Fifth Sunday in Lent [by S. C. Dulnuan]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
 Is 43:16-21
both

Psalm
126
2nd Reading
Phil 3:4b-14
= 8-14
Gospel
Jn 12:1-8
Jn 8:1-11
by Sunshine C. Dulnuan, St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary, Philippines

SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME

“Water cannot be owned”, my mother emphasized to me while I was leafing through numerous pictures of my father who used to work as a senior forester in our city. Her statement is a strange concept given our global water situation where some natural sources of water are converted into dams to cater to the growing demand for electricity and water. In the Philippine context, more often than not, the conversion of rivers into dams has met oppositions from indigenous communities who have been sustained by rivers for generations; their very lives and security revolving around their confident reliance to the rivers and the land around them which they perceive as sacred. Village leaders were killed, communities displaced, and sources of livelihood were pillaged; a group of people considered a minority, sacrificed for the nation’s upkeep. Yet in all these depressing events, there is one truth that lingers among the ruined villages that once thrived along the rivers of the earth – water has a sense of sacredness to it. Without water, all will perish. Water carries with it messages of hope, life, and growth.

The prophet Isaiah paints a vivid imagery of God who “gives water in the wilderness, rivers in a desert” (Isaiah 43:20); who gives drink to people so that they may not thirst. Those who have experienced drought or extremely dry seasons could easily relate to this text. And perhaps the experience of the Israelites in Babylon could take us deeper into understanding the text in light of our call to be stewards of God’s creation. Displaced from their homeland and longing for deliverance, Isaiah gave them a message of hope – it is a promise that the people who dwell in the wilderness shall never thirst. The gushing sound of the river will be heard once more. And with that water comes life; people will sing songs of harvest for God will restore the watercourses of Negeb just as the psalmist said, “those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.” (Psalm 126)

Macliing Dulag, the slain pangat or village elder of the Butbut tribe of Kalinga, who fought against the construction of the Chico river dam, presents to us a challenge when he said, “If you destroy life in your search of what you say the good life, we question it.”

Indeed, the waters of the earth and the people who sought to protect them were made to suffer in the name of development. The question then remains: to what extent would we sacrifice life for development?

DETAILED NOTES

Old Testament reading / Psalm

Isaiah 43:6-12

– Written in the context of the Babylonian exile, the prophet Isaiah illustrates God as the deliverer; reminding them of their ancestors’ experience in Egypt where God made “a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters … who brings out chariot and horse”.

– The prophet Isaiah aimed to usher the people into a future of hope in view of the sufferings they endured under Babylonian rule. Isaiah emphasized to them not to consider the “former things” but to look forward to God’s redemption symbolized as water in the wilderness.

– This text shows the solidarity between humans and nature, and exudes the idea of the “divinity” of nature. The power of nature brings life. This is a stark contrast from the materialistic view of nature which reduces nature into mere “things” which can be manipulated and exploited for human purposes.

Psalm 126

This joyful song refers to the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity after 70 years in exile. The song is metaphorical expressed through imageries of a dream, streams in the desert, and abundant harvest.

Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)

Article on Macliing Dulag

WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES

Hymns & Songs

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

https://hymnary.org/tune/gayom_ni_higami

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

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

 

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

SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME

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

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

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

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

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

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

LINK TO THE WORLD:

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

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

THINK ABOUT GOD’S CALL:

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

The great Commandment: Matthew 22:36-40 NIV

See below further reading: 3

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

RESPOND:

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

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

DETAILED NOTES

Old Testament reading / Psalm

Both Old Testament readings are about Mothers / motherly qualities 

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

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

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

New Testament reading

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

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

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

Gospel

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

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

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

Environmental & Sustainability themes / links:

UN Sustainable Development Goals: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/#

A Rocha: Eco Church resources
https://ecochurch.arocha.org.uk

Green Christian resources
https://greenchristian.org.uk/

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

WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES

Gathering & Penitence

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

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

Silence for reflection

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

Lord have mercy, Lord, have mercy

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

Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy

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

Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy

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

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

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

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

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

Response to the Word

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anselm (1109)

Holy Communion

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

Sending out

Blessing

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

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

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

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

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

Hymns & Songs

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

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

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

Children’s / All Age ideas

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

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

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

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

by Elizabeth Bussmann-Morton, Diocese in Europe

Third Sunday in Lent [by Rev. Dave Bookless]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Isaiah 55:1-9
Ex 3:1-8a,13-15
Psalm
63:1-8
2nd Reading
1 Cor 10:1-13
both
Gospel
Luke 13:1-9
both
by Rev. Dave Bookless PhD, Director of Theology with A Rocha International

SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME

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

STEPS TO BEING TRANSFORMED, AND TO TRANSFORMING GOD’S WORLD

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

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

DETAILED NOTES

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

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

Environmental & Sustainability themes / links:

Statistics and Facts on how humanity is affecting Planet Earth:

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

WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES

Gathering & Penitence

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

From Worshipping Ecumenically, WCC Publications.  From the ECEN website

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

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

To you be glory and praise for ever.

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

To you be glory and praise for ever.

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

To you be glory and praise for ever.

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

To you be glory and praise for ever.

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

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

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

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

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

To you be glory and praise for ever.

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

To you be glory and praise for ever.

Christ is the bread of life:

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

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

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

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

Sending out

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

From the Eco-congregation Module 2 Celebrating Creation

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

by Rev. Dave Bookless PhD, West London

Second Sunday in Lent [by Rev. Ken Gray]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Gen 15:1-12, 17-18
(both)
Psalm
27
2nd Reading
Phil 3:17-4:1
(both)
Gospel
Luke 13:31-35 or
(both:) 9:28-36
by Rev. Ken Gray, Dean and Rector of St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Kamloops British Columbia, Canada

SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME

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

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

DETAILED NOTES

Old Testament reading / Psalm

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

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

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

And best of all, he is patient:

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

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

New Testament reading

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

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

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

Gospel

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

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

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

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

Resources / Links:

Walter Brueggemann, LAND

Greta Thunberg’s ADDRESS TO COP 24 KATOWICE

WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES

Response to the Word: Intercessions

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

Hymns & Songs

Earth and all stars

https://hymnary.org/text/earth_and_all_stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yegeflb8wkI

The Lord is my light, Iona Community

https://hymnary.org/text/the_lord_is_my_light_my_light_and_my_sal

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSKfBrOmog8

Stand Firm Iona Community

http://www.ionabooks.com/content/stand-firm/

by Rev. Ken Gray, Kamloops, British Columbia

First Sunday in Lent [by Dr. Rachel Mash]

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

SUMMARY

Starting our Lenten Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What steps can you make during Lent to join the voices calling for change? These might involve personal changes such as a Plastic Fast for Lent http://www.greenanglicans.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Final-Calender.pdf

Or taking up a plant based diet https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/vegetarian-vegan-giving-up-meat-lent-why-and-how-to-do-it-a7606031.html

Or perhaps you can inspire your church to divest from fossil fuels? http://brightnow.org.uk/resource/transition-report

DETAILED NOTES

Old Testament reading

Deuteronomy 26:1-11: Firstfruits and tithes

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

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

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

Gospel

Luke 4:1-13: Temptations in the wilderness

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

Temptation One: Wants, not needs

“tell this stone to become bread”

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

It is not by bread alone that we live.

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

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

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

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

The second temptation: to bow down to power

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

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

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

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

The third temptation : to become like  God.

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

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

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

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

We have poisoned the seas and filled them with plastic.

We can modify the DNA of plants and creating GMOS.

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

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

STORIES, ILLUSTRATIONS, VIDEOS

One of the foremost Christian Climate Scientists in Kathryn Hayhoe.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpjL_otLq6Y

How to create a  pollinator friendly garden:

https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/create-pollinator-friendly-garden-birds-bees-butterflies


GATHERING

Confession

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

SERVICE OF THE WORD

Collect

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

Amen[iv]

RESPONSE

Prayers of the People

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

HOLY COMMUNION

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

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

SENDING OUT

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

A Hawaiian prayer

—————————

HYMNS

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

Hymns by Normal Habel:

http://normanhabel.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Hymns-and-Songs-Habel-Hymns-1.pdf

CREATIVE IDEAS AND CHILDRENS IDEAS

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

Children can prepare posters about what to do with rubbish.

by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, Southern Africa

References:

[i] https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2018-01-22/richest-1-percent-bagged-82-percent-wealth-created-last-year

[ii] https://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/all_publications/living_planet_report_2018/

[iii] Operation Noah Prayer

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

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

[vi] World Council of Churches, “The Eucharistic Liturgy of Lima”, http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/

documents/wcc-programmes/unity-mission-evangelism-and-spirituality/spirituality-and-worship/theeucharistic-liturgy-of-lima

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

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Ex 34.29-35
Sir 27.4-7(5-8)
Psalm
99
2nd Reading
2 Cor 3.12 – 4.2
1 Cor 15.54-58
Gospel
Luke 9.28-36[37-43a]
Luke 6.39-45
additional: 2 Peter 1.16-19
Dr Elizabeth Perry, Programme and Communication Manager, Anglican Alliance

SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME

LISTEN TO THE WORD:

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

THINK ABOUT GOD’S CALL:

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

LINK TO THE WORLD:

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

RESPOND:

Perhaps this week we might…

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

DETAILED NOTES

Old Testament reading / Psalm

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

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

New Testament reading

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

Gospel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Environmental & Sustainability themes / links:

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

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

WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES

Response to the Word

Some visual prayers can be found here.

Hymns & Songs

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

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

Children’s / All Age ideas

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

by Dr. Elizabeth Perry, Anglican Alliance

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

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

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

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

Make peace, not war!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[3rd Sunday before Lent]

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

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

by N.N

[4th Sunday before Lent]

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

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

by N.N.

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


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

Exegetical Observations

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

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

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

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

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

Aspects of Sustainability

Respect for the holy (Ez, Luke)

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

Humankind as one family (Heb, Luke)

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

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

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

by Dr. Joachim Feldes

 

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