5th Sunday after the Epiphany [by Rev Dr Rachel Mash]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Isa 58:1-12
2nd Reading
1 Cor 2:1-16
Matt 5:13-20
by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, Environmental Coordinator, Anglican Church of Southern Africa


Isaiah asks too many questions. “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bond of injustice … to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” These questions are rhetorical – because the answers are so obvious that God doesn’t give an answer.

You really don’t want to read this passage while listening to a BBC podcast telling us that climate change has brought parts of Zambia to the brink of famine, that they is wrestling with a devastating drought caused by a dramatic shift in weather patterns. You don’t want to read isaiah 58 and hear that in Zambia more than 2 million people are now in need of food aid, following two years of poor rains and failed harvests.

You don’t want to read Isaiah 58 and watch the pictures of the bushfires in Australia and hear of the 3000 families who lost their homes and the millions of animals who have lost their habitat. You may not even see the news that that devastating floods are affecting the areas destroyed by Hurricane Idai last year in Mozambique.. You may not hear that over 10,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed, many of them are people who lost their homes last year and are now homeless for a second time.

Because if you read these verses you would understand that those impacted by climate change are our ‘kin’. In the family of God there is no nation – there is no call to make our nation great at the expense of others. We are called to care with compassion for the whole family of this Earth, our common home.

It is just too hard, isn’t it? The bad news is too much, too constant and too overwhelming

Isaiah knew that it was hard. He was writing to the people who returned from Babylon and found a ruined city and a destroyed temple. This message is not for a private devotion but for people who have gathered to rebuild the ruined city and the destroyed temple. This is a message for our churches, for our Dioceses and for our Communion.

We act like those returning exiles – “at least’ they said, we will worship and fast”. Let us send our ‘thoughts and prayers” to those affected.

But God calls for a deeper understanding of fasting. “Is not this the fast that I choose?” God asks. We know how we should answer God’s list of questions and we often end up feeling only guilt. I haven’t done enough to share my bread with the hungry. I haven’t invited the homeless poor into my house. We suffer from compassion fatigue and decide to stop watching the news.

God’s questions are addressed to a community of faith. Our answers should also be not only personal but communal. We can do much more together than alone and what we do together must involve both assistance and advocacy. It takes advocacy to “loose the bonds of injustice” .

So, let us organise a fundraiser to send funds to a Diocese for a vehicle to get urgent aid to those who have lost their harvest, but let us also put pressure on our political leaders to make a difference to climate change policies. Let us send money for trees to be planted in Zambia to heal the denuded soil, and let us also encourage our faith community to take their money out of fossil fuels

Our brothers and sisters in Zambia and Mozambique and Australia are not strangers. They are our kin.

by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, South Africa