Year B - July

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)

July year B

Sunday 4th July ‘living simply as guests’

In Mark 6 we see the 12 disciples sent on their first mission. They are sent in such a way as to have to rely on the hospitality of those to whom they are sent. Very often in the church we think of being the ones who offer hospitality to others, being the hosts and not the guests. Being hospitable and sharing what we have is good to do. However, being dependant on others generosity and being a good guest helps us live simply and also changes the power dynamic. The guest has to adapt to the rules of the household and can’t make demands even as a generous host will try to meet their guest’s needs. As people seeking to live well with our non-human as well as our human neighbours, seeing creation as ‘hosting humanity’ may help a good attitude in which we seek to be good guests of the creation whose gifts we are dependent on. We become receivers of natures goodness not takers. We seek to be good guests and accommodate ourselves to creation.

Words like ecology, economics and ecumenical all come from the Greek word for home ‘oikos’. All of these are about home making. Because we are making home with all of creation we are in an ecumenical relationship with all other things because what we share in more important than what makes us different. Too often we have wanted to show why we are ’not animals’ and destinate ourselves form creation when we are called to make our home together. In such a world our economics too will be shared. For the benefit of creation not just our human species. Again, in this we need to be the guests of creation and live more simply that all may flourish.

Sunday July 11th ‘trusting God’s plan for all creation: speaking truth to power’

Ephesians 1 tells us that in the fullness of time all things will be gathered to God and so we as those who have inherited the gift of God’s Spirit are also called to live as holy and blameless before God in love and witness to the coming plan for all creation. This is a plan not just for human society but for all creation and we are witnesses to that.

As in Amos 7 and Mark 6, knowing the way God wants us to live means sometimes confronting the powerful with the ways they are not living as they are called to. The powerful may noy only use their power to set up temples or marriages that are not moral but seek their advantage at the expense of others in many different ways. They often ‘get away with it’ because they are not easy to confront and doing so is risky. Speaking truth to power cost John his life. This has also been true in our day where corrupt regimes are confronted by those seeking justice for people and the environment. Human Rights Watch that more than 300 people have been killed seeking to defend the Amazon from illegal logging which is often carried out by criminal gangs who the government turns a blind eye to. You can read more here . When we find ourselves in such situations we need God’s Spirit to be able to speak truth to power, but also to keep remembering that God has a plan for all creation what we are also a part of.

Sunday 18th July ‘led into green pastures’

In Jeremiah and Psalm 23 we have the image of good and bad shepherds. The good shepherd leads us into green pastures where we find ourselves restored. The bad shepherd places us in danger. In Mark we see Jesus take the disciples to a deserted place, like the good shepherd taking them to the place they can find peace and restoration. Many of us find that being in the deserted places in nature is restoring to our souls. The mental health charity Mind has information on how nature as a place to be but also the nurturing of green spaces is good for our mental health. You can find their ideas for wellbeing in nature here;

It is not just us, but nature too, that needs times of rest and recuperation. The principle of Jubilee in the Old Testament was to give the land regular rest, a sabbath in the natural world and this is really important for our soils as it is for us. Too often intensive farming depletes our soils and drains them of life. Increasingly farmers are returning to old practices in which fields are rotated so some are fallow at any one time, and this helps maintain soil health. In the long run this saves on fertilizer and increases yields in non-fallow years.

Sunday 25th July ‘the God who feeds and protects’

John 6 as in so many of Jesus signs in John is telling us who Jesus is. In 2 Kings 4 we see another occasion when in this case the prophet Elisha has a large crowd fed by a small quantity of food and with food left over. God provides in abundance as a sign of God as the provider of all in creation. We see Jesus doing the same, though on a much bigger scale, in John’s version of the feeding of the five thousand. Here too God’s abundance is more than is needed. Yet in both stories whilst the ‘prophet’ knows what God will do, the cooperation of others who act to give food in spite of their doubt, is needed. It is not enough to ask good to feed the world we are supposed to work with God in this task. But neither does this work when we seek to extract every last piece of goodness for fear there will not be enough, or to maximise our profit. It is when trust to the earth’s generosity in God and work with God that there is enough.

The miracle of feeding in John 6 and 2 Kings 4 is not, of course, simply a tale of our cooperation with God’s generosity, it is intended to be seen as miraculous and beyond human ability because God the creator is at work revealing the power of the Spirit in Elisha and Jesus. John 6 then has the story of the disciples setting off across the lake and finding themselves in a great storm. In the midst of the storm, they see a figure walking across the violent sea and are afraid. Yet it is Jesus who calls out to them not to fear and as he enters the boat the storm is calmed, and they reach their destination. This too, points to Jesus as God the creator among us. The Old Testament stories of creation as told in Genesis, but repeated elsewhere as in Psalm 74, are set against the backdrop of other Near Eastern creation myths like those of the Canaanites and the Babylonians. In these stories there are many gods and they are threatened by a seven headed dragon who lives in the sea who they have to fight. The world is then created out of the sea from the monster’s body. The Biblical account takes this image to speak of God overcoming chaos and destruction in creation. The monster, leviathan becomes a theme of this chaos and destruction in scripture, ultimately returning to be defeated by God in the Book of revelation. As Jesus walked on the waters in the chaos of the storm, he was showing himself to be the one Psalm 74 describes as walking on the heads of the dragon in the waters. He has the power over the chaos that seeks to unravel nature and ultimately to offer protection and security from that which seeks to harm creation. As Job and Isaiah would note this battle is ongoing and we do not live in a world without danger and suffering. But ultimately God holds the power and we look to the coming of God’s kingdom when God is ‘in the boat’ and we reach our final destination.

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