24th Sunday after Pentecost

Lectionary 1st Reading Psalm 2nd Reading Gospel
Anglican lectionary:
Jeremiah 23:1-6
46
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43
Catholic lectionary:
2 Samuel 5:1-3
-
(both)
(both)
SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME

Salvation for the whole Creation

Text: Colossians 1:19-20, For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

  • The Key environmental teaching theme of this passage is that salvation is for the whole of creation and not just for humans. The passage from Colossians explains this in cosmic terms and gives a backdrop to the harrowing Gospel passage describing the crucifixion of Jesus.

  • In Col 1:20, Paul explains out the connection between creation and salvation and reveals the sheer scope of the cross of Christ.

  • The implication of this understanding of the cross is a discipleship response to God’s creation. Christ died for the whole of creation and so, in response to Christ and his work on the cross, we should be active in caring for creation and calling individuals and governments to take action against the deepening of the environmental crisis. A redemptive understanding of the connection between cross and creation, means that creation care and eco-justice are Gospel issues.

  • It is easy to slip into despair over the environmental crisis, both on a global scale with issues such as climate change, and with local and regional difficulties, such as destruction of habitats and pollution. We can gain strength from God’s promises in scripture. In Col 1:15-17, Paul explains the cosmic role of Christ in creation and that he holds creation together. In Psalm 46 we are encouraged that God is our refuge and strength and ever-present help in trouble.

  • Christ gives us strength (Col 1:11). He died to reconcile the world to himself and his Kingdom is a renewal of creation (Lk 23:43).

  • Our positive actions in creation care, however small, point towards Christ’s kingdom – the coming renewal of creation.

  • You might like to think of one action that you could take this week that would reconcile one small part of creation and bring peace.

Notes on the Readings

Comments on Jeremiah 23.1-6

Farmers and shepherds are mostly people who really care for their land and animals but every so often there is a case in the news of someone being prosecuted for cruelty to the animals in their care. Jeremiah uses this image to highlight the irresponsibility of political and religious leaders if they do not care for all that is in their charge. He brings a stark message of judgement and a promise of restoration. In an age of environmental crisis, we can consider the leadership of our nations and churches. God will judge those who have not acted to care for our world, but he has also promised the coming of a wise and gentle King who will do what is just and right in the land.

Comments on Psalm 46

As the ecological crisis deepens, we can feel that the Earth is giving way, but it is important to remember that God is our refuge and strength. Even as environmental pressures lead to political instability, God is our fortress. He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ God is our refuge when we face ecological disaster (vs.1-2)

Comments on Colossians 1.11-20

This great passage explains who Christ is in relation to God, creation and people. Jesus is revealed to be the source, sustainer and saviour of all creation (not just humans). He is God made visible. The word “firstborn” is not used to describe Christ as a created being – if that were the case then all things could not be created through him. It is used to proclaim him as the heir of all creation – creation belongs to him. I used to think that Jesus died on the cross, so that humans could have salvation and eternal life. This passage pulls back the lens and shows a much bigger picture. Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross was to reconcile all of creation! Therefore, when we care for God’s creation, we care for something that Jesus has died for. As Christians, we are redeemed and strengthened with power to live out a Christian life. In the midst of environmental crisis, we can find strength in knowing that Christ holds creation. We are his body and, if he holds creation, then surely we are called to hold it with him?

Comments on Luke 23.33-43

Having considered the cosmic picture of Christ in Colossians, the Gospel passage lays bare the pain and sacrifice of the Cross. Jesus, the source and sustainer of creation, enters into his world and tackles its sin and suffering, head on. The pain and anguish of the cross is unimaginable and yet, Jesus entered this willingly so that he could redeem his whole creation and bring peace through reconciling all things to God. One of the criminals insults him and asks him to save them from their fate. He is rebuked by the other criminal, who accepts that they cannot escape death, but asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. In this moving encounter, Jesus promises him that he will even today be with him in paradise – a word meaning “restored garden”. Jesus’ kingdom is creation restored. When we respond with actions to reduce, prevent or end environmental crisis, we point towards creation restored and the promise of salvation for all.

Stories / illustrations / videos:

www.assets-kenya.org  A good illustration of positive Gospel actions that help to reconcile people and creation is the A Rocha Kenya, Arabuko-Sokoke Schools and Eco-tourism Scheme (ASSETS). This supports needy children living around the forest and Mida Creek with secondary school bursaries funded by local sustainable tourism activities. The local forest has been protected through this scheme and local families are able to afford schooling for their children. Tourists are encouraged to care for creation.

Environmental & Sustainability themes / links:

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 targets to improve life for humans, while also protecting and restoring the natural environment. The followed on from the Millenium Develop Goals that had a far lesser emphasis on environment. These gained substantial improvement for people but the increasing damage to the environment by human activity threatened the improvements made. The STGs were developed as a more holistic way forward. In this they demonstrate the need to care for creation and people together.

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300

Is a distance course that helps Christians understand the link between environment and the Christian faith.

www.cres.org.uk 

Additional Resources

Bauckham, R. (2010) The Bible and Ecology: Rediscovering the Community of Creation, London: Darton, Longman and Todd.

Hodson, M.J. and Hodson, M.R. (2011) Climate Change, Faith and Rural Communities, Northampton: Agriculture and Theology Project. (for a longer discussion on Colossians 1)

Richard Bauckhams’ book: download for free

LITURGICAL RESOURCES

Gathering & Penitence

Christ the King

Introduction to confession:

Jesus says, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’
So let us turn away from sin and turn to Christ,
confessing our sins in penitence and faith.

cf Matthew 4.17

Based on Church of England, Common Worship, intercessions for the Festival of Christ the King: www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/churchs-year/times-and-seasons/all-saints-advent

Collect for Christ the King

Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven
that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Informal Collect for Christ the King

God the Father,
help us to hear the call of Christ the King
and to follow in his service,
whose kingdom has no end;
for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, one glory.
Amen.

Based on Church of England, Common Worship, intercessions for the Festival of Christ the King: www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/churchs-year/times-and-seasons/all-saints-advent

Response to the Word

Litany for creation

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth
and established its boundaries?
Lord, you can do all things; your purpose stands for ever.

Where were you when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
Lord, you can do all things; your purpose stands for ever.

Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment?
Lord, you can do all things; your purpose stands for ever.

Have you commanded the morning
and caused the dawn to know its place?
Lord, you can do all things; your purpose stands for ever.

From whose womb does the ice come forth
and who gives birth to the hoar-frost of heaven?
Lord, you can do all things; your purpose stands for ever.

Who has endowed the heart with wisdom,’
and given understanding to the mind?

Lord, you can do all things; your purpose stands for ever.

cf Job 38; 42.2

From Church of England, Common Worship: www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/churchs-year/times-and-seasons/agricultural-year#mmm340


Introduction to the Peace for Christ the King

To crown all things there must be love,
to bind all together and complete the whole.
Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.

cf Colossians 3.14,15

Based on Church of England, Common Worship, intercessions for the Festival of Christ the King: www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/churchs-year/times-and-seasons/all-saints-advent


Intercessions on the Festival of Christ the King

Jesus our exalted Lord has been given all authority.
Let us seek his intercession,
that our prayers may be perfected by his prayer.

Jesus Christ, great high priest, living for ever to intercede for us:
pray for your Church, your broken body in the world …
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Jesus Christ, King of righteousness,
enthroned at the right hand of the majesty on high:
pray for the world, and make it subject to your gentle rule …
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Jesus Christ, Son of man, drawing humanity into the life of God:
pray for your brothers and sisters in need, distress or sorrow …
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Jesus Christ, pioneer of our salvation,
bringing us to your glory through your death and resurrection:
pray for all who are dying, that they may trust in your promises …
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Jesus Christ, Lord of all things,
ascended far above from the heavens and filling the universe:
pray for us who receive the gifts you give us for work in your service,
to care for your creation….
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Jesus Christ, first-fruits of the new creation,
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit
and in the bond of peace,
until you bring the whole created order to worship at your feet;
for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Based on Church of England, Common Worship, intercessions for the Festival of Christ the King: www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/churchs-year/times-and-seasons/all-saints-advent

Holy Communion

www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/holy-communion/additional-eucharistic-prayers The Church of England has produced two Eucharistic prayers for use when children are present. Both of them has a very positive emphasis on God’s care for and redemption of all creation.

Sending out

Blessing for Christ the King

Christ our King make you faithful and strong to do his will,
that you may reign with him in glory,
and the blessing of God Almighty
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Be with you and all creation
Now and in all eternity

Amen

Based on Church of England, Common Worship, intercessions for the Festival of Christ the King: www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/churchs-year/times-and-seasons/all-saints-advent

Hymns & Songs

Indescribable – Chris Tomlin

Across the Lands – Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townend

Creation Sings – Stuart Townend

The Creation Song – Kate Simmonds

All Creatures of our God and King

O Lord my God (How great thou art)

O worship the King (This links gives a version that ends: “Your ransomed creation with glory ablaze, in true adoration shall sing to your praise” https://hymnary.org/text/o_worship_the_king_all_glorious_above )

Children’s / All Age ideas

Jesus died for the whole of his creation and so we should care for it

Items needed: One or more holding crosses (with a small group of children you might like to purchase some to give one to each child).

Pass round the holding cross(s). Ask the children to feel how smooth it is and how beautiful the wood looks. It is easy to hold – our hand and the wood just seem to fit together.

Jesus died to bring all things together:

  • So that we can have a special relationship with God

  • So that people are come back together and love each other

  • And so that people start to love the natural world again and care for it.

Sometimes it is hard following God:

  • he sometimes feels far away (though he never is)

  • sometimes people hurt each other and it’s hard to forgive

  • and people damage God’s lovely creation and spoil the beautiful world he made.

As we hold the cross, we can trust in God to make us strong. He is with us and he will help us, even when things are difficult.

He also helps us to care for his world. As you hold the cross, pray to God and ask him to help you think of one thing that you can do today to care for his creation.

Revd Margot Hodson

Revd Margot Hodson is Director of Theology and Education for the John Ray Initiative, an educational charity with a vision to bring together scientific and Christian understandings of the environment in a way that can be widely communicated and lead to effective action. She is Associate Lecturer in Environmental Theology for Ripon College Cuddesdon and on the Grove Ethics editorial board, ARUK board and CRES steering group. She has a passion to inspire and empower churches and leaders for ministry in this age of environmental crisis. Margot is a part-time minister in the Oxford Diocese and has previously been a full-time church minister and a university chaplain. She became passionate about the environment and a committed Christian in her teens. Both these strands have interwoven through her professional and personal life. She is married to Martin J Hodson, an environmental biologist. The Hodsons are well known authors and speakers.

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