Genesis 25: 19-34
Matthew 13: 1-9. 18-23
65:10, 11, 12-13, 14
NOTES ON THE READINGS
Vs 34; In that way, Esau showed that he did not think that his birthright was important.
Even though God’s prophetic statement in vs 23 regarding Jacob’s future greatness is profound, it is important to note that the events leading to the manifestation were set in motion over a simple exchange. Who could have thought that such a huge pronouncement made by God that would determine the fate of two nations would be decided over a meal.
The elements for exchange do not appear to be an equal trade in terms of material value. The meal represents immediate physical nourishment and satisfaction while the birthright represents long-term inheritance, privileges, and responsibilities.
Esau may not have fully understood the significance of what he was exchanging when he agreed to sell his birthright to Jacob. Esau was driven by his immediate physical needs and did not consider the long-term implications of his decisions.
This prompts reflection on the value we place on different aspects of our lives, communities, natural resources, and biodiversity which we often exchange for short-term economic challenges.
Just like Esau, many developing countries face significant pressures from economic pressures including poverty, unemployment, etc fall into temptations of unsustainable natural resources trade-off. Even though these are fuelled by poor governance and corruption, these countries are faced with unequal power dynamics to negotiate equitable terms.
There is a better exchange though, the divine exchange of Christ for the world. Christ offered himself (denied himself) that he may gain and restore creation. And this we must emulate.
What directions are we taking? What footprints are we leaving behind? These are questions we should ask ourselves.
The Word is like a map that helps us to navigate on the Earth. What footprint do we leave behind as we take our steps? As followers of Christ, we are called to be mindful of the footprints we leave behind and the impact we have on the environment. Just as the word of God brings awareness and understanding, it is important for us to be aware of the environmental consequences of our actions. Understanding our ecological footprint helps us recognize the extent to which our lifestyle choices, such as energy consumption, transportation, and waste generation, contribute to environmental degradation.
The Word as a lamp provides clarity. An example is ‘’Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6). The verse invites Christians to observe the behavior and ways of the ant, which implies a call to carefully study and understand the natural world. Through scientific research and observation, we can gain valuable insights into the intricacies of ecosystems, climate patterns, and environmental dynamics. By learning from the world around us, we can identify environmental challenges and work towards sustainable solutions. We are admonished to have a teachable spirit and a willingness to align our actions with God’s desires for creation.
Two words resound in this letter to the Romans: Spirit (which gratifies things of God) and the Flesh (which is self-gratifying). Humanity has been on an unending journey of satisfying desires, exploring all avenues to fill that longing in the heart. We choose to go every length to fill our fleshy desires without counting the cost on creation. Is it okay as long as it satisfies our fleshy desires? Is it okay if there is a convenient use of a resource (such as in the case of single use plastics)? This old sin (vs 7-8) of satisfying the flesh is what manifests in the catastrophe we see today. Governments and individuals go every length to explore and overly exploit natural resources (even in life-supporting ecosystems) without safeguards, in order to satisfy the development agenda without taking into cognizance the detriment to future generations. We are being admonished by Paul to look at things from God’s perspective before we proceed to pursue our needs.
This interesting parable teaches the 4 different areas (pathway, rocks, thorns, and good soil) on which the word of God is spread. It gives full details on how to prepare the land when embarking on environmental activities such as tree planting. This was seen during the restoration work in the Atewa Landscape of the Eastern region of Ghana where after a long period of illegal gold mining (galamsey), several hectares of land became degraded and polluted with heavy metals. It became obvious that there was life after gold and that the land needed to be restored to be used again by subsistence small holder farmers.
The parable gives the possible outcome of each action we take when engaging in environmental exercises and preaching the gospel of creation care. Within the congregation, we should expect that not all the message will fall on good grounds. In our advocacy we should also expect that not all our message shall be taken in good faith. When we know this, we shall not grow weary in what we do. We still have to continue sharing the good news of creation care. We should also make a conscious effort to look out for the ‘good ground’ thus people and organizations who are receptive to the message of creation care, partner with them, and increase from there. We shall chalk a lot of success if we learn from this parable.
DRAFT SERMON/SERMON OUTLINE
The Gospel (Mathew 13 vs 1-9, 18-23)- The Parable of the Sower
Jesus often communicated in parables to illustrate profound biblical truths of the nature of God and his divine principles. These illustrations are easily remembered, because using creation as symbolism has deep connection and rich meaning because of how we are closely connected with creation. As Paul rightly put in Romans 1:20, We are able to know God through creation
Jesus identified four categories of people or group based on their receptiveness to the gospel.Over the past years as a Creation Care officer, who engages with several Christian organisations, different congregations and individuals, I have been able to group people and organisations under 4 groups which resonate to Jesus’ categorization based on how they respond to the teachings of creation care:
1. The Seed on the Pathway (Resistant / ‘spiritual’ over material / dualistic)
According to vs 4, just as they hear but do not understand, these are people, individuals, or institutions, who;·
- Hear the gospel of creation care, environmental devastation on the news, Climate Change etc but have not given themselves to fully understand the environmental mission within the Gospel.·
- Have lost touch with their surroundings ·
- Have the view that the Gospel is about ‘soul winning and not tree planting’·
- Perceive Christian environmentalism as an infiltration of the Gospel
2. The Seed on Stony Ground (Shallow / Incidental, from Planetwise)
Vs 5 this group hear and understand but do nothing about it·
- They progress to the next stage from the pathway,·
- They are receptive to the advocacy and preaching of sustainable practices·
- They attend conferences and workshops to develop their understanding ·
- They receive these messages with joy ·
- They lack root in themselves to take practical actions themselves·
- They are glad that someone else would, or expect that someone does the work ·
- When they do, they fall away because of the challenges that come their way (finances, internal hindrances)·
- At the end of the day, no action is taken.
3. Seed amongst Thorns (Double-Minded) ·
- This category is able to progress from the pathway stage, through the stone and to the thorns·
- They act to a certain extent but are unable to sustain it or complete it ·
- They feel there are other more important things to deal with. ·
- The choose lavish lifestyle for the church, procuring material blessing instead of simple living ·
- They choose over-consumerism to satisfy their flamboyant lifestyle without considering its implications on the environment, they prefer loudspeakers and expensive sound systems instead of investing in sound proof insulations for the church
4. The Good Soil (Integral, from Planetwise,)
Those who have been able to pass through all the stages and have understood the urgent need to participate fully in caring for God’s creation. They make the teachings of creation care an integral part of the Gospel and of their lives. They embark in practical activities and change their behaviour to reflect their new concerns, and also advocate for the cause of creation.
Link to Our World
A case point in Ghana is the campaign against mining in one of the most precious upland evergreen forest reserves in Ghana: the Atewa Forest. This forest, which serves as a source of water for three major rivers Ayensu, Densu and Birim, provides water for 5 million Ghanaians, yet is being giving out to large scale bauxite mining by the government. Some Christian ecumenical organisations like the Christian Council of Ghana have joined in the campaign against the bauxite mining, but others are indifferent. This same Christian institution has joined in to support one of the most pressing environmental challenges in Ghana, which is the issue of single use plastics.
- God is committed to creation inasmuch as he is committed to us ·
- God places the essence of creation before the purpose; we also should know that essence precedes existence in our engagement with creation·
- Humanity has a key role in ensuring the sustenance of creation by placing ‘sowing/tilling’ before ‘reaping/using’. So, in essence, we should plant a tree before we cut one.·
- The glory of God is at stake if we do not care for or preach about his creation ·
- Our prosperity and our posterity are tied to the sustainability and sustenance of creation ·
- Let’s keep a simple lifestyle in reverence with the Spirit of the Lord and not selfishly gratify all our cravings ·
- Let us support environmental actions as an obligation to God
Planetwise Dare to Care for God’s Creation by Dave Bookless, IVP, 2008
Jesus Call us over the Tumult
1 Jesus calls us o’er the tumult
of our life’s wild, restless sea;
day by day his sweet voice soundeth,
saying “Christian, follow me.”
2 As, of old, apostles heard it
by the Galilean lake,
turned from home and toil and kindred,
leaving all for his dear sake.
3 Jesus calls us from the worship
of the vain world’s golden store,
from each idol that would keep us,
saying “Christian, love me more.”
Emmanuel Turkson is Creation Care Officer for A Rocha Ghana (https://ghana.arocha.org), working to empower Christians to acknowledge that Creation Care is a gospel issue within the Lordship of Christ to encourage the incorporation of creation care into Christian decision making and implementation. He holds a BSc in Entomology and Wildlife from the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, and BA Biblical Studies from American Bible University (Ghana Branch). He helped design the Faith In Plastic Action Recovery Program which makes Churches and other Faith-based groups be a solution to the plastic menace in Ghana.