Greening the Lectionary

A Theological Response to the Ecological Crisis: Reflections, Liturgy, Reviews, Comment.

Advent 1 Year B Isaiah 64:1-9 Mark 13:24-37

Happy New Church Year.

On this, the first Sunday in Advent, our thoughts turn to Christ’s second coming. Such an emphasis can be helpful in adopting a “Green” perspective or exceedingly troublesome. After all, if the world is going to end at the point of Christ’s return, why do we need to look after it?

When James Watt, former secretary of the interior was questioned about protecting the environment of the grounds of intergenerational justice he replied that he did not know how many generations he could count on before the Lord returned, whilst it has been suggested that President Bush’s refusal to sign the Kyoto agreement was based on his understanding that creation was transitory and would inevitably be destroyed. However, Mark 13 need not be interpreted as speaking of the annihilation of the world, but rather in terms of cataclysmic change resulting in judgement and the beginning of a new era, particularly when read against the background of the destruction of the temple.  

Anticipating Christ’s coming can motivate us positively to engage in the safeguarding of creation. The prophet Isaiah interlaces desperate pleas for God’ intervention and forgiveness, such as we encounter in this week’s Old Testament reading, with the promises of a future of peace and harmony, where God is sovereign and social and ecological justice are very much in evidence, suggesting a return to the idyllic world God intended prior to the fall.

Can we understand Christ’s coming, not in terms of the end of creation, but of a coming Kingdom and a renewed creation, which we as members of the Church of Christ are intended to prefigure? If so, then a focus on eschatology can be a positive resource for environmental activism. It also means that what we do now matters in the world to come. If we  have a role in building Christ's Kingdom then our acts of love and justice toward each other and towards creation have an eternal significance. They will remain in the Kingdom to come.

Perhaps now, as we face the dual crisis of Climate and Covid, we can identify with Isaiah’s desperate call for God’s reign to come soon. We are at a loss, our present and our future on this planet are very different from what we have known before. But our ultimate future is the reign of God and as Christians we can live as if this is already here; as if the Kingdom has already come on Earth as in Heaven. This will include living out and indeed insisting upon, in the name of Christ, social and ecological justice. At the beginning of a new church year, how does that sound for a resolution? .

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About the author: Revd Ruth Newton

Ruth is parish priest of St John's Sharow, a Silver Eco-Church, whose award winning Churchyard has been awarded County Wildlife Status.

She is a member of the Church of England General Synod. Ordained for 17 years, Ruth has ministered in three multi-parish benefices, as a Cathedral Canon and as a Lay Training Officer. 

Ruth has a Masters in Theology, a PGCE and an an associate fellowship with the Higher Education Academy. She is undertaking a doctorate in the intersection between environmental activism and church.

Presently working on a portfolio basis she is available for freelance writing, lectures or retreats. 




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