Year B - August

Notes for the Sunday Lectionary from an environmental perspective

(Created by Steve Hollinghurst with thanks to the Green Christian website and Keith Innes for the lectionary notes there from which some of this material is drawn and other material can be found)

August year B

Sunday 1st August – ‘the gifts of God to enable everything to flourish’

John 6 refers back to the story of the feeding of the people in the desert in Exodus 16. In both passages there is reference to a miraculous feeding of the people of Israel. In John the crowds are seeking Jesus because he has miraculously fed them on bread and fish, and they compare this to Moses providing Manna and Quail in the desert. As the text of John 6 tells us earlier Jesus has avoided the crowd because they wanted to make him king by force. Here they again compare him to a political leader, Moses, and want him to own that comparison or offer another sign like Moses. Jesus wants them to stop thinking in worldly terms and see that neither he nor Moses provided the people with food rather in both cases it is a gift from God. Who has food and who does not have food in our world is often governed by political power and wealth. Global agribusiness and retail grocery chains control much of the food supply and it is distributed to those who can pay more and have the best developed storage and transport networks. Food becomes a possession to be exploited and some have too much whilst others too little. Yet Jesus would have us see that people do not provide food, it comes as a gift from God in nature. Humans tend and harvest but without the gift of God there would be no food to harvest. How might realising that food is a gift affect how humanity shares that gift? Indeed, if it is given to all not a few should it not be shared according to need not profit?

Paul in Ephesians is also writing about God’s gifts in Jesus as the one who fills all creation. These gifts are human callings in the service of the Church. The image of the Church as a body with diverse gifts working to grow the whole is one Paul uses several times. It is an organic and ecological model of human community in which the ‘biodiversity’ of the body is essential to its health. Yet this is not just a model of the value of human diversity in the community of the Church as Christ’s Body, it is also of the value of biodiversity in the creation that Christ also fills. Here, too, diversity is essential, and we are called to nurture that diversity so all may flourish as part of our calling in Christ.

Sunday 8th August – ‘gifts greater than food’

John records Jesus as declaring himself to be the Bread of Life that comes down from heaven. Unlike the bread the people ate in the desert and yet over time they died, ‘eating of Jesus’ leads to eternal life. It is likely that the idea here of eating of Jesus ‘flesh’ as consuming the bread of eternal life is a reference to the ritual meal of communion. The image is of being people who need spiritual food not just physical, of humans as whole beings of body and spirit needing both to be fed. Yet both are needed, Ezekiel needs the cakes and water to be able to reach the mount of Horeb to meet with God. As those who are Jesus’ disciples, we need to help others to be fed physically and spiritually.

For Paul, being filled with Jesus should affect the way we live with each other, as those who are a blessing to others not selfish and bitter. In this way our ‘spiritual feeding’ should lead to our being a blessing to others as its fruit. Indeed, if as Jesus declares his flesh is the bread for the life of the world, then as we are fed, we should become a blessing to all creation in how we live. Whether we live as those who help creation to flourish, or as those who exploit it and harm it is a direct sign of the outworking of God’s spiritual feeding of us.

Sunday 15th August – ‘wisdom in nature’

The text in Proverbs tell us to seek to be fed by Wisdom and Paul tells us to be wise in how we live. The early Church saw parallels between Wisdom working with God in creation and Jesus so that wisdom was to be found in creation that came from Christ. This idea would develop into what Aquinas would refer to as ‘the second book of God’ in creation. In our world today many of us live a long way from regular contact with nature and creation. For many of us time spent in the world around listening to and learning from its rhythms would help us live more wisely. We need to hear God speak to us through living well with creation.

Sunday 22nd August – ‘following God is often challenging’

Jesus’ teaching about being the bread of life from heaven causes a number of his followers to leave him because they find it too difficult to accept. Joshua having led the people into the promised land says they must make a choice, to follow the God that has led them there or the God’s of that place or the places they have come from and he warns them that choosing to follow the God who has led them out of Egypt will be challenging. Paul writes about us being in a battle not with other people but powers that will lead us astray and against which we need to arm ourselves with truth and faith. There are many areas in which seeking to be faithful to God is challenging and often the ‘other gods’ of our world that may lead us on the wrong path are not overtly religious. This is true when it comes to living well with creation. It requires of us life choices that are demanding, and our society contains voices that tell us it can’t be done, that we can’t live that way that the cost is too much. As people of faith and truth we must learn to resist the lure of the easy path and instead follow Christ when the right path is challenging.

Sunday 29th August – ‘living well is true religion’

Moses in Deuteronomy and James in his letter reminds their audience that living by God’s standards is the most important thing.  James spells out what this means in caring for others. Jesus contrasts this with religious ritual which requires observance of ritual actions but ignores the way we live. This highlights a tokenism that can be a danger in many areas of life in which we are seen to affirm God and what is right but don’t actually live according to what we say. As in many other areas this is a danger when seeking to live in a way that is environmentally positive. An example of this are schemes by which instead of changing polluting behaviour individuals, business or countries pay to offset their pollution. The money paid may of course be used to benefit the environment, but what is really needed is a change in behaviour.

Page last updated: 19th August 2021 5:03 PM