Advent 3rd [by Canon Sumani]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Isa 35:1-10
both
Psalm
146:5-10
2nd Reading
Jas 5:7-10
both
Gospel
Matt 11:2-11
both
by Rev. Canon Andrew Sumani, resident priest of the Anglican Diocese of Lake Malawi from Malawi, Central Africa

SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME

LISTEN TO THE WORD:

(Ref: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary)

The Bible version used is the New King James Version (NKJV)

THEME:       HOPE IN GOD – REBIRTH OF CREATION

  • Our biblical text for reflection is Isaiah 35:1-10
  • The chapter is set as an oasis between the visionary wasteland of chapter 34 and the history of war, sickness and folly in chapters 36 -39 (D.A. Carson, R.T. France, et al, eds., New Bible Commentary, 21st Century edition, Intervarsity Press: England, 1994, p 653).
  • The chapter offers hope that when God arrives He transforms every inability into ability and every insufficiency into miraculous sufficiency.
  • Our inability to care for creation is transformed and we begin to do so because of God’s presence.
  • The waters shall burst forth in the wilderness and streams in the dessert. Patched ground shall become a pool (35: 6-7). This is rebirth of creation.
  • Note that prophet Isaiah uses language that brings to mind themes of creation such as, wilderness, wasteland and desert. However, he shows that by God’s presence there shall be rebirth of creation.
  • God’s salvation does not only affect human beings but also nature (35:1-7). God wants us to strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees.
  • A transformed person will be concerned with others’ well being including that of nature.
  • Sorrow and sighing shall flee (35:10).
LINK TO THE WORLD:
  • In this chapter, the prophet invites us to reflect in this advent season beyond the usual theme of God’s coming in Christ, but also as our return home where sorrow and sighing shall flee and creation transformed (35: 6-10).
  • Our return home demonstrates God’s love for His people. He will never forsake us (see Deut. 31:6)
  • We may lose hope in the face of many atrocities and happenings, in the face of environmental degradation, deforestation, pollution, and many other environmental issues, but one day God shall bring back all lost glory. In fact, He is our hope.
  • This hope ought to be active and not passive. It should make us seek that transformation which comes by God’s presence to be able to change inability into ability, inaction into action.
  • God makes the impossible become possible like water busting in the wilderness.
  • God transforms every inability into ability and every insufficiency into miraculous sufficiency.
  • The whole creation has been groaning but salvation is in God (see Rom. 8:22 – 24 cf. 35:4).
  • God loves us together with what He created.
THINK ABOUT GOD’S CALL:
  • God is the creator of everything. However, what God created is groaning waiting for believers to act. The fact that creation is groaning means that salvation agenda includes nature. There is need for consolidated efforts in environmental issues.
  • Environmental issues are everybody’s concern.
RESPONSE:
  • Pray that we shall seriously be concerned with environmental issues for God loves us together with what He has created. We need to act now for this is our hope in God!

DETAILED NOTES

Old Testament reading / Psalm
  • The Old Testament lesson offers hope that when God arrives at a situation He transforms every inability into ability and every insufficiency into miraculous sufficiency.
  • God is our hope in times of uncertainties (Ps. 146:5).
  • He makes the impossible become possible like water busting in the wilderness, a tongue of the dumb singing, and patched ground becoming a pool.
  • Though God is the one who saves, He has instructed us to strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees.
  • We are also to encourage the fearful- hearted.
  • There is a role for us in God’s salvation plan.
New Testament reading
  • The Book of James uses a metaphor of the farmer to teach about waiting patiently.
  • Believers are asked to live in harmony with each other. Unity is paramount in the Kingdom of God.
  • To be able to successfully address environmental issues there is undoubted need for harmony. There is power in togetherness.
  • However, harmony or unity without patience is not possible.
Gospel
  • The saying that, ‘action speaks louder than words’ resonates well with the message of the Gospel reading.
  • What we do speak louder than what we say (11:4).
  • Jesus used nature in his teaching to drive a point home (11:7).
  • Therefore, nature must be cared for. It is a teaching aid, of course, among many other uses.
  • We need to be God’s messengers on environmental issues as well.
  • Always remembering that it is the whole creation that needs salvation (See Rom. 8:22).
Stories / illustrations / videos:

All of us need to take environmental issues as our concern too. In 2014, I visited my home village, some 240 kilometres away from where I stay. While there, I met a man who was selling charcoal and asked him why he was selling charcoal. He gave poverty as the reason. Then I told him concerning his posterity that if he continues to burn charcoal, his children will suffer the consequences. He told me in my face that it will be their problem and not his. I felt sorry that here is a father who has children but don’t care about the future of his own children. This short story clearly shows that for others, care for creation is not their concern. But it shouldn’t be like that. Everyone is supposed to be involved. We are all stewards of God’s property – creation.

Environmental & Sustainability themes / links:
  • Groaning of the Whole creation.
  • Salvation agenda includes nature. As the Church preaches about going to heaven, we need not to leave out salvation of nature.
  • Consolidated efforts in environmental care. There is power in togetherness.
  • Environmental issues are everybody’s concern. As Christians, we should be heavenly oriented, yes, but at the same time earthly relevant.
  • God is our never – failing hope
Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)

WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES

Gathering & Penitence

Opening sentence:  When the Lord comes, he will bring to light things now hidden in darkness, and will disclose the purposes of the heart (1 Corinthians 4: 5).

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Leader: The Lord be with you. All: And also with you.

Confession:  God our Creator and Hope, we confess that we have sinned: we have used creation not cherished it; we have lived selfishly;  and failed to act where we should have acted; we have been greedy – not sharing earth’s gifts; and our footprints are heavy not gentle. Forgive us the damage that disturbs our planet. Grant us the grace to live for the world’s healing and our own. Bless the seasons of the year, may they be restored to Your design. (https://acen.anglicancommunion.org/media/309609/Season-of-Creation-Five.pdf. accessed 29/11/2019).

Service of the Word

Almighty God, you are the source of our hope in times of hopelessness; Help us to live in harmony with each other and learn to act together as we tackle issues affecting us in this world. Fill me up with hope and give me tangible reminder today that hope is unbreakable spiritual lifeline. Deepen within us an awareness of our own place within creation that we may be able to hear the groaning of the whole creation and as your stewards and servants, moved by passion, take necessary actions. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Affirmation of Faith:  We believe that God creates all things, renews all things and celebrates all things. We believe Earth is a sanctuary, a sacred planet filled with God’s presence, a home for us to share with our kin. We believe that God became flesh and blood, became a piece of Earth, a human being called Jesus Christ, who lived and breathed and spoke among us, suffered and died on a cross for all human beings and for all creation. We believe that the risen Jesus is the Christ at the core of creation, reconciling all things to God, renewing all creation and filling the cosmos. We believe the Holy Spirit renews life in creation groans in empathy with a suffering creation and waits with us for the rebirth of creation. We believe that with Christ we will rise and with Christ we will celebrate a new creation. (Adapted from: https://acen.anglicancommunion.org/media/334488/Season-of-Creation-Six.pdf. accessed 29/11/2019).

Response to the Word

Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness, O God of our salvation, *
O Hope of all the ends of the earth and of the seas that are far away.
You make fast the mountains by your power; *
they are girded about with might.
You still the roaring of the seas, *
the roaring of their waves, and the clamor of the peoples.
Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your marvelous signs; *
you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy.
You visit the earth and water it abundantly; you make it very plenteous; *
the river of God is full of water.
You prepare the grain, *
for so you provide for the earth.
You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges; *
with heavy rain you soften the ground and bless its increase.
You crown the year with your goodness, *
and your paths overflow with plenty.
May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing, *
and the hills be clothed with joy.
May the meadows cover themselves with flocks, and the valleys cloak themselves with grain; *
let them shout for joy and sing.

MEMORY VERSE: “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God”, (Psalms 146:5)

Holy Communion

Invitation to the Table: Jesus invites us to come to the table. Here, in this bread and wine, may we encounter Christ who calls us to care for the poor, the earth, and all who are in need. All who long for Christ are welcome at this table.

Preface: Jesus Christ, teach us to empathise with Earth. Make our spirits sensitive to the cries of creation, cries for justice from the hills and the trees. Jesus Christ, make our faith sensitive to the groans of the Spirit, groans from the deserts, the salt plains, the winds. Jesus Christ, make our souls sensitive to the songs of our kin, Songs of celebration from the sea, the land and the air. Christ, teach us to care. https://seasonofcreation.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/liturgy-outback-sunday-1.pdf

  • The altar may be decorated with fresh flowers only.
  • Altar vessels (if possible) to be used on this Sunday may be those made from wood.
Sending out

Post-communion prayer: Creator of all, we give you thanks and praises that when we were still hopeless, you met us in your Son and brought us home. Dying and living, you declared your love for the whole creation. Give us grace to be able to work together for the care and preservation of nature. Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us, so that we and all your children may be free, and the whole earth live to praise your name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessings: May God, who is the source of our hope and is above all and in all and through all, fill you with the knowledge of God’s presence in Earth and the impulse of Christ within you and make you able to hear the groaning of the whole creation. Go in peace, serving Christ and loving Earth!

All: We go in peace, serving Christ and tending Earth!

Hymns & Songs

We need hymns for the following parts of the liturgy:

  1. Introit (someone to choose)
  2. Gospel Hymn
  3. Offertory Hymn
  4. Recession Hymn

In the course of the service, choirs if available, may be given chance to sing.

by Rev. Canon Andrew Sumani, Malawi

Advent 2nd [by Bishop Philip Huggins]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Isa 11:1-10
both
Psalm
72:1-7;18-19
2nd Reading
Rom 15:4-13
both
Gospel
Matt 3:1-12
both
by Bishop Philip Huggins, President of the National Council of Churches in Australia, and Director for Ecumenical Studies at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture

SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME

Text: Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another.”

  • In her wonderful book, The Art of Advent, Jane Williams has an icon O Root of Jesse.
    As she says, “this lovely icon shows Jesus at the heart of the family tree of the house of David. On each branch sits one of the heroes of Israel, gazing at Jesus, who is at the centre of the   tree, pointing to the scriptures that witness to him.”
  • Jesus our peace, Jesus our hope, calls us to repentance and and renewal.
    Our retreat at the UNCOP25 in Santiago, Chile had the theme of Innovative Minds, Generous Hearts as we seek to protect God’s creation and live as good stewards.
  • The theme of “trees” suggests itself: In Isaiah 11, the prophet speaks of the “shoot” that will come from the “stump of Jesse”.
    With lovely imagery of harmony and symmetry, Isaiah describes the new age of blossoming.
  • As Jane Williams reminds us, Paul uses this image of the “root of Jesse” in Romans 15. “This story of the house of David is a story for the whole world. “The nations shall inquire of this root of Jesse”, Isaiah says (11:10), and Paul says that “in him the Gentiles shall hope” (Romans 15:12).
  • We can make the link readily then, through scripture, to the tree in the garden of Eden and then to the tree of the Cross, through to the garden of the resurrection where Mary Magdalene meets the risen Jesus (John 20:15), supposing Him initially to be the gardener.
  • Hope is what is needed now and, in resurrection hope, our repentance and renewal must be substantial. As John the Baptist says in the Gospel to several Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he baptised, “Let it be seen that you are serious in your conversion” (Mt 3:8) or as in the NRSV, “Bear fruit worthy of repentance”.
  • “Hope imagines the future and then lives as if that future is irresistible.” (Walter Wink) It is this kind of hope that we need to create, guided by the Holy
  • In simple terms, the one human family on this tiny planet in a vast universe of God’s creation, just have to love each other better!
    If we are to give hope by preventing further climate change, more wars and more refugees, humanity has to co-operate together in a quite unprecedented way.
  • The reality is, we have to make this lift in unprecedented and sustained co-operation at the same time as powerful forces are undermining global co-operation, such as through the United Nations.
  • Moreover, at the same time as this lift is needed, many in the one human family are deeply wounded – carrying the “soul wounds” of history’s unreconciled tragedies.
  • It is a time, therefore, of partnerships with all people of good will. It is a time, certainly, when the deepest possible unity is needed between those who are disciples of Jesus
  • Today’s scriptures remind us of God’s providence and presence, God’s “steadfastness and encouragement” in our journey as hope-bearers.

Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)

Naomi Klein On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal (Allen Lane, Penguin, UK 2019)

WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES

Gathering & Penitence

A prayer for care of God’s creation

Gracious God,

We give thanks afresh that you have entrusted us with the care of all your creation: Every living creature, the earth itself! (Genesis 1:26)

We give thanks, as every for your gift of our life on our beautiful planet in our galaxy, within a universe filled with billions of other galaxies, all of your creating.

With renewed wonder and awe, we recognise your cosmic perspective in our common life as one human family, with stardust in our bones.

We pray thus in the Holy Spirit, through Jesus, the One in whom “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17), that we may have your discernment for our work to prevent global temperatures from rising.

Remembering Jesus’ word to us, that “whatever we do for one of the most vulnerable, we do for you” (Matthew 25: 33-40), we pray now for those already affected by climate change, like those in neighbouring Pacific Island nations and in places of more frequent and extreme climatic events.

We pray thus for the grace to hear and heed the new, young prophetic voices who say “act as if your house is on fire … because it is!”

We pray thus for all involved in upcoming United Nations climate negotiations, including now in Madrid.

We pray for the leaders of our nation as they try to make wise policy amidst many competing voices.

We pray too for strengthened resolve to make our own best contributions in daily life as stewards of all you give us.

All this and much that is in our hearts, we gather and pray, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Service of the Word

Bishop Huggins is travelling to Madrid for the UN Climate Change talks (COP25) as a representative of the WCC.

He will be presenting a song by girls from Lowthem Anglican School in Melbourne

What the world needs now, is love

https://www.facebook.com/GreenAnglicans/videos/1481561022003813

by Bishop Philip Huggins, Australia

Advent 1st [by Rev Dr Acosta]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Isa 2:1–5
both
Psalm
122
2nd Reading
Rom 13:11–14
both
Gospel
Matt 24:36–44
both
by Rev Dr Richard Acosta Rodríguez, Priest of the Diocese of Colombia, Episcopal Church

SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME

CREATION: PEDAGOGUE OF THE KINGDOM IN ADVENT TIME

Providentially, for the preaching on this Sunday, all readings provide us with valuable elements in order to understand Creation as a pedagogical instrument of God to lead us into him, his ways and make his Kingdom to come true among us. The Word of God calls us to understand God’s work as an important part in our relationship with him: restoring harmonious, fair relationships, with other humans and with the environment.

In the text of Isaiah, we find the mountain, a constant landscape in the Bible to express proximity to God; it is a privileged space to enter into an intimate relationship with him (Moses with the Law and Jesus with the Beatitudes, the Transfiguration). The mountain is the place of worship (where the temple is). Climbing the mountain, to meet the Lord, results in learning from him and shaping ourselves to match his will; but not only that, it also transforms human relations because this encounter brings peace between brothers and sisters, between nations.

Psalm 122 insists that the ‘raison d’être’ of the mountain is to gather the community to praise but also to do justice, and that combination (prayer-justice) is what makes the desired peace to come true. But, pay attention, peace does not come by itself. We must climb, we must walk, we must strive for it. It is not a matter of static, mystical tasks, but of actions, of movement, of walking to meet.

Jesus remembers the Flood to explain his return. The Flood is nothing other than the return to chaos prior to creation. God, in his infinite love, breaks into chaos, in the domain of the sea and orders everything, creates everything. And precisely, the being who was put as the steward of his creation was the one who brought the “flood” back to the earth, ending and destroying everything. By its evil the creation suffered and was exterminated.

And what do we do? The answer is in the Gospel and in the letter to Romans 13: 11–14: wake up, be prepared, get up! Paul calls our attention to read the signs of the times, to understand the context we live in and, above all, to wake up from the anaesthetic dream we are in, to get out of the darkness. It is time to restore just relationships with creation and others. It is time to think like the image and likeness of God.

DETAILED NOTES

Old Testament reading / Psalm
  • Keep in mind that the mountain is mentioned 4 times. The mountain evokes the place of the presence of the Lord, from where he communicates as he did to Moses and in the Transfiguration story. It is the place of worship, of the encounter with the Lord to praise Him. Let’s see how nature serves as a meeting place with God throughout the Scriptures. (v.2).
  • Isaiah invites you to climb because it will be on that mountain (where the temple is) the place where God will teach his ways. (v.3). The mountain becomes a spiritual school, a sanctuary to learn from God. But you must walk, climb, it is not a static relationship but dynamic.
  • After that encounter with the Lord, on the mountain, there will be the necessary transformation of humanity, where we will change our scale of values: swords for ploughs, spears for pruners (v.4). The God with us (Emmanuel), humanity, mountain (creation) will bring the expected peace where the earth is also benefited (v.4).
  • This last idea is reinforced by Psalm 122. It is there, on the Mount of Jerusalem, where the community not only praises God (v.4) but where justice operates (v.5). Then, the trinomial: God, humanity, creation, is not only mystical relationships but social; only with true spirituality and intrinsically united will the true peace finally be lived, which is insisted on three times (vv. 6-8).
New Testament reading
  • The Letter to the Romans, in verse 11, leaves the most pertinent exhortation for the present reflection: “Consider the time in which we live, and know that it is time to wake up from sleep.”
  • It is time to open your eyes and stop dreaming that everything is fine, that the environmental crisis is a myth, that it is a distant problem, of another generation. “The night is nearly over” (V.12), we have already slept too much; “So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light” (V. 12). Let’s wake up and realise that we don’t let that light shine.
  • It is necessary to consider the time in which we live. Jesus also pointed out when he spoke of the signs of the times. We are not reading them. The earth groans, with labour pains (as Paul writes in Romans) and we are not listening; it simply bleeds, overheats, is mutilated in its forests and species, and we are not able to see that that is returned to us because we depend on everything else.
  • We must “wake up from sleep” and walk, start walking, act.
  • As in Isaiah, again, the answer is to move, walk, get up; not staying static, asleep. You must get on track, on the move.
Gospel
  • In the gospel, Jesus remembers Noah and the Flood (vv. 23-39) and compares his return to that episode.
  • We must remember what the Flood is. It is about the return of creation to the pre-creational situation (Gen 1: 1), because before creation everything was chaos, everything was water. God, with his creative work puts water in its place and fills the cosmos with harmony. But, human evil (Gen 6: 5) makes everything back to chaos and water (Gen 7). Human evil is against creation.
  • It is we, the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26), who by our evil work against being image, likeness, harmony, creation; and, rather, we become chaos, destruction, extinction, homicide, injustice, inequity. We must repent and change course of life.
  • You are right. We are in full flood. We are finishing with the creative work of God. And, that is why, at this time of Advent we cry “come Lord Jesus,” come and make your Kingdom to come true. Maranatha.
  • We must be prepared, for we do not know the day or the hour (v.36,42.44), and we do not want the Lord’s coming to surprise us by being unfaithful to our stewardship with creation, to surprise us in chaos and in the flood XXI century.
  • It is time to change our attitudes and align them with Christ, with that image and likeness, so that life, creation will triumph over chaos again.
Environmental & Sustainability themes / links:

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6VgrlSGyZc

Article: http://www.amerindiaenlared.org/contenido/6826/ecoteologia-la-opcion-por-la-tierra-como-lugar-teologico/

Article: www.amerindiaenlared.org/uploads/adjuntos/1380198064_attach53.pdf

Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)

Article: https://casamdp.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/boff-cap-i.pdf

WebSite: https://acostarichard.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/ecoteologia-la-opcion-por-la-tierra-como-lugar-teologico/

Book: Acosta, Richard. Dios, Hombre, Creación. Hacia una Ecoteología bíblica. Bogotá. San Pablo. 2014.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWRHxh6XepM&t=4924s

WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES

Gathering & Penitence

Welcome: “Feel all loved, welcomed, welcomed by God who is Father and Mother, who is life and creation.”

Confession: (may be as an invitation) “Now, let us recognise and ask forgiveness from the God of life, when we have not been good stewards, when we have not acted in his image and likeness; when we throw garbage, we waste, we pollute and we are unfair. Let us ask forgiveness when we destroy his work and refuse to wake up from this darkness”

Service of the Word

For the Creed:

Once we have nourished ourselves with the Word of the Lord, let us stand up and tell the God of life that we believe in him who is Creator, in his Son who is the head of heaven and earth, in the Spirit that flutters in his magnificent work and in the Church, co-creator and faithful steward of its Creation.

by Rev Dr Richard Acosta Rodríguez, Colombia