2 Kings 2:1-2,6-14
1 Kings 19:16b,19-21
1 Kings 19:1-15
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submitted by Dr Rachel Mash, environmental Coordinator of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa
Only One Earth
Today we celebrate both Pentecost and World Environment Day.
Many of us feel extremely worried as we look at the global situation. We are facing a triple ‘pandemic’ of climate change, biodiversity collapse and pollution. Those hardest hit are those who have caused the least damage. We have less than three years for our carbon emissions to begin to drop, and yet emissions continue to rise and we are reaching dangerous tipping points. Already the Brazilian Amazon has changed from carbon sink to carbon emitter. Melting permafrost is releasing vast amounts of methane. The devastating heat waves across India and Pakistan led them to re-open coal mines that had been closed. The war in Ukraine seems to have increased the demand for new fossil fuel extraction in other parts of the world. We are lost and confused.
The followers of Jesus were also lost and confused. After three incredible years of following Jesus, walking with him, learning from him, sharing with him, they had seen him tortured and murdered. Then the word began to spread that he was alive again, some people saw him, ate with him, touched him. Slowly they began to believe that it was true – he was alive! But then at the Ascension they were left again confused and upset. He said I am calling YOU to be my witnesses, stay in Jerusalem until you are clothed with power. They were so confused, no doubt afraid, maybe they would also be killed if they mentioned Jesus’ name. And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. They began to preach the gospel and three thousand were added to their number.
They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, to breaking of bread and prayer. There were wonders and miracles. All the believers were together, selling all their possessions they gave to anyone has he had need.
People can debate what exactly happened, what were the tongues the fire, what exactly were the different languages. But what is crystal clear is what happened to the followers of Jesus.
There was a complete transformation in their lives: From scared they became courageous.
After seeing what had happened to Jesus, no wonder they were afraid of both Roman military and Jewish authorities. They were in hiding, and now suddenly they had the courage to preach in front of great crowds of people
They were given a mission, they were sent. There is a saying that “a church without mission is like a fire without burning” The Fifth Mark of Mission tells us that we are called to “Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the Earth.”
Firstly in our Mission we must confess and lament that we have failed to protect the integrity of creation – it is of vital urgency that we commit to renewing the life of the Earth. The very first mandate that we were given by God was this” Care for my Earth”, when God placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and said “Work the Earth and look after it” (Gen 2:15)
If you are worried about the future , know that action creates hope! The Spirit inspires and empowers us What do learn from Pentecost about how to take up this challenge?
From separated – to unite
One of the signs of the spirit is that they were one, they came together regularly to meet and they weren’t hiding away, lonely and stressed in their own corner. Day by day they spent time together in the temple, they broke bread.
People have different angles on caring for creation, some are passionate about preserving animals or birds, others care passionately about the fact that people don’t have access to clean water. Some are fighting climate change; others are plastic warriors. We need to come together, support each other and carry the mission out. We need to work with those of different faiths and those who have no faith.
Join networks, work with others, link up on social media Transformative change doesn’t take place when individuals, change, it takes place when networked individuals change.
From Selfish to generous
Peter to protect himself said’ I do not know this man’ now we read all that who believed were together and had all things in common, they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all as any had need. No one had need amongst them.
Climate change and environmental degradation have at their root greed. That we can take more and more from the earth, consume more and more, destroy more and more. In order to protect the planet we need to aspire to a simpler lifestyle. We need to life more simply so that others may simply live. The wealthier nations that have benefitted from fossil fuel-based development over decades need to provide funding to assist developing nations leapfrog to renewable energy. We all need to live more simply so that others may simply live.
From Sorrowful to joyful
From the sadness and despondency of losing their beloved Jesus, they were now so joyful people thought they were drunk at nine o’clock in the morning! To care for creation is a joyous thing, we connect again with nature, spend time in nature, growing good things in God’s earth, seeing beauty where there was none before. Many of the activities that we will take part in – such as clean ups, tree planting, food gardening, are moments of great fellowship and great fun!
Let our work be based on love for God and love for God’s creation. Part of our ministry involved enabling others to connect with nature – organising hikes with young people, opening our church gardens to the community – creating opportunities for our church members to spend time listening to God in Creation.
You will not protect what you do not love!
So in our Mission to renew this Earth, the only Earth we have, let us be filled with these marks of the Spirit – be courageous, have a purpose, become united, be generous and be full of joy.
Rev Dr Rachel Mash
Here are some liturgical ideas for the service:
Praise be to the Holy Trinity! God is sound and life, Creator of the Universe, Source of all life, whom the angels sing; wondrous Light of all mysteries known or unknown to humankind, and life that lives in all. (Hildegard of Bingen, 13th Century)
We confess that even though we are created in your image, we have not appreciated your creation as you have.
We have become arrogant and greedy and instead of seeing the beauty and diversity around us,
We have seen wealth and progress and have wanted it for ourselves.
We have individually and as peoples amassed what we can for ourselves,
With little care for what effects it will have on our planet and
Without thinking of sharing with those who have nothing.
We confess that we have not loved this world as you have.
We are sorry for the destruction we have caused,
For the many of your beloved species that are no more because we wanted more,
For the many lives that are lost each year to starvation while we have more than enough.
We confess that we have not cared and provided for this plant as you do.
We take and do not replace, depleting the earth of precious resources.
We use and then dump, creating wastelands of junk.
We create chemicals for our own convenience that destroy the natural balance of life, upsetting the cycles that you have created.
We value our own lives and our own comfort but care nothing for the earth or other people who are suffering.
Merciful God, we come before you,
Humbled by the parts we play in destroying your creation,
Hear the cries of our guilt and
See the willingness to change in our hearts.
Forgive us we pray.[i]
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Awesome God, we join our voices with all creation as we proclaim your greatness:
Creator God, you sculpted the vast universe,
Scattered the stars in the skies and formed this our planet.
You moulded the mountains, scooped out the seas, and filled our atmosphere with air.
You formed plants which provide edible nutrients
And animals of many forms, shapes and colours,
And then you created humankind and you breathed life into us.
You created us, male and female, in your image,
And gave us the task together of caring for your carefully designed planet.
We praise you for your creativity, for your imagination,
for the intricate designs of animal, mineral and vegetable all around us.
We praise you for creating us, human beings, not one of us the same as another,
With different gifts, skills, abilities, personalities and characteristics and yet each of us created in your image.
Precious in your sight, loved and valued by you.
Redeemer God, when we ignored your love,
When we turned our backs on you,
You did not give up on us.
Because of your great love for the world,
You came offering yourself as atonement.
We praise you for your sacrificial love.
Sustainer God, you continue to care and provide for this planet,
You send rain and warmth in their seasons,
You continue the cycle of life you first set into motion,
Providing nourishment for generations to come.
We praise you for your tender care of all who inhabit this planet.
Great God, three in one we worship and adore you.
RESPONDING TO GOD’S WORD
Affirmation of Faith
We believe that God creates all things, renews all things and celebrates all things.
We believe Earth is a sanctuary, a sacred planet filled with God’s presence, a home for us to share with our kin.
We believe that God became flesh and blood, became a part of Earth, a human being called Jesus Christ, who lived and breathed and spoke among us, suffered and died on a cross, for all human beings and for all creation.
We believe that the risen Jesus is the Christ at the core of creation reconciling all things to God, renewing all creation and filling the cosmos.
We believe the Spirit renews life in creation, groans in empathy with a suffering creation, and waits with us for the rebirth of creation.
We believe that with Christ we will rise and with Christ we will celebrate a new creation.
May God who established the dance of creation,
Who marvelled at the lilies of the field,
Who transforms chaos to order,
Lead us to transform our lives and the Church
To listen to the voice of all creatures,
That reflect God’s glory in creation.[iii].
[i] Church unity Commission Liturgy for Justice: Economy and Climate Change
[ii] Church unity Commission Liturgy for Justice: Economy and Climate Change
[iii] (adapted from the CTBI Eco-Congregation Programme
Remember: World Environment Day is June 5th
by Dr Rachel Mash, environmental Coordinator of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa
Paul and Silas heal a slave girl who is doubly oppressed (Acts 16). Firstly she is a slave and secondly she is possessed by an evil spirit that controls her. When she is healed, her owners are furious because they have lost their source of income. Paul and Silas are beaten and thrown into jail. Their response is to sing hymns and praise God. When given the chance to escape, they do not take it. Their sacrifice and attitude leads to the jailer and his whole household being saved.
There are people who are now being willing to face being imprisoned to protest against environmental degradation. It is a reality that climate change is impacting on those most vulnerable to drought and flooding. It is also a reality that the transition that is so urgent from fossil fuels to renewable energy will impact on the stocks and shares of some of the wealthiest people on the planet. The status quo is being challenged.
But the damage being done to God’s people and to God’s Earth is unconscionable. Just like Paul and Silas, we must protest and advocate for change. This may place us against the political and economic elites.
This week faith leaders were arrested in New York protesting against Black Rock an investment company investing heavily in fossil fuel and they were arrested. A few weeks ago faith leaders were arrested in the UK for blocking new oil developments in the #Stopoil protests.
So what can we do to speed up the rapid transition away from fossil fuels? The young people are rising up – School strikes involving 1.3 million young people have taken place in 128 countries. The extinction rebellion is calling for non violent protest to get the governments to listen.
Last year in the UK after blockading roads in central London and causing traffic chaos, Extinction rebellion protestors received a lot of publicity and the UK government responded by declaring a Climate Emergency.
One of the people arrested in those protests was Rev Sue Parfitt – aged 77. The reason that she joined the protests she said was “I cannot bear to leave a bleak and barren world for my beautiful grandchildren”.
Throughout history there have been those who have been willing to face imprisonment like Paul and Silas for standing up for what is right.
The African-American abolitionist Sojourner Truth, the suffrage campaigner Susan B Anthony, the Indian independence activist Mahatma Gandhi and the US civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King have all convincingly argued for the power of peaceful protest.
In 1986, millions of Filipinos took to the streets of Manila in peaceful protest and prayer in the People Power movement. The Marcos regime folded on the fourth day.
In 2003, the people of Georgia ousted Eduard Shevardnadze through the bloodless Rose Revolution, in which protestors stormed the parliament building holding the flowers in their hands.
Earlier this year, the presidents of Sudan and Algeria both announced they would step aside after decades in office, thanks to peaceful campaigns of resistance.
In each case, civil resistance by ordinary members of the public trumped the political elite to achieve radical change.
There are, of course, many ethical reasons to use nonviolent strategies. But compelling research by Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist at Harvard University, confirms that civil disobedience is not only the moral choice; it is also the most powerful way of shaping world politics – by a long way.
Looking at hundreds of campaigns over the last century, Chenoweth found that nonviolent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns. And although the exact dynamics will depend on many factors, she has shown it takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change.
Chenoweth’s influence can be seen in the recent Extinction Rebellion protests, whose founders say they have been directly inspired by her findings.
Climate scientists tell us that we have less that 12 years to avoid uncontrollable climate change. Individual change, though important, is not enough to change the systems. We need to amplify the voice of the voiceless and pressurise companies and politicians to effect those changes. And just like Paul and Silas, some of us may risk imprisonment for doing so.
Forgive us, Lord God our Creator.
In haste and hunger for progress we have laid waste the good earth you have made.
We have mined landscapes, spoiled coastlines and polluted air and water.
We have brought health and wealth to some and suffering and deprivation to others, exploiting the earth and threatening its creatures.
Make us hungry now for generosity and balance.
Make us brave enough to choose more wisely for the future of the earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
© The Anglican Church of Australia
Heavenly Father, we thank you for giving us this beautiful land: we have sunshine, rain, and air to nourish earth, sea and sky. For our greed, our excessive exploitation and consumption of resources, polluting the air you have given to us, we beg for your forgiveness. Give us hearts to cherish your creation, so that we can work together to protect the land. We also pray for all countries in the world that they may work together to formulate better environmental policies to improve our atmosphere so that we can again see the life-force provided to the world through the growth of nature, and in so doing find a closer relationship with you. In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
by Dr. Rachel Mash, Cape Town
by Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Missioner for Creation Care (Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts & Southern New England Conference, United Church of Christ) and Creation Care Advisor (Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts). Website: RevivingCreation.org
Receive the Peace of Christ
[NOTE: The preacher may wish to have available a hat, scarf, shawl, jacket, or other piece of clothing to wear when each of the two characters shows up in the sermon]
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Today’s Gospel passage is a good text for an in-between time, a time of transition in which something is coming to an end and the new has not yet come. Jesus is saying farewell to his disciples at the Last Supper and preparing them for his crucifixion. Because we read this passage in Easter-tide, we also hear it as the risen Christ preparing his disciples for the ascension, when the vivid resurrection appearances will come to an end. Jesus assures his disciples that the Holy Spirit will come in all its fullness – but it has not come yet. It is an in-between time.
Can you touch into that sense of living in an in-between time? Maybe you are between jobs. Maybe you’re about to graduate and haven’t begun whatever comes next. Maybe you’ve broken up with someone and haven’t yet started dating again. Life is full of in-between times. I think of the interval between becoming engaged and getting married, the interval between getting pregnant and giving birth, or the interval between deciding to move to a new home and actually moving.
It is an in-between time for our planet, too, for we sense that an old way of being is coming to an end and we wonder what new way of being will arise in its place. Scientists tell us that modern industrial society, with its sudden expansion of our human capacity to extract and consume the planet’s abundance for the sake of short-term profit, is not sustainable. Over the past 250 or 300 years, human beings have been extracting goods faster than they can be replenished, and dumping waste faster than Earth can absorb it. Society is increasingly unstable, as those who are wealthy live in a luxury once reserved for kings, while the billions who are impoverished struggle for clean water and a mouthful of food. The web of life is unravelling before our eyes, and species are going extinct at a rate unprecedented since the death of the dinosaurs. The global climate with its delicate balance of gases turns out to be more fragile than we ever imagined.
I know I don’t need to go on. Many of us walk around with a more or less vivid awareness that a chapter of human history is coming to an end. Just as the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago ended one form of human society and brought a new one into being, and just as the industrial revolution 300 years ago also changed the way that society is organized, so we now find ourselves on the brink of what some thinkers call a “third revolution.”
Modern society as we know it is coming to an end, and more and more people around the world are searching for ways to create something new – to bring forth a human presence on this planet that – in the eloquent words of the Pachamama Alliance – is “environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, [and] socially just.” We don’t have much time to do this and to get it right, so it is a precarious and precious time to be alive and to take part – if we so choose – in this great work of healing.
So, with great interest I turn to see what Jesus has to say at an in-between time: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” Jesus’ gift at an in-between time is the gift of peace – shalom, to use the Hebrew word – but you’ll notice that it is not any old peace. It is, he tells us, his peace, the peace of Christ, something that is evidently quite different from the peace that is offered by the world. In the middle of the Eucharist we exchange that peace among ourselves, when we say, “The peace of Christ be always with you,” and we let that peace flow from one person to the next until everyone in the room is strengthened and lifted up by its power. At the end of the service we often refer to it again, when the celebrant, quoting from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, blesses us with “the peace of God, which surpasses…understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
What is the peace of God, and how is it different from the peace of the world? To answer that question, I’ve invited two guests to join me this morning at the pulpit. My first guest is Industrial Society, who would like to speak to you about the peace it has to offer and the worldview that lies behind it. Then we’ll hear from our second guest, the Holy Spirit, who will say a few words about the peace of God.
“Ladies and gentlemen – or, shall I say, consumers, for that’s who you really are – my name is Industrial Growth Society, and boy, do I have something great to give you: the peace of this world. The main thing you need to know about yourselves is that you are completely alone. You’re alone as individuals and alone as a species. You are limited to the envelope of your skin – that’s who you are. Your identity ends here – and your task in life is to focus on that isolated self – what it wants, what it needs, what kind of shampoo it likes best and what kind of breakfast cereal.
“You know, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and self-advancement is the name of the game. The only peace an isolated self is ever going to find is the kind it can grab for itself. Wielding power over everything around you – that’s the ticket to peace. Domination is the path to peace – protecting your own interests, guarding your own small self. So go ahead – drain the aquifers, clearcut the forest, over-fish the oceans – it’s all yours for the taking. Never mind if Indigenous cultures are being decimated, to say nothing of low-income and minority communities, and all our non-human relatives. So what? It’s every man for himself.
“Peace grows by focusing on what you like and by surrounding yourself with pleasant things. You’ll definitely feel more peaceful if you pile them up – gadgets, information, boats, planes, credentials, clothes – and then go all out to keep them safe. Don’t think about the collapse of honeybees, the massive droughts and floods, the profits being made by fossil fuel companies as they push to extract more oil and gas – ouch! That doesn’t concern you. Thinking about stuff like that just messes up your peace of mind. Put up some walls – don’t take that in. There, that’s better. It’s much more peaceful to put your head down and focus only on yourself and your family. Focus on that promotion. Impress your neighbors and pull every dandelion out of your lawn – or, better yet, spray everything with chemicals. Lose those five pounds. Clean up your email. That’s all you should think about, and then you’ll have peace – or something like it, anyway – and hey, if you still feel restless inside or start feeling lonely, you can always go shopping, have another drink, pop a few pills, stare at the TV. We’ve got plenty of entertainment for you, plenty of distractions.”
Thank you, Industrial Growth Society. Now let’s hear a few words from the Holy Spirit, who has consented to make a brief appearance before fully arriving at Pentecost, two weeks from today.
“Dear friends, you are not alone and you have never been alone. You were loved into being by God the Father-Mother of all Creation, and God so loved the world – so loved you – that God sent God’s Son to become one of you, to enter every aspect of human life and to draw you and all Creation into the heart of God.
“The peace that Jesus gives you springs from your connection to the flow of love that is always going on between the Father and the Son and me, the Holy Spirit. God has made a home within you, and there is nowhere you can go where God is not. The Creator and Redeemer of the world dwell within you through the power of the Holy Spirit (that’s me), and with every breath you take, God is breathing into you and flowing through you.
“So, when you feel pain for the brokenness of the world – when you weep for rapidly disappearing species or for the forests and wetlands we’ve already lost, when you feel morally outraged that narrow self-interest or short-term political or financial gain so often prevail over a larger good and a longer view – when you let your defences drop and feel your sorrow and outrage and fear about what is happening in the world around you, you are expressing how big you are, how connected you are with the whole web of life.
“The peace of God is spacious enough to stand at the Cross and to open itself to the pain of the world without closing down or running away. Christ bears that pain with you and for you, and by allowing that pain into your awareness – by opening the doors of your senses and the door of your heart so that sorrow and joy can flow through – the peace and power of the risen Christ will move through you, as well.
“So, now the walls around you can come down. The peace of God is open to life, and it may impel you to move into the world’s most brutal and broken places to be a warrior for life, to protest what is unjust and to help midwife a better and more beautiful world. In an in-between time, you can trust in the peace that God has planted deep within you, a peace that the world cannot give and that the world can never take away.”
As I listen to these two voices, it seems to me that if we steep ourselves in the peace of Christ, we will have everything we need. We know that society needs to be transformed from top to bottom – we need to draw down our carbon emissions, to buy locally produced goods and food, to build different kinds of dwellings, to develop new, sustainable, and non-polluting sources of energy. I can think of no more beautiful way to spend our lives than to take part in what leaders like Joanna Macy and David C. Korten call the Great Turning, the epic transition from a deathly society to one that fosters life. It’s what philosopher Thomas Berry calls the Great Work: our wholehearted effort to create a more just and sustainable society. And it’s what Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls the “supreme work” of Jesus Christ, who longs to reconcile us to God, to each other, and to the whole of God’s Creation.
We are engaged, together, in a third revolution that will require new depths of wisdom, courage, and compassion. But only a shift in consciousness can sustain us in that crucial work, a deep rooting in the ground of our being, which is God. So, today, and every day, as we celebrate the gift of being alive at this crucial moment in the planet’s history, may the peace of Christ be always with you.
by Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Massachusetts
 See, for instance, Joanna Macy, John Seed, Lester Brown, and Dana Meadows.
 Pachamama Alliance, “Mission and Vision,” https://www.pachamama.org/about/mission
 The term comes from Norwegian eco-philosopher Sigmund Kwaloy and has been popularized by Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown, Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World (Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society, 1998).
 Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Foreword, The Green Bible, New Revised Standard Version (New York: HarperOne, HarperCollins, 2008), I-14.
Acts 14, 21b-27
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by Rev Dr Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Missioner for Creation Care (Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, and Southern New England Conference, UCC) and Creation Care Advisor (Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts)
Good Shepherd, Good Earth
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. On the Fourth Sunday of Easter our Gospel reading is always drawn from Chapter Ten of John’s Gospel, where Jesus speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd. This is a good morning to reflect on our call to care for God’s creation, a good morning to see if we can listen more deeply to the Good Shepherd’s voice.
In today’s Gospel reading, we find Jesus “walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon,” but in many Gospel stories, we find him outdoors. Jesus evidently lived close to the Earth, and we often find him outside – praying in the desert, climbing a mountain, riding a boat across a lake, walking along a seashore or down a dusty road. Jesus’ parables and stories are filled with images of nature: vines and seeds, lilies, sparrows, and hens, weeds and rocks. Of course, today, on Good Shepherd Sunday, we’ve got sheep!
Here, in the very heart of Easter Season, let’s recall that our Easter liturgies make it clear that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is good news not only for human beings but also for the whole of creation – for rivers and mountains, forests and fields, hawks, whales, and bees. At the Great Vigil of Easter, when we mark Jesus’ passing from death to life, we start by lighting a fire in the darkness and by listening to someone chant these ancient words:
Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth,
bright with a glorious splendor,
for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King.
Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth! Christ is risen!
Too often our liturgies limit the good news of Christ to human beings, and we push to the margins all the other creatures and natural elements with whom we share this planet, as if Homo sapiens were the only species of any interest to God. But Easter gives us a chance to remember the larger truth: according to Scripture, God loved the whole world into being, sustains all things through the Holy Spirit, and through Christ redeemed and reconciled all things in heaven and on earth “by making peace through the blood of the cross” (Colossians 1:19). What’s more, our Christian faith looks ahead to the renewal of all things (Matthew 19:28), to the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21), to the day when humans live in peace with God, with each other, and with the whole of God’s creation. Folks, the good news of God in Christ is not just for us – it’s for all the round Earth!
That’s one reason I cherish Easter season: we have a chance to highlight the deep ecological meaning of faith in Christ. Cherishing and protecting the natural world is not just an “add-on,” a sideline hobby for a few Christians who call themselves “environmentalists.” In fact, protecting the Earth that God entrusted to our care is central to being Christian. It’s a faithful response to the very first task given to humans at the very beginning of Genesis – to “till and keep” the Earth (Gen. 2:15), to be stewards and caregivers. Prophets and sages throughout the Bible, culminating in Jesus himself, cajole us and urge us to participate with God in creating a beloved community in which people and the land live together in balance and harmony, in a shalom of justice, wholeness, and peace. Mystics of every faith tradition tell us that human beings are not separate from – much less “above” – the rest of the created order but are siblings of wind and water, of porcupine and tree – all of us, every living being, every element of the natural world, created and cherished by the same almighty God.
We need this good news now more than ever, for to some extent all of us are aware that the web of life is unraveling before our eyes. As Bill McKibben wrote a while back, “We’ve changed the planet, changed it in large and fundamental ways… Our old familiar globe is suddenly melting, drying, acidifying, flooding, and burning in ways that no human has ever seen.” News of the natural world is often grim. We’ve all heard about the steady rise in global temperatures, driven by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels. Maybe we heard about the recent collapse of a massive ice shelf as an extreme heat wave blasted Antarctica with some areas reaching temperatures 70º Fahrenheit above normal. We’ve heard about the wildfires and drought out West, the hurricanes down South. We’ve heard about the sweeping new report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announcing that it’s now or never if we’re going to limit global heating to 1.5º Celsius, the uppermost limit to keep Earth reasonably protected from catastrophic climate change.
It turns out that human beings have irrevocably altered the Earth into which you and I were born. As Bill McKibben puts it, “The world hasn’t ended, but the world as we know it has….” Our task now is not to stop global warming, because that is impossible. Our task is to “keep it from getting any worse than it has to get,” and to find ways to live more “lightly, carefully, and gracefully” in this new world.
Honestly, I’m stopped in my tracks when I consider the damage that we humans have afflicted on the rest of God’s creation. The fossil fuels we’ve burned cannot be unburned. The carbon emissions we’ve poured into the sky cannot be un-poured. What we’ve done, we’ve done; we have changed the earth forever. And my response, and maybe yours, too, is one of sadness, guilt, anger, and regret.
That’s why I treasure the worlds of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who witnessed at close hand what he called “the cruelties, hurts, and hatreds” of the world. In his book, Made for Goodness, he writes:
“The pain cannot be unmade,
The life cannot be un-lived,
The time will not run backward,
You cannot un-choose your choice.”
And yet, Bishop Tutu goes on, “…the pain can be healed,
Your choices can be redeemed,
Your life can be blessed,
And love can bring you home.”
We come home whenever we listen again to the Good Shepherd, whose voice is always speaking in our heart. We come home whenever we face the fact, as Isaiah says, that: “all we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). We come home when we turn again to the divine love that dwells within us and in whose image we are made, the divine love that longs to guide us “to springs of the water of life, and … [to] wipe away every tear from [our] eyes” (Revelation 7: 17).
In an unsettled time, prayer is the staff on which we lean when we need the guidance and loving care of the Good Shepherd. Bishop Tutu calls prayer “the staff that supported me during the darkest periods of our history,” and his words echo the 23rd Psalm, “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). Jesus assures us in today’s Gospel, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). So, we trust that in prayer we can listen deeply to the inner voice of divine love and can attune ourselves again to its call.
We also trust that God’s love can move through us – through our words and hands, our choices and decisions. We trust that the Good Shepherd will guide us to actions that heal and set free. We may not think we have the miraculous power of Peter, who apparently raised the disciple Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:36-43), but we dare to believe that the power of God can flow through us and can accomplish infinitely more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
I invite you to think of one way you can listen more deeply to the land and to learn from it. Maybe you want to pick up trash from a neglected corner of your neighborhood. Maybe you want to plant a pollinator garden or a community garden. Maybe you want to start a compost pile or to check out a farmer’s market. Maybe you can donate to a local land trust that is preserving farms and forests. Individual changes make a difference, but because of the scope and speed of the climate crisis, we need more than individual action – we need systemic change. To do that, we have to confront the unjust powers-that-be. So, maybe you’ll join the campaign to push the four biggest banks that finance fossil fuels (Chase, CitiBank, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America) to quit propping up the oil and gas industry.
Or maybe you’d simply like to invite a neighbor you’ve never met before to come over for a cup of tea. We need to build up local communities, to live in ways that are closer to the earth, more about sharing than about consuming, more about self-restraint than about self-aggrandizement, more about generosity than about fearful survivalism, so that we can take care of each other when the hard times come.
There is joy in living like that, a joy that springs up simply from being true to the basic goodness that God has planted in us. The Good Shepherd is calling us by name. What invitation is he whispering in your heart?
by Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Massachusetts
 Bill McKibben, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Times Book, 2010), p. xiii and book jacket.
 Ibid., p. 2.
 McKibben interview, op. cit.
 McKibben, Eaarth, p. 151.
 Ibid., p. 4.
 Ibid., p. 137.
 Ibid., p. 77.
Acts 5, 27b-41
by Revd Dr Joachim Feldes, Anglican Church in Germany
Focussing on Participation
Participation means having the chance to be a part of the society at an eye-to-eye level. It is opposite to any limitation, segregation, let alone exclusion in terms of money or culture, in terms of ethnic or religious characteristics. Participation means realising what article 1 of the German constitutions claims, i.e. that the dignity of the human being is inviolable.
Taking account of God’s marvellous plan of a creation living as a complex organism whose members live with and die without the others, participation comes across as a thoroughly biblical issue. This is most significantly illustrated and practiced by Jesus who passionately cares about those socially marginalised and segregated. It is one of his core efforts to do everything possible to make them reconnect with society, sharing anew common tables, risen life, and God’s fellowship. Following that movement and concern of Jesus, it becomes natural and inevitable to live up to an integrative and inclusive calling as Christians, and also to oppose a neoliberal, denigrating and eventually killing economy where seeking short-term profit alone is crucial.
Christians’ vocation is contrary to and has to fight virtually as well as in prayer against global segregation in all its forms. Segregation hindering integration and inclusion of all neglects or exploits humans of this generation or those to come must and will come to an end. We cannot but opening our minds and hearts to others who have been denied access to common wealth. God expects us to strife with everything we have to love and care for creation as he does himself.
Apostles are pretty bold upright. Before the high priest they pronounce the sentence upright people all over the world will keep repeating: You have to obey God more than men. Looking at history, it was such people who were promoting our planet: Copernic, Gandhi, Bonhoeffer and many others – all of them resisting to any attempts of repression by authoritarian authorities. And given the sad development that more and more countries have been falling into authoritarian systems, their message has become even more important. This also encourages dissidents – Julien Asange is only one of them – not to be marginalised and imprisoned, but be given a voice and appreciated in the middle of society. They are a crucial part both of society and common sense, maybe the one who will eventually be proved right.
Acts 5 highlights how deeply the mission of the early church was rooted in her members’ faith. In spite of all obstacles, prohibition and dangers the apostles’ talk becomes a forceful sermon. They cannot help doing so, there’s no fussing around. There’s only bold proclaiming from the heart of the belief, as if their creed could protect them – kind of weird, crazy.
And yet, this has an impact, much stronger than expected. The high priests refrain from their initial goals and shy off from having them killed. Their shyness corresponds to the apostles’ boldness as they feel even more encouraged than before. Mission is crucial to them, entailing the chance for all to share their faith, to participate in their belief. There’s no thought to be wasted about fear of being killed, yet they enjoy suffering for the sake of the name of Jesus.
What a future – grotesque or amazing – is being promised here: it is not an aggressive or intruding lion, but a peaceful lamb that will be sitting on the throne. Might, wealth, wisdom, power, honour, glory and praise, everything that counts on earth will be sacrificed together with the lamb, given for us. What a marvellous rehabilitation, what a great hope for the powerless, poor, weak, scorned and despised. In the end they will take part in the divine life. They will be raised, as they have been cast down on earth. The lamb confirms that this future world is surely to come, a world where no one is marginalised anymore, but everyone invited to be a full member of a divine, welcoming, hospitable and comprehensive society.
Come and eat! Most welcoming is Jesus when offering the fish the disciple just did catch – thanks to his help. 150 big fish, symbolizing whole mankind, symbolizing a mankind united. And none of the disciples claims the fish his own, no one complains that the fish now are Jesus’s and his very gift to us. Whatever God gives, eventually it is and remains his, and never becomes ours. Whatever we receive must be shared or handed on to the next generation.
And yet, the story is not only about fish or food or any material we need to stay alive. It is about mankind, i.e. us who come from God and belong to him. And clearly it is God’s faithfulness and care that fills the net, feeds us and meets our longings. Without him, without the Son of God you do not get anywhere. Without him you labour, you struggle in vain.
By his support and invitation Jesus illustrates the kingdom of God and shows that it has already arrived and is realizing in this concrete world, in our world. And he makes clear that we are not spectators, but followers. We are invited to engage and it is our duty to share. Sharing the goods of this world is a key part of God’s kingdom. God asks us to share in order that everyone may participate – in society, culture and education, that everyone is appreciated, respected, and welcome. Becoming and being a member of God reconciled universal family, this is the way the kingdom of God is spreading. Come and eat! You are invited. You are invited to participate.
by Revd Dr Joachim Feldes, Anglican Church in Germany
adapted from notes by Sonia Hinds, Rector of St. Leonard’s Anglican Church in the Diocese of Barbados
Introduction (by Rev Dr Rachel Mash) – “Earth Day and Easter”
This year Earth Day and Easter fall in the same week. The world is in a dark place, just as we were coming out of COVID, the war in Ukraine broke out, and our news feeds have been full of ever more devastating images. At the same time, the latest IPCC report brings us even more distressing news, it seems that we are falling far short of the targets we need to reach in order to halt evermore devastating climate change.
Just this week in South Africa over 400 people lost their lives in devastating floods , a catastrophe of enormous proportions,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said “This disaster is part of climate change. It is telling us that climate change is serious, it is here”
As we celebrate Earth day, how do the Easter themes of death and resurrection speak to the present peril of our planet?
We must begin with confession and lament. With Jesus, we must walk to the cross, experiencing the pain of loss and suffering, hearing the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. We must lament the mortal wounds which are destroying the web of life. We must confess our guilt: our offences against those most vulnerable on this earth, as well as our theft from generations to come.
Our hearts are broken as Jesus dies on the cross “God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son” John 3:16
We have often misunderstood these words to mean that God loved only the people of the world, and it is for humans alone that Jesus came. But the word for ‘world’ in the original Greek is ‘cosmos’. God loved the Cosmos so much that he sent his son to die, to bear our suffering and the pain of the whole web of life.
For Christians, the despair and darkness of Good Friday are not the final word. Jesus, the Word of Life, overcomes death. At the heart of our faith is resurrection, redemption and new life. The groaning of creation is not a hopeless pain, but is described as the groaning of child-birth when agony gives way to new life.
The Bible tells us of the “New Earth”. This is not another Earth in a different place. There is no Planet B. God promises us that this very Earth will be renewed. We are part of Gods redemptive plan, sadly we have almost delayed too long and the renewed Earth will bear scars just as Jesus’ body did.
It is time to rise up and act, remembering that we are co-creators with God; we are called to renew this, our common home.
We are not chaplains administering the last rites to a dying Earth. We are midwives to the new Creation.
Let us not look for the living amongst the dead.
SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME
God’s Creation and the Caribbean’s Call
SUMMARY: Christians have a responsibility to care for the Environment; it is an integral part of our Christian Stewardship. In the Caribbean, we are blessed with many islands that many North Americans and Europeans pay thousands of dollars to experience particularly during their winter season. Yet, we, like them, are challenged to become more faithful stewards of God’s creation as we accept God’s call to be co-creators. Today’s readings for the second Sunday of Easter guide us in this responsibility.
In the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we have a dramatic and bold assertion from Peter “We must obey God rather than human beings . . .” Even as the disciples stood before the Jewish Sanhedrin, there is this powerful witness that invites us in the Caribbean too to be bold when confronting the political and capitalistic policies that push agendas to the detriment of our environment. Our political leaders must hear the Church’s bold assertion as it challenges policies that are unhealthy for our well-being.
The Psalm seems to have been composed for and used as the litany in a public thanksgiving ceremony. Here, we have the king who returns victoriously from battle and reports to the audience on his triumph as he enters his temple amid acclaim and jubilation. The king then offers a prayer of thanksgiving and sacrifice. He proclaims “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. With almost every Caribbean country having annual Carnival seasons, we have opportunity to use this context of celebration that is grounded in our history to celebrate God’s goodness.
In the passage from the book of Revelation, there is promise and threat. God’s judgment would be universal. Verse7 tells us that “All peoples of the world shall lament in remorse.” The Church in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean must act decisively in changing how we respond to God’s creation.
The Johannine text provides the Easter theme of resurrection and so the appearance of Jesus to the disciples is critical. This, however, was not the initial experience for Thomas who had to struggle with doubt and denial before Jesus came to prove that he is present. And his response? “Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” May we too be led to believe in Jesus Christ when we recognise God in creation.
1st Reading (Acts)
Obedience to God rather than human beings is critical for us who, with God’s help, are serious about sustaining the earth. In this reading from Acts, the theme of obedience to God, we meet the apostles being arrested and challenged for speaking the truth about Jesus. However, they are bold enough to respond: “We must obey God rather than human beings . . . We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” It is an example for us who are co-creators to let others know that the voice of God has to be heard and obeyed above the voices of human beings. This particularly so if we accept the challenge and so speak out to those especially those in power (including political power) and who want us to obey the human beings who are involved in the capitalist agendas. Indeed, we must obey God in our stewardship of creation rather than corporate companies that see profits and not people.
The 118th psalm is not silent concerning God’s goodness. As the king returns from battle as victor offering prayers of thanksgiving, we recognise its relevance to the Easter message of the resurrection of Jesus. Recognising that Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is about restoring our relationship with God and with the whole of creation, we too can recognise God’s goodness to us. What is our response? Like the psalmist, we too can sing a psalm of thanksgiving to God for it would be restoration worth celebrating!
2nd Reading (Rev)
In the book of Revelation, Chapter 1:8, we read “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” This verse reminds us of the God who created us from the beginning, the God who became one of us in Jesus Christ and the God who would return to us. In affirming God, the Creator of the world, we affirm that God continues to be with us from the beginning and the end. Therefore in this text, there exudes a feeling of triumph and confident hope. God has done mighty acts for God’s people (v.5b-6). It declares that the present, past and future are God’s in an absolute sense.
In this passage, Thomas is now in the presence of Jesus but was absent when Jesus earlier appeared to the other disciples. He requires proof that the crucified Jesus is alive. While our situation in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean might be different than in other countries, we must recognise the causes and consequences of climate change too. The doubts that we have must not lead us to denial. The proof is all around us. Our water system is changing and we are now purchasing drinking water. Our land which produced foreign exchange is no longer doing so and we are relying on tourist industry as our main foreign exchange earner. This is not sustainable for future generations. This passage leads us to ask: What does this mean to people who do not want to see? There is also more than ample scientific proof that we cannot ignore. Neither can we sit back and blame North America or Europe for our challenges. Like Thomas, we must be moved to belief that Christ is among us.
Environmental & Sustainability themes / links:
Given our Christian belief that creation is a divine gift, what are the implications of understanding that pollution is an assault on the environment?
What message does our passage send to Christians who are hesitant to speak to and engage in indiscriminate dumping, pollution and any other environmental issue?
As a Christian how does your might faith help you to give thanks to God for God’s goodness in the context of a church service focused on the Fifth Mission?
How do any of the three texts help you to understand better our responsibility to protect the environment?
Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)
Are there any endangered species in Barbados? If so what contribution are you making to their preservation? In what ways is human greed a threat to the environment?
How can the belief that water is a precious gift of God influence the way we use it?
We are currently experiencing water shortages across the island. What should be our Christian response to our water scarce status? Are there water saving guidelines in your family?
Do you think that climate change is a threat to our food supply?
WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES
Hymns & Songs
(1) Here I am, Lord https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcxOkht8w7c
Artist: John Michael Talbot
Album: Table of Plenty
Released: 1997 Genre: Christian/Gospel
(2) Breathe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-0EgzOWkvc:
by Revd Sonia Hinds, Diocese of Barbados