Third Sunday before Lent 

13th February 2022

Jeremiah 17:5-10

Thus says the Lord:

Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals
and make mere flesh their strength,
whose hearts turn away from the Lord.

They shall be like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see when relief comes.

They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.

They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.

It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;

in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit.

The heart is devious above all else;
it is perverse–
who can understand it?

I the Lord test the mind
and search the heart,

to give to all according to their ways,
according to the fruit of their doings.

Psalm 1

1 Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, *
nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

2 Their delight is in the law of the Lord, *
and they meditate on God’s law day and night.

3 They are like trees planted by streams of water,
bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; *
everything they do shall prosper.

4 It is not so with the wicked; *
they are like chaff which the wind blows away.

5 Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes, *
nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, *
but the way of the wicked is doomed.

1 Corinthians 15:12-20

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ–whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.

Luke 6:17-26

Jesus came down with the twelve apostles and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

Then he looked up at his disciples and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.

“Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.

“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Humanity. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.”

“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.

“Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.

“Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.

“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”

Reflection 

Considering the news we hear and read and see each day, who would place much trust in mere mortals?

We seem, on the one hand, to be good at destroying the good things around us, and, on the either hand, to be completely oblivious to this. The net result being that we continue to destroy the world. We  have the misplaced belief that we mortals are doing the right thing!

Jeremiah’s description is that we are like a shrub in a desert – one that can’t  recognise relief when it comes. We are facing a climate crisis, an energy crisis and a poverty crisis. We could find relief by switching from fossil fuels to renewables; by shifting our investments, taxes, and subsidies from the ones that are  causing the problem to the other. We could insulate people’s homes, instal solar panels on their roofs and supply the cheaper green energy to make life easier for the poor. BUT we don’t! Instead we struggle trying to be a healthy in a place where there is no water and where the soil has been contaminated with salt. 

We pay people less than they need to survive  so that companies can sell their goods more cheaply and rake in the profits. We expect cheap food, and let supermarkets harass farmers to short change the soil and exploit their livestock. and then resent them being given subsistence benefits. We want things to be cheaper, happily ignoring the exploitation of workers. We avoid taxing the rich less they take their money elsewhere, yet complain when there aren’t enough nurses and teachers. We resent paying more for things that last, instead allowing the world to be a dumping ground for plastics, and electronic waste, uneaten food and hardly worn clothes.

Jeremiah is right: those who rely in mere mortals are cursed. We fail to realise that if it were not for our misplaced trust, we could be like trees growing by streams, like shrubs in a well water land, where the leaves would be green, providing shade from the heat. 

We could be living in a world where the poor are blessed; Where the hungry are fed; Where the distraught are consoled. We could be living in a world where resources are shared and the future protected, where health and opportunity are givens, a world of joy and contentment. A world where the word of God is followed and the Son is esteemed. 

Our challenge is to believe that with God, all this is possible. To believe is to act in accordance with that belief. If we believe that paying people a pittance is wrong, we should say so. If we believe people should be paid more, we must be willing to pay more. If we believe that God’s world is for everyone, we should share resources equally and willing taking less if we find we have been consuming too much.

“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.”

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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