Sunday Reflection

19th September 2021

Third Sunday of creationtide: Deuteronomy 8. 7-18, Matthew 6.25–33


The writer of Deuteronomy describes a landscape that is rich, verdant and bountiful. A land so well stocked with natural resources that the people will not have to worry about living fulfilled, sustainable lives. Surely nothing could threaten such a well endowed life style?

Yet the writer gives them three warnings.

  1. Don’t forget God by failing to keep God’s commandments. It is only by sticking to those commands, those ways of living, that the people will be able to maintain their relationship with God.
  2. Don’t forget that when you lived in a place of scarcity- ie the wilderness – it was only through God’s intervention that you had enough to eat and drink.
  3. Don’t credit yourselves with your success. It is not because of your efforts that you now love lives of  riches and comfort. It comes from God’s doing.

We, like the Israelites, have been blessed with a beautiful world with vast resources sufficient to meet our needs. Certainly I am sure that has been God’s intention in creating this world with its wonderful interconnected ecosystems. But somewhere, somehow we have strayed from the path, from the right way of doing things. We have failed to keep God’s commandments. 

Every year since 1987 scientists have calculated how much of the world’s resources we are consuming  and the amount by which the earth can renew those resources, and setting one against the other they have determined the date each year at which we are consuming more than the earth can replenish. If the earth was bank account, this would be the day at which we would go into the red. In 1987 Earth Overshoot Day was 23rd October. Since then Earth Overshoot Day has occurred earlier and earlier. This year it was 29th July!

It is hard to comprehend that in little more than half a year we have consumed a full year’s worth of the resources that the earth can generate. It is patently not sustainable. Can it be reversed if we limited our consumption? The answer is certainly yes if we have the will, or if we are forced by circumstances. In 2020, the year of the pandemic, the date did recede – by a good three weeks to 22nd August. 

The passage from Matthew’s gospel asks us if life is more than food and clothes? I wonder what life means for you? 

I wonder what life means for a family dependent on food aid in Afghanistan? I wonder what life means for a family in the UK who is relying on the £20 top up to Universal Credit?I wonder what it means for the person forced to use a food bank? 

The United Nations tells us that the world produces more than enough food to feed the its population, but poverty and other barriers to access leave many people unable to afford or obtain food. Problems with markets forces and distribution networks means that food rots in the field or is otherwise wasted, without reaching the consumer.  There are real problems about poverty and equality and over consumption that arise from our current unsustainable  lifestyles, political policies and business practices.  Sadly even the birds are loosing out. Habitat loss and climate change are both conspiring to limit food and places to nest for many bird species. 

Four times in today’s gospel Jesus says, Do not worry! Worrying does not help. It will neither add an hour to your life nor a inch to your height (translations vary). Instead says Jesus, Strive for the kingdom of God. If we live according to God’s ways, if we can bring God’s rules into play, if we can establish heaven on earth, then will everyone have food and clothes and all the necessities of life. The we will fairly share the earth’s resources, not plundering them but sustaining them. 

Let’s spend some time this week considering what we eat, the clothes we wear, the resources we use. Are they sustainable, do they prejudice the access of others to their fair share? Does our lifestyle meet God’s injunction that we should tend and care for the earth? Does it meet God’s injunction that we should love our neighbour as ourself? Does it meet the command that we should with all our being love God?

Author: Judith Russenberger

Environmentalist and theologian, with husband and three grown up children plus one cat, living in London SW14. I enjoy running and drinking coffee - ideally with a friend or a book.

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