Proper 22

2nd October 2022

Reflections (the readings are at the end)

The Book of Lamentations contains a series of laments made in response to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian forces. In today’s exert, the writer mourns over an abandoned Jerusalem. Jerusalem now has no useful purpose: it has lost its identity and its raison d’être. It has been overtaken by events. 

 Not – thankfully – through war, but many towns cities in the UK feel abandoned. The vitality of their shopping centres sapped by empty units and boarded up shop fronts. Their hubs of industry and employment diminished as old manufacturing processes and products have become defunct, the skills of their workforce no longer of use. Derelict and disused sites cast a blighted shadow over the land. With the loss of jobs, goes a loss of self worth and civic pride. As incomes fall, so the reliance on overstretched public services rises. Residents become trapped unable to escape the encroaching poverty – and poverty brings a further deterioration of living standards. Levelling up, re invigorating the economy, re-equipping the people remains an unfulfilled promise. Borrowing from the writings of St Paul, since we are one body, we all suffer when one part suffers – but perhaps not so acutely in the wealthier suburbs. 

Why is Jerusalem in such a sorry plight? Because of its people’s sinfulness. Because the people chose to worship gods other than the one true God. Because the people choose not to live their lives in accordance with God’s ways. Rather they choose to be greedy, self interested and acquisitive. Might the same criticisms be turned towards us in 2022? Both our government and our economic model favours constant growth over sufficiency, personal gain over social good, tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the poor. We are stuck in an economy that is tied to the fossil fuel industry which cannot see beyond the promise of profits, to the threat of the climate crisis; which refuses to listen to the prophets of the age and refuse to shift allegiance to renewable energy.

Today’s offering for a psalm is a further exert from Lamentations. The desperate state of affairs still weighs heavy on the writer but now there is also a sense of hope. ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,’ asserts the writer, and ‘therefore I will hope in Him’.  Last week we heard how Jeremiah expressed his confidence that at some point in the future God’s people would return once to their city and its lands. Have we that hope, that vision, that our towns and cities can be place of happiness and self worth and sufficiency, where all can share in the wealth and vitality of a just society?

The Letter to Timothy is full of inspiring words. Our faith is a gift, a treasure entrusted to us by God! We are to guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit. It is a grace by which God gives a spirit of power and of love and of self discipline. I wonder if we exercise these powers enough? Or are they like muscles we forget we have and therefore forget to use? How should we be using these gifts? In declaring the good news: talking about and living out in our lives the Kingdom values that Jesus has shown. These are the values that our desolated towns need. These are the values that will restore justice, that will level up society, that will enrich lives and restore balance in the natural environment. 

Should we then be surprised by what Jesus says about what faith can achieve? Let us be confident in living by faith, living lives true to Jesus’s kingdom values, and let us share this good news so that  these values will shape the whole world.

Lamentations 1:1-6

How lonely sits the city
that once was full of people!

How like a widow she has become,
she that was great among the nations!

She that was a princess among the provinces
has become a vassal.

She weeps bitterly in the night,
with tears on her cheeks;

among all her lovers
she has no one to comfort her;

all her friends have dealt treacherously with her,
they have become her enemies.

Judah has gone into exile with suffering
and hard servitude;

she lives now among the nations,
and finds no resting place;

her pursuers have all overtaken her
in the midst of her distress.

The roads to Zion mourn,
for no one comes to the festivals;

all her gates are desolate,
her priests groan;

her young girls grieve,
and her lot is bitter.

Her foes have become the masters,
her enemies prosper,

because the Lord has made her suffer
for the multitude of her transgressions;

her children have gone away,
captives before the foe.

From daughter Zion has departed
all her majesty.

Her princes have become like stags
that find no pasture;

they fled without strength
before the pursuer.

Lamentations 3:19-26

The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!

My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.

It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,

To Timothy, my beloved child:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am grateful to God– whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did– when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

Luke 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, `Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, `We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'”

Proper 21

25th September 2022 (readings below)

Reflection 

‘Take hold of the life that really is life’. That is an interesting thought! Are there some forms or maybe approaches to life that are not real? That perhaps are fake? Or shallow or incomplete?

We are often encouraged to live in the moment, to enjoy the now and not worry about the future. Jeremiah takes a different tack. He and his companions are within the besieged city of Jerusalem, the opposing armies are at their gates. Maybe there isn’t anything to enjoy in the present moment. But Jeremiah can envisage a brighter future, one in which their way of life will be restored in Jerusalem- and his certainty about this comes from his trust in, and knowledge of, God. And he demonstrates his certainty by buying a piece of land – a piece of land that is about to be overrun by the invading forces – confident that he (or his descendants) will be able to occupy it in future time of peace. Jeremiah’s actions enact and confirm his faith that his life is lived in God’s hands.

The Psalmist is equally confident that real life is life lived with God. It is a life he lives in the confidence that God will be both a refuge and a protector. It is a life lived in the certainty that we are in relationship with God that is bound together by love. 

The author of the Letter to Timothy offers straight forward advice that we should live lives of godliness and contentment, spurning the temptations of riches, wealth and pointless desires. A good life is one lived with God, pursuing the virtues of godliness – following the path laid out before us by Christ Jesus.  Finding joy and being contented with what we have, is the message of Joy in Enough – a Christian campaign developed by Green Christian that works through churches to advocate for a fair and green economy. Joy in Enough calls for an economy that prioritises wellbeing and the common good, in which all have enough, and that respects the boundaries of nature.’ As well as proving a wealth of resources,  Joy in Enough also has a group study programme called Plenty! For enough can be plenty!

But what if people don’t have enough? Today’s gospel highlights the vast divide that can exist between those who have more than enough and those who do not have anything like enough. The parable illustrates how easily those of with more than enough can be blind to the lack faced by others. Currently charities and NGOs are pressing for the establishment of a Loss and Damage Fund that would pay reparations to communities who suffering loss through the effects of the climate change and with a particular awareness that often those who are suffering most have contributed least to the climate crisis. The call is for the United Nations to set up such a fund that would be financed by donations from wealthy countries, by taxes in fossil fuel companies, by taxes on air travel etc. 

‘Take hold of the life that really is life’. Is the life we live at present really the life God wishes? Is life where there is such poverty faced by people in the Horn of Africa, in Afghanistan and in the Indian subcontinent, really life? Is life where the rich have multiple homes and multiple cars, and can earn more in an hour that the poor do in a year, really life? Is life where the rich can buy influence in politics whilst  protestors are being silenced, really life? 

Should we not be like Jeremiah and living out in the present the future life we know to be real, the future life we know God desires? Do we not as Christians have a vision of a better world where life is real for all? Real life where there is no poverty but a fair sharing of resources and opportunities. Real life where power is not abused. Real life where all have a voice that is heard. Real life where creation is cared for. Real life where God is known by all and all know they are loved. We do not need to be conformed to the ways of the world but rather to the ways of the kingdom of God – that which we pray for every time we say the Lord’s Prayer.

Jeremiah bought a field. What actions could we take to demonstrate our confidence in life that is real? There will be a multiplicity of responses, some will be our one individual responses and others those of the church as a corporate body, whether at the parish or diocesan level. An increasing number of churches are reshaping their lives to become Eco Churches. There are currently 896 Bronze, 294 Silver, and 18 Gold churches and that is just in the Church of England. In view of the acute necessity of drastically reducing carbon emissions some dioceses have sold off all their shares in fossil fuel companies, and many churches have pledged  to avoid any such investments. Faced with accounts of poverty here in the UK and abroad, many churches support food banks and night shelters, promote fair trade goods, and raise funds for Christian Aid etc. At the recent Lambeth Conference the bishops agreed to undertake to plant a Communion Forest with individuals, churches and dioceses being encouraged to plant tree to help safeguard the environment.

The first Christians, according to Acts, sold what they had in order to share their wealth more equitably – “Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home[a] and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47) Others who encountered them were amazed!

I’m not sure we are in a position to be so radical but could we not live closer to that ideal? Can we take joy in enough? Can we be contented with less and thus willing to share more?  Can we do more to campaign for the rights of others – for social justice, for climate justice, for racial justice, for tax justice? 

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him.

Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.

And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, *
abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

2 He shall say to the Lord,
“You are my refuge and my stronghold, *
my God in whom I put my trust.”

3 He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter *
and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He shall cover you with his pinions,
and you shall find refuge under his wings; *
his faithfulness shall be a shield and buckler.

5 You shall not be afraid of any terror by night, *
nor of the arrow that flies by day;

6 Of the plague that stalks in the darkness, *
nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day.

14 Because he is bound to me in love,
therefore will I deliver him; *
I will protect him, because he knows my Name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; *
I am with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and bring him to honour.

16 With long life will I satisfy him, *
and show him my salvation.

1 Timothy 6:6-19

There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will bring about at the right time– he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.

Luke 16:19-31

Jesus said, “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, `Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, `Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house– for I have five brothers– that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, `They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, `No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, `If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”

Prayers for Creation

Loss and Damage Day: 22nd September 

Surely no one would turn against the needy when they cry for help in their trouble. Job 30: 24

You Lord, are the source of all good things: 

We praise you.

You call us to tend and care for your creation: 

May we strive to do your will.

You have made us as brothers and sisters with all that lives: 

May we live together in peace.

A reading from Ezekiel 7:10-12 (from The Message)

“‘Judgment Day!    Fate has caught up with you.
The sceptre outsized and pretentious, pride bursting all bounds,
Violence strutting,    brandishing the evil sceptre.
But there’s nothing to them,    and nothing will be left of them.
Time’s up.    Countdown: five, four, three, two . . . 
Buyer, don’t boast; seller, don’t worry:    Judgment wrath has turned the world topsy-turvy.
The bottom has dropped out of buying and selling.    It will never be the same again.
But don’t fantasise an upturn in the market.    The country is bankrupt because of its sins,
    and it’s not going to get any better.

And a response, Exodus 22: 21-29a

 “Don’t abuse or take advantage of strangers; you, remember, were once strangers in Egypt.

“Don’t mistreat widows or orphans. If you do and they cry out to me, you can be sure I’ll take them most seriously; I’ll show my anger and come raging among you with the sword, and your wives will end up widows and your children orphans.

 “If you lend money to my people, to any of the down-and-out among you, don’t come down hard on them and gouge them with interest.

“If you take your neighbour’s coat as security, give it back before nightfall; it may be your neighbour’s only covering—what else does the person have to sleep in? And if I hear the neighbour crying out from the cold, I’ll step in—I’m compassionate.

 “Don’t curse God; and don’t damn your leaders.

 “Don’t be stingy as your vats fill up.

Intercessions:

Open our eyes to the plight of the people of

Nigeria, Italy, Uganda, South Sudan and Pakistan, 

for all whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed by floods, 

whose schools and hospitals have been overwhelmed, 

whose crops and livestock have been drowned.

Lord have mercy!

How can we stand back as our brothers and sisters suffer.

May our hearts and purses overflow with generosity.

Open our eyes to the plight of the people of 

Vanuatua and New Caledonia, of Madagascar and Mozambique, 

of Costa Rica, Nepal and Portugal,

for all whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed by storms, 

where roads and public services have been overwhelmed, 

whose crops and livestock have been drowned.

Lord have mercy!

How can we stand back as our brothers and sisters suffer.

May our hearts and purses overflow with generosity.

Open our eyes to the plight of the people of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Kenya, 

of Haiti, Afghanistan and Guatemala, 

for all whose face drought and starvation, 

for all whose harvests have cultivated in vain, 

for all who have no reserves to fall back on.

Lord have mercy!

How can we stand back as our brothers and sisters suffer.

May our hearts and purses overflow with generosity.

Open our eyes to the plight of the people of Angola, of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Sierra Leone, of Ecuador and Tonga, 

for all whose economies are ravaged by debt, 

whose infrastructure suffers neglect as money is sidelined for interest repayments,

 where future investment is blighted.

Lord have mercy!

How can we stand back as our brothers and sisters suffer.

May our hearts and purses overflow with generosity.

With penitence, we acknowledge our ignorance and callousness.

With humility, we seek to make amends.

With God’s grace, we seek a new future of care and justice for all creation. 

 Amen. 

Counting on … day 316

22nd September 2022

Today the world marks Loss and Damage Day. The Guardian this week reported that the issue of how to help poor nations suffering from the most extreme impacts of climate breakdown – loss and Damage- is one of the most contentious problems in climate negotiations. The UN general assembly is being asked to set up a  “climate-related and justice-based” global tax, as a way of funding an insurance policy that would pay out to affected nations. You can support this objective by signing Christian Aid’s petition:  https://www.christianaid.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns/loss-and-damage-petition

For more information on loss and damage see: https://greentau.org/2022/08/10/green-tau-issue-47/

Proper 20

18th September 2022

Reflection (readings below)

“For the hurt of the people I am hurt. I mourn and dismay has taken hold of me” says Jeremiah. It is a cry many would empathise with, especially when one looks around at all the suffering already happening and all that is on the horizon as the climate crisis and the fuel and economic crises continue to grow in scale – the former fed by the latter into an ever deepening spiral.

Climate grief is now a recognised phenomena. It encompasses grief for what has already been lost, what is currently being lost and the ongoing threat of further loss going on into the future. Such loss is not just the loss of physical landscapes, plants and animals. It is also the loss of people’s livelihoods and traditions. It is the loss of actual lives. And it is grief for the loss of the futures that our children and grandchildren might have had but, now, will not have. There is no closure for this sort of grief and no traditions to help us cope. Jeremiah would certainly empathise with where we are, our plight and our sense of helplessness. 

Where then do turn for consolation? If we cannot find closure,  can we find a way of adjusting to the new realities of life? Can we find new ways of supporting each other? Can we adopt new ways of living and new economic models that will avert the worst scenarios? 

We can take a cue from the Letter of Timothy, and pray – with prayers of intercession and prayers of thanksgiving for everyone, including, but not just for, leaders and those in power. And not just to pray but to remember that in Jesus we have a mediator, someone who can help us understand both our problems and the possible solutions. 

Today’s gospel passage is one of a group of the parables including the Prodigal Son, the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. They all reference one who goes astray – sins – and point in each situation the possibility of finding a way back. They all also point to the importance of celebration when what was lost is found, when what was lost is restored. To this the parable of the Prodigal Son adds the importance of having generosity of heart and humility. 

In today’s parable we have a sacked manager – one who has certainly been accused of fraud – someone who has fallen short. He is unsure how he can cope with the change in circumstances this is forcing upon him. He thinks hard about the steps he can take to mitigate this. Where as before he was totally dependent on one person, his boss – from whom he gained his wealth – he is now going to be at the mercy of the many of his community. He asks himself with whom he needs to be on best terms – his ex boss or the community? Whose interests should he nourish to safeguard his own future?

Not unreasonably, he concludes that he has nothing to loose by no longer increasing the profits of  his boss and much to gain by improving the lives of everybody else. He chooses to serve – to love – his community rather than the sole interests of the rich man. And this is why he is subsequently commended for being shrewd. 

Jesus reminds us that we cannot seek to gain both wealth and God.  Are we in fact fraudulent stewards, given the way we have allowed the climate crisis to grow and escalate? Have we opted to exploit the environment for short term gain and convenience? Are we fraudulent stewards who have allowed – indeed enabled – the developed countries to continue to grow rich at the expense of less powerful nations? Have we pinned all our fortunes on the ongoing success of fossil fuels? How should we respond when that certainty of income and wellbeing that we have enjoyed is pulled from under our feet?

We certainly need to end our reliance on the singularity of fossil fuels. We need to be diversifying and finding simpler, less damaging ways of living. We need to be finding economic models that share risks and profits equitably. And I am sure we in the developed world need to be literally halving the debts of our comrades – the less powerful – around the world. (Later this month people of faith will be marking Loss and Damage Day which calls on the creation of an insurance pot funded by wealthy nations to support those at the sharp edge of climate change). 

And let’s do some rejoicing too when we find these new relationships, these new ways of living together with our fellow human beings and with nature.

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

My joy is gone, grief is upon me,
my heart is sick.

Hark, the cry of my poor people
from far and wide in the land:

“Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?”

(“Why have they provoked me to anger with their images,
with their foreign idols?”)

“The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved.”

For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt,
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.

Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?

Why then has the health of my poor people
not been restored?

O that my head were a spring of water,
and my eyes a fountain of tears,

so that I might weep day and night
for the slain of my poor people!

Psalm 79:1-9

1 O God, the heathen have come into your inheritance;
they have profaned your holy temple; *
they have made Jerusalem a heap of rubble.

2 They have given the bodies of your servants as food for the birds of the air, *
and the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the field.

3 They have shed their blood like water on every side of Jerusalem, *
and there was no one to bury them.

4 We have become a reproach to our neighbours, *
an object of scorn and derision to those around us.

5 How long will you be angry, O Lord? *
will your fury blaze like fire for ever?

6 Pour out your wrath upon the heathen who have not known you *
and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon your Name.

7 For they have devoured Jacob *
and made his dwelling a ruin.

8 Remember not our past sins;
let your compassion be swift to meet us; *
for we have been brought very low.

9 Help us, O God our Saviour, for the glory of your Name; *
deliver us and forgive us our sins, for your Name’s sake.

1 Timothy 2:1-7

First of all, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For

there is one God;
there is also one mediator between God and humankind,

Christ Jesus, himself human,
who gave himself a ransom for all

— this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Luke 16:1-13

Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, `What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, `What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, `How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, `A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, `Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, `And how much do you owe?’ He replied, `A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, `Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Prayers for Creation

 Friday 26th August 2022 

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Isaiah 12:3

You Lord, are the source of all good things: 

We praise you.

You call us to tend and care for your creation: 

May we strive to do your will.

You have made us as brothers and sisters with all that lives: 

May we live together in peace.

A reading : Isaiah 55: 1-3a, 7-11

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk  without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,  and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me;  listen, so that you may live. Seek the Lord while he may be found,  call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way,  and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,  and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,  and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be, that goes out from my mouth;  it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,  and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

A response:

When we have a little, teach us to be grateful

When we have much, teach us not to be careless.

When we become complacent, teach us to be mindful.

We give thanks for rain and dew, snowfall and fog,

for  rivers and streams, lakes and oceans, for glaciers and ice sheets, 

for water that cleans and freshens the air:

Holy God

 let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!


We give thanks for water to bring life to plants, greening the earth, 

water to irrigate the fields and grow crops,

quenching fruits trees and flowers, salads and herbs:

Holy God

 let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

We give thanks for water

that all may drink – live stock and wild stock, 

birds and insects, as creatures great and small,

and for humans alike:

Holy God

 let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!


We give thanks for water fresh and salty, 

for those that swim on or in it, 

and all those for whom it is home:

Holy God

 let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

We give thanks for  water for drinking and washing,  

cleaning and laundering, cooking and brewing,

for making textiles and medicines, and for electrical generation:

 Holy God

 let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

We give thanks for  water as transport and water as recreation, 

for ships and barges, for swimming and sailing, canoeing and paddling:

Holy God

 let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!


We give thanks for  water for  birthing and baptising, 

for blessing and cleansing,

for healing and restoring:

Holy God

 let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!


The Grace

Proper 16

21st August 2022

(The readings follow on after the reflection)

Reflection 

Both the psalm and the passage from Jeremiah concur: God is our creator, the source of being and of our ongoing existence from the beginning. Throughout life God is present and is our sustainer, our rock and stronghold, our hope – and the one who calls us to act. The writer of Hebrews describes the otherness of God – but this is not an otherness that is fearsome and terrifying. Rather it is an otherness reflected in joyful festivities and community and new beginnings and the saving grace of Jesus. Ours is a God who offers hope and salvation!

The passage from Hebrews presents us with a God who can and will transform the world. And in the gospel, we see Jesus doing just that. He transform the life of the woman with a deformed back (and presumably changes too the life of her family) and he transforms the local people’s understanding of God’s law, showing them a different way of interpreting the law and understanding the nature of the world God has in mind.

From our first reading comes the word of the Lord saying “ pluck up and to pull down, destroy and  overthrow, build and plant”. And that is what Jesus does in the gospel reading. He ‘plucks up and pulls down’ the traditional understanding of the law and ‘builds and plants’ something new and life enhancing in its place. Jeremiah, to whom the Lord had been speaking, was given the  hard task of taking that message to the people of Judah. Jeremiah knew that the people had strayed away from correctly understanding and living according to God’s word. He knew that if they continued this way of living that they would be overrun by one of the competing superpowers that then ruled the world. Jeremiah was nevertheless convinced that whatever evil befell God’s people, there would be a time of renewal and restoration – of ‘building and planting’ according to God’s will. 

Sadly Jeremiah did not see this renewal in his own life time,  but he believed that it would happen. Later in the book, it tells how Jeremiah bought some land in Jerusalem – even though the city was about to be overrun by the invading force of the Assyrian army – to show his confidence that there would be a future for God’s people in that city. Jeremiah showed the kind of faith we heard of a few weeks ago in the Letter to the Hebrews – ‘faith [that] is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’.

 Our hope is that the world will withstand the worst ravages of the climate crisis, and be restored –  be re-built and planted – as intended by God. To demonstrate our faith in this is to actively live as if that future were happening now. We are called to,show how the world could, and can, be transformed. The way we live should be an example of sustainable living. The way we live should demonstrate care for creation, care for wildlife and live stock (including the welfare of donkeys and oxen), and care for our fellow humans especially those whose lives are stunted by the complaints – the ills – of our current age. Those affected by drought and wildfires, by floods and the denuding of the soil. Those affected by disease and war. Those affected by poverty and discrimination. Those affected by rising sea levels and receding rivers.

That is what groups such as Christian Climate Action and Christian Aid are campaigning for. It is what groups like Toilet Twinning and Practical Action are working for on the ground. It is what A Rocha does in enabling Christians to be environmentally aware.
This is what we as Christian communities – churches – can be embracing and supporting. We need to show the confidence that Jesus showed in healing the woman – doing what is right, regardless of what others may be saying, regardless of convention says, because doing what is right is what God wants. We need to show confidence in demonstrating how the world God gave us can be healed.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

The word of the Lord came to me saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you,
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,

says the Lord.”

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,

“Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”

Psalm 71:1-6

1 In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; *
let me never be ashamed.

2 In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free; *
incline your ear to me and save me.

3 Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe; *
you are my crag and my stronghold.

4 Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, *
from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor.

5 For you are my hope, O Lord God, *
my confidence since I was young.

6 I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;
from my mother’s womb you have been my strength; *
my praise shall be always of you.

Hebrews 12:18-29

You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. (For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”) But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken– that is, created things– so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.

Luke 13:10-17

Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Proper 15

14th August 2022 (the readings follow after the reflection)

Reflection

This passage from Isaiah reminds us that parables are not just to be found in the New Testament. The image of Israel as a vine planted and tended by God appears in both the passage from Isaiah and in the Psalm. Both passages tell very much the same story. Despite the thorough and expert ministrations of God, the vine fails to deliver its goods and is therefore allowed to fall prey to those destructive forces that seem ever present. Its protective surrounds are dismantled, its territory invaded. The vine is consumed and trampled upon. The psalm talks of wild boar being the protagonists; Isaiah is less specific but wild beasts come to mind and later in the same chapter the alien forces invading Israel are likened to roaring lions. The cost of not responding positively to God’s loving care and attention is extreme. 

Do we sense that that is our predicament when we look at the disasters that surround us? Heatwaves, droughts and wild fires; floods and storms; rapidly diminishing biodiversity; poverty and starvation; war and conflicts and threats of  war? 

In his opening speech at the Lambeth Conference, Justin Welby spoke of the ‘roaring lions’ that best our world. The reference comes from the Letter of Peter which warns its readers to be aware of the devil that prowls around like a roaring lion. One of the loudest of the roaring lions is, says Welby, climate change – the climate crisis that is causing such devastation and anguish world wide – and closely followed by the lion of inequality. We might echo the Psalmist in saying ‘Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.’

The writer of Hebrews reminds us of the importance of faith. Faith that can close the mouths of lions. Faith that can with stand mockery and torture, persecution and destitution, imprisonment and death. The writer ends with the stark reminder that faith doesn’t mean that in this life everything will turn out rosey. Often faith is tested to the hilt because it persists even when there is no hope of salvation any time soon.  Our only hope is faith in Jesus Christ. 

The words of Jesus from today’s gospel are equally blunt. Jesus has not come to white wash over the cracks in society, to call lions cats, or in anyway downplay the evil which we have created. Rather Jesus has come to transform the world. He has, to use Welby’s words, come to kill the roaring lions. To remove the causes of conflict and suffering.

It is not, I believe, that Jesus wills division and conflict, but rather that He knows the state of the world, the prejudices and proclivities of those of us how should know better and of those who have been trapped in a system that gives them very little choice. What I think does anger Jesus is that we can see the signs of impending disaster and suffering all around us and yet do nothing. We ignore the signs that tell us that we cannot keep on drilling for oil and burning it. That we cannot keep on taking from the soil and do nothing to restore its fertility. That we cannot stand back as all around  plants and animals, birds and insects decline in numbers to the point of extinction. That we cannot allow a few to take and take building up wealth and riches, whilst the many struggle to feed themselves. That we cannot allow businesses to invest in products that destroy our environment rather than in those that would enhance life for all. That we cannot stand back whilst big pharmaceutical companies profit from selling vaccines to the rich whilst the poor go away empty handed. That we cannot stand back whilst media moguls control what we hear whilst burying the truth.

Welby began his address by saying that he hoped everyone would leave the Conference with their  “heart full of desire for friendship with Jesus Christ. For to desire Jesus is to desire God. To desire Jesus is to desire to be filled with love for God and, by God, love for His people and love for His word.”

Time and again, this is where we must return: to the overwhelming love that God has for us and the power that love has to change the world.

Isaiah 5:1-7

Let me sing for my beloved
my love-song concerning his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.

He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;

he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;

he expected it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
and people of Judah,

judge between me
and my vineyard.

What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I have not done in it?

When I expected it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?

And now I will tell you
what I will do to my vineyard.

I will remove its hedge,
and it shall be devoured;

I will break down its wall,
and it shall be trampled down.

I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;

I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
is the house of Israel,

and the people of Judah
are his pleasant planting;

he expected justice,
but saw bloodshed;

righteousness,
but heard a cry!

Psalm 80:1-2, 8-18

1 Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; *
shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

2 In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, *
stir up your strength and come to help us.

8 You have brought a vine out of Egypt; *
you cast out the nations and planted it.

9 You prepared the ground for it; *
it took root and filled the land.

10 The mountains were covered by its shadow *
and the towering cedar trees by its boughs.

11 You stretched out its tendrils to the Sea *
and its branches to the River.

12 Why have you broken down its wall, *
so that all who pass by pluck off its grapes?

13 The wild boar of the forest has ravaged it, *
and the beasts of the field have grazed upon it.

14 Turn now, O God of hosts, look down from heaven;
behold and tend this vine; *
preserve what your right hand has planted.

15 They burn it with fire like rubbish; *
at the rebuke of your countenance let them perish.

16 Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, *
the son of man you have made so strong for yourself.

17 And so will we never turn away from you; *
give us life, that we may call upon your Name.

18 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

Hebrews 11:29-12:2

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.

And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets– who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented– of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Luke 12:49-56

Jesus said, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptised, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:

father against son
and son against father,

mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,

mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, `It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”

Green Tau issue 47

10th August 2022 

Loss and Damage

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere acts as an insulator, keeping in the warmth of the sun that is radiated back by the earth. We see a similar affect when clouds act as an insulator. Under a clear night in the winter temperatures will plummet as the radiant heat escapes overnight. Whilst a cloudy night will maintain the temperature at a higher level as cloud cover keeps in more of the heat. Unlike cloud which can dissipate as quickly as it appears, atmospheric carbon dioxide stays put – unless it is absorbed by plants (on land) or by phytoplankton (in oceans).

The latest IPCC report suggests that for every 1000 billion of CO2 emitted temperatures will rise by approximately 0.45C. Since 1850 2500 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide have been released into the atmosphere, and global temperatures have risen by about 1.2C between 1850 and 2020.

These carbon emissions come primarily from the burning of fossil fuels and (to a lesser but still significant extent) making cement. The other notable contributor is change of land use. Where forests have been felled, the loss of CO2 absorbing capacity leads to a measurable increase in emissions. 

Considering cumulative carbon emissions (from fossil fuels, cement and changes in land use) since 1850 the USA has been the largest emitter, accounting for 20% of global emissions. The US is followed by China 11%, Russia 7%, Brazil 5%, Indonesia 4% (both these nations have seen significant deforestation), Germany 3.5%, India 3.4%, United Kingdom 3%,  Japan 2.7% and Canada 2.6%.  The distribution changes when emissions are calculated per capita for each national. Canada is now in top place, followed by the USA, Estonia (which has been heavily reliant on oil sands for energy), Australia, Trinidad and Tobago (having large oil, gas and chemical industries), Russia, Kazakhstan, United Kingdom (8th), Germany and Belgium. https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-which-countries-are-historically-responsible-for-climate-change/ 

Another way of looking at the distribution of carbon emissions across the globe, is to compare them with wealth. It was the early industrialisation of many European and North American countries that enabled them to become some of the wealthiest nations.  The richest half of the wealthiest nations account for 86% of the current annual CO2 emissions. Of the remaining nations, the very poorest, representing 9% of the global population account for just 0.5% of CO2 emissions. https://ourworldindata.org/co2-emissions

The very poorest nations that account for the most minimal CO2 emissions, are Burundi, Somalia, Mozambique, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Central African Republic, Liberia and Niger. https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/poorest-countries-in-the-world. These are countries which already face difficult situations and are highly vulnerable to the extremes of drought and floods. For them the effects of climate change will come sooner and with greater intensity than nations with more amenable climates. Their poverty makes them particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change as they have limited resources with which to either mitigate or adapt. For example  there may be limited funding to build reservoirs and water distribution networks, weather warning systems, food stocks, search and rescue services etc, and limited resources to rebuild when disasters strike.

Another vulnerable group are the Small Islands Developing States which includes low-lying atoll nations in the Pacific like Kiribati and the Marshall Islands, which are only about six feet above sea level. The rising global temperatures that are already locked in mean that ice at both Poles will (as is  already beginning) melt, with a subsequent rises in sea levels, threatening the future existence of some of these islands.

It is clearly apparent that there is great inequality and injustice in the realm of climate change. Those who have contributed most are often the best able to insulate themselves from its effects, whilst those who contributed least are often doubly disadvantaged. 

Human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world, despite efforts to reduce the risks. People and ecosystems least able to cope are being hardest hit, said scientists in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, 8th February 2022

To address this scenario, wealthy nations at the Copenhagen climate summit (COP25) in 2009,  agreed to provide $100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to climate change and transition to clean, renewable energy like wind and solar. This agreement was reiterated at COP 26 in 2022. It is still a promise that has yet to be met. To date the best year was 2020 when $83.3 bn was raised. Increasing finance for countries worst hit by climate impacts is therefore one of the key goals of Cop27 in Egypt. 

In addition to funding to help the most vulnerable nations to adapt to climate change, a call was made at COP26 for a “Loss and Damage” fund. These are funds that would compensate the worst affected and disadvantaged nations for damage caused by climate change. Like an insurance fund, it would compensate those who accrue loss and damage through events for which they are not responsible. However the developing countries’ proposal for a finance facility to address loss and damage was rejected in favour of a three-year Glasgow Dialogue to discuss funding arrangements – https://oxfamilibrary.openrepository.com/bitstream/handle/10546/621382/bp-fair-finance-loss-and-damage-070622-en.pdf

Who should pay into this fund? Those nations who have contributed most to the climate crisis and those best able to pay. And what of the fossil fuel companies? Certainly taxation and in the current market, further windfall taxes should enable governments to obtain the necessary finance. 

In 2020-21 UN humanitarian appeals to address emergencies arising from climate change topped $20 bn.  Meanwhile the top 25 oil and gas companies generated $205 billion in profits – https://www.accountable.us/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/20220307-UPDATED-Oil-And-Gas-2021-Profits-1.pdf And at the same time, these fossil fuel companies were – and continue – receiving government subsidies. The campaign group Paid to Pollute analysed OECD date showing that between 2016 and 2020 companies received £9.9 billion in tax reliefs for new exploration and production and £3.7 billion in payments towards decommissioning costs.

Thursday 22 September is Loss and Damage Action Day – an international day to stand in solidarity with those living with the worst impacts of climate breakdown, and to call on rich countries and big polluters to pay compensation. 

  • Join Green Christian’s morning prayer event – register on the Green Christian website.
  • Join Make Polluters Pay’s social media action – follow @MakePolluterPay and @FFTCnetwork for details.
  • Hold a vigil for loss and damage. This is a powerful way to publicly show solidarity with those at the sharp end of climate breakdown. A guide to holding an interfaith vigil is available to download (below). More resources are available on the Make Cop Count website, including a leaflet to hand out and placards to display.
  • For more information,- https://ctbi.org.uk/loss-and-damage-action-day-22-sept-2022/

Proper 13

31st July 2022

Reflection (scroll down for readings)

Last week we heard how Hosea  chose as Gomer, a prostitute, as his wife and how their family rapidly grew in size as Gomer gave birth to two sons and a daughter. We can imagine then that Hosea had some experience of the trials and tribulations of parenthood, how as a parent you want the best for your children, and yet you know that if you are too rigid, imposing your own way,  it will lead to rebellion. It is hard as a parent to stand by and let your children go their own way and make their own mistakes. And often there comes a point where your compassion as a parent pushes to you to dive in and rescue your children. You forgive and forget their mistakes and offer instead love and help.

So it is, observes Hosea, with God: “My people are bent on turning away from me…[yet] my compassion grows warm and tender.” 

Hearing those words fills me with hope that we are not doomed because of our human rebelliousness (quite what our future will look like, I am not sure and it may not be that rosy for some time time to come). The psalmist too offers hope: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endures for ever.” The Hebrew word “חַסְדּֽוֹ׃” (chesed) here translated as mercy, has the meaning of kindness and steadfast love, of loyalty and of truth. It is not a word that might simply mean withholding due punishment, but rather a more proactive remedying of the situation. God wants the best for all of creation. The psalmist goes on to talk of how God does this, delivering those who ask for help, putting their feet on a straight path, feeding the hungry and satisfying the thirsty. 

Why is it that we do not seek God’s help? Why do we not attune our hearing and listen to God? Do we forget that in Jesus we have the lived out expression of God’s will, the Word?

The writer of the letter to the Colossians sees a divided world, a world in which some do good things and some bad. He contrast those things that are from above – heavenly – with those that are earthly.  In this I think he is drawing out the difference between those who consciously follow God’s way and those who do not. In this sense earthly things are not what God has created, but that way of living that ignores God, that does not wish to accept that God – like parents – knows best. 

In today’s gospel reading we don’t know what the parents of the two brothers have said or done, but there appears to be a dispute as to how what they have inherited should be shared. As is often the case, Jesus doesn’t give a straight forward answer but rather poses another question: this wealth that you are craving, is it going to make you happy? 

It seems as if this family’s accumulation of wealth might make one or other of the brothers happy, but more likely it will make both of them unsatisfied. Neither wants to forgo what they see as their rightful share of the wealth. 

When we look around the world today, both between regions and nations, and within our own country, we see a great inequality in the distribution of wealth. And when it comes to a question of sharing out that wealth more equitably, those who have are very reluctant to be generous with what they have – even though they can see that others are suffering from lack. We in the global north have accumulated great national wealth from years of industrial development that has relied upon the cheap import of labour and resources from the global south, and yet we are unwilling to share that wealth with people suffering hunger and starvation in east Africa. We are unwilling to share it with indebted nations such as Zambia and Sri Lanka. We are unwilling to share it with small islands communities in the Pacific whose lands are threatened by rising sea levels. We are unwilling to share it with people in Afghanistan, in Peru and Columbia whose livelihoods are being washed away by the affects of climate change. 

Instead we are like the farmer, with our multi national oil companies, continuing to build larger and larger oil producing sites, whilst ignoring that the scale of this greed is diminishing our chances of enjoying a comfortable future. Jesus in his parables, and the prophets before, all spoke of the foolishness of pursing wealth at the expense of others, and still we do not listen, still we do not change our behaviour. We persist with an ‘earthly’ rather than a heavenly mindset. 

Lord may our prayer that ‘your kingdom come’ be genuinely meant. 

Hosea 11:1-11

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.

The more I called them,
the more they went from me;

they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and offering incense to idols.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms;
but they did not know that I healed them.

I led them with cords of human kindness,
with bands of love.

I was to them like those
who lift infants to their cheeks.
I bent down to them and fed them.

They shall return to the land of Egypt,
and Assyria shall be their king,
because they have refused to return to me.

The sword rages in their cities,
it consumes their oracle-priests,
and devours because of their schemes.

My people are bent on turning away from me.
To the Most High they call,
but he does not raise them up at all.

How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?

How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?

My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.

I will not execute my fierce anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;

for I am God and no mortal,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.

They shall go after the Lord,
who roars like a lion;

when he roars,
his children shall come trembling from the west.

They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt,
and like doves from the land of Assyria;
and I will return them to their homes, says the Lord.

Psalm 107:1-9, 43

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, *
and his mercy endures for ever.

2 Let all those whom the Lord has redeemed proclaim *
that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

3 He gathered them out of the lands; *
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

4 Some wandered in desert wastes; *
they found no way to a city where they might dwell.

5 They were hungry and thirsty; *
their spirits languished within them.

6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, *
and he delivered them from their distress.

7 He put their feet on a straight path *
to go to a city where they might dwell.

8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his mercy *
and the wonders he does for his children.

9 For he satisfies the thirsty *
and fills the hungry with good things.

43 Whoever is wise will ponder these things, *
and consider well the mercies of the Lord.

Colossians 3:1-11

If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things– anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, `What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, `I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, `Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, `You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”