Greening the Lectionary

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

Sunday next before Lent (Transfiguration) Exodus 24.12-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Matthew 17:1-9

"Listen to him" 

At Jesus' baptism in the Jordan, a voice from Heaven said,  "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased" and now, on the Mount of Transfiguration we hear the same affirmation, but with one crucial addition - Peter, James and John are urged to  "Listen to him!" Jesus stands alongside Moses and Elijah, as one who speaks on behalf of God. His words have authority in Heaven and on Earth. 

Those seeking to listen to Jesus today, will search the Gospels in vain to hear Jesus speak about creation-care, or environmental stewardship. He does not say "Love the planet and love nature" much as we might wish he did. Yet he does sum up the law and the prophets, whom Moses and Elijah represent, with the words "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.... and Love your neighbour as yourself.’"

This is as good a foundation as any to build a rationale for environmental engagement. For this is God's world - the creation He declared to be "good". It seems hardly possible that he is standing by unmoved as its beauty is swamped by our rubbish, and entire species wiped out through our greed and carelessness. Caring for God's world is a way of showing our love for God. 

It is worth noting too, how often nature facilitates encounter with God. In both today's Old Testament and Gospel, God is met, not in a temple or synagogue, but on a mountain top, emerging from a cloud. The natural world frequently moves us to praise and thankfulness by its beauty and magnitude. Many have discovered nature as a way to encounter God and a source of revelation.  As such it is worthy of our respect and our advocacy. 

When we add "loving our neighbour" into the mix, the case becomes incontrovertible.   Already so many people are suffering through the floods, fires, infestations and famines the climate crisis is causing. If we understand our neighbour in global terms then we cannot walk on by. We have a Christian duty to act and act quickly. Those listening to Jesus today may find they have no other choice.

Archived Reflections

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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.




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