Philippians 2 : 1-13
Matthew 21: 23-32
Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-28
Water is Life
NOTES ON THE READINGS
Exodus 17:1-7 Water from the rock
The search for water that we read about in Exodus, where adults, children and animals are close to death, is desperate. We don’t have to look far for a contemporary example because much of the Horn of Africa is experiencing its worst drought in forty years. For example, in Laikipia in Kenya, the resilient nomadic Masaai people have lost livestock, and the riverbeds are baked dry, with desperate wild elephants storming and destroying bore water tanks in search of water. Women and children dig for hours in the dry riverbeds, searching for small pools of moisture, lifting out precious water in cups. As night falls, the wild animals come to the pool and drink, and in the morning, the process begins again. We all need water for life.
God gives us life, and the water pouring from the rock in the passage from Exodus is a life-giving gift from God to a thirsty people and a loving symbol of presence and salvation. There is a lesson in this story of trusting God and his saving plan and that God’s presence is indeed life.
In the wisdom of God and through the Scriptures, the natural world is woven integrally with spiritual truth. We can read this passage in Exodus holistically and not just relegate the rocks and water to metaphor alone. Indeed the “heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). We are not bound by Greek philosophical dualism separating heavenly spirit from earthly natural matter. Instead, the good news is that God has a plan for his whole creation (see for example, Colossians 1: 15-20).
As Scripture reveals in so many ways and in the grumbling of the Israelites in Exodus, God remains present, but we can be separated from aligning our ways with God’s ways of wisdom, justice, goodness and love.
- How does human damage resulting in the brokenness of our hurting, warming world differ from the wisdom and provision of our Creator God? Like the Israelites who fail God and harden their hearts, how do we recognise our failure and part in the problems faced in our interconnected damaged world?
- We all need water for life. How can you play your part in helping our world where thirst and drought are being experienced more frequently and are more extreme as a result of climate change? How can you practically reflect God’s presence and love?
Psalm 78: 1-4 &11-15 Listen to our ancestors
In Psalm 78 we are reminded of the importance of remembering the way God has worked in wonder and power, with God’s abundant water from the rock in the wilderness particularly recalled.
We are reminded in Psalm 78 of God’s wisdom in hidden things from old, in things our ancestors have told us that must be passed to the next generation. This has resonance today. There is much wisdom that God has bestowed on first nations peoples that has been reflected in care for the lands, waters and all creation that we must heed and protect. We need to recall the lessons of our ancestors and listen to the wisdom of indigenous peoples who have cared for the natural world as our generation responds to the challenge of a changing climate and the collapse of nature.
· What new connections from these passages might God be inviting you to make today?
· In what situations of waterless wilderness and hopelessness are you being invited to call out in prayer for God to move in life-giving ways?
Philippians 2:1-13 Imitating Christ’s humility
In Philippians 2:3-4 we are implored to imitate Christ’s humility and value others above ourselves, looking past self-interest to the interests of others. In verse 13, we are reminded that “it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose”. We have a part to play, imitating Christ’s humility and good purposes. This is the complete opposite of the values of a consumerist society, where we are encouraged to buy more than we need or can afford, and our value is seen through what we have, not through what we are.
Behind climate change and damage to creation lies a spiritual sickness of human greed, selfishness and sin. As followers of Christ, we are to put aside our selfishness and care for each other’s needs.
God calls us as the Church to be loving, not indifferent, to the cries of the poor and the groans of our planet. God’s Kingdom on earth is taking shape through the Holy Spirit and through the Church. This includes our calling to overlook self-interest and love our neighbour and all of God’s creation.
How we live, consume, seek justice, give, speak out and pray all matter to God and his good purpose for this earth. Living faithfully often means giving up easy comfort or consumption and seeking to put first the interest of others.
- How can you imitate Christ’s humility and make one loving change in your life as a response?
Matthew 21: 23-32 : Kingdom living in practice
In the Bible, Jesus instructs us to love God and our neighbour (Matthew 22:36-40). There are no limits, no narrowing definitions. When we are indifferent, we are likely following self-interest and comfort over the interests of those in need.
In the Parable of the Two Sons in Matthew 21: 29-32, we see what matters to Jesus to enter the Kingdom of God is the integrity of people’s actions over empty words. This is an invitation to put into practice actions that care for people and God’s planet, putting first the interests of others. Empty promises and good intentions are worse than useless. There is an urgency to act.
James 1:22 makes a similar point, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
As we saw in Philippians 2, we are to imitate Christ’s humility and prioritise the interests of others.
- Where might God be nudging and challenging you as you look at yourself and our exploration of creation justice? What are you going to do about it?
- Begin change within your sphere of influence. Consider your lifestyle and how you consume, how you vote, how you give financially, how you speak up to decision-makers and how you pray. You may be surprised at just how much influence you can have and the momentum that builds as you take many steps for change. Look for ways to come together with others, support each other, and carry out your collective influence for good.
As we approach the end of the Season of Creation for the year, take time to respond creatively in your praise to God or in mapping the change you want to see in your life and that of your community. Share your progress with the Season of Creation social media community, #seasonofcreation.
Season of Creation resources, https://seasonofcreation.org/resources/
- Take action: Renew Our World campaigns and actions, https://www.renewourworld.net/
- Give generously: Consider financially supporting Christian aid organisations that partner with movements of change-makers worldwide, or projects that grow the resilience and adaptation of those communities most affected by changes in climate. Be a generous steward of money as part of your climate response for this generation and the next.
- Join in fellowship: Oikos network connects Christians who are taking action to tackle the environmental crisis in small groups online. https://www.oikos-network.org/
https://anglicanoverseasaid.org.au/ and partnership with the Anglican Diocese of Mt Kenya West
Jo serves as the CEO of Anglican Overseas Aid, an Australian relief and development agency working for a renewed creation free of poverty. She works with people in extreme poverty around the world to help them overcome the challenges of poverty, climate change and injustice and leads within global movements that mobilise the Church to take action for a better future. God has grown a passion in Jo for caring for all creation and helping fellow Christians actively and urgently engage with the cries of the poor and the groans of our planet. Jo’s favourite retreat with her young family is to the Australian bush, enjoying kangaroos, birds and tree-covered mountains. Jo worships at Merri Creek Anglican in Melbourne, where her husband Peter Carolane is Senior Minister. https://anglicanoverseasaid.org.au/