Proper 29, 25th Sunday after Pentecost [by Catarina Sá Couto]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Ezek 34:11-24
2nd Reading
Eph 1:15-23
1 Cor 15:20-28
Matt 25:31-46
by Catarina Sá Couto – Missionária Leiga da Igreja Lusitana

Right!  Left! Sheep and a Shepherd that splits them. This is the common ground we get in today’s readings. In Ezekiel, the weak sheep and the fat ones are split, in Matthew, sheep and goats are split, but for this ones and in Psalm 100, a Shepherd that exists or it will be sent, will take care directly of the sheep.

Sheep and Shepherd…

Have you noticed that in the Bible there is many quotations about animals?

Snakes, donkeys, lions, grasshoppers, doves, scorpions, big fish, frogs, gazelles, bears, horses and – also – the sheep.

One day I was in Terceira, an island from Azores, Portugal, with a couple friend of mine. He owned sheep and invited me to come with him to the daily routine of the flock.

I had never had the opportunity to be so near sheep. Watching them closely and being around them, I notice they can be very distracted doing something, but they keep an eye in everything. Even when they are eating and you are around; if you move, they stop eating and look at you. I can say they are always watching everything. I start thinking… with so many animals why Jesus compared us, his people, with sheep?

We had to substitute a fence for the sheep not to get lost, or out on the field. To do that, the sheep had to be move to the place where the field already had a strong fence, and he asked me to do that. The sheep were in front of me and I started to move in their direction for them to go into the front. However, when I started to move, they started to disperse walking in all directions. Feeling myself very incompetent, I started saying “no no no” and I walked to the sides trying to convince them to come back to the middle again, but they start to go even in other directions, and the flock was all disperse. My words sounds and walk, where just resulting in the opposite plan.

My friend just said “Uaei!” and pointed where he want them to go, and they just quickly went exactly to the right place. It looked easy, but it did not work with me…
Therefore, I could recognize one main characteristic in sheep: they are followers by nature, they follow, and they need to follow.

As you can see, when my friend call them they follow the shepherd, they recognized his voice, exactly as Jesus also said about us. However, is not just the pastor that the sheep follow, they can, too, continuously following each other. This is true; I invite you to search videos where you can see for example cars who cannot move because sheep are running around without stopping, barricading cars. This happens because they are following the tail of the sheep in front and going in circles without stopping. Unfortunately, when we do not recognize God’s voice, this happens to us as well.

Like sheep, we have the need to follow.


In Today’s readings, we also have the split of the flock by the Shepherd, who is God.

In Ezekiel the split happens between those who are fat and strong – who will be destroyed – and those who are weak, sick and in need and will be taking care; in Mathews, the split it is between the sheep who obeyed God’s will and goats who did not obeyed God`s will.

If we look into the world, where are the fat and strong sheep, and where are the sick ones?

Reading this Scriptures Lesson, I automatic thought about the north and south hemisphere: the sheep who are fat, strong (in global north) and the sheep who are sick, weak (in the global south).

WWF statics figure out that north hemisphere, with just ⅕ of the world population, consumes 70% of energy, 75% of metals, and 85% of wood world production. Many products consumed are produced in south hemisphere, polluting their countries and reducing the quality of life of its population.

I believe verses 18 to 22 are a direct message of God to us now and we can notice the difference on the north and south hemisphere:

Some of you eat the greenest grass, then trample down what’s left when you finish. Others drink clean water, and then step in the water to make the rest of it muddy. That means my other sheep have nothing fit to eat or drink. Therefore, I, the Lord God, will separate you strong sheep from the weak. However, I will rescue them and no longer let them be mistreated. I will separate the good from the bad.

So, in this scenario, where can we find the voice of God? What is following each other “tails”?

God’s voice is clear:

I was sick and you take care of me, I was hungry and thirsty and you fed me, I was naked and you gave me clothes”.

How we follow each other?

When we do what those around us are doing, continuing just because we always do that.

In our world people who take care of this weak sheep, being zero waste, vegan, buying second hand and not doing a rush purchase just because, buying local in a few kilometres of their houses by purpose, are the people seen as: radicals, hippies or extremists.

However, Jesus, against all odds, in today’s gospel, gives an answer: you will be saved because “I was sick and you took care of me, I was hungry and thirsty and you fed me, I was naked and you gave me clothes. “When were you sick and I took care of you?” says perhaps the vegan, “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed (…)” like the South Hemisphere for a lot of people and countries, “(…) you did it for me”. Therefore, he did, so they did, with their life style and daily choices. Conserving resources, and giving, in this globalization, food and water to the ones in need. Consuming less meat, saving water, making less carbon emissions with transport or energy, this can save people.

As sheep, when are we following each other tails?

I think, when we don’t change our habits because it’s normal, other sheep are doing it, using the car, usually alone, just for a few meters from our house, instead of using public transports; wasting food buying more then we need or will eat; consuming and wasting for an exaggerated comfort – almost wanting to achieve a perfect life conditions.

When we do this, we are not seeing the necessities of needing in the South Hemisphere and so, not hearing God’s voice.

So what will happen to the fat sheep? The Goats? Jesus is also clear…

Everything seems difficult in a very easy, comfort, fast, rapid capitalist world that the North Hemisphere lives on. However, exactly there, are people who show us that it can be possible to change, that it is possible to live with less, with no destruction, no garbage, no wasting.

Wherever, being more “green” or not, the first thing is we have to look at this people, stop seeing them as “defective” but people who, every day, make a difference in the life of the needing of the global south. The air doesn’t have frontiers, so every carbon emission goes to all; the water flows into every country and continent, so the water we waste in our country have consequences on every countries special the ones who have less water, more heating, more drought. This is where the sick sheep, the thirsty sheep and the hungry sheep are. Therefore, as God’s followers in today scriptures those are the ones we must take care.

What can we do?

  • Take a cloth shopping bag to the market to avoid producing more garbage, prevent trees cutting industries – in case of paper.
  • Stop eating meat every day in every meal or at least stop buying beef or products of beef industry.
  • Buy local or grow your own food – herbs, tomato, pepper…
  • Do not make printings in paper if there is an alternative or you do not know if it will be used.
  • Do not drink bottled water but, if drinkable, drink from the public system.
  • …And so other many advice you can look on Green Anglicans or Environmental Anglican Network campaigns for Lent, The Season of Creation, or other resources.

I can only leave with you St. Paul words from today’s reading:

I ask the glorious Father and God of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you his Spirit. The Spirit will make you wise and let you understand what it means to know God. My prayer is that light will flood your hearts and you will understand the hope given to you when God chose you. Then you will discover the glorious blessings that will be yours together with all God’s people.” – Ephesians 1, 17-18

As sheep, we will not move if we do not hear the voice of the Shepherd, and if we do not move we can get lost from the Shepherd and make that other sheep may be lost too, or preventing for them to follow each other, and then, we can go around in circles forever. To stop growth of Climate Change, and, has the reading said, to get to the safe green hill, we have to let us be guide by the Good Shepherd. In addition, he just asks us to love one another as ourselves.

With this focus, we can do everything for creation.

Make a difference starting today, take care of the needing, protect the Global South, and change your habits to more green ones.

Here is the voice of the Shepherd in your daily life.

by Catarina Sá Couto, Missionária Leiga da Igreja Lusitana

Proper 28, 24th Sunday after Pentecost [English / Portuguese by Rvd Dr Sangi]


Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Zeph 1:7,12-18
Prov 31:10-31
2nd Reading
1 Thess 5:1-11
Matt 25:14-30
by Rvd. Dr. Mansita Sangi, Angola (Versão Portuguesa see below the English text)

“A Meditation on Creation”

Zephaniah 1: 7, 12-18 / 1Thess. 5: 1-11 / Gen. 1.26-28 / Matthew 25: 14-30

Zephaniah 1: 7, 12-18

This passage speaks of the Day of the Lord, the Day during in which God will repay the people, each receiving according to his works during life. The 3rd Verse indicates that nothing will be outside the events of the Lord’s Day. Men and animals will be snatched, and the wicked will be exterminated. Day of indignation and anguish, during which justice will be done not only to men but also to the things concerning nature, because all are God’s creatures – men and nature.

1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11

This passage warns the people that the Day of the Lord will come as a thief. Paul appeals to the culture of love and peace to achieve salvation during the Lord’s Day, by reminding the people of a future life with Christ and within Christ, for eternity. This love extends not only among human beings but also to the whole creation, all beings created by God, including nature, giving it its proper and appropriate processing.

Matthew 25: 23

“The Lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little, I will place you over a lot, enter into the joy of your Lord”. This passage reminds us of our responsibility as managers of creation received from God. Here again we have an ecumenical concern entrusted by God to humankind, with the perspective of a creation safeguarding. This passage gives us to understand that only those who will in future, and now, make good use of creation, can achieve the retribution or advantages that it is in relation to this entrusted mission that God has given us.

Speaking of the retribution that will be attributed not only for men but also for the things of nature, the passage of Zephaniah 1: 7, 12-18 has an ecumenical perspective inviting Christians not to consider themselves as the only creatures of God; their unity therefore implies, both, their humanity and the safeguarding of creation. In the accomplishment of time, not only men, but also every creature, including nature and the things found in it, will enter into the joy of their Lord. Unfortunately, man often despises nature by giving it bad treatment, considering himself as the only creature of God.

The fauna and flora of certain natural spaces in several countries, wild animals, and mineral species are constantly threatened. Day after day, we do not stop attempting against them in a deliberated way, either to respond to our ephemeral needs, either for ignorance or for inadvertence. Faced with human actions and that cause the degradation of nature, in the 1970s, in Germany, the idea of ​​ecological awareness emerged. From the theological point of view, the idea it is based on the order gave by God Himself to Humankind since the Creation in Gen. 1: 26-28 to dominate the earth and submit the rest of creation.

However “the idea that the world exists only for Man was rectified by the idea of ​​creation, which made Men creatures of God in parallel with others creatures”.[1] Thus, in spite of technological performance, Humankind is not the complete master of nature. In this respect, dominance can mean the right to make rational use of it as much as possible so that the effects produced can have a positive impact now and for generations to come. The fauna and flora contribute to the natural balance indispensable to human life.

At the origin of the motivations that support the protection of the environment, there is the tenacious intention of man to exercise a domination over nature and the rest of creation. With the increase in the power of new technologies, the natural environment appears to be a tool subject to various experimental manipulations. Ecology is, in its modern configuration, born from the awareness of man of the effects of his actions on nature and on his near surrounding environmental conditions.

Maintaining his healthy surrounding environment, it is providing appropriate justice to nature. Consequently, the Church thus recognizes the imminent place that Mankind occupies in creation. For this reason, based on the concept of “dominating” in the book of Genesis, we must establish a partnership relationship with nature. We cannot today conceive our future without nature, or even against it. The sense of ‘dominating’ that constitutes a hegemony granted by God to man, does not imply despising nature, but rather conceiving a just reaction marked by reciprocity, where each of the components, that is, nature and man gives and receives from other.

Ecology is concerned about the existential conditions of the living species attributed to the physical and natural environment in relation to the effects produced by man’s action on the physical and natural environment.

In addition to living species, the natural environment is also composed with other forms indispensable to existence, such as water, sun, climate, savannas, forests, atmosphere, who’s as a whole, constitutes what is called the ecosystem.

The symbiosis of these elements provides conditions that cannot be overcome for human existence, even for other living species, such as animals. We speak now about ecosphere, and about what concerns this system as a whole in relation to Mankind on earth. Nowadays, “ecological challenges stimulate meditation both in natural sciences and in social and moral sciences, and calls for the innovation of ways of life and symbolic expressions”.[2]

In our days, there is no doubts that “serious ecological problems requires an effective change of mentality in man, which leads him to adopt a new lifestyle”. [3] The idea of ​​ecological awareness implies the reconciliation between sciences with that same awareness. The lifestyle that must be our option is the one dealing and guide by self-discipline and temperance towards sobriety.

In the perspective of many critics, of which we are a part, the ecological crisis, understood as the crisis of man’s domination over nature, finds its origin in the biblical account of Creation in Gen. 1.28, where God gives man the power to dominate all creation. In this perspective, the ecological crisis reveals theological aspects in order to give new explanations or to rethink the biblical meaning of “dominating the land”.

It is in this perspective that through the Five Marks of the mission, notably the fifth and last one, entitled:  “preserve the integrity of creation, sustain it and renew the life of the earth”, the Anglican Communion agrees to rethink and redefine its mission inherent to ecological and environment questions, in correlation with the previous four points developed in the Five Missionary Brands. A. Walls and C. Ross say the following in this regard:

By restoring nature and environment, the needs of a community of people were also met, and the Christian message was received among the villagers. Today, not only in the State of India, but also across this fragile world, each of the four preceding marks of the mission must be reexamined as we are awakened by the evident truth that nature constitutes the context of everything we have done and everything we are. Evangelization (proclamation of the Good News) must debate in its apologetics with the accusation that Christianity has nothing to say about today’s biggest issue, namely how we can have a lasting relationship with the planet earth. Discipleship (teaching, baptizing…) must move above man’s relational resources with God and his neighbor, in order to include our relationship with the earth and with other creatures whose welfare it is entrusted to us. Responding to human needs through the service of love is a task increasingly given to defeat, if we do not tackle the root causes of these human needs. As a humanitarian worker in Bangladesh, Nazmul Chowdbury says: forgetting to make climate change an element of our own history, implies that poverty will be permanent. Transforming the unjust structures of society must mean straightening out not only the global injustices that prevent the poor’s from gaining access to development, but also questioning our aspirations even for the evolution of the ways of life we ​​now find unbearable.[4]

Most of the CEI ecumenical declarations move in favor of civil peace, justice in the legal and economic sense, the place of women in society and in churches, the safeguarding of the land in the face of numerous climatic and ecological threats. We quickly quote “the poor will own the land”, a statement made public in June 2006 in Brazil at the ninth session of the COE General Assembly. The invitation was made to political decision-makers from all countries around the world to operate a guarantee for the well-being of each citizen, but also of our “common home”, which is the land.

The Anglican Church, together with States and international organizations, provides emergency support to people affected by claims due to climatic or ecological problems. Marjorie Murphy writes the following about it:

Mission and evangelization includes responding to urgent situations. There were responses to the tsunami, as well as the reconstruction of people’s lives and infrastructure (Sri Lanka) and through psychological assistance, helping people to come to terms with the loss of life and property (Melanesie). There was an earthquake response (Japan and Pakistan). In response to Hurricane Katarina (USA), an evangelist couple currently runs a benevolent camp called “Cozinha de Deus Katarina” (Gods Kitchen Katrina), that provides more than 1000 meals a day to both benevolent and inhabitants. Most, if not all of these responses to urgent situations, the churches were able to provide those affected regardless of religion. The floods (Bangladesh) and a prolonged drought (Australia) brought attention to the issue of climate warming.[5]

The purpose of ecology is, among others, to analyze, detect, and fight against practices that cause the ecosystem to fail, in order to take the necessary measures for the preservation of the biosphere. It is concerned with man as an entity forming part of the ecosphere, seeking his vital good in the combination of elements that provide a harmonious functioning to the natural environment.

Since the publication in 1987, of the “Brundtland Report”, the future of all of us (Montreal, Fleuve 1988), the international public debate on biosphere management combines the words environment and development.

Definitely, the Church has all valuable and legitimate reasons for attaching, in its mission, to ecological problems, as well as the effects they generate.

The Church, an instrument of God’s salvation in the world, must constantly call men and women to fulfill the mission that they received from God, as managers or stewards of creation. In this way, the Church must appeal that any activity of anxious production of environmental health should center its procedure on the profit it pursues, to avoid any practice that may alter environmental life.

The Church, therefore must, seek to discern the disorder of man in relation to the purposes of God, questioning the re-composition of its mission in his commitment in the face of the madness of the painful events that are being produced in the world.

Reflexão sobre a criação:

Sofonias 1:7, 12-18 / 1 Tss 5: 1-11 / Gn 1.26-28 / Mateus 25:14-30

Sofonias 1: 7, 12-18:

esta passagem fala  do dia do Senhor, dia durante qual Deus fara a sua retribuição ao povo, cada um recebendo consoante suas obras enquanto estava em vida.  O vescicilo 3 indica que nada sera fora dos ancontecimentos do dia do Senhor. Os homens e os animais serão arrebatidos, os impios serão exterminados. Dia de indignação e de angustia, durante o qual a justiça sera feita não so aos homens mas também às coisas da natureza, sendo todos ( homens e natureza) criatura de Deus.

1 Thessalonicenses 5: 1-11:

esta passagem adverte o povo acerca do dia do Senhor que virá como landrão. Paulo apela à cultura do amor e da paz para alcançar a salvação durante o dia do Senhor fazendo lembrar o povo sobre uma vida futura com Cristo e junto do Cristo na eternidade. Este amor estende-se não aos homens entre eles mas também a toda a criação, todos seres criados por Deus, inclusive a nutreza dando-a um devido e adequado tratamento.

Mateus 25: 23

“Disse-lhe o Senhor: bem está, servo bom e fiel. Sobre o pouco foste fiel, sobre muito te colocarei, entra no gozo do teu Senhor”.  Esta passagem recorda nos a nossa responsabilidade recebida da parte de Deus como sendo gestor da criação. Temos mais uma vez aqui uma preocupação ecumenica incumbida por Deus ao homem na perspectiva da salvaguarda da criação. Esta passagem da-nos entender que só  os que farão e fazem bom uso da criação que podem alcançar a retribuição ou vantegens que se relaciona a esta missão que Deus nos proporcionou.

Falando da retribuição  que será faita não só aos homens mas também às coisas da natureza, a passagem de Sofonias 1: 7, 12-18  tem uma perspectiva ecumenica convidando os cristãos a não se considar como únicas criaturas de Deus; a sua unidade implica, pois, a da humanidade e a salvaguarada da criação. Na consumação dos tempos, não só os homens, mas toda criatura, inclusive a natureza e as coisas nela se encontram, entrarão no gozo do seu Senhor. Infelizemente, o homem despreza frequentemente a nautreza dando-a mau tratamento, considerando-se como única criatura de Deus.

A fauna e flora de certos espaços naturais em diversos países, as espécies animais, selvagens e minerais estão constantemente ameaçadas. Dia após dia, não se pará de lhes atentar, de modo deliberado, seja para atender às necessidades efémeras, seja por ignorância ou inadvertência. Face às acções humanas que ocasionam a degradação da natureza, surgiu, nos anos 1970, na Alemanhã, a ideia da consciência ecológica. Do ponto de vista teológica, esta ideia tem o seu fundamento na própria ordem de Deus dada ao homem desde a criação em Gn 1.26-28 de domimar a terra e submeter o resto da criação.

Mas, contudo, « a ideia de que o mundo existe unicamente para o homem foi rectificada pela ideia da criação, que fazia dos homens criaturas de Deus em paralela com outras »([1]). Assim, a despeito da performance tecnológica, o homem não possui o domínio completo da natureza. Neste aspecto, dominar pode significar o direito de fazer uso de maneira racional tanto quanto possível, para que os efeitos produzidos possam ter um impacto positivo agora e nas gerações vindouras. A fauna e a flora concorrem para o equilíbrio natural indispensável à vida humana.

Na origem das motivações que sucitam a protecção do meio ambiente há a pretenção tenaz do homem em exercer uma dominação sobre a natureza e o resto da criação. Com o aumento em poder das novas tecnologias, o meio natural aparece como sendo um utensílio sujeito a várias manipulações experimentais do homem. A ecologia é, na sua configuração moderna, nascida da tomada de consciência do homem dos efeitos das suas acções sobre a natureza e sobre o seu meio ambiental imediato.

Manter o seu ambiente imediato saudável e uma forma de prestar uma justiça adequada à natureza. Consequentemente, a Igreja reconhece assim o lugar iminente que o homem ocupa na criação. Por esta razão, apoiando-se sobre o conceito «dominar» no livro de Génesis, o homem se deve estabelecer uma relação de parceria com a natureza. Nós não podemos hoje conceber o nosso futuro sem a natureza, ou ainda contra ela. O sentido de `dominar´ que constitui uma hegemonia concedida por Deus ao  homem, não implica desprezar a natureza, mas antes conceber uma reação justa marcada pela reciprocidade, onde cada um dos componentes, isto é, a natureza e o homem dá e recebe do outro.

A ecologia interessa-se às condições existenciais da especie viva atribuída ao meio físico e natural em relação aos efeitos produzidos pela acção do homem sobre o meio ambiente físico e natural.

Para além das espécies vivas, o meio natural também é composto de dados inanimados indispensáveis à existência, como a água, sol, clíma, savanas, florestas, atmosféro, cujo conjunto cosntitui o que se chama o ecosistema.

A simbiose destes elementos proporciona condições com as quais não se pode utrapassar para a existência humana, mesmo das outras espécies vivas, como animais. Fala-se da ecosfera a respeito do que toca ao conjunto desse sistema em relação ao homem na terra. Dos nossos dias, «os desafios ecológicos estimulam a reflexão tanto em ciências naturais quanto nas ciências sociais e morais, e apela à inovação de modos de vida e expressões simbólicas»([2]).

Nestes dias, ninguem duvida que «graves problemas ecológicas requerem do homem uma mudança efectiva de mentalidade que induz a adptar um novo estilo de vida» ([3]). O que implica a ideia da consciência ecológica, a qual busca conciliar a ciência com a consciência. O estilo de vida que se trata é o que constitui e se trilha pela autodisciplina e por uma temperança voltada à sobriedade.

A crise ecológica, entendida como sendo a crise de dominação do homem sobre a natureza, encontra, a vista de muitos críticos, dos quais somos parte, a sua origem no relato bíblico da criação em Gn 1.28, onde Deus confere ao homem o poder de dominar toda a criação. Neste ângulo, a crise ecológica revela aspectos teológicos de modos a dar explicações novas ou a repensar o sentido bíblico de «dominar a terra».

É nesta perspectiva que através das Cinco Marcas da missão, notavelmente a quinta e última, intitulada preservar a integridade da criação, sustentá-la e renovar a vida da terra, a Comunhão anglicana concorda a repensar e redefinir a sua missão inerente aos problemas ecológicos e meio ambiente, em correlação com os precedentes quatro pontos desenvolvidos nas Cinco Marcas missionárias. A. Walls e C. Ross dissem o seguinte a este respeito:

Restabelecendo o meio ambiental e natural, as necessidades de uma comunidade de pessoas foram também atingidas, e houve a receptividade da mensagem cristã entre os aldeões. Hoje não apenas no Estado da Índia, mas através deste mundo frágil, cada uma das quatro precedentes marcas da missão deve ser reexaminada enquanto somos despertados pela verdade evidente que a natureza constitui o contexto de tudo que fizemos e somos. A Evangelização (proclamação da Boa Nova) deve se debater nas suas apologias com a acusação segundo a qual o cristianismo nada tem a dizer a respeito da maior questão de hoje, a de saber como podemos ter uma relação durável com o planeta terra. O discipulado ( ensinar, baptizar e entreter) deve se mover acima dos recusrsos relacionais do homem com Deus e com seu próximo, para incluir a nossa relação com a terra e com as outras criaturas cujo bem-estar nos é confiado.  Responder às necessidades humanas pelo serviço de amor é uma tarefa cada vez mais entregue à derrota, se nós não atacarmos as profundas causas  destas necessidades humanas. Como trabalhador humanitário em Bangladesh, Nazmul Chowdbury afirma que: esquecer-se de fazer a alteração climática um elemento pertencente à história, implica que a pobreza será permanente. Transformar as estruturas injustas da sociedade deve significar endireitar não somente as injustiças mundiais que impedem aos podres ter acesso ao desenvolvimento, mas também interrogar as nossas aspirações mesmo da evolução dos modos de vida que ora achamos insuportáveis[4].

A maioria das declarações ecuménicas de CEI move em prol da paz civil, da justiça no sentido jurídico e económico, o lugar das mulheres na sociedade e nas Igrejas, a salvaguarda da terra face às numerosas ameaças climáticas e ecológicas. Citamos rapidamente «os pobres possuirão a terra», declaração tornada pública em Junho 2006 no Brasil aquando da nona sessão da Assembleia geral da COE. O convite foi feito aos decisores políticos de todos os países do mundo inteiro a operar garantindo o bem-estar de cada cidadão, mas também da nossa «casa comum», que é a terra.

A Igreja anglicana, junto dos Estados e organizações internacionais leva apoios de urgências às populações afectadas por sinistros devido aos problemas climáticos ou ecológicos. Marjorie Murphy escreve o que se segue a respeito:

Missão e evangelização incluim resposta às situações de urgência. Houve respostas ao tsunami, bem como a reconstrução das vidas das pessoas e infraestruturas (Sri Lanka) e através de uma assistência psicológica, ajudando as pessoas a reconciliarem-se com a perda da vida e da propriedade (Melanesie). Houve resposta a terremotos (o Japão e o Paquistão). Em resposta ao furacão Katarina (USA), um casal evangelista dirige actualmente um campo de benévolo chamado «Cuzinha de Deus Katarina» que fornece mais de 1000 refeições por dia em simultâneo aos benevolentes e aos habitantes. Na maioria, senão totalmente, destas respostas às situações de urgência, as Igrejas puderam fornecer aos afectados independentemente da religião. As inundações (Bangladesh) e uma seca prolongada (Austrália) chamaram à atenção sobre a questão de aquecimento climático([5]).

A ecologia tem por finalidade, entre outras, de analisar, detectar, e de combater contra práticas que provocam o desfuncinamento do ecosistema, com vista a tomar as medidas que se impõem para a preservação da biosfera. Ela se interessa assim do homem como entidade fazendo parte da ecosfera, buscando o seu bem vital na conjugação dos elementos que proporcionam um funcionamento harmonioso ao meio natural.

Desde a aparição em 1987, «do relatório Brundtland, o futuro de todos nós (Montreal, Fleuve 1988), o debate público internacional sobre a gestão da biosfera conjuga os termos do meio ambiental e do desenvolvimento.

Dinitivamente, a Igreja tem todas razões valiosas e legitimas em se apegar, na sua missão, sobre os problemas ecológicos, bem como sobre os efeitos que geram.

A Igreja, instrumento da salvação de Deus no mundo, deve constantemente chamar os homens e mulheres a ordem a fim de bem cumprir a sua missão que eles receberam de Deus, na qualidade de gestores ou de intendentes do resto da criação. Deste modo, a  Igreja deve apelar que toda actividade de produção ansiosa da saúde ambiental deve centrar seu procedimento à volta do proveito que ela persegue, a evitar toda prática podendo alterar a vida ambiental.

A Igreja  deve, pois, procurar a discernir a desordem do homem relativamente aos desígnios de Deus, numa colocação em questão para a recomposição da sua missão no seu compromisso perante a loucura dos acontecimentos dolorosos que se produzem no mundo.

by Rvd. Dr. Mansita Sangi, Angola

[1] Cf. R.BAUCKHAM, « Ecologie », in Dictionnaire critique de théologie, Paris, P.U.F., 2007, p.439.

[2] O.SCHÄFER et P.BÜHLER, « Ecologie », in Encyclopédie du protestantisme, Paris/PUF, Genève/Labor et Fides, 2006, p.387.

[3] CONSEIL PONTIFICAL JUSTICE ET PAIX, Compendium de la Doctrine sociale de l’Église, Paris, Cerf, 2007, p.273.

[4] A.WALLS et C.ROSS (Dir), Mission in the 21st Century. Exploring the five marks of mission, London,   Darton/Longman  and Todd Ltd, 2008, p.4.

[5] Marjorie MURPHY, Holistic Mission. A profile of Mission and Evangelism in the Anglican Communion, London, the Anglican Communion Office, 2008, p.4.  «Mission and evangelism has included response to emergency situations. There have been responses to tsunamis including the rebuilding of people’s lives and infrastructure (Sri Lanka) and through trauma counselling and helping people to come to terms with loss of life and property (Melanesia). There have been responses to earthquakes (Japan and Pakistan). In response to Hurricane Katrina (USA) an evangelist couple now head up one volunteer camp called “God’s Katrina Kitchen” that provides over 1,000 meals daily to both volunteers and locals. In most, if not all, of these responses to emergencies the churches have provided for those affected regardless of religion. Flooding (Bangladesh) and an extended drought (Australia) have drawn attention to the issue of global warming »

Proper 27, 23rd Sunday after Pentecost [English / Portuguese by Bishop Carlos Matsinhe]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Jos 24: 1-3a, 14-25
Wis 6:12-16
2nd Reading
1 Thess 4:13-18
Matt 25:1-13
by Bishop Carlos Matsinhe, Lusophonous Dioceses / Dioceses Lusófonas e Meio Ambiente, Criação

Suggested Sermon Theme (Versão Portuguesa see below):


Notes for a sermon based on the 8th November readings looking at the challenge of Restoring and Preserving the Environment and Creation.

Joshua 24: 1-3a, 14-25
  1. Joshua gathers the leaders of the tribes of the pilgrim community of Israel and reminds them of their history, their trajectory and the deeds that God had accomplished for the restoration of their dignity and freedom. It is God’s project for the new life of this community martyred in Egypt and suffered through its experience in the desert, without abundant food, without water, without health security or permanent housing.
  2. Joshua exhorts the people who guide to keep the FEAR OF GOD their Lord and to serve him with greater fidelity by removing other gods or acts of idolatry from their lives (“therefore remove the strange gods from among you and incline your hearts to the Lord, God of Israel ”), Js. 24.23.
  3. Joshua challenges the community to make an informed choice to fulfill the plan of a zealous God. They must focus only on God’s plan for them to reach life because otherwise the destruction of their lives would be inevitable. Js. 24.19b-20.
  4. Joshua and his family offer themselves as a standard and model of obedience, service and faithfulness to God in fulfilling their project for their lives and motivate community leaders to follow their example (“We will serve the Lord our God, and we will obey his voice. “…” That day, Joshua made a covenant with the people and gave them … laws and prescriptions “. Josh. 24.24b-25)
  5. The strategy of gathering, remembering, informing, instructing and organizing leaders and communities to pay attention and understand that the survival of their lives is linked to the health of the planet, and is still very valuable if we have to involve our communities in the work of restoration of the health of the environment so that it, in turn, guarantees the continuity of healthy life for future generations.
  6. Joshua sees the Lord as one who will punish his people for disobedience and idolatry. But, now we understand that it is nature itself that requires fair treatment, in the absence of which it is disoriented and takes revenge on human life and everything. Whenever that moment arrives, its strength prevails and there is no truce, unless we anticipate our actions to improve environmental health.
  7. The alternative lesson in the Book of Wisdom highlights the fact that it is wisdom or knowledge that leads to the right actions that promote and defend life. This wisdom and knowledge are not far from us but somehow hidden in such a way that both ordinary and civilized / elite citizens do not know or are not convinced about what they should do to guarantee a better quality of life. It is necessary to seek or pass on the wisdom and experiences to find them (Wisdom 6.12-15). It is necessary to meditate (reflect) and love the wisdom or experiences that transform lives. Looking at the theme of environmental justice, transformative actions are not far from any of us, but what seems distant is the right look at the dangers that the destruction of the environment represents. It still lacks the recognition that the whole creation groans because of sin / idolatry or human selfishness and consumerism. There is a lack of recognition that at this time, nature still eagerly awaits liberation, giving space to restore its integrity (Rom. 8.19-21), for which it is necessary that there be a conversion and a wiser and obedient to God’s plan and that we begin to produce fruits worthy of a positive and respectful change in our relationship with all elements of creation.
Psalm 78: 1-7

This Psalm re-emphasizes the importance of the theme of God’s teachings and human attention to the Creator’s words. “What we heard and learned and our ancestors passed on to us, we will not hide from their descendants: and we will tell everything to future generations” (Psalm78.3-4b). Here are the questions we should ask ourselves:

1) What did our ears hear about what creation was like in the past?

2) How many people know today how was the integrity of the creation of our planet?

3) What lessons have we learned and what lessons and testimony are we passing on to future generations and how?

4) What is hidden by the exploiters of our natural resources in the name of development, that we must denounce in order to save the land from the present destruction?

1 Tess. 4.13-18

This famous Pauline text on the resurrection and parusia, focuses and consolidates the expectation of Christians that everything will go well with all who live by faith in Him, both those who would be waiting for the day of the final Resurrection from their graves, as well as those that being alive they would be snatched up to him, thus marking the beginning of eternal communion with him. St. Paul seeks to convince believers that the coming of the Lord would be near and that the meeting will be in the air / in space, outside the bonds of the world of sin (the planet dominated by evil) and that would be the moment of victory and glory of the saved and redeemed and at the same time the moment of agony and perdition for the lost. That is, the good will escape the effects of the corrupted and destroying world. However, looking at the impacts of climate change, it is certain that no one will escape the destruction that results from ecological imbalances, looking only at the effects of droughts, cyclones, floods, landslides, atmospheric pollution, global warming, etc. Nobody has anywhere to go. With or without faith we die with agony, pain, panic and despair if nature reaches its limit of tolerance of the destruction that human beings caused in the 20th and 21st century. Ecological justice must be considered an important part of the gospel of salvation to be preached with our eyes on the future.

Mt 25.1-13
  1. Permanently watching the time of the Lord’s arrival at the feast means that the prudent person always remembers and prepares to face the unexpected moments. The prudent person thinks and acts to walk in the light today and tomorrow, to live well today but with eyes fixed on what can happen tomorrow (Mt. 25: 3-4).
  2. This text by S. Matheus, I personally sympathize with the foolish virgins because we do not find express the effort of the prudent to alert and support the imprudent, that their ingenuity and negligence do not seriously affect them. The prudent ones find them somewhat selfish, elitist because they hid their experiences and knowledge about the behavior of the bride and groom’s arrival at the night wedding, the party did not cheer up because there were 5 empty seats with people moaning outside out of hunger, darkness and the noise of the prudent. The prudent exploited and made the situation of naive girls worse and worse.
  3. Putting this in the environmental and creation perspective, rich and developed countries, their governments and elites in science and technology behave in the same way as prudent girls. That without feeling the effects of the rampant exploitation of the environment and our habit worsen the living conditions of the peoples of the third world, refuse to share the real technology, and are content with the indebtedness of the poor countries. What they do not know yet, although it is happening almost everywhere, is that the effects of climate change and climate and ecological injustice do not warn where they are going to strike at any given moment. Pandemics like the current one at Covid-19 are increasingly showing how vulnerable we all are. In the situation of a sick planet, headed for the sin of the few and the indifference of the many had sent the planet to a fatal end, without the rapture of some and the doom of others.

The restoration of the integrity of Creation must be seen, and treated as a binomial of human and eternal salvation. Evangelization must have as a focus and priority the welfare of nature / environment and the welfare of human life.


Tema Sugerido de Sermão:


 Notas para o sermão baseado nas leituras do dia 8 de Novembro olhando para o desafio da Restauração e Preservação do Meio Ambiente e Criação.

Josué 24:1-3ª, 14-25
  1. Josué congrega os líderes das tribos da comunidade peregrina de Israel e lhes recorda a sua história, a sua trajetória e os feitos que Deus realizara para a restauração da sua dignidade e liberdade. É o projeto de Deus para a nova vida desta comunidade martirizada no Egipto e sofrida através da sua experiência pelo deserto, sem comida abundante, sem água, sem segurança sanitária nem habitação permanente.
  1. Josué exorta o povo que guia para manter o TEMOR A DEUS seu Senhor e servi-lo com maior fidelidade afastando da sua vida outros deuses ou actos de idolatria (“tirai, pois, os deuses estranhos do meio de vós e inclinai os vossos corações para o Senhor, Deus de Israel”), Js. 24.23.
  1. Josué desafia a comunidade para fazer uma escolha esclarecida para cumprir o plano de um Deus zeloso e se devem focalizar apenas no projeto de Deus para que alcancem a vida porque doutra maneira a destruição das suas vidas seria inevitável. Js. 24.19b-20.
  1. Josué e sua família oferece-se como padrão e modelo de obediência, serviço e fidelidade a Deus no cumprimento do seu projeto para as suas vida e motiva os líderes da comunidade para seguirem o exemplo (“Ns serviremos o Senhor nosso Deus, e obedeceremos à sua voz.”…”Naquele dia, Josué fez aliança com o povo e deu-lhe…leis e prescrições”. Js. 24.24b-25)
  1. A estratégia de congregar, lembrar, informar, instruir e organizar os líderes e comunidades para prestar atenção, entender que a sobrevivência de suas vidas está ligada á saúde do planeta e é ainda muito valiosa se temos de envolver as nossas comunidades no trabalho da restauração da saúde do ambiente para que ele, por sua vez, garanta a continuidade da vida saudável às futuras gerações.
  1. Josué vê o Senhor como quem vai castigar o seu povo pela desobediência e idolatria. Mas agora nós entendemos que é a própria natureza que exige tratamento justo, na ausência do mesmo ela se desorienta e se vinga contra a vida humana e contra tudo. Sempre que chega esse momento a força dela prevalece e não há tréguas salvo se anteciparmos nossas acções de melhoramento da saúde ambiental.
  1. A lição alternativa em Sabedoria realça o facto de que é a sabedoria ou conhecimento que leva às acções corretas que promovem e defendem a vida. Essa sabedoria e conhecimentos não estão distante de nós mas de alguma maneira escondidos de tal modo que tanto o cidadão comum como o civilizado/elite não sabe ou não está convencido sobre o que deve fazer para garantir melhor qualidade de vida. É preciso procurar ou passar a sabedoria e experiencias para as encontrar (Sabedoria 6.12-15). É preciso meditar (refletir) e amar a sabedoria ou experiencias que transforma as vidas. Olhando para a temática da justiça ambiental as acções transformativas não estão distantes de qualquer um de nós mas o que parece distante é o olhar certo dos perigos que a destruição do ambiente representa. Falta ainda o reconhecimento de que toda a criação geme por causa do pecado/idolatria ou egoísmo e consumismo humano. Falta o reconhecimento deque neste tempo a natureza ainda espera ansiosamente a libertação, dando espaço para se realizar a restauração da sua integridade (Rom. 8.19-21) para o que é necessário que haja da parte das pessoas uma conversão e um olhar mais sábio e obediente ao plano de Deus e que comecemos a produzir frutos dignos de uma mudança positiva e respeitosa do nosso relacionamento com todos os elementos da criação.
Salmo 78:1-7

Este salmo volta a frisar a importância da temática do ensino e ensinamentos de Deus e a atenção humana às palavras do Criador. “O que ouvimos e aprendemos e os nossos antepassados nos transmitiram, não ocultaremos aos seus descendentes: e tudo contaremos às gerações vindouras” (Salmo78.3-4b). Aqui as perguntas que devemos nos fazer são:

  1. O que é que nossos ouvidos ouvira sobre como era a criação no passado?
  2. Quantas pessoas sabem hoje como foi a integridade da criação do nosso planeta?
  3. Que lições aprendemos e que lições e testemunho estamos passando às futuras gerações e de que maneira?
  4. O que é que está ocultado pelos exploradores dos nossos recursos naturais, em nome do desenvolvimento e que nós devemos denunciar para salvar a terra da presente destruição?
1 Tess. 4.13-18

Este famoso texto Paulino sobre a ressurreição e parusia focaliza e consolida a expectativa dos cristãos de que tudo irá bem com todos os que viverem pela fé n`Ele, tanto os que estariam esperando o dia da Ressurreição final a partir dos seus sepulcros, como aqueles que estando vivos seriam arrebatados para junto dele, marcando assim o início da comunhão eterna com Ele. S. Paulo busca convencer os crentes que a vinda do Senhor estaria perto e que o encontro vai ser no ar/no espaço, fora das amarras do mundo do pecado (o planeta dominado pelo mal) e que seria o momento da vitória e glória dos salvos e remidos e ao mesmo tempo o momento de agonia e perdição para os perdidos. Isto é, os bons vão escapar dos efeitos do mundo corrompido e em destruição. Mas olhando para os impactos das mudanças climáticas é certo que ninguém escapará das destruições que resultam dos desequilíbrios ecológicos, olhando só pelos efeitos das secas, ciclones, cheias, aluimentos de terras, poluições atmosféricas, aquecimento global, etc. Ninguém tem onde ir. Com ou sem fé morremos com agonia, dor, pânico e desespero se a natureza chegar ao seu limite de tolerância das destruições que os seres humanos causaram no seculo 20 e 21. A justiça ecológica deve ser considerada parte importante do evangelho da salvação a apregoar com os olhos no futuro.

Mt. 25.1-13
  1. Vigiar permanentemente a hora da chegada do Senhor da festa significa que a pessoa prudente sempre se lembra e se prepara para encarrar os momentos inesperados. A pessoa prudente pensa e age para andar na luz hoje e amanhã, para viver bem hoje mas com olhos fixos para aquilo que pode acontecer amanhã (Mt. 25.3-4).
  1. Este texto de S. Mateus é um daqueles pessoalmente me coloco em simpatia com as virgens néscias porque não encontramos expresso o esforço das prudentes no sentido de alertar e apoiar as néscias para que a ingenuidade e negligência delas não as afete gravemente. As prudentes as acho um tanto quanto egoístas, elitistas porque esconderam suas experiencias e conhecimentos sobre o comportamento das chegadas dos noivos ao casamento noturno. De uma forma geral a festa não animou porque havia 5 lugares vazios com gente a gemer lá fora de fome, de escuridão e do barulho das prudentes. As prudentes exploraram e pioraram a situação das moças ingénuas.
  1. Colocado isso na perspectiva ambiental e da criação os países ricos e desenvolvidos, seus governos e elites da ciência e tecnologia se portam da mesma maneira como as moças prudentes. Que sem sentir os efeitos da exploração desenfreada do meio ambiente e nosso habitat pioram as condições vida dos povos do terceiro mundo e se recusam com a partilha da tecnologia real e se contentam com o endividamento dos países pobres. O que não sabem ainda, embora esteja a acontecer quase em todo o lado, é que os efeitos das mudanças climáticas e de injustiça climática e ecológica não avisam onde vão se abater em cada momento. Pandemias como a actual da Covid-19 estão mostrando cada vez mais o quanto todos somos vulneráveis. Na situação de um planeta doente, caminhado para a destruição o pecado de poucos e indiferença de muitos remetera o planeta a um fim fatal, sem arrebatamento de uns e perdição de outros.
  2. O restauro da integridade da Criação deve ser visto e tratado como binómio da salvação humana e eterna. A evangelização deve ter como foco e prioridade o bem-estar da natureza/ambiente e o bem-estar da vida humana.

+ Carlos Matsinhe, Bishop of Libombos / Bispo dos Libombos

All Saints Day / Dia de todos os Santos e Santas [by Bishop Marinez]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Rev 7:9-17
Rev 7:2-14
2nd Reading
1 John 3:1-3
Matt 5:1-12
by Bishop Marinez Rosa dos Santos Bassotto, Anglican Diocese of the Amazon / Diocese Anglicana da Amazônia, Brazil

Matthew 5:1-12 /São Mateus 5:1-12 (Portuguese see below)

In the Gospel section selected by the Christian Church for this special day – All Saints’ Day – we hear from Jesus the promises of God’s actions in human life;

The Beatitudes, described in chapter 5 of Matthew`s Gospel, from verses 1 to 12, confront us with the reality of the Kingdom of God that is in permanent disagreement with the standards and values ​​of our society (of the kingdoms of this world).

Jesus calls happy those people who are powerless, vulnerable, who are subject to various forms of violence and oppression, those who seek to react, those who are resilient, those who are supportive, and those who do not allow themselves to be contaminated by indifference.

The promise of the Kingdom of God shows itself in the paradox of the Beatitudes: the people who, according to social standards, are seen as worthless and without a voice, those whose lives do not matter for a status-based society, are the ones chosen by God, to them salvation is promised, they are given the power that transforms everything.

It is important to stress here that the interpretation of the Beatitudes has always been controversial and, from the first centuries of our Christian era to the present, there is no consensus about them.

Matthew is often “accused” of spiritualizing the beatitudes in contrast to Luke, who puts them more as a call to resistance. Yes, it is a fact that, in comparison with Lucas, Matheus modified or expanded the beatitudes contained in the source Q. Moreover, this is due to the situation of his community/ies.

Matthew’s community/ies were marked with pain and persecution. The historical context of Matthew and his community/ies, obviously was very relevant in his narrative, Matthews directs his gospel to the Christian Jewish community/ies marked by the destruction of the temple (70 AD) and he includes in the Beatitudes the experience of the mourning people mourning this enormous loss.

However, mourning and weeping can also be signs of non-conformity with the situation of suffering and, at the same time, signs of hope, – not in the powers of this world – but in the transforming actions of God.

Let us now look at each of the Beatitudes described by Matthew: Happy are the poor in spirit. This expression in generally is understood as a metaphor that includes all people (poor and rich) who are “spiritually vulnerable”. However, in order to understand Matthew, we need to remember that in the Jewish tradition the spirit characterized the person as a whole. Jewish understanding was not dualistic, there was no such idea of ​​separation between material and spiritual life, the word “poor”, in the expression “poor in spirit”, denotes a situation of comprehensive need and suffering, which encompasses the person as a whole, in its entire existence.

So, the same in relation to meek people. Matthew refers to people who do not practice violence, who do not give themselves to anger. However, this does not means resignation facing suffering, but the practice of respect and love as an act of resistance. They will inherit the land!

Happy are the people who are hungry and thirsty for justice, for they will be satisfied. We can say that this promise it is intended, both for people who are victims of injustices and for those who suffer from injustices against others. They are, then, both victims of injustice and people who feel empathy and are in solidarity with these victims.

The practice of mercy, of placing your heart with the suffering people, represents the sum of the works of love. Mercy is the practice of justice within a world with unjust structures. Practicing mercy corresponds, for Jesus, to practicing God’s will.

Having a pure heart means being totally obedient to God, since the heart was understood to be the center of human will and decisions. Thus, purity of heart encompasses the totality of human relationships at all levels. Purity of heart does not lead to isolation and individualizing spirituality, instead it fulfills God’s desire for human life to be lived in truth, hosting and love.

Being a pacifier means building peace. Moreover, the expression Peace does not refer here to an internal feeling of well-being or tranquility and calm, Peace is integrity of life. Pacifiers are people who promote peace between people in division situations. Whether this action is large or small, it has enormous proportions at a personal or international level.

Happy are the persecuted. The promise of the Kingdom for people who suffer from this process of broad impoverishment becomes reality even now: theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (of God). The Kingdom that is present in the reverse of history – it is an eschatological future that is already happening, that is, the Kingdom of Heaven is not beyond, it does not exist only in the future, it is here, it is another way of living the present, is another possible world.

In conclusion: Even in the face of Matthew’s apparent “spiritualization” of the Beatitudes, it is extremely important to stress that the Beatitudes are not the result of pious desires uprooted from reality, but are located in the here and now, and are the norm of the Gospel. Denoting that joy can exist within situations of suffering and pain. The construction of this joy takes place in the reversal of the relationships that are now beginning to be inaugurated, and where justice is desired and practiced, even in the smallest signs.

It is important to realize that what it`s declared to be happy is not an inner religious life, but the Christian person who lives his faith in the world in relation to other people.

What Matthew announces to his community/ies is valid for us today. The Beatitudes must be interpreted within our contexts in such a way that they help us to remain faithful to the covenant that God made with us through Jesus Christ, who opened and expanded a path of hope for us amidst a world of suffering and pain.

In this year of 2020, possibly with even greater intensity than in previous years, we can say that there is a lot of suffering and pain in the realities of our lives, inserted in the context of a pandemic that opened up the inequalities that exist around us. That has intensified hunger, that has hardened racism, and hate speech, the extermination of black populations, riparian’s, indigenous settlements (whether due to disease or violence), and that has exposed the greed of those who have no commitment to life of our Common House, and the lack of love and care for environmental justice (considering the fires and countless other environmental crimes that are happening in the Amazon and in the world).

2020 has exposed the many facets of evil in front of our eyes, and for this very reason, it is necessary that we, disciples and of Christ, must pay attention and become aware of situations of suffering and, there, proclaim this Gospel that invites people to learn active hope.

The Beatitudes read from, and into our current reality, reveal themselves as a source of strength, hope and new perspectives on life. For they also show us a special way for God to manifest Himself, to act and to be present in our world.

On this All Saints’ Day, let us remember that the grace of God is already being experienced, just as it was by those people who preceded us in previous generations.

Happy / blessed – this is the proclamation we hear.

May the saints of yesterday, today and the future ones, although subject to oppression, violence, diseases of the body, mind and “heart” (or soul), never stop proclaiming with their voices and with their lives that, even if the signs are of death, that the situations of injustice seem to overlap, God acts in the reverse of history, and with his action He transforms everything.


São Mateus 5:1-12

No trecho do Evangelho separado pela Igreja Cristã para esse dia especial – Dia de todos os Santos e Santas – vemos na boca de Jesus as promessas da ação de Deus na vida humana;

As bem-aventuranças descritas no capítulo 5 do Evangelho de Mateus, dos versículos 1 a 12 nos confrontam com a realidade do Reino de Deus que está em permanente desconformidade com os padrões e valores de nossa sociedade (dos reinos deste mundo).

Jesus chama de felizes justamente aquelas pessoas despossuídas de poder, vulneráveis, que estão sujeitas a várias formas de violências e de opressão, as que buscam reagir, as que são resilientes, as que são solidárias, e as que não se deixam contaminar com a indiferença.

A promessa do Reino de Deus mostra-se no paradoxo das bem-aventuranças: as pessoas que, de acordo com os padrões sociais, são vistas como sem valor e sem voz, aquelas cujas vidas não importam para uma sociedade baseada em status, é que são escolhidas por Deus, a elas é prometida salvação, a elas é dada a força que tudo transforma.

É importante reforçar aqui que a interpretação a respeito das bem-aventuranças sempre foi controversa e, desde os primeiros séculos de nossa era cristã até os nossos dias, não há consenso a respeito delas.

Mateus é muitas vezes “acusado” de espiritualizar as bem-aventuranças em contraposição a Lucas, que as coloca mais como convocação a resistência. Sim, é fato que, na comparação com Lucas, Mateus modificou ou ampliou as bem-aventuranças contidas na fonte Q. E isso se deve à situação da(s) sua(s) comunidade(s).

A(s) comunidade(s) de Mateus foram marcadas com dor e perseguição. O contexto histórico de Mateus e de sua(s) comunidade(s), evidentemente foi muito relevante na sua narrativa, Mateus dirige seu evangelho para a(s) comunidade(s) judaico cristã(s) marcada(s) pela destruição do templo (70 d.C.) e inclui nas bem-aventuranças a experiência do povo enlutado que pranteia essa enorme perda.

Mas também o luto e o pranto podem ser sinais de inconformidade com a situação de sofrimento e, ao mesmo tempo, sinais de esperança, não nos poderes desse mundo, mas na ação transformadora de Deus.

Vamos então olhar para cada uma das bem-aventuranças descritas por Mateus: Felizes as pessoas pobres no espírito. Geralmente essa expressão é entendida como uma metáfora que compreende todas as pessoas (pobres e ricas) que estejam “espiritualmente vulneráveis”. No entanto, para compreendermos Mateus, precisamos lembrar que na tradição judaica o espírito caracterizava a pessoa como um todo. A compreensão judaica não era dualista, não havia essa ideia de separação entre vida material e vida espiritual, a palavra pobre, na expressão pobres no espírito, denota uma situação de necessidade e de sofrimento abrangentes, que abarca a pessoa como um todo, na totalidade de sua existência.

Assim também em relação às pessoas mansas. Mateus se refere as pessoas que não praticam violência, que não se entregam à ira. Mas isso não significa resignação frente aos sofrimentos, e sim a prática do respeito e do amor como um ato de resistência. Elas herdarão a terra!

Felizes as pessoas que têm fome e sede de justiça, pois serão saciadas. Podemos dizer que essa promessa se destina tanto para as pessoas que são injustiçadas quanto para aquelas que sofrem diante das injustiças praticadas contra outras pessoas. Trata-se então tanto de vítimas da injustiça quanto de pessoas que sentem empatia e são solidárias com essas vítimas.

A prática da misericórdia, de colocar seu coração junto das pessoas que sofrem representa a suma das obras de amor. A misericórdia é a prática da justiça dentro de um mundo com estruturas injustas. Praticar a misericórdia corresponde, para Jesus, praticar a vontade de Deus.

Ter coração puro significa ser totalmente obediente a Deus, visto que o coração era entendido como sendo o centro da vontade e das decisões humanas. Assim, a pureza de coração abrange a totalidade das relações humanas em todos os níveis. A pureza de coração não conduz a um isolamento e a uma espiritualidade individualizante, ao invés disso concretiza o desejo de Deus de que a vida humana seja vivida em verdade, acolhimento e amor.

Ser pacificadora, significa construir a paz. E a expressão Paz não se refere aqui a um sentimento interno de bem estar ou de tranquilidade e calma, Paz é integridade de vida. Pacificadoras são as pessoas que promovem paz entre pessoas, situações e povos que estão divididos. Seja essa ação grande ou pequena, tenha ela proporções a nível pessoal ou internacional.

Felizes as pessoas perseguidas. A promessa do Reino para pessoas que sofrem esse processo de empobrecimento amplo torna-se realidade já agora: delas é o Reino dos céus (de Deus). O Reino que se faz presente no reverso da história – trata-se de um futuro escatológico que já vai acontecendo, ou seja, o Reino dos céus não é além, não existe apenas no futuro, é antes aqui, é um outro jeito de viver o presente, é um outro mundo possível.

Concluindo: Mesmo diante da aparente “espiritualização” das bem-aventuranças feita por Mateus é extremamente importante frisar que as bem-aventuranças não são fruto de desejos piedosos desenraizados da realidade, antes localizam-se no aqui e agora e são a norma do Evangelho. Denotando que a alegria pode existir dentro das situações de sofrimento e dor. A construção desta alegria se dá na reversão das relações que já agora começam a ser inauguradas, e onde a justiça é almejada e praticada, mesmo nos menores sinais.

É importante perceber que o que é declarada como feliz não é uma vida religiosa interior, mas sim a pessoa cristã que vive a sua fé no mundo em relação com outras pessoas.

O que Mateus anuncia para a(s) sua(s) comunidade(s) é válido para nós, hoje. As bem-aventuranças devem ser interpretadas para dentro dos nossos contextos de tal forma que nos ajudem a permanecermos fiéis a aliança que Deus firmou conosco através de Jesus Cristo, o qual abriu e ampliou para nós um caminho de esperança em meio a um mundo de sofrimento e de dor.

Neste ano de 2020, possivelmente com uma intensidade ainda maior do que nos anos anteriores, podemos afirmar que há muito sofrimento e dor nas realidades de nossas vidas, inseridas no contexto de uma pandemia que escancarou as desigualdades que existem a nossa volta. Que potencializou a fome, que acirrou o racismo e os discursos de ódio, o extermínio das populações negras, ribeirinhas, indígenas (quer seja pelas doenças, quer seja pelas violências), e que desmascarou a ganância de quem não tem nenhum compromisso com a vida de nossa Casa Comum, e a falta de amor e de cuidado para com justiça ambiental (haja visto as queimadas e inúmeros outros crimes ambientais que estão acontecendo na Amazônia e no mundo).

2020 desnudou diante de nossos olhos as muitas facetas do mal, e por isso mesmo é preciso, que nós, discípulos e discípulas de Cristo atentemos e nos se sensibilizemos para situações de sofrimento e, ali, proclamemos esse Evangelho que convida pessoas para o aprendizado da esperança atuante.

As bem-aventuranças, lidas a partir e para dentro de nossa realidade atual, revelam-se como fonte de força, esperança e novas perspectivas de vida. Pois elas também nos mostram um jeito especial de Deus se manifestar, de agir e de se fazer presente nesse nosso mundo.

Neste Dia de Todos os Santos e Santas lembremos que a graça de Deus já está sendo experimentada, assim como foi por aquelas pessoas que nos precederam, nas diversas gerações.

Felizes /bem-aventurados(as) – esse é o anúncio que ouvimos.

Que os santos e santas de ontem, de hoje e de sempre, ainda que sujeitos a opressão, a violência, as enfermidades do corpo, da mente e do “coração” (ou da alma), nunca deixem de proclamar com suas vozes e com suas vidas que, ainda que os sinais sejam de morte, que as situações de injustiça pareçam sobrepor-se, Deus age no reverso da história, e com sua ação tudo transforma.


by Bishop Marinez Rosa dos Santos Bassotto, Anglican Diocese of the Amazon / Diocese Anglicana da Amazônia

Proper 25, 21st Sunday after Pentecost [by Bishop Marc Andrus]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Deu 34:1-12
Ex 22:20-26
2nd Reading
1 Thess 2:1-8
1 Thess 1:5c-10
Matt 22:34-46
by Bishop Marc Andrus, Episcopal Diocese of California

Comments and Interpretation on Deuteronomy 34:1-12

1 Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the LORD showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, 2 all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3 the Negeb, and the Plain — that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees — as far as Zoar. 4 The LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” 5 Then Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. 6 He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. 7 Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. 8 The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended. 9 Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the LORD had commanded Moses. 10 Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. 11 He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, 12 and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

God shows Moses the land that became the Kingdom of Judah. This scene comes at the end of a 40-year sojourn between the end of a centuries-long period of slavery in Egypt. In the context of our Care of Creation, it is well to remember that the enslavement of the Hebrew people begins with an environmental disaster – a severe, seven-year drought that encompassed not only Egypt but a vast area that included the land over which the semi-pastoralist Hebrew people traveled in seasonal cycles.

There is a thread that runs through the entire story of the Hebrew people moving into Egypt, their wandering in the wilderness after God frees them from their enslavement, and up to this point, the passage into a land where they will establish a new relationship with land. I have already noted the drought that occasioned the original entry of the Hebrew people into Egypt. The story in today’s lectionary, Moses surveying the land that marks the end of their wandering, his not being allowed to pass into the land with the people he has been leading for forty years, and his death, this story is also a Creation Care story.

During the period of wandering, the people again suffered from drought. They complained to Moses, who took their cries to God. God commanded Moses to use his staff and strike a rock in the presence of the assembled people, and God would cause water to flow from the rock. The text (Numbers) says that Moses did just as God said, but that he upbraided the people and then “struck the rock twice.” The water flowed, as God had promised, but God told Moses that because of this show of intemperance, Moses would not be allowed to enter the new homeland.

What will be the Hebrew people’s relationship to this new land? How will they meet environmental disasters in the future? The preceding story contains a double warning: about trusting in earthly powers (Pharaoh, the stand-in for all monarchial power); and about seeking to solve the environmental crises “under our own steam,” without trusting in the grace of God. The outcome of giving ourselves over to either of these temptations is enslavement and frustrated futility.

I was recently attending a United Nations and faith bodies environmental conference that concluded with a multi-national, interfaith panel. A Clan Mother of the Onondaga Clan in upstate New York spoke about environmental ethics that derived from everyday practices of the clan in working within an ecosystem. One principle that guides the clan as they gather berries, or fish, or hunt is that the food must be “given.” A counter example Clan Mother Jacques gave is fracking; the intensely extractive, effortful drilling, blasting, pumping that goes into fracking is the opposite of taking what is “given.”

The Deuteronomy lesson is not to be taken as a call to passive piety, but rather, positively, as understanding that the love of God, indeed God’s Spirit is the source of all life, of all that is. A life lived in mindful reverence and gratitude is a posture that will shape our actions and help lead us to the “place where we should be,” a sustainable life.

Comments and Interpretation of Matthew 22:34-46

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” 41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: 42 “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, 44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”‘? 45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” 46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

The second half of today’s Gospel lesson may be off-putting and less than attractive as the basis for preaching, and for preaching on Creation Care, as it is another instance of sparing between Jesus and his opponents. But the first half, also framed as an encounter meant to entrap Jesus, is bursting with the sap of meaning, and meaning for how we live together on the Earth.

The love that Jesus says is the branch from which the whole body of the Teachings of Moses hangs is agape love, which I translate positively as “overflowing love” (chosen rather than “unconditional,” a translation choice parallel to positively translating the Sanskrit “ahimsa” as “soul force” rather than the negatively cast “nonviolence”).

As one elderly, life-long Episcopalian said to me recently, “Love (and he meant agape love) is the most powerful equation in the universe, more than e=mc2.” He and I talked further, and I found that this wise man was talking about what I call the dynamics of the Beloved Community.

The Beloved Community is a way of speaking of what is normally translated as the “Kingdom of God,” or the “Kingdom of Heaven” in the New Testament. Calling this reality the Beloved Community moves us out of the language of domination and patriarchy. Neil Douglas-Klotz’ fecund translation of Jesus’ prayer translates “Thy kingdom come” in this way:

3. The Creative Fire Teytey malkuthakh  (KJV version: Thy kingdom come)

Create your reign of unity now-
through our fiery hearts
and willing hands. Let your counsel rule our lives,
clearing our intention
for co-creation. Unite our “I can” to yours, so that
we walk as kings and queens
with every creature. Desire with and through us
the rule of universal fruitfulness
onto the earth. Your rule springs into existence
as our arms reach out to
embrace all creation. Come into the bedroom of our hearts,
prepare us for the marriage of
power and beauty. From this divine union, let us birth
new images for a new world
of peace.

Douglas-Klotz, Neil. Prayers of the Cosmos (p. 19). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Notice the use of “unity,” “co-creation,” “universal fruitfulness onto the earth,” and the “embrace [of] all creation.” These are phrases of Creation Care and equally of the Beloved Community. Two central features of the Beloved Community are that is an interconnected reality, and that the interconnection is effected by agapé love. The Beloved Community is the interrelated community of all life, including but not limited to humankind.

Preaching from the Hebrew Scripture and Gospel lessons

The way forward in the light of the planetary environmental crisis is neither one of carefully studied opacity – climate denial or climate “ignoring” as one friend put it – nor of the hubris of believing that we can engineer our way out of the crisis while leaving our over-consuming, materialistic ways in place. Refounding our ethics based on agapé love, and knowing and acknowledging that this love flows from God is to live consciously within the Beloved Community; it is to live the prayer, “Thy Beloved Community come.” Living the life of loyalty to the Beloved Community means navigating away from the two traps that the sprawling Hebrew Scripture story, from Joseph’s family coming into Egypt, through four-hundred years of slavery, through a period of testing and tempering in the wilderness, and to the brink of entry into a new home warns us about – trusting in our own or another’s power. And, living the life of loyalty to the Beloved Community means not only a sustainable life, but an ethical life (all the Law and the Prophets depend upon this love), and, at heart the most satisfying of lives.

by Bishop Marc Andrus, Episcopal Diocese of California

Proper 24, 20th Sunday after Pentecost [by Rev Dr Rachel Mash]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Isa 45:1-7
2nd Reading
1 Thess 1:1-10
Matt 22:15-22
by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, Environmental Coordinator, Anglican Church of Southern Africa

1 Thessalonians 1 :1-10  Changing our life-style

Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians  was probably the first letter that Paul wrote to a church. He shows great affection for the young converts, and is delighted that they are standing firm in the faith Since he can’t visit at this time, he writes to them  to strengthen their faith in Jesus.

Thessalonica was a bustling port city, the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia in northern Greece.. it was a trading hub, on the vast via Egnatia – a Roman road stretching 700 miles!. It was a free city with an independent government. Like many busy trading cities with many cultures, there were many religious activities, it was a centre for the Roman imperial cult, there were many temples to different deities. Think Johannesburg or  New York, a busy multi-cultural city.

The church was founded by Paul, Silas and Timothy, and the majority of the new converts were gentiles. They would have been  socialised in a pagan cultural environment, and Paul writes to encourage them in this radical  change of life-style  – leaving idols to ‘to serve the living and true God’ (1:10)

We know that they were being called to a radical change of life, because when Paul preached in Thessalonica in Acts 17 he was attacked as subversive –

‘They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.’

Why  did the people of Thessalonica  feel threatened by his teaching? He had made them realise that the Lordship of Jesus encompassed every part of life. The good news that he was preaching was very  bad  news for the religious, political and economic status quo.

The new young Christians were being called not just to follow Jesus but to change their lifestyles and to bear public witness to a different way of living.  They were not withdrawing from the world, they were participating in a radically new way, inspiring others. They were being called to join the Jesus movement.

Today we too live in a pagan society – a society which has turned to other gods – gods of consumerism, gods of selfishness, gods of toxic individuality . Your status is now defined by what you own, not by who you are. We are being encouraged to consume more, spend more, covet our neighbour for more and more. Even the meaning  of a ‘blessing’ is now material goods.

The pandemics of poverty and inequality, Climate change and biodiversity loss have at the root cause toxic individualism and greed.

We are called to a radically different life-style where we recognise the interconnectedness of people and all of creation. In the Lord’s  prayer we say “Give us today our daily bread” this is not an individualistic prayer for me and my family , this is a communal prayer – for the hungry in my city , for those who climate change will push into further hunger – give us our bread. This calls us to action to care for the vulnerable – both people and the earth.

As in the early church, our church communities should be circles of care, reaching out into the community, rather than institutions dragging people in.

Changing to a life-style that rejects consumerism and selfish values has missional implications – many people  are suffering from environmental grieving, the loss of a future, the loss of hope. After six months out of church, many people are saying – I didn’t really miss it, why should I go back?  If they can see in the church a new way of living, which shows care and compassion for others in need, and a commitment to environmental justice, that is a Jesus movement they will want to join.

by Dr Rachel Mash, South Africa

Proper 23, 19th Sunday after Pentecost [by Rev. Dr. Bullitt-Jonas]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Isa 25:1-9
Isa 25:6-10a
2nd Reading
Phil 4:1-9
Phil 4:12-20
Matt 22:1-14
by The Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Missioner for Creation Care in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts and Southern New England Conference, United Church of Christ. Her Website is

Matthew 22:1-14

Your invitation to love’s banquet

Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast has been interpreted in all sorts of ways, some of them helpful – some of them, not so much.  Over the years, commentators have interpreted the parable as an angry rebuke of the religious authorities who rejected Jesus; as an allegory to justify the destruction of Jerusalem by Roman soldiers in the year 70 C.E.; and as an account of why early Christian communities opened their doors to Gentiles as well as Jews.  At their worst, interpretations of the parable smack of conscious or unconscious anti-Semitism; at their best – well, let’s give it a shot.  What meaning can this parable have for us today?  In particular, can it give us any spiritual guidance in these turbulent times?

Let’s take it from the top.  Once upon a time there was a king – a wise, all-powerful king who decided to hold a wedding banquet for his son.  He got everything ready and prepared a feast of the finest foods.  He sent out invitations to his chosen guests, saying “Everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet” (Matthew 22:4).  But the guests refused to come.  Twice they were asked, and twice they turned him down.  They “made light” of the invitation, the story tells us, and some “went away, one to his farm, another to his business” (Matthew 22:5), while the rest attacked and killed the messengers.

When we read this through the lens of spiritual experience, what might this part of the story mean?  What comes to my mind are all the times that I refuse those invitations to the feast.  Too often I act like one of those guests who is handed a beautiful, hand-engraved wedding invitation: I cross my arms and say, “Nope; not interested.”  Has this ever happened to you?  Maybe you’re sitting indoors, and you’ve been inside all day, getting some work done, and you look up and notice that the sun is now low in the sky, casting a marvelous golden light across the purple underbelly of the clouds, and some part of you stares and says Oh! And you want to get up and gaze out the window for a while – or even step outside.  But you don’t.

Or maybe there’s a man with a loose gray coat and an unshaven face who is standing on the sidewalk where you just parked your car, and as you put a quarter in the meter, he mumbles a request: could you give him money to buy a cup of coffee?  You look across the street and sure enough, there’s a coffee shop right there; even if you don’t want to give the man cash, you could perfectly well walk across the street and get him a cup of coffee.  But you don’t.

Or maybe you feel stressed and distracted, or maybe sad and discouraged, and you sense a deep tug to prayer.  You know that new life will blossom in you only if you get yourself to sit down and pay attention to what is going on inside, only if you let yourself rest for a while in God’s embrace.  But do you let yourself pause to take in that nourishment?  You don’t.  You’ve got other things to do – good things, important things.  That inner tug can wait.  If you ignore it long enough, maybe it will go away.

Invitations to love’s banquet can take many forms, and they come not just once, but every day, and many times a day – maybe as an invitation to gaze at the beauty of the world, or as an invitation to be generous, or as an invitation to pause for a while to give the lover of our souls our full and undivided attention in prayer.  Yet how easy it is to say No!  I have a million excuses – I’m too busy, too focused on my own agenda, too scattered or overloaded to relinquish my worried, busy mind, to let my awareness open, and to drop down to my heart.

That’s a loss, because deep at the center of our being is an unquenchable thirst for union with the divine.  Deep in our guts, our bones, our very DNA, is an irrepressible yearning to move toward the Source of life, the All, the Ultimate, the Holy One.  Call it what you will – human beings the world over, whatever their religion, share a desire for what one writer calls “the union on this earth and in this body of the human with the divine.  This is the true spiritual marriage, the consummation of love that in one way or another is the aim of every ritual and every practice in every religion.”[i]

It’s no wonder that the Bible so often uses wedding imagery as a way to express the complete and intimate union of God and God’s people, or of God and the individual soul.  Sometimes the Bible depicts the bridegroom as God; sometimes the bridegroom is Christ.  Sometimes, as in this parable, we are invited to be guests at the wedding, and sometimes we ourselves are the bridegroom or we ourselves are the bride.

Love poets and mystics know all about the ecstasy of spiritual marriage.  Take, for instance, St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast day we celebrated last week.  Francis gazed deeply into the natural world as if into a mirror, and he saw reflected back to him the outpouring love of God.  For him, God was not an entity “out there” – God was within him and around him; God infused and sustained and shone out from all things.  Here is a little poem adapted from St. Francis:[ii]

Such love does
the sky now pour,
that whenever I stand in a field,

I have to wring out the light
when I get

The human longing for union with God is universal, but how quickly we repress it, ignore it, or push it away!  Who knows why?  Maybe we don’t want to feel our need and vulnerability; maybe we’re afraid to relinquish control; maybe we’re convinced we’re not good enough and we can’t possibly be loved that much.  But if we keep pushing God away, if we keep shutting ourselves off from the invitation to love and to be loved, then before long we will start to experience God as the enemy, and that’s the next part of the parable: some guests mock the messengers and blow them off, and other guests seize, mistreat, and kill them.  The text tells us that “the king was enraged” (Matthew 22:7).  He sends in his troops, destroys the murderers, and burns their city down.

As a spiritual story, this parable is quite accurate and exact: when we turn ourselves into the enemy of God, eventually we begin to experience God as an enemy.  God has not changed, but we have – we have pushed God away and have deliberately alienated ourselves from the divine.  Before any spiritual union can possibly take place, maybe that stubborn, resisting part of the self needs to be brought low and to fall away.  All of us who at some point have made a mess of our lives, who have made terrible mistakes and headed too far down a willful, self-centered, and defiant path, know what that’s like.  Sometimes the ego must be crucified before the soul can be born.

Yet the invitation to love never ceases.  In fact, it keeps getting wider, deeper, more expansive and more inclusive.  There is no guest list now.  The king’s love reaches out to everyone.  The wedding is ready, he says; the feast is about to be served and the food is hot.  He sends messengers into the streets to invite everyone to come, both good and bad, and they stream into the wedding hall until it is filled at last.

If you read this as a story of the interior life, it seems that only now – after our pride and defiance have been humbled and brought low – only now can we understand that every part of ourselves is being invited to the feast, that everything in us that we have cast away, abandoned, and rejected is being invited into the presence of God to be welcomed and healed and made whole.  Our whole selves are invited to the feast, and everybody else is invited with us.  There is no need now to shrug hopelessly and to say that we have to settle for being alienated from each other, that we have keep living driven, restless, distracted lives, that we have to make peace with poverty, with racial injustice and economic injustice, that we have to condone destroying the earth and that we have to tolerate an endless succession of wars. Now we know the truth: we have been invited to feast at the table of divine life.  We have been invited into the very heart of God, and in the strength of that divine presence we are sent out into the world to bear witness to God’s justice and mercy and love.

The parable ends with the startling little story of the guest who comes to the feast with no wedding robe and is summarily bound hand and foot and thrown into the outer darkness (Matthew 22:11-14).  Maybe this is a reminder to stay humble: God loves us completely and invites everyone to the feast, but we have our own work to do: to clothe ourselves day by day with the intention to love.  As St. Paul put it in Colossians, our job is to “[strip] off the old self with its practices and [to clothe ourselves] with the new self…” The passage continues: “As God’s chosen ones… clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Bear with one another and…forgive each other… Above all, clothe yourselves with love” (Colossians 3:9-10, 12-14).  In short, we wear the right clothes to the wedding feast of life when we clothe ourselves with love.

We are living through a time of extraordinary stress, a time in which each of us must clarify who we are and what we value.  So, here is what I want to tell you.  When love’s holy invitation comes, I want to say yes.  When love calls me to marvel at the sunset, to stop and gape at the beauty of the world, I want to say yes.  When love calls me to walk across the street to bring someone a cup of hot coffee and to add some honey to it, and some milk, as well, because that’s the way he says he likes it, I want to say yes.  When the divine call comes to sit down in prayer and to give the lover of my soul my full and undivided attention, I want to say yes.  As Mary Oliver writes in her poem, “When Death Comes,”[iii]

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

I want to say yes to life, yes to God, yes to the One in whose invisible, irresistible Presence we step fully into life, daring to connect deeply with ourselves and each other, refusing to be spectators, refusing to hold back, stepping out to create a world – and to fight for a world – in which everyone has a chance to experience how deeply God loves them. The banquet table is prepared, Jesus says to us. Will we come to the feast?

I will give the last word to Rumi, a Sufi poet who ends one of his poems like this:[iv]

On a day when the wind is perfect,
the sail just needs to open
and the love starts.   

Today is such a day.

by Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, United Church of Christ

[i] Roger Housden, For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics, (New York City: Hay House, Inc., 2009), xiii.

[ii] St. Francis of Assisi, “Wring Out My Clothes,” in Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West, translated by Daniel Ladinsky (New York, Penguin Compass, 2002), 48.

[iii] Mary Oliver, “When Death Comes,” New and Selected Poems (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992), 10.

[iv] Jalaludin Rumi, “On a Day When the Wind is Perfect,” in Love Poems from God, 80.

St. Francis Day – 18th Sunday after Pentecost – Season of Creation 5

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Ex 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
Isa 5:1-7
2nd Reading
Phil 3:4b-14
Phil 4:6-9
Matt 21:33-46
by Rev Nathan Empsall, MEM; Episcopal priest in New Haven, Connecticut, USA; editor of Episcopal Climate News; and campaigns director for Faithful America


Today is not just the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, or even just the final Sunday in the Season of Creation. It is also the annual Feast of St. Francis, patron saint of animals and ecology. The Episcopal Church’s Lesser Feasts and Fasts describes St. Francis as “the most popular and admired [saint], but probably the least imitated.”

All four of this week’s readings have something to say about creation. What would it mean to take the readings together, and interpret them in light of the life of St. Francis?

Hearing and Interpreting the Word

Comments on Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

The design of creation is that of an interconnected web, where no strand can be pulled without unraveling the entire thing. Climate change is the most urgent example of this interconnection: Eating too much meat in Europe increases the size of wildfires in the United States; driving gas guzzling SUVs here in the USA helps destroy the coral reefs of Australia; burning coal in Australia can cause drought in Africa.

Literally everything on Earth is connected to the earth, and thus shares a connection with everything else. This includes the Ten Commandments, each of which has an environmental connection of its own. Let’s consider three of the ten, letting these examples remind us that all of our actions impact the whole of creation.

Exodus 20:8: “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.” As humans, we have lived far beyond our limits, consuming too much, reproducing too widely, and taking more from God’s earth than we give. What would it look like if western society decided that ever-increasing production and growth were not the ultimate values, and started taking a day off from time to time to just “be” rather than “do”? Perhaps if we took our own rest more seriously, the planet would be able to rest and heal as well.

Exodus 20:15: “You shall not steal.” Thanks to climate change, ancient glaciers are melting; the Great Barrier Reef is dying; and a sixth mass extinction has begun. These features of creation existed for thousands of years, revealing God’s glory to nearly every human generation – until now. By constantly burning our fossil fuels, living beyond our means, and prioritizing profit above all else, we are stealing the treasures of the earth from future generations.

Exodus 20:16: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Here in the USA, one of our two main political parties routinely denies the reality of climate science, blocking all attempts to solve the problem. Like the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori says, we must name such climate denial on the part of western corporations and lawmakers for what it is: False witness, and thus, a sin.

Comments on Psalm 19

Theologians Douglas Moo and Jonathan Moo call this psalm “creation’s testimony,” writing, “In Psalm 19:1, we learn that ‘the heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.’ They do not use human words (v. 3), and yet their voice is heard through the earth, accessible to all (v. 4).”

According to Psalm 19, God’s glory is revealed not just in Scripture but also in nature, where the whole of creation proclaims God’s greatness with a language far more vibrant than any human tongue. This makes it the perfect passage for St. Francis Day, since St. Francis himself made nearly the same point in his beautiful 13th century hymn, “Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon.”

“Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

“Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.

“Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.”

(It is from this canticle that Pope Francis drew the name of his powerful ecological encyclical, Laudato Si, which is Latin for “Praised be.”)

Comments on Philippians 3:4b-14

Paul begins this passage with what might seem like bragging, but is in fact a subversion of societal norms. He has a resume and a lineage that his peers would consider exemplary, and recites it all in a way that starts to sound downright boastful – only to shock those peers by declaring it all worthless: “Whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ… For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish.”

A key question Christians must ask ourselves, over and over again, is this: How would my life be different if I was not a Christian? If we cannot answer that question, then we must consider the possibility that we are following society’s norms, not Christ’s, for Jesus subverts and changes everything about human society. The challenge of our faith is to set aside the greed, destruction, and selfishness that Western society demands we follow and instead seek “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.”

One trap the preacher must avoid when interpreting Philippians is considering creation itself part of the “rubbish” that “lies behind,” viewing earth as the opposite of “the heavenly call.” There are some evangelical preachers who claim it’s okay to pollute and litter since we’re leaving the earth behind for heaven anyway – but nothing could be further from the truth. Remember that in his letter to the Romans, Paul makes a very similar point as Psalm 19: All of creation praises the Lord. This means that, approached in the right fashion, creation can actually help us to know Christ, and is not part of the powers or principalities that we should consider “loss.”

Comments on Matthew 21:33-46

The very setting for this Gospel reading reminds us of the centrality of the natural creation to God’s kingdom: A vineyard at harvest time.

Most modern Bibles give this parable a heading like “The Wicked Tenants.” It is the story of a group of renter-farmers who abuse the land and abuse their neighbors, even to the point of killing the landlord’s son, believing they can keep all the profits for themselves. Yet ultimately, their abuse of the land and of others is counterproductive, leading to their own “miserable death.”

Like the pharisees, we must ask ourselves: Are we the new tenants who will produce the fruits of the kingdom? Or are we the wicked tenants, living a lifestyle beyond our limits that destroys everything it touches? Like the tenants, whenever we abuse creation – its land, its water, or its people – we abuse ourselves.

It is worth noting that this same chapter of Matthew began with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, as observed on Palm Sunday. By entering the city through the east gate on a donkey with palms, Jesus deliberately contrast himself with the Roman governor Pilate, who entered through the west gate with what Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan describe as “a visual panoply of imperial power: cavalry on horses… banners… sun glinting on metal and gold.”

First Jesus established a visual contrast between his kingdom of love and the humility and the Empire’s, then he used parables to underscore the choice facing his disciples. It is still a choice we face us today: Love and humility towards our neighbors and creation? Or continued greed and destruction in the shadow of the powers and principalities?

Preaching the Word with St. Francis

St. Francis, born in 1181, grew up wealthy, only to renounce his family’s wealth and devote himself to serving the poor as well as animals. He was the rare camel who did indeed fit through the eye of a needle, recognizing as did Paul that his riches were loss. Francis went on to found the Franciscan orders (which began with vows of extreme poverty) in 1209.

Francis’ service to the poor and his love of nature are, in many ways, the same thing today. Climate change impacts everyone but no one more than the poor and marginalized, who often cannot afford to deal with the costs of relocation or ecological disaster. St. Francis would be the first to recognize the need for environmental justice: We cannot serve the poor without also caring for creation.

Something that I don’t think is discussed often enough about St. Francis is that he was a war veteran who suffered from what we now recognize as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In 1202, as Paul Moses writes in Commonweal magazine, Francis “saw men he knew since childhood torn limb from limb in a devastating battle, and was taken prisoner for a year, thrown in a dark, damp hole in the ground. This left Francis a broken man.”

Francis’s own trauma led him to identify with others in their trauma, opposing warfare and spending time with the poor, lepers, and other outcasts – just like Jesus. It was through his radical service to the poor, as well his new communities and their travels through the Italian mountains, that he began to find some measure of healing.

There is a great deal that we need healing from today: War, famines and plagues, systemic racism, the coronavirus pandemic, and of course climate change itself. Right now, far too many of us are on the path of the wicked tenants, sabotaging ourselves by sabotaging all that is around us. Perhaps – like Francis, Paul, and Jesus himself – we could begin to find healing by turning away from the pursuit of material profit, and towards the beauty of God in creation.

Living the Word

Through the Ten Commandments, we see the need to protect creation with all that we do. Through the examples of the psalmist and St. Francis, we see the need to connect with Christ through creation – a connection that cannot happen if we destroy nature rather than protecting it.

What does it mean to protect creation? In the Sustainable Preaching notes for September 6, Bishop Geoff Davies gave us an important list of vital actions for churches to take, including reducing food waste, ending fossil fuels, and pressuring politicians to act.

I would only add to that list that we must make sure our actions are motivated not by economics or politics, but by faith. Everything we do for creation must have the Creator as its foundation, or it will be rootless and blow away like so much dust in the wind.

This is what made St. Francis so special, and his ministries and orders so successful: Not his unwavering service to the poor or the earth, but his underlying devotion to Christ, which made his service possible.

What Francis understood was that his ministries and values were means to an end, not ends in and of themselves. They were outgrowths of his devotion to his loving creator. We can’t serve the poor simply because it feels good. We can’t “go green” purely for economic reasons. It was only when Francis realized that there was something bigger than himself, a God who required his complete and utter devotion, that he found joy and began to do good things for creation.

Francis’s example isn’t simply doing good works and loving the earth. If that’s the example we’re trying to copy, we won’t succeed. His example is that we need to decenter ourselves as individuals. We need to root our worldview in our neighbors, our surroundings, and above all, in God. This outlook isn’t just a temporary act that takes a few minutes each day; it is an entire way of living and of being, pervading every moment of life. Love is not an emotion, but a state in which we dwell. When we devote ourselves to God in this way, there we will find joy, love, and freedom – and there we will find the grace to share that joy and love with all of creation: with the poor, with animals, with friends, and with the earth itself.

by Nathan Empsall, Connecticut, USA

17th Sunday after Pentecost – Season of Creation 4

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Ex 17:1–7
Ezek 18:25-28
2nd Reading
Phil 2:1–13
Matt 21:23–32
by Canon D. Rachel Mash, South Africa

The Gift of water

Hearing the Word

Comments on Exodus 17:1–7

The story of the people of Israel traveling through the desert of Sin reminds us of the absolute dependency of human beings on water. Many of the current conflict zones have as one of their roots the lack of water. For instance the war in Syria was preceded by 7 years of drought which pushed farmers off the land into the cities, creating tensions in those communities. Cape Town managed to avert the day zero crisis of taps being turned off, but there were threats of the army being called in if day zero had been reached.

In this passage God tells Moses to strike the rock in a symbolic action. Later we hear that God becomes angry with him for the way in which he strikes the rock. In the Numbers passage Moses is strikes the rock in his anger at the ‘rebellious’ people.

“Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?”

Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. (Numbers 20:11–12)

This is a powerful reminder that we are to protect our sources of water, treat them with reverence and not abuse them. Much of Africa (as with the Middle East) is dependent on ground water sources such as aquifers. It is a sin and a crime against future generations if we abuse our water sources because of the urgent demands of people.

A more affluent life-style consumes vast quantities of treated water. Drinking quality water gushes into long showers, irrigated gardens and swimming pools, in contrast with the single taps or polluted water that people in poor communities use.

Comments on Psalm 78:1–4, 12–16

The miracles that are referred to in this passage refer to the wonders of water, how God divided the sea so that the people of Israel could pass through. He split the rocks in the desert to give abundant water. This reminds us of the Exodus passage where the needs of both people and their livestock, is met.

Hundreds of feet under the desert of the modern day Negev lie vast aquifers. The water is brackish, though far less salty than seawater. Throughout the Negev desert there are examples of modern water technology, including huge greenhouses for tomatoes and peppers. The crops from the Negev are timed to provide tomatoes and peppers out of season. And for two weeks each year the majority of tomatoes in Europe come from the Negev desert. This is indeed a miracle. But it is not a renewable miracle. Like seams of coal, once the water is extracted, it is gone forever. There may only be enough to last another 100 years.

See a video of the River Zin in the desert coming to life – streams in the desert:

Comments on Philippians 2:1–13

Most of the world’s environmental challenges have at the heart the sin of greed. This passage gives the principles for life that could save this planet – be humble as Christ was and look to the interests of others not your own.

It is a desire for status that pushes us to continuously buy the latest gadget, car or TV screen. If we all lived a more simple lifestyle, the planet would have enough for our need, there is not enough for our greed.

If we were to put the interests of others first, we would consider the impact on the worker and the environment of the products we buy. There is no such thing as ‘bargain’ clothing. The clothing is cheap because of the exploitative wages paid to workers and the damage done to the environment.

In particular today we are challenged to look at our water usage and wastage and see how we can treasure this miracle from God.

Comments on Matthew 21:23–32

The challenge of our Gospel reading is for us to walk the walk and not just talk the talk! The first son said he would not go to the vineyard and work and yet he did so. The second one said he would go and did not

Are we willing to actually change our lifestyles? Many people make resolutions or pledges to change their life styles and yet when it comes down to it , they have made no change.

Interpreting the Word: Philippians 2:1–13

‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness’ (2:5–7).

Jesus, the son of God, chose the form of a slave, even to the point of suffering the form of execution often used against troublesome slaves: ‘death on a cross’ (2:8).

Jesus was not captured or sold as a slave; he chose this status. His approach was to consciously put aside his status of godhead, to become a slave, to put the needs of others first so much so that he was even willing to die for them.

As we reflect on how we can have the same mind of Christ, the first thing to note is that these verses do not only refer to our individual lives, because Paul also tells us that God ‘gives him the name above every name (2:9) – Jesus chooses slavery and yet is the Lord and Master of the whole of heaven and earth : to whom every knee bows – both humans and all those who make up the great web of life.

So as we worship the Lord of Creation – together with the rest of creation – both humans a, we must take on a Jesus mind set and Jesus life style that is a humble one, putting the needs of others first.

This will put us in conflict with a lot of the values and aspirations of the culture and society in which we live. Our society has exalted the needs of humans above the rest of creation. We have exalted the needs of a small percentage of those humans over the needs of the vast majority. We are using far more than our fair share of water.

There is a saying that “until you have carried water you do not understand its value”. Across the continent many people live in water poverty – defined as less than 20 litres of water per day. In solidarity with those who have not got access to water, let us voluntarily reduce our water consumption and protect this precious resource.

Preaching the Word

The Philippians passage draws together two key concepts : firstly Jesus is the Lord of All Creation. The whole web of life bends the knee to worship him. We are part of a great web of life, it is not only humans who worship the Lord. Water as part of Creation has a value and sacredness, and we are called to treasure and protect it.

Secondly we are called to life a Jesus life style, choosing to reduce our status and to consider the needs of others over our own.

We have no right to “Lord it over” creation for it is Jesus who is the Lord of all creation.

If Jesus was willing to give up his status as God in order to become a slave, then we are called to live a life of service to others and to take up the call to a more simple lifestyle. Are you willing to reduce your use of water, to simplify your lifestyle? To consciously use water as if each drop were precious?

Let us remember that water is a gift of God. Water is mentioned 722 times in the Bible and yet how often do we actually preach about it? As Christians we became part of the family of God through the waters of baptism and yet we do not treat it as our sacred element.

We all know that Jesus was baptised in the river Jordan. But do we know our Jordan River? We think that the water used in our church for baptism came from a tap, but from which river was it drawn to get there? Can we adopt and protect that river as our Jordan?

Living the Word

What would a more simple lifestyle look like in practice? We live in a water scarce country and the impact of climate change as well as population growth will lead to increasing water shortages in the years to come. What can we do?

Water: we can all have shorter showers and put a bucket in the shower to use in the toilet. Wash clothes less frequently and make sure the machine is full. Purchase water tanks for church and home, and make sure our gardens are water wise.

Food choices: our food choices all have different water footprints. To produce a hamburger requires the same amount of water as a 60-minute shower and the water needed to produce a mouthful of steak could run your dishwasher 22 times. One teaspoon of milk is equivalent to one flush of a dual-flush toilet and the average bathtub could be filled six times with one litre.

Nevertheless, a family of four could save the equivalent of 17 bathtubs of water by swapping one meal of beef per week with lentils. Cattle are fed mostly by grazing veld and rain-fed dry land, which means they have a greater green water footprint.


Plastic. Much of the plastic litter that we produce ends up in streams and eventually in the sea. One of the ways to protect the precious gift of water is to become involved in clean ups and to put pressure on companies to stop using single use plastic items.

Water is a precious gift from God, let us protect it.

by Canon Dr Rachel Mash, South Africa


Green Philippians: Three Sermons on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. Preached by the Reverend Trevor Jamison, Environmental Chaplain, Eco-Congregation Scotland.

Sermon Two – A Tale of Three Slaves

Acts 16

16th Sunday after Pentecost – Season of Creation 3

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Ex 16:2-15
Isa 55:6-9
105:1-6, 37-45
2nd Reading
Phil 1:21-30
Matt 20:1-16
by Canon Rev Dr Janet Trisk, South Africa

There is enough for our need, not our greed


The theme running through todays lessons might be thought of as a two-sided coin. On one side of the coin we see depicted God’s generosity  and careful provision for all creation. The other side of the coin is human greed which leads to hoarding and thus exploitation of one another.

Hearing the Word

Comments on Exodus 16: 2-15

We read that in the desert the Hebrew people grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “Did you bring us out of Egypt only to have us starve to death in the desert?” (This is just one of many grumblings that will happen on the way to the Promised land. They also grumble about there being no water, about Moses marrying a foreigner, about the leadership of Moses and Aaron.)

In response, God gives them manna and quail.

Comments on Psalm 105: 1-6, 37-45

The psalmist gives thanks to God for God’s saving acts in history. The verses set for today rehearse the wider story of the reading from Exodus:  from the departure from Egypt to receiving manna and quail (“food from heaven”, v.40), to the Promised Land. Finally, the psalm ties in obeying God’s laws with the gift of the Promised Land. [i]

Comments on Philippians 1: 21-30

Paul, writing from prison, reflects on the dilemma of life and death. Life means suffering, but also affords the opportunity to continue the work of the gospel. Death means being with Christ.  Either way, Christ is at the centre.

One might contrast Paul’s acceptance of suffering with the “murmuring” of the Hebrews in Exodus.

Comments on Matthew 20: 1-16

This is the familiar parable of the workers in the vineyard, who are all given the same wage, no matter how long they laboured.  We might note that in v. 11 those who had borne the heat of the day and laboured longest, like the Hebrew people in Exodus, “murmured” or “grumbled” against the landowner.

Interpreting the Word

The usual interpretation of the parable in Matthew is that God is like the vineyard owner and treats everyone – first and last – just the same. But a Biblical scholar named Obery Hendricks offers another interpretation. [ii]  He notes, first of all, what the story tells us about working conditions in first century Israel.  People work from dawn to dusk for a denarius.  A twelve hour working day is long in anyone’s book. And to be paid a denarius was indeed the usual daily wage, but it was not a living wage.  A denarius was just about enough to keep you coming back for another day of work so you (perhaps) can survive to work another day. Furthermore, there is a big pool of day labourers in the story, who hang around waiting for employment. At each point of the day, workers are available. Even at five in the afternoon, some are still in the day labour market. This indicates a sizeable number of unemployed people who are reduced to scrambling for any little bit of work they can get.

For Hendricks, the landowner is not God, but more like the owner of an extensive wine farm in the Franchhoek valley. And by offering the very minimum denarius, the landowner is exploiting labour.

He apparently has an exceptionally large vineyard.  (Notice how he keeps coming for more workers.)  How could the landowner have attained all that property? One way would be to take land in settlement of the debts owed to him by poorer people.

Then, to top it off, the landowner when he comes to employ the last lot of workers, asks them why they haven’t worked.  “Why are you standing around idle?” he asks, all but calling them lazy.  He presumes that they are unemployed because of some choice, as if he didn’t know that they were unemployed in the first place because they had been forced off their land.

In paying the last the same as the first, the vineyard owner insults those who were first hired.  When the first “grumble,” he singles out their leader — the text says he spoke to “one of them.”  The landowner denies doing wrong, and then fires the leader.  “Take what belongs to you and go.”  The landowner adopts an all-too-typical strategy:  Fire the union organizer.

Some will argue that the use of the word “Friend: in verse 13 – “Friend I am not being unfair to you” mitigates against Hendricks interpretation. The Greek word that is translated as “friend” is etairos. Matthew uses etairos in only three places–here, in 22:12 where it refers to the guest at a wedding banquet who refuses to wear the wedding garment, and in 26:50 where it refers to Judas, the arch-traitor.  None would be considered a positive example.  If Hendricks is right that the use of “friend” is sarcastic, that would support his argument that the land-owner is haughty and dismissive.

The parable challenges the usual hierarchies we assume.  “The last will be first and the first last.”  If as Hendricks suggests, the landowner is a greedy, penny pinching employer, the parable is clearly a criticism of economic exploitation of the poor by the rich.

The broader story of the Exodus is also a challenge to economic exploitation. In Egypt the Hebrew people are enslaved and when they pose a threat because of their increase in numbers, their Egyptian overlords make conditions even more tough for them to perform their work.  After their escape from slavery and in the wilderness wanderings the Hebrew people have to learn a new way of relating that includes principles of trust in God, generosity and that they need not hoard what God gives them. So long as each takes what they need and no-one hoards. If we had read a little further in Exodus 16, we would have heard how, as each person gathered manna in the wilderness, no matter how much or little they gathered, each had enough. However, some of the Hebrews, in contravention of God’s instructions, hoarded the food they did not consume and it became rotten.

As many commentators note, the appearance of quail and manna are very natural phenomena in the middle east. Quail – little guinea fowl like birds – migrate from Africa to Europe and along the way settle down in great flocks each night to rest.  What is called manna (which is just a word derived from the Hebrew man hu, which means “what is it?” is a substance secreted each early morning by tamarisk trees.  So in summary: God immediately responds to the hunger of the Hebrews. And God responds in perfectly natural ways. God’s world is an hospitable home for all, provided we gather what we need and do not hoard.

Preaching the Word

It’s easy to dismiss the Hebrews as ungrateful wretches. God has brought them out of slavery in Egypt. They are on their way to the Promised Land. What do they have to complain about? However, don’t these ancient grumblings  sound very modern?. We too grumble about there not being enough water. We too grumble about foreigners in our midst. We too grumble about our leaders.

When we are comfortable it’s very easy to dismiss the grumbling of others. God brought you into freedom, how can you grumble about food? Why are you burning tyres when you have an rdp house? Why are you going on strike when you have a job? But it’s hard to take the long view, when one is cold or hungry or ill or fearful. Notice God’s response to the hunger of the grumbling Hebrew people. God sends food – quail at night and manna each morning.  God does not blame the Hebrews for losing the big picture. God’s concern is for those who are hungry, for those whose immediate needs are being ignored by those in power.

Similarly it’s easy to dismiss the workers in the parable as ungrateful – as the landowner does. But although good work/ creativity is a characteristic of God, slave labour is not. The Sabbath rest is a fundamental principle.

The first lesson in the wilderness is this: Share. Be generous.    The mentality of Egypt and the landowner is to grab power and consolidate it.  The mentality of God is generosity.  This is the example for all  God’s people.  However, notice what happens when the “fair” treatment is imposed from the outside, as in the case of the wealthy landowner. Each worker gets the same daily wage. But this is because he imposes this “equality” on the workers. It is in freedom from oppression that we can learn to relate fairly to one another.

Living the Word

What the Hebrew people still have to learn and what we still have to learn is that there is enough . But in order for there to be enough we have to share. And whatever we hoard  goes bad.  In this Season of Creation it is easy to fall into despondency: the earth and its creatures are doomed. However, the promise from the story of the Exodus is that even in the wilderness, there is enough,  if only we will take just what we need and no more.

by Rev Dr Janet Trisk, South Africa


Erlander, Daniel. Manna and Mercy. A Brief History of God’s Unfolding Promise to Mend the Entire Universe. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress. 2018 (Revised edition)

Haslam, Chris Comments and Clippings accessed on 6 April 2019.

Hendricks, Obery. The Politics of Jesus: Rediscovering the True Revolutionary Teachings of Jesus and How They Have Been Corrupted.  New York: Doubleday, 2006.


[i] Chris Haslam Comments and Clippings accessed on 6 April 2019.

[ii] Obery Hendricks The Politics of Jesus: Rediscovering the True Revolutionary Teachings of Jesus and How They Have Been Corrupted.  New York: Doubleday, 2006.