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The burning bush was the theme for last’s year’s Season of Creation and as we celebrate the start of the Season and the World Day of Prayer for Creation, it is good to start by reflecting on the year past. This will be the year that we remember for the wildfires burning out of control in Canada, engulfing large areas of the United States with suffocating smoke. This will be the year that we hit the highest average day ever recorded on the 4th of July.
But it is also the year of the devastating destruction of the Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine which revealed the devastating impact of war not just on humans but on all of creation , as the dam burst a river of destruction flooded hundreds of square kilometers with polluted and toxic water
Experts say the long-term consequences will be generational. For every flooded home and farm, there are fields upon fields of newly planted grains, fruits and vegetables whose irrigation canals are drying up. Thousands of fish were left gasping on mud flats. Fledgling water birds lost their nests and their food sources. Countless trees and plants were drowned. (PBS Newshour)
NOTES ON THE READINGS
Exodus 3: 1 – 5 : We are called to become climate activists
What does the story of the call of Moses teach us?
There are three messages that we hear in this story:
- I have heard the cry of my people
- I am sending you
- You are on holy ground – take off your sandals
Have you heard the cry of God’s people? So the first question we need to ask ourselves, have we heard the cry of God’s people? Disasters are becoming ever more frequent. Last year a rain ‘bomb’ fell on the City of Durban, six months of normal rainfall in two days. Homes and businesses were washed away one family lost nine members. Some bodies have never been recovered. Families are still living in church halls. And this year Cape Town has had the wettest winter for 47 years. We have entered the era of climate chaos.
At the same time in East Africa they had the driest rainy season for over 40 years –putting over 20 million people at risk of severe hunger and starvation. The livestock have died, children are suffering from malnutrition and are too weak to walk to school.
There is a growing number of inter- religious attacks such as the Massacre of forty people on Pentecost Sunday in St Francis Church, Nigeria.
But underlying the inter-religions violence and terror, climate change is playing its part. The mostly christian farmers and the nomadic Muslim herders used to live in symbiotic relationship. The farmers would harvest, and then the herdsmen would come with their cattle, eat the left over and fertilise the fields with the dung. Supplies would be sold on both sides. But now the rains have failed and the herdsmen come south too early, they trample the crops, and the farmers and herdsmen have armed themselves, it has become part of the broader inter religious violence.
Climate Change is pushing migration and violence is growing
The people of God are crying – are you listening?
Do you know you are standing on holy ground? In the words of Pope Francis “We must Hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”
Take off your sandals for the place where you are standing is Holy Ground … Do we love the earth? Do we believe that it was made by our Creator God and so bears the fingerprints of God?
The story of Moses and the burning bush is a clear one for activists, we are in it for the long run. Our actions must be rooted in prayer and meditation – we must come in silence to listen to God on the mountain, refill our spiritual tanks – we must fall in love with the wonders of this beautiful creation – learn to hear the great choir of God’s creation.
“There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.”
― Wendell Berry
Do we hear the cry of the Earth for creation is groaning, waiting on tiptoe for the children of God to be revealed ( Rom 8: 19-22)
Do you hear God calling you? When we hear God calling us, we often respond like Moses – ‘Who am I that I should lead the people out of Egypt? My actions are too small and the problem is far too big to make any difference.
Your ‘small’ actions do matter. They matter because they are like small drops of water feeding into a bigger river. Transformational change doesn’t take place when individuals change but when networked individuals change. Get involved with other people, other organisation, be part of a movement. Change can not happen fast enough with individual actions – we have to push companies and churches to divest their money from fossil fuels. We have to stop new oil and gas projects.
And Dr Katharine Hayhoe- Christian Climate Scientist shares this image:
When we realise the giant boulder of climate action isn’t sitting at the bottom of an impossibly steep hill with only a few hands trying to push it up, but rather it is already at the top and rolling down the hill with millions of hands pushing it in the right direction, that gives us hope. It isn’t going fast enough yet; but for each new hand that joins, it will go a little faster. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says: “Every action matters… Every choice matters.”
Listen to the cry of God’s people, know that you are standing on sacred ground, know that God is calling you to act. May your small actions flow into the mighty river of justice and together – we will move mountains.
By Rev. Canon Rachel Mash
Matthew 16: 21 – 27: Moving from what I want to what the World needs.
On this first Sunday of the Season of Creation, the Gospel passage presents us with the mystery of the “cycle of life”, highlights some of the “obstacles” on our path towards fullness of life, and also reminds us of our “responsibility” to ensure the flourishing of life for all.
Let us reflect on each of these three points.
The Gospel passage opens in a dramatic way: “… Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Mt 16:21). In a few strokes, Jesus passes from suffering to death and from death to life! He sketches out the path to be “raised to life”, for him and for every disciple. Jesus’ own mission was to offer us life and life in abundance: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (Jn 10:10)
From a cosmological point of view what strikes us about Earth, our planetary home, is that it is a unique place where complex forms of life exist – at least as far as our current scientific knowledge goes. Our planet, the third from the Sun, was moulded to become a home for life, over billions of years. Life began as microscopic cyanobacteria (commonly called blue-green algae) and evolved into complex forms of life, to arrive at the rich bio-diversity of life today, including us humans. In God’s loving plan, this planet was prepared to host not only life, but life in fullness, in the supreme event of the Incarnation. “In the fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), “the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us” (Jn 1:14)
The precarious state of our common home as evidenced by the climate crisis, the unprecedented biodiversity loss, the rapid depletion of natural resources and pollution of the land, water and air, etc. shows that we are indeed interfering with God’s plan for life to flourish on Earth!
Secondly, the Gospel passage evidences the obstacles to embrace this cycle of life. Peter’s “human” way of thinking cannot accept a suffering Messiah as prophet Isaiah had foretold centuries ago (Is 53:4-6). Peter, who just a few verses earlier in the same chapter of the gospel of Matthew was commended by Jesus as the “rock” for his confession of Jesus as the Son of God, now becomes the stumbling stone!
We too can stumble, like Peter, caught up in the destructive cycle of instant gratification, blinded by the glittering light of worldly success, enthralled by an economic system that allows a small minority to indulge in hedonistic life styles, while the majority struggle with stagnant wages and diminished earnings, and nearly 800 million of our sisters and brothers – one out of ten! – go to bed hungry every day!
We too refuse, like Peter, to accept the “cost of discipleship” in order to rise to new life.
Jesus himself says in Jn 12:24: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it cannot bear much fruit”. This “cycle of life” applies to the entire creation and to each one of us. The pathway to fullness of life goes through a cycle “dying” to ourselves, of “losing” ourselves, of “denying” ourselves, as Jesus explains in the passage as the “cost of discipleship”. We may recall in this regard Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his prophetic masterpiece written while languishing in Nazi prison: The Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer contrasted the costly grace obtained through suffering with cheap grace of “prosperity gospel” which many of our Churches still continue to preach. According to him “cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate”.
While rampant consumerism is ravaging the planet and the bodies of the poor, we are challenged to a discipleship of simple life-style, restraint and sacrifice. Pope Francis quotes the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Laudato Si’ in this regard:
He [Patriarch Bartholomew] asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which “entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion.” (Laudato Si’, 9)
Thirdly, the gospel of today also speaks about our responsibility regarding the choices that we make to defend and promote life. The passage concludes with Jesus’ affirmation: “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” (Mt 16:27)
We will be rewarded “according to what we have done”! Scientists speak of the anthropogenic causes of the contemporary ecological crisis, and of the climate crisis, in particular. Creation care is about responsible living! Dave Bookless writes: “Like all managers or stewards, we may be called by the owner to give an account of how we have used or abused what has been entrusted to our care.” He goes on to add: “Those of us who live in Western societies have indeed been entrusted with much in terms of material wealth and natural resources, and we are answerable not just to the world’s poor and to our fellow-creatures but to God for how we use and develop them.” (Dave Bookless, Planet Wise: Dare to Care for God’s World, 94.)
On this first Sunday of the Season of Creation, let us embrace the “cycle of life” that Jesus offers us in the gospel of today, confess our resistances to walk the path of radical discipleship, and own up our responsibility for the planetary garden of life entrusted to our care, and especially of the most vulnerable in our midst.
May we work to promote life, life in all phases and all forms of life, and may we become co-carers with God of our beautiful planetary garden and of one another.
By Fr Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam
Revd Dr Rachel Mash
Rev Dr Rachel Mash is the environmental Coordinator of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. (South Africa, Swaziland- Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique). She works with the Green Anglicans youth Movement which is taking off in Africa. She is also the secretary to the Anglican Communion Environmental Network and sits on the steering group of the Season of Creation group. www.greenanglicans.org | www.seasonofcreation.org | https://acen.anglicancommunion.org/
Fr Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam
Fr Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam (“Josh” for friends) serves in the “Ecology and Creation” sector of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development