God has spoken to us (as with my own “second conversion”). Because God is, and God speak, in Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, who takes us to places and persons and situation we cannot predict. As with the seventh day of creation, where God rested, in lament we likewise rest, and recover energy and resilience for that time when we take up the struggle again. Breathe in – breathe out – breathe until breath leaves us and another generation takes up the cause.

Resources / Links:

Walter Brueggemann, LAND



Response to the Word: Intercessions

Confession and Lament for Creation, Rev. Allyson Sawtell, Denver, Colorado; int eh public domain

Hymns & Songs

Earth and all stars

The Lord is my light, Iona Community

Stand Firm Iona Community

by Rev. Ken Gray, Kamloops, British Columbia

First Sunday in Lent [by Dr. Rachel Mash]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Deu 26:1-11
Deu 26:4-10
2nd Reading
Rom 10:8b-13
Luke 4:1-13
by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, environmental Coordinator of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa


Starting our Lenten Journey

Sometimes we think of Lent as a life-denying season – where we confirm that we are not good enough for God’s love and we must earn it, we are worthless in God’s sight.

But if our starting point is a knowledge that we are beloved children of God, the Lent becomes a time to seek for a renewed and restored relationship with God, with one another and with Creation.

Traditionally Lent was a time to abstain from certain foodstuffs such as alcohol or chocolate.

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 challenges us to celebrate local food from the soil and to give thanks. Why not take up the challenge during Lent of abstaining from junk food, or packaged food. Buy local organic  food, set yourself the ‘food miles challenge’ of eating local food, nothing that is flown into your country from overseas. Use the time of Lent to celebrate our relationship with the land, by starting a veggie garden, or planting trees or a herb garden in your windowsill.

Luke 4:1-13: In this traditional story of the temptations of Christ in the wilderness, we are challenged to look at our values during the 40 days of Lent. Do we want to turn ‘stones into bread’, going for instant gratification of all our needs? It is the instant society – cheap clothes, instant upgrades, fast food – with all its consumer values, that it choking and killing our planet. As Jesus stayed hungry in the desert, we are challenged to a more simple life-style so that others my simply life.

The second temptation – to bow down to power – is one that faces all religious institutions. How can we as the church of God listen to the marginalised? Politicians and businesses are not changing fast enough to save the planet. It is the voices of the marginalised that are now calling for a different way – teenagers leading the strike for the planet, indigenous voices calling out that people are more important than profits and that you cannot commodify water.

In the third temptation – to become like God, we are reminded that terrifyingly , the human race now has the powers that past generations would never have believed possible – we have the power to destroy or save life on this planet.

What steps can you make during Lent to join the voices calling for change? These might involve personal changes such as a Plastic Fast for Lent

Or taking up a plant based diet

Or perhaps you can inspire your church to divest from fossil fuels?


Old Testament reading

Deuteronomy 26:1-11: Firstfruits and tithes

In our modern life we have become separated from the web of life in our food production. Packaged, processed fast foods have become the norm. We are challenged to choose foods that are as close to nature as possible. Unprocessed, additive free foods are closer to nature , better for our health and our planet. We are also challenged to choose foods as far as possible that come from the local area – reducing our food miles, eating seasonal fruit and vegetables.

This passage reminds us that food comes from the soil, which we inherited from our ancestors. How can we preserve the soil  for the generations to come?. Our current practices are damaging the soil. We need to stop using pesticides and chemicals that kill the soil. We can buy organic fruits and vegetables and encourage local farmers.  How can we restore our relationship with the earth – using our church lands for growing of vegetables or ‘bee-friendly’ gardens.

We are also reminded that all good gifts come from God, and that we should have an attitude of thankfulness. “Saying grace” should not be a meaningless daily gesture but a genuine thanksgiving for the food, for the soil from which it came, for the rain that watered it and the people who toiled on the soil.


Luke 4:1-13: Temptations in the wilderness

Jesus went into the wilderness and was faced with three temptations  that we also face– sins that would block our  relationship with God, with our neighbour and with Creation .

Temptation One: Wants, not needs

“tell this stone to become bread”

Turning stones into bread  seems like a great thing to do. Jesus is in the desert, he is hungry.  This was Jesus first temptation, to get what he wanted (bread) not what he needed. He was in the desert to build his relationship with God and to be prepared for ministry, not to learn ‘magic skills” There was probably something he needed to learn by fasting and praying

It is not by bread alone that we live.

This temptation tells us to distinguish between wants and needs. we need to  stop running after our wants. We are surrounded by advertisements, by things. we have to have that new ipad, tv, those clothes, that fancy holiday that expensive car. We work ourselves into a debt and frenzy to do it. Do you fill your life with things? or do you fill your life with relationships.

Perhaps your want is for that unhealthy food, junk food, or too much alcohol or cigarettes , but your need is for good health.

There was something that Jesus needed to learn through fasting and praying in the wilderness. When we meet all of our wants, we miss out on what God wants to teach us through a more simple life-style.

Take these forty days of Lent to examine your life and to decide what are your needs and what are merely  wants.

The second temptation: to bow down to power

I will give you all their authority and splendour; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

Control, importance, power. The devil tells Jesus to look at the big city. What do you see when look down from a high point at the CBD or heart of the city ?– the banks the businesses, the parliament. The temptation was to bow down before the power systems of this world. All these I will give you.

There is no doubt that the world is dominated by the structures of power, political and capital. According to an Oxfam report Eighty two percent of the wealth generated last year went to the richest one percent of the global [i] . Increasingly our political systems are dominated by big industries, the fossil fuels, big Pharma, commercial agriculture who have the power to lobby politicians and influence election results.

How do we become  like Jesus, side with the poor and the marginalised? What power or influence would we as the church need to give up in order to take a position for the poor? How do we use our funds – are we willing to divest from industries such as fossil fuel companies and re-invest in industries that do not damage the earth?

The third temptation : to become like  God.

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.

Satan takes Jesus up to the pinnacle of the Temple (the top of the religious world itself and tells him to play righteous games with God. Throw yourself off and he will send the angels to catch you. It is the only time in the Bible that the devil quotes Scripture.

This temptation – to become God, has become terrifyingly real.

For the first time in history we have become like gods. We are changing the climate of the whole planet. We are raising the levels of the oceans. We have wiped out 60% of wild animals in one generation [ii].

We have poisoned the seas and filled them with plastic.

We can modify the DNA of plants and creating GMOS.

As a church we have turned inward and focussed on personal salvation. The scientific community developed a parallel salvation story – the power of science and technology to save the world. Some of those dreams have turned into nightmares.

We need to re-discover our interconnectedness with nature. Jesus came to save the whole world (cosmos) and we are called to be part of that ministry. We need to re-discover the sacredness of God’s creation . We need to rediscover the links between Science and faith and lift up the voices of Christian Scientists.


One of the foremost Christian Climate Scientists in Kathryn Hayhoe.

How to create a  pollinator friendly garden:



Creator God, how deep are your designs!
You made a living earth, cloud, rain and wind,
and charged us with their care.
We confess that the way we live today
is changing the climate, the seas and the balance of life,
dispossessing the poor and future generations.
Build our lives into an Ark for all creation,
and, as you promised Noah never to repeat the flood,
so make us heralds of a new rainbow covenant:
Choosing life for all that is at risk –
for creation, neighbours near and far,
our children and ourselves. Amen.[iii]



Lord God,
You share with us the care of creation.
Give us the humility to be right stewards of the land and to protect and celebrate its resources with equity and justice;
through Jesus Christ our Lord



Prayers of the People

Come light, light of God, give light to creation, enlighten our hearts and remain with your world.

O God, Creator of the universe and of all that lives and breathes,
from your dwelling place you refresh the mountains and forests.
The earth is filled with the fruits of your work.
You make grass grow for the herds, plants and fruit trees for people to farm, drawing their bread from the earth.
You entrusted your creation to us. We beseech you:
Save us from the temptation of power and domination.


May your Spirit of wisdom teach us how best to care for and safeguard what you entrust to us.
Blow your Spirit of life on your creation and all humanity.
Come light, light of God, give light to creation, enlighten our hearts and remain with your world.

We beseech you, bless every effort and every search,
Every struggle and every pain that seek to restore the harmony and beauty of your Creation.
Renew the face of the earth, so that everyhuman being may live in peace and justice, fruits of your Spirit of love.
Blow your Spirit of life on your creation and all humanity.
Come light, light of God, give light to creation, enlighten our hearts and remain with your world.

We beseech you, Lord,
bless the fruits of the earth and the work of our hands and teach us to share the abundance of your goods.
Send rain to the dry soil, sun and fair weather where harvest is endangered by storms.
Blow your Spirit of life on your creation and all humanity.
Come light, light of God, give light to creation, enlighten our hearts and remain with your world.

From you, O Lord our God, come all gifts, and we give you thanks.
Hear the sigh raising from your creation, gather the suffering of all people,
Send us your blessing, so that we may live, in its fullness, the new life
Which you offer us through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. [v]


Leader Blessed are you, Lord God of the universe,
you are the giver of this bread,
fruit of the earth and of human labour,
let it become the bread of Life.
All Blessed be God, now and forever!
Leader Blessed are you, Lord God of the universe,
you are the giver of this wine,
fruit of the vine and of human labour,
let it become the wine of the eternal Kingdom.
All Blessed be God, now and forever!

Leader As the grain once scattered in the fields
and the grapes once dispersed on the
hillside are now reunited on this table
in bread and wine,
so, Lord, may your whole Church
soon be gathered together
from the corners of the earth into your Kingdom
All Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus![vi]


May the Earth Continue to live
May the heavens above continue to live
May the rains continue to dampen the land
May the wet forests continue to grow
Then the flowers shall bloom
And we people shall live again

A Hawaiian prayer



We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land

Hymns by Normal Habel:


Prepare a pile of plastic rubbish at the door of the church that people must walk past as they get into Church

Children can prepare posters about what to do with rubbish.

by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, Southern Africa




[iii] Operation Noah Prayer

[iv] Season of Creation 4 Anglican Church of Southern Africa

[v] Community of Grandchamp, Areuse/NE (Switzerland); translated by Elizabeth Stace. Reproduced by ECEN for Creation Time 2006.

[vi] World Council of Churches, “The Eucharistic Liturgy of Lima”,

Sunday next before Lent / Transfiguration Sunday [by Dr. Elizabeth Perry]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Ex 34.29-35
Sir 27.4-7(5-8)
2nd Reading
2 Cor 3.12 – 4.2
1 Cor 15.54-58
Luke 9.28-36[37-43a]
Luke 6.39-45
additional: 2 Peter 1.16-19
Dr Elizabeth Perry, Programme and Communication Manager, Anglican Alliance



  • In the Transfiguration, God’s eternal past and future break into the present. It is a shining moment of revelation.
  • There are strong echoes of Moses’ encounter with God on Mount Sinai. Both are seminal events of profound significance, and they take place in nature (mountain top experiences).
  • In the New Testament reading, there is the expectation that, as Jesus’ followers, we too will reflect his likeness to those around us. We are called to shine.


  • Where do we see the eternal breaking into our world today?
  • What is Jesus saying today that we need to hear and attend to?
  • Like Peter, are we in danger of rushing headlong into activity and being side-tracked by structures? Or will we be attentive to moments of understanding and revelation – God’s shining moments – and live in light of them?


  • We live in a world where there is brokenness, injustice and darkness… but there are also many sparks of hope and “the light shines in the darkness”. Examples abound of those on the side of light.
  • The psalmist writes, “Lover of justice, you have established equity”. How far do we mirror God’s heart of justice and fairness in an unfair world? One way we can do so is by buying and using fairly traded products. Fairtrade is an alternative model of trade, which puts poverty alleviation, sustainable development, environmental protection and social justice at the heart of international trade.
  • (Where) do we encounter God in the natural world?


Perhaps this week we might…

  • Take time to pray in an open, outdoor place, encountering God in nature. What is on your heart concerning God’s creation?
  • Take up a new Fair Trade product. Find out about the people who made it. How does it being fairly traded make a difference?
  • Take up Green Anglicans’ plastic fast for Lent.
  • Look up some stories of hope and transformation. Pray for those working for change.


Old Testament reading / Psalm

God’s radiance seen in the face of Moses. In the reading from Exodus, Moses comes down Mount Sinai after 40 days in God’s awesome presence, carrying the record of God’s covenant with Israel carved afresh on tablets of stone. Moses’ face is radiant; his encounter with the Lord has marked and changed him. He shines, reflecting God’s radiance.

Lover of justice. The psalmist writes, “Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity”. Fairness and love of justice are the heart God’s nature… and we are called to reflect that. The prophet Micah writes, “what does the Lord require of you but to love kindness, do justice and walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

New Testament reading

We are called to shine. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory” (verse 18). Paul expects that, as those who follow Jesus, we will reflect his likeness to those around us. We are called to shine – like Moses, but with unveiled faces, reflecting God’s radiance, showing how our encounter with the Lord has changed us… is transforming us.


In the Transfiguration, God’s eternal past and future break into the present in a burst of clarity and glory. There are strong echoes of Moses’ encounter with God on Mount Sanai: the dazzling light of revelation and instruction in a high place follow a time of darkness and challenge (for Moses, literal cloud; for the disciples, the weight of Jesus’ declaration that those who would follow him must take up their cross and follow him, whatever the cost). But here, words of love and comfort, and Jesus’ gentle touch and presence, replace Sinai’s devouring fire. And God’s instruction is simple, “This is my Son… listen to him!”

Although terrified, confused and flustered to the point of babbling at the time, Peter later looks back on the Transfiguration as a seminal moment of understanding and seeing (2 Peter 1:16-19). And he urges his readers to heed such moments saying, “be attentive, as to a lamp shining in a dark place”.

  • Where do we see the eternal breaking into our world today?
  • What is Jesus saying today that we need to hear and attend to?
  • Like Peter, are we in danger of rushing headlong into activity and being side-tracked by structures?
  • Or will we be attentive to moments of understanding and revelation – God’s shining moments – and live in light of them?
  • Have we had moments of revelation and insight in the past that we need to recall and attend to?
  • For both Moses and Jesus (and, indeed, Peter), these pivotal moments of encounter with the divine take place in nature; they are literally “mountain top” experiences. (Where) do we encounter God in the natural world?
Stories / illustrations / videos:

The short poem “When I am among the trees” by Mary Oliver is beautiful and speaks of luminous moments spent in nature. It ends with the words, “you too have come into the world to do this… to be filled with light, and to shine”.

As the Anglican Alliance we are privileged to see and hear many stories of transformation, of light shining in dark places. Here are some links you might find helpful for stories and illustrations:

In January, distinguished academics, diplomats, faith leaders and faith-based organisations met at Lambeth Palace under the aegis of the Archbishop of Canterbury to explore migration caused by climate change. Central to the day were contributions from Oceania, the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean – from people who are involved and affected – to see what can be learnt in the search for effective responses. Examples of the challenges people face and how people are responding can be found here.

Anti-human trafficking work. Last October, the Anglican Alliance jointly convened an anti-human trafficking consultation for the East Asia and Pacific region with the Salvation Army. The workshop brought together practitioners, clergy and lay people to determine how churches can work together and with others to prevent human trafficking and support survivors as they seek to rebuild their lives. A write up of the workshop, including examples of where churches are taking action, can be found here.

You can find reflective visual prayers (PowerPoints and videos) on the Christian Concern for One World website here and on the Anglican Alliance website here.

Environmental & Sustainability themes / links:

The Fairtrade movement stands for equity and justice, determinedly offering an alternative model of trade, which puts poverty alleviation, sustainable development, environmental protection and social justice at the heart of international trade. By buying and promoting Fairtrade products we affirm our faith in a God of justice, seek to share God’s love in our daily lives and take a simple, practical step to follow in the way of Jesus. Further information, stories and prayers can be found here.

For many people, Blue Planet 2 was a wake-up call to plastic pollution. Green Anglicans have a plastic fast for Lent you might encourage your congregation to participate in: Plastic fast.


Response to the Word

Some visual prayers can be found here.

Hymns & Songs

Christ be our Light by Bernadette Farrell is particularly suitable, linking light with justice and God’s transforming work in the world. Details here.

A wonderful source of inspiration for hymns and songs can be found on the Sanctuary Centre website here: outward-focused song index

Children’s / All Age ideas

The Anglican Communion Environmental Network has created the Sunday School resource Oceans of Plastic.

by Dr. Elizabeth Perry, Anglican Alliance

2nd Sunday before Lent [by Dr. Wolfgang Schürger]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Gen 2.4b-9,15-25
1 Sam 26.2,7-9,12-13,22-23
2nd Reading
Rev 4
1 Cor 15.45-49
Luke 8.22-25
Luke 6.27-38

Sexagesimae Sunday (1 Sam 26.2,7-9,12-13,22-23 / Luke 6.27-38)

by Dr. Wolfgang Schürger, Munich (translated by A. Hübel, Ludwigsburg)

Make peace, not war!

In Protestant churches, Sexagesima Sunday is all about spreading God’s Word. The spotlight is on the story of the conversion of Lydia, a merchant of purple cloth, and of her whole household. The first person to hear and accept the word of God on European soil was a woman. But to try and link this to the social dimension of sustainability would be rather artificial (see Acts 16.9-15  i.e. German Protestant lectionary). The social dimension of sustainability, is, however, clearly expressed by the Old Testament and Gospel readings according to the lectionary of the Roman Catholic church.

Jesus’ commandment to love one’s enemies is, without doubt, one of the most intractable texts in the New Testament: in a complete reversal of normal behaviour, we are to refrain from fighting back, to offer the robber even more of our possessions, and to love our enemies.

This is exactly how David behaves when he is pursued by Saul. Although he is able to reach Saul through the circle of wagons around the camp, he refrains from killing his enemy. He merely takes his spear and his water-jar, presenting them the following day to show that he has been in the midst of his opponent’s camp.

This is how he explains his actions to his astonished companion, Abishai: “Who can raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?” If you are familiar with the blood feuds that still go on today in parts of the Arab world, you will soon realise how right David was: violence would breed more violence, and would cause lasting injury to the peaceful coexistence of the people and tribes. By foregoing violence, David keeps the People of Israel united, contributing to sustainable social cohesion.

There is a similar conviction behind Jesus’ words. Later in the passage, he offers thoroughly utilitarian grounds for his provocative commandment to love one’s enemies and give unreservedly: “The measure you give will be the measure you get!” and “Do to others as you would have them do to you!”

In the interest of sustainable social cohesion, it is sometimes necessary to disregard our personal sense of justice or desire for revenge, and to seek peace. David is able to do this – trusting that God himself will ultimately pass judgement on his enemy (verse 10).

by Dr. Wolfgang Schürger, Munich (translated by Anja Louise Hübel, Ludwigsburg)

[3rd Sunday before Lent]

1st Reading
Jer 17.5-10
2nd Reading
1 Cor 15.12-20
Luke 6.17-26
No preaching suggestions available. Find own links (tell us)!

Notes: be a tree planted near the water (Jer 17); witness the truth – Creation needs care (1 Cor 15); prepared to be healed (Lk 6)

by N.N

[4th Sunday before Lent]

1st Reading
Isaiah 6.1-8[9-13]
2nd Reading
1 Cor 15.1-11
Luke 5.1-11
No preaching suggestions available. Find your own sustainability links!

Notes: let the lips be touched / seeing, but not seeing right, causes desert (Isaiah 6); preaching causes belief … (1 Cor 15); to hear and to follow may cause unexpected richness (Luke 5)

by N.N.

5th Sunday before Lent / 3.02.18 as Presentation [by Dr. Joachim Feldes]

5th Sunday before Lent:
3rd Feb. as Presentation
1st Reading
Ez 43.27-44.4
Mal 3.1-5
2nd Reading
1 Cor 13
Heb 2.14-end
Luke 2.22-40
by Dr. Joachim Feldes, Schauernheim, Germany

Exegetical Observations

Ez 43f: Although the text is all about cultic regulations and exceptions, these are rules that demand respect. Not everyone is permitted to do everything, to take any liberty. There are certain places that are set apart by God, ultimately reserved for himself, that humans may not enter at will or lay claim to. These are holy places that must be protected and maintained to ensure that the good order, good for people and for creation, remains intact.

Mal 3: The one whom we seek is coming, and is sending messengers to prepare the way for him. Although long desired, his coming is unexpected when it happens, and he encounters some people who are prepared for it and others who have grown weary with waiting, and who have turned aside from the promise. But the fact is that he will establish a new relationship between himself and mankind, one that is pleasing to the creator and beneficial to creation.

1 Cor 13: St. Paul is not interested in romantic, rose-tinted dreams. He wants to give his congregation a blueprint that will enable them again and again to rekindle that initial passion, that fire. If you really want to love God and your neighbour, you can easily prove it by showing patience, constancy, and humility, and by keeping your own feelings in check. Then, and only then, will the individual Christian and the congregation as a whole be able to remain true to their vocation and build on the keystones of faith, hope and love, to protect and develop the world in the spirit of God.

Heb 2: Salvation is not a walk in the park; it involves suffering and pain. That makes it harder for the Saviour, but at the same time, it makes what he does all the more profound. And he does not do it for his own sake, but solely for the other’s sake. At the same time, he breaks down every barrier that separates us from God, one person from another, even barriers to our own true selves. This brings an end to all estrangement; outward and inward reconciliation takes place. And that creates a big family – shaped by the selflessness of the Saviour – a family whose attitudes and lives reflect, continue and disseminate the Saviour’s values and commandments.

Luke 2: The encounter between the young family and the two old people has a number of dimensions: the tenacious perseverance of Simeon and Hannah, trusting that God’s promise will indeed be fulfilled; the truly affectionate contact between the generations and the mutual trust they show, the looking beyond Israel alone to include the people to whom the true light of Jesus is revealed. All of this serves to encourage us to seek that light: because it is worth every effort, even suffering, to carry that light into the world.

Aspects of Sustainability

Respect for the holy (Ez, Luke)

Even though the immediate experience of God normally eludes us, God is still present and guides us through the rules and commandments he has laid down. But this demands respect and self-restraint on our part, because only when we put up with the limits set by God and keep our demands modest can our lives really be successful, can we grow and thrive.

Humankind as one family (Heb, Luke)

God does not want to be separated from humankind and decries our human habit of dividing the world into “them” and “us”. He makes every effort to reconcile us with himself and each other. He wants the different generations neither to squabble nor to live entirely separate lives, but always to connect and grow in solidarity with one another, helping each other to preserve the light of life. Because that light does not shine for a particular group or for a single nation or people. It wants to spread out more and more, so that all humanity will grow into one family.

Perseverance leads to life (Mal, 1 Cor, Luke 2)

When we wait for something, we always risk coming to the end of our patience at some point. Against this background, the readings advise us to call to mind again and again that initial spark and enthusiasm and the beauty of our vocation. The path of faith may be crossed by suffering and pain, but hope and love are always stronger – so strong, in fact, that they can continually nourish our faith in the new that is to come.

by Dr. Joachim Feldes


4th Sunday of Epiphany [by Rev. Henrik Grape]

1st Reading
Neh 8.1-3,5-6,8-10
2nd Reading
1 Cor 12.12-31a
Luke 4.14-21

1 Cor 12.12-31a

by Rev. Henrik Grape (Church of Sweden)
Senior advisor on Care for Creation, Sustainability and Climate Justice, World Council of Churches.

To be one …

We are one. The diversity in the Creation is rich but we are still one. The diversity of humans is impressive but we are one. The beauty of Creation is reflected in its diversity. In the story of Creation it is repeatedly said it was good. The Hebrew word TOV that is in the Creation story can also mean ‘beautiful’. Creation is beautiful. The diversity is beautiful.

When we gather in the kind of inclusive and open ecumenical spirit, as was experienced this autumn in Assisi at the 1st Ecumenical Prayer Meeting for Creation, it is also good and beautiful. Good, in the sense that we are aiming for a change: to protect and take care of the gift of Creation. Good in our efforts to answer the call to be caretakers of Creation and good in our attempts to change the narrative from a dystopic story about how a fragmented and polarised world destroying our common home to a narrative of hope. Hope that we as humanity can come together. Come together to act for a more just and equitable future.

But it is also beautiful. Beautiful when people come together to rejoice over the gift of life. To find the beauty in the wonder of sharing the gift of life. The beauty in celebration of the Creation that feeds us every day. To be thankful for the oxygen that we inhale and that gives us life in every breath. The beautiful mystery of life on Earth whispers to us that we are one.

In this world where we are facing threats to Creation and we hear the cry of the most vulnerable, humans or other life forms, we must understand that we are one. Today humanity is the most important power on the earth when it comes to the future of the whole planet. The Climate threat, the loss of Biodiversity and other global ecological disruptions can only be solved if we come together as one. We as human beings on this Earth, caretakers of Creation, must understand that we are one. As we are one in Christ. To follow Christ today, to be clothed in Christ today is to see the multitude of traditions as a gift. To see the unity in diversity. A unity that is an answer to a world threatened by climate change. With love and compassion we walk together for a more just and peaceful future. We are one humanity on one earth.

Rev. Henrik Grape

3rd Sunday of Epiphany [by Rosalind Gnatt]

1. Reading
Isaiah 62.1-5
2. Reading
1 Cor 12.1-11
John 2.1-11

Sustainable preaching: a critical approach to writing a sermon

“using the special spiritual gifts”

Rev. Rosalind Gnatt, the United Church of Christ, i.A. Ev. Dekanat Wiesbaden 12.16.2018

The 20th century historian Joseph Vogt, saw the core of early Christianity as the renewal of the world through the transformation of human beings, an ongoing revolution of the spirit. Daniel Berrigan, Jesuit priest, peace activist and founder of the anti-nuclear Plowshares movement, said this: “One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible. It may or may not be possible to turn the US around through nonviolent revolution. But one thing favors such an attempt: the total inability of violence to change anything for the better.” Berrigan, like the early Christians, was a spiritual revolutionary.

What is our responsibility to this tiny planet, to our siblings worldwide? The Deuteronomist  says,“ This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live… this is not difficult to do: the words are already in your hearts and on your tongues. We just have to do it.

Nothing is sustainable that isn’t able to change. Jesus did not call us to worship tradition: we are called to love God and love our neighbor. Sustainability needs to be flexible, open to discovery, open to exercising our calling to love our neighbor. One of the things that brought Jesus into conflict with the “old guard” was the practical, if not orthodox, way he addressed real-time situations. He brought the law down to its core: if people are sick, heal them. If it’s the Sabbath and folks are hungry – well, love your neighbor. It is what God wants us to do.


Here is my personal method for working with the weekly texts:

  • I Read the pericope; then read the entire chapter. I take the time, if I can, to read the book – at least up to and including the pericope.
  • I Read more than one translation. I go back to the Greek or Hebrew, at least for the most significant words and phrases. I consider a different translation for the congregation. Since every single text has been translated many times before reaching us, we do our calling a disservice when we don’t bring our own intelligence to this work.
  • I Respect history. The Christian theology of my childhood is notorious for co-opting the ancient texts of the Hebrew Scriptures as mere precursors of their future messiah. This is not only disrespectful: it is lazy. I can learn so much more from the ancient texts if I take time to learn what was going on when the texts were written. Far too often, we miss clues to the real connection with these texts for us today when we take the fallback position that “it’s all about Christ.”
  • I Take time to let what I’ve read marinate. This is important. I’m amazed at how often, in the course of the days that follow my first reading of the upcoming texts, something I hear or see or otherwise experience relates to them and knits them together – whether it’s on the news or in the course of daily business, the “back then” and the “here and now” come together in a new way.


Here are the pericopes for January 20th, the third Sunday of Epiphany:

Isaiah 64: 1-5, Attributed to the prophetic chapters of the post-exilic era, this prayer for restoration of a decimated nation speaks to us now:

Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch. The nations will see your righteousness. World leaders will be blinded by your glory. And you will be given a new name by the Lord’s own mouth. Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.”

I, a citizen of the United States, feel this prayer personally. I love my country. I do not love what is happening there. Before the invading army of Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Judah, Babylon had installed a puppet king. According to the prophet Jeremiah, this king Zedekiah “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”

The prophet loves Zion, yearns for her return to righteousness; foresees a glory for her that impresses world leaders. I yearn for my country to turn toward righteousness. What does a return to righteousness look like to you? Where do we fall short in advocating for our neighbor? The early Christians, having only Paul’s letters to guide them, changed the way slaves were treated – at least for a time. Paul tells the Galatians, who were themselves second-class citizens, that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female.” What happened to Paul’s message of equality under God as the State Church of Rome gained political power? How can we get back to the basics of Jesus’ ministry to love God and love our neighbor?

1 Corinthians 12: 1-11 – Spiritual gifts; one source

How interesting that this well-known part of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian congregation is put together with the story of Jesus’ first miracle – turning water into wine – in the Book of John. The “miracle story,” in my opinion, is a kind of excuse, wherein Christ is the miracle-worker and we are his worshipping admirers. Paul, whose letter was written just a few years after Jesus’ ministry, lists the kinds of God-given spiritual gifts that are, or should be, active within the congregation. Among those gifts are wisdom, intellectual capability, strong faith, the ability to heal illness, a prophetic talent and the ability to perform miracles. Evidently, the Corinthian congregation was having trouble recognizing the equally valuable and interdependent importance of each other’s talents, or spiritual gifts that together make up the Body of Christ.

As pastors, we meet any number of people along the way who don’t recognize their special spiritual gifts. A congregation is the ideal place for God-given spiritual gifts to be recognized, respected and used. How can we help each other bring our spiritual gifts into the light and then into action? Important to remember is that Jesus couldn’t use his gift of healing in his hometown because the people who ought to have known him best just couldn’t see him other than as the carpenter Joseph’s son. Do we discount the spiritual gifts of people closest to us just because we think we know them too well?

Our congregation’s discussion group will be using this text to help each other see and own our special gifts and put them into action. It will be a challenging, and hopefully fruitful, exercise.

John 2: 1-11 – Jesus turns water into wine, thus saving the wedding host from an embarrassing situation. Jesus does not appreciate his mother imposing on him: “What does that have to do with us, woman?” You can hear the annoyance in his voice. Being a miracle worker was not unknown in the 1st century world, but Jesus didn’t want his spiritual gifts to be the focus of his calling, which was to preach.

The conflict between Paul’s words about our spiritual gifts and John’s “water-into-wine” miracle, that was supposed to revealing Jesus’ “Glory,” asks the question, are we to follow Jesus or are we to worship Christ? In the 6th chapter of Luke, we hear Jesus saying (obviously with frustration), “Why do you keep calling me Lord, Lord, when you do not do what I say?” In the Gospels of Mark and Luke, the rich young man calls Jesus “Good Teacher.” Jesus asks him, “Why do you call me good? There is only one that is good, and that is God.”

I’m certain Jesus wanted to be listened to, not worshipped. He had a saving message: Love God. Love your neighbor. Preaching the kingdom of heaven on earth, through the wisdom of the children; in active love for one another: feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, visiting the prisoner, caring for the sick:  that would be heaven.

Rosalind Gnatt

Baptism of the Lord / 2nd Sunday of Epiphany [by Rev. Vincent Schwahn]

1. Reading
Isaiah 43, 1-7
2. Reading
Acts 8.14-17
Luke 3.15-17,21-22

Holy Baptism Sermon “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Luke 3.

by Rev. Vincent Karl Schwahn Rykman, Mexico City

I have always felt a bit sad on the Feast of the Baptism of Christ. It is still one of the higher holidays of the Christian Church. The Orthodox are smart enough to stick it in with Christmas and Epiphany as one of the Manifestations of the Divinity of Christ. Also for some orthodox this is the day that people jump into half frozen lakes and rivers to commemorate the Baptism. For me one Baptism is enough. Most babies cry because the Water is cold. Wait till they get bigger snd have to jump in the Lake. For Western Christians the Feast falls after Christmas and Epiphany and is almost an afterthought. Some churches are lucky to have a few Christmas Poinsettas to keep the season alive. Most have replanted them or the thrown them in the trash.

The Baptism of Christ is for modern Christians probably even more important than the Christmas Cycle. Why is this? Because the Baptism of the Lord is really about Identity. It was Christ at his baptism where he discovered his filial relationship with God the Father and soon would be sent out into the Desert on a God-Quest.

It is our Baptism too that gives us our real identity as Christians. It is what defines us and makes us followers and disciples of the message and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. As water covers and penetrates the skin of those who dare to bathe in its splendorous wetness so is our spirit penetrated with the essence and identity of Christ that is indelible and permanent. We are one in Christ, and Christ is one in us. Every time we receive Communion we are reminded of that Fact. Communion is the daily and weekly extension of our Baptismal life.

And then of course we are sent out to do the same ministry that Christ performed; To heal, to reconcile, to bring forth peace and justice, to share our Baptismal live with those around us.

There is a powerful story of a priest who Baptized the child of an unchurched family. They were just doing a Baptism out of tradition. In the discussion and teaching with the priest before the Baptism she reminded the family that Baptism was about death and resurrection, about self sacrifice and giving of self to others out of love as did Christ. What might this Baptized child be called to do in his life to imitate Christ in his sacrificial love.

Years latter this same priest was called upon to go to ground zero to attend the spiritual care and needs of the firefighters and police and emergency crews only a few feet from the downing of the twin towers on 9/11.

It was there that she discovered that this little black boy that she had baptized many years latter was killed in active duty trying to rescue people in danger at the twin towers. He had given his life for the life of others and obeyed his Baptism Call to its bitter yet heroic end. The family returned to this priest to thank her for explaining the meaning if this Baptismal Covenant. It was for them a Baptism of the Holy Spirit and with Fire.

The Gospel today makes it clear that at our Baptism it is Christ himself who Baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and with Fire. The fire of love, of passion, and burning desire. Many of us at our Baptism are not aware of its searing mark.

This is why it takes an entire lifetime to take in the depth and profundity of these Baptismal waters.

Our task on this feast is to rekindle that flame we once received at our own Baptism. If we have lost it, it is time for a vision quest to rediscover it again. (That is what Lent is all about.) If we still feel its heat, now is the time to stoke the fire and increase the flames.

We need not jump in a cold lake or river to regain that sense of call or certitude. But we may just bless ourselves again with that water from above at a nearby Baptismal font and remember that we too are his beloved and his chosen to carry out the work begun at that watering hole in the middle east so many years ago.

Water and Fire. Fire and Water.

by Vincent Karl Schwahn Rykman, Mexico City