Revd Linda Anchell
30th September 2007
Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15; Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16; 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31
The Collect of the day:
O God from whom light rises in darkness for those who seek you: grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us do that in your light we may see light and in your narrow path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
GRANT US THE GRACE TO ASK: WHAT YOU WOULD HAVE US DO?
How often do we approach Sundays with that question?
Today perhaps, feeling powerless about this week's news in Myanmar. signing a petition, maybe even being at a demonstration seems so little.
Or perhaps various circumstances in our family or neighbourhood; God grant us the grace to know, to ask, what to do!
Today we are observing Creation Sunday. The readings haven't been chosen for that theme, but they have their own light to shed on it.
Jeremiah is buying a block of land. This is the most detailed account of a commercial transaction in this time. Jeremiah had prophesied that Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians and King Zedekiah would be taken and exiled there.
Maybe everyone could see what was coming. Perhaps his cousin was trying to liquidate his assets before the collapse! Jeremiah though, was happy to oblige.
So, for this society that was about to be defeated and sent into exile, there comes this word of HOPE. "Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land."
Jeremiah here PERFORMS A PROPHETIC ACT: he buys land and GIVES PROPHETIC WORDS: they shall again be bought…
Timothy is being advised to be content. To be content with food and clothing. And to teach the rich to be generous. Why? To Take Hold of the Life that really is Life!
Take hold of Life.
This is the reality, life here and now, full and rich, and generous. And life… it is magpies and worms and blossoms and trees, lizards and skinks, spiders and fish! Life, it is all around us! What a blessing! Glory be to God for dappled things!
We are in danger, reading our scriptures, of applying them only to our relations with one species, our own. Seeing ourselves as part of the marvellous web of life here on this planet means reading the bible with new eyes, it means hearing the messages we get through it with new ears. And if ever we need to see and hear things in a new way it is now!
In the gospel we have the familiar story of the rich man and Lazarus. It may simply have been a story going around that was picked up and used by Jesus. Contemporary commentators are unhappy with the graphic descriptions of heaven and hell. (one clue is that the word used for hell is Greek, ("Hades") not Hebrew ("Gehenna").) But it was a good story to remind Jesus' hearers that they already have The Law (Moses) and The Prophets.
Both New Testament readings have warnings on the perils of wealth. (Warnings which Australia as a nation needs to hear!) The Gospel firmly sends us back to Moses (The Law) and the Prophets…
The Prophet Jeremiah bought a block of land. This prophetic act was to give hope to a collapsing city and society.
Are we now in a time which needs such prophetic acts? I believe so.
Before we can act, we need new eyes for seeing, new ears for hearing. We did this in the twentieth century (not so long ago!) when we read the bible and saw the women there. Stories that I never learnt in Sunday school. Miriam was alongside her brothers Aaron and Moses. Martha was the first disciple to name Jesus as 'the Christ' and Mary the first to recognise the risen Christ. There were many more…
Justice is seen as something we should do to other people. But what justice is it to the skinks at my house who were woken from hibernation a month early this year? Or for the Polar Bears or Penguins? (and myriads of others)
When we read that Christ died for 'all', do we mean 'all men', or 'all people', or do we mean 'all'? 'All creation'?…
This is about recognising that we are part of the ecology of the earth, not just a part of the economy. (When, O when will we STOP talking about ECONOMIC GROWTH?)
The Earth Bible is a series of five books which will help us see with new eyes and hear with new ears.
Desmond Tutu says of it: "the Earth Bible has chosen to take the Earth crisis seriously and to re-read our biblical heritage in the light of this crisis."
In the Preface to Volume one, Veronica Brady writes:
The biblical word … is a word of power, reality in its most concentrated, compacted, essential form. In this sense the world and its future … can be said to depend on it.
But there is a view that the bible has caused the ecological crisis we are now in. Caused it by the command to 'fill the earth and subdue it.'…
In this view [Sister Veronica says] far from being the word of life, the Bible brings a word of death and has little or nothing positive to contribute to the struggle for Earth and the future of humanity.
There are two ways to answer that challenge:
Some texts are anthropocentric. They do focus entirely on human beings…
"The second way is to argue that the problem lies not with the bible, but with the ways in which it has been read, or, to put it more properly, misread."
What I especially like is the next paragraph:
Being a Christian however, does not mean turning away from the world and the moment of history in which we live and it does not excuse us from the work of love. It is all too easy to make a God to suit our own needs, forgetting that, [as one theologian, JB Metz, has put it,] the best short definition of God may be 'interruption', that God is always Other, the one who calls us to a largeness of life beyond our selfish dreams. (1980:171)
God calls us to a largeness of life. To take hold of the life which really is life.
This is a time for prophetic acts. We are here, we are church, we are gathered. Amongst us are people with knowledge, imagination and experience. May we be a blessing to this earth.
O God, Come and Interrupt us! Amen.
References and Resources:
Shrinking the Footprint from the Church of England.
The Earth Bible:
Volume One: Readings from the perspective of earth Ed Norman C. Habel (Sheffield Academic Press 2000) Preface by Veronica Brady (13-17) (the quote about interruption was from JB Metz (1980) Faith in History and Society (New York: Seabury Press)
more about the Earth Bible is available at Web of Creation.
From Sojourners: Greening Our Churches: What congregations can do to restore creation, by David Rhoads and Andrea Orcutt "The church is the largest grassroots organization in the country. If people of faith are to contribute significantly to environmental sustainability, then care for creation needs to be brought to the center of congregational life and mission."
… and from the house in Burra, my own web site on what we are doing there (generating more electricity than we use.)