Year B - October

Environmental Lectionary Notes – October 2021 following the season of creation which ended first Sunday in October,  year B

October 10th – justice for the poor in the production of food.

In Amos 5, as often in the voice of the prophets, justice in trade, food production and treatment of the poor is highlighted as a great evil. Many of our environmental issues are justice issues, we produce for the rich and neglect the poor and the land suffers also through our greed and neglect.

In Mark’s account of the story known as the rich young ruler it is a very specific kind of wealth he has, it is property. This is why Jesus tells him to sell what he owns. The Jewish laws governed property ownership so that in theory at least property sold to someone else by families as a way of getting out of debt or poverty had to be retuned to them after a period of time. Property was in the long term viewed as a family possession as it was the source of the family’s livelihood. The rich young man was in fact defrauding the poor of their property, their land by which they produced food. Again, this is an environmental issue as well as a justice issue. Land use for feeding the rich at the expense of the poor also encourages intensive farming that damages soil and the environment.

October 17th – leadership as service and sacrifice

Psalm 91 and Isaiah 53, both applied to Jesus’ life, contrast the idea of Jesus as God’s Son as protected from harm in the Psalm with his suffering for the sake of others in Isaiah. The devil uses Psalm 91 in tempting Jesus to jump off the temple. Jesus takes this lesson into his teaching to the disciples not to look for favour and privilege as bad leaders do but be the servants of others. As we approach COP 26 what will our leaders do? What will those, including many of us, who are privileged do? There is a voice here that may be the tempters that tells us we don’t have to make any sacrifices to stop climate change or care for our environment, that the technology will make all that unnecessary. But this is a way of avoiding the heart of the problem which is human attitudes to the environment and human greed. We must be those prepared to make sacrifices that others may live and our planet by protected.

October 24th – Restoration and healing of all things promised in Christ

Psalm 126 and Jeremiah 31 speak of the return of the people of Israel from exile. In doing so they talk of the blessing of the land not just the people. These prophecies were only partly fulfilled when the exiles returned, and this was part of what led to the belief in a coming Messiah who would truly restore Israel. In Mark 10 we see Jesus healing a blind man and the Gospel writers often use the healing miracles as signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God. Hebrews 7 continues the theme of Jesus as the great high priest who identifies with the suffering of the world. This identification Paul often makes clear is with the whole creation not just humanity. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews, who we don’t have a name for, is developing the theme of Jesus as the High Priest who both identifies with suffering but also can finally fulfil what human priesthood has pointed to, the final reconciliation between creation and God.  It is easy for us to look at suffering and environmental damage and lose hope, to perhaps feel like the exiles who thought they would never see the promised restoration, or the people waiting for the Messiah. Jesus offers us hope, and hope based on what God has already done through Jesus not just on what is promised and that makes the promise secure. This is not an excuse to sit back and let God work for our planet, but for us not to despair as we play our part in God’s mission.

October 31st – All Saints Sunday in 2021 – God will make all things new

Psalm 24 begins by reminding us that all creation is God’s and not ours. We have a duty of care for creation, but it is not our possession. This Psalm is what is known as a Psalm of Ascent, used when going up to the Temple on a festival day. So, when this Psalm talks later on of going up to the Lord’s Mountain it has the Temple in view. Isaiah 25 picks up that imagery of the Lord’s Mountain, but here he is speaking of a final day of the Lord when death will be no more and suffering over. It is significant to note Isaiah is not just talking here of a promise to the people of Israel, but the whole world. In Revelation 21 we see Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled, there is a new heaven and a new earth, and the heavenly Jerusalem comes out of heaven to earth and with it God’s dwelling place. The Psalmist, Isaiah and John in Revelation are all using a Jewish typology in which both the Garden of Eden and the Jerusalem Temple were representations of God’s dwelling in heaven. Both the ascent to the Temple in Psalm 24 and the prophecy of Isaiah 25 look to the coming to creation of the heavenly temple and the entering of all creation into the paradise that is depicted in Eden. Later Revelation will talk of the Tree of Life being found at the heart of the heavenly Jerusalem come to earth. This is the fulfilling of the opening lines of the Lord’s prayer, that God’s Kingdom come on Earth as in Heaven.

The language of new earth and a new heaven can be misunderstood, as is true of other passages that talk about the end times. In Greek there are two words that can be used for ‘new’ and they have different meanings. If we wanted to describe something as a replacement the word ‘nea’ would be used. This is a situation were the old one is disposed of, and we are given another instead. But this is not the word the New Testament uses to speak of the new creation, rather it uses ‘kinae’, which means the old one is renewed rather than replaced. We might say ‘it’s as good as new’ to give the sense of this. Within climate action groups the phrase ‘there is no planet B’ is often used. For a Christin this is true to the message of scripture, God has no other creation but this one, but promises this one’s renewal.

Finally, it may then seem odd that John tells us in this world made anew there is no more sea. This is not because God has something against the sea, which may be particularly good news for those who love seaside holidays! Rather in Jewish understanding the sea was the place that the chaos serpent, Leviathan, lived who was the cause of destruction and suffering. So in Revelation Chapter 13 we also see this seven headed serpent rise from the sea, identified here with the devil, before the serpent is finally defeated. Indeed just as Isaiah prophecies the end of death and suffering in chapter 25 so he also in Chapter 27 prophecies God’s final over coming of the chaos serpent in the sea.

Page last updated: 29th September 2021 2:34 PM