Second Sunday after Pentecost

Lectionary 1st Reading Psalm 2nd Reading Gospel
Anglican lectionary
1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)
139:1-5, 12-18
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Mark 2:23— 3:6
Catholic lectionary:
Exodus 24:3-8
Hebrews 9:11-15
Mark 14:12-16, 22-26


1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)

In this very familiar story, the boy Samuel is called by God to serve as a prophet. The voice of the young is required by God to speak truth to an older generation which has not exercised restraint. At least Eli has the good grace to listen and acknowledge his failings.

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

This beautiful Psalm speaks of being intimately known and loved: For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

It has echoes of the final chapters of Job where God’s intimate knowledge and tender care are clear: The Lord said to Job: ‘Where were you when I laid out the earth’s foundation (38:4)… while the morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy? (38:7) Have you entered into the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? (38:16) Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you observe the calving of the deer? (39:1)

In turn, these verses are reminiscent of Jesus’ own love and knowledge of the natural world expressed in Matthew 10: 29 (‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father’) and Matthew 6:28 (‘Consider how the wildflowers grow’). The Stanley Spencer painting, Christ in the Wilderness – Consider the Lilies provides a wonderful visual depiction of Jesus contemplating the wildflowers.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15

A sabbath rest is prescribed for all, people and animals alike. Leviticus 25 develops this provision, shifting the idea of a sabbath from days to years. Every seventh year, a sabbath is prescribed for the land, the cultivated earth. God makes provision for a ‘complete rest for the land’ every seven years.
Then, every 7×7 years, there is a super sabbath, where the resting of the earth is inseparable from the liberation of slaves and the forgiveness of debts. Together, these provisions provide a ‘reset’ – the restoration of both people and the land to their original condition. This is the Jubilee which provides both a social and economic norm to overturn the inequality that reduces land and people to mere commodities. It is a vision of how we can reimagine our world. In proclaiming ‘the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Luke 4:14-21) Jesus makes the Jubilee project his own.

Psalm 81:1-10

A Psalm of remembrance and joy, celebrating rescue from deep distress. ‘In distress, you called, and I rescued you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder.

2 Corinthians 4:5-12

God places his treasure in jars of clay. He chooses to work with us, in us and through us. We carry God’s heart and know the burden of distress – but we also experience life. We are called to live in the reality of both Good Friday and Easter Sunday – in both death and resurrection.

Mark 2:23-3:6

This passage offers opposing world views and understandings of the nature of God. It forces us to make choices. Jesus is angry at the Pharisees’ hardness of heart. He does not compromise or find a middle way but openly and provocatively demonstrates that God is compassionate and that God’s reign is one of restoration, not restriction. There is liberation in being able to reject unkind and cruel interpretations of the nature of God that make God small and petty. God is on the side of the marginalised and the oppressed and wills abundant life (John 10:10). The sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the sabbath.


Whichever of these passages you use today, some striking similarities and themes are running through them:

First is the sense of intimacy – of being seen, heard, known and loved in hidden, dark or distressing circumstances: Samuel is called by name; Psalm 139 says, ‘My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret’; Psalm 81 says ‘In distress you called, and I rescued you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder’. In a world of turmoil and environmental breakdown, the assurance that God sees us is something to be held onto.

Second is the play of contrasts: distress and rescue in Psalm 81; light shining in darkness and treasures hidden in jars of clay in 2 Corinthians; Jesus’ words that ‘The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath’ in Mark 2. Opposites remind us that where we are now is not the only possibility, not the final word – things can and do change. They remind us that we might have things back to front, that we might be seeing things from the wrong perspective and that we need to change the way we see.

And third, is something so obvious it is easily overlooked: the presence of the natural world – and our own physicality – in the passages, whether in the background or foreground. Sleeping, ageing, hunger, eating, rest, life, death, inward parts, wombs, eyes, ears, tongues, hands, mouths, hearts, shoulders, flesh, bodies, oxen, donkeys, livestock, people, the depths of the earth, light, darkness, the phases of the moon, thunder, water, sand, fields, grain and bread are all referred to in these passages, along with human emotions such as distress, despair, fear, anger, wonder and joy.

At the heart of the gospel passage is a question about perspective: what is our image of God? How do we see? Do we get things the right way around? The Pharisees are focused on religious law, on doctrine; they are looking to catch Jesus out and accuse him. In contrast, Jesus is focused on life, on the person in front of him. He looks to the Father, he does what he sees the Father doing (John 5:19) and chooses compassion, restoration and joy. He tells the Pharisees they have things back to front: the sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the sabbath. God is for us, and the world he loves. Jesus is angry (verse 5) at the Pharisees’ hardness of heart, at their choice of law over love, of death over life (and in the name of God!), and of their refusal to see differently.

This Sunday is World Environment Sunday, the nearest Sunday to World Environment Day, which falls on June 5th. This year’s World Environment Day campaign focuses on land restoration, desertification and drought resilience under the slogan “Our land. Our future. We are #GenerationRestoration.”

As we approach World Environment Day, perhaps we can ask ourselves two questions:

1. What is our image of God? Is it more like that of the Pharisees or Jesus?
In John 14:9, Jesus says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” and in John 17:25-26. “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Colossians 1:15 says ‘He is the visible image of the invisible God’ and Hebrews 1:3 “The Son is … the exact representation of His being.”

2. How do we see the world?
Many people, especially in industrialised countries, have an extractive worldview – which regards the earth as something to be used, taken from, and exploited. It’s particularly prevalent in societies whose wealth is derived from an economy based on extractive industries, such as gas, oil and mining, and high levels of consumerism.

However, other world views take a more holistic view of the world and how we relate to it. Indigenous Peoples, especially, share a worldview that is about relationships and connection.

In Prophetic Indigenous Voices on the Planetary Crisis, the Revd Jacynthia Murphy from Aotearoa says “Indigenous Maori and Pacific peoples understand creation as inherently unified with a profound interconnection among all that exists. Plants, animals, rivers and hills have intrinsic value and are to be respected and honoured. Human beings are positioned in creation – not as supreme masters over the Earth community but as interdependent members of the Earth community.

“This understanding”, she says “requires us to broaden our gaze beyond our anthropocentric concerns to include consideration of all living entities in everything we do”.

Speaking from an African perspective, the Revd Dr Kapya Kaoma from Zambia says, “The African worldview sees humanity in relationship to the entire created order. Unlike in the West, the African worldview has repeatedly pointed to the interconnectedness of humanity to the world of nature. Humans are part of nature. …I want us to see how the African worldview can help reform our thinking because until our thinking is reformed, this crisis will continue to haunt us. The most important thing we need to realise is what Africans realised centuries ago: that we live on this earth, but it does not belong to us.”

As the Lambeth Call on the Environment and Sustainable Development says, ‘The climate emergency is not just a physical crisis – it is also a spiritual one which is exacerbated by greed, apathy and selfishness. Humanity needs a spiritual and cultural transformation. We must see the world differently: repenting of and rejecting an extractive worldview, which regards the earth and all nature as something to be exploited, and embracing instead a relational worldview, at the heart of Christ’s teaching.’


Do you know about the Communion Forest, an initiative of the Anglican Communion to join together in tree growing and ecosystem conservation, protection and restoration throughout the world? Find out more here and watch a short video here.



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Dr. Elizabeth Perry

Programmes Director, Anglican Alliance 

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