Season of Creation 4 – 18th Sunday after Pentecost

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Esth 7:1-6,9-10; 9:20-22
Num 11:25-29
2nd Reading
Jas 5:13-20
Jas 5:1-6
Mark 9: 38-50



The web of life is unravelling. There is a danger that responses to climate injustice and environmental chaos can become only about activism: campaigns and advocacy. Today’s readings encourage us to turn to God in prayer in times of crisis, recognising that activism needs deep foundations in a spirituality that sustains and renews us. The challenges ahead are huge and without a spirituality that sustains us, we may burn out.

“We face multiple crises of poverty, inequality, biodiversity loss and the climate crisis. We have a short window – a kairos moment – in which to turn from well worn, broken paths and choose a better story for ourselves and for the world. But what story will we tell? Some say that Africa is failing, doomed to chaos and poverty and reliance. Others say that Africa is rising, but as a slave to a narrative of greed, power, violence, individualism and extraction, to the benefit of just a few. We see another way – a courageous choice to turn from these two single stories and tell a new story, one created by the agency and voices of all African citizens: an Abundant Africa. An Abundant African economy could be built upon shalom, upon African values of innovation, freedom and relationship. It could reduce poverty and inequality, honour human dignity, care for creation – and in so doing be an economy that will lead the world.” (Abundant Africa).

This is a vision towards which we must pray and act.

Please go to for more resources for the Season of Creation.


by Rev Mkhuseli Lujabe, Diocese of Cape Town
Esther 7:1-6,9-10; 9: 20-22

In today’s portion of the Esther story, we read how Queen Esther being of Jewish blood herself, becomes an instrument of the deliverance of the Jewish people against whom a plot to kill had been set by Haman. Justice is served when Haman becomes a victim of his own plot of manipulation and cruelty towards the Jews of the time. The conclusion of this set text for today, depicts the vindication of Mordecai as well, who is given a place of honour following the King’s promotion. To this day, this event continues to be crucial and central to the Jewish people as evident in the annual Jewish Purim festival which commemorates this event. The reading reflects the question: how can one be a faithful Jew in a foreign environment? One answer could be to cut themselves off from the pollution of another culture and faith. But Esther argues that Jewish people should become active participants in society.

This challenges us as disciples of Christ – in our environmental activism, we need to work with those of other faiths and none. Change can only be achieved if we are willing to challenge the principalities and powers and speak truth to power as Esther did.

The book of Esther is a story of a woman whom God used to bring justice and deliverance at the heart of the political process, at great personal risk. Can we intercede for those today who are strategically placed to speak truth to power, to challenge self-interest, and to advocate for climate victims and nature herself?

We also need to recognise that we are often not the ‘Esthers’ of this story, we are often the Hamans or the King – for we are the ones whose lifestyle choices are causing the abuse of other people and eco-systems. This should cause us to lament and change our ways.

Psalm 124

This psalm forms part of the collection of Psalms known as the songs of Ascents, sung by pilgrims as they made their way to the place of worship in Jerusalem.

The psalmist acknowledges the hand of God in the deliverance of Israel – God’s own chosen race, God’s beloved – from great danger. Once again, the theme of God as a shield of life, the one who goes through great lengths to save humanity and the preciousness of life; becomes audible as a hymn of great gratitude from the pen of the psalmist.

The language of the psalm is filled with graphic descriptions, with words that display the extent to which human life was threatened in danger – the images of being ‘swallowed up alive, flood sweeping, the torrents and raging waters covering people’. Many of the descriptions picture nature raging, in storms and torrents. In these verses the reader is given a clear understanding of God’s love for people, as a crucial aspect of creation and a true expression of the relationship of grace between God and humanity.

The poetic language of nature and destruction speaks to us today, concerned about the impact of climate change, with storms, hurricanes, floods and sea level rise impacting on the poorest of the poor. We look to God to save us, but we are also called to be disciples of God and work to help to heal the Earth and avoid future catastrophic climate change.

Our hope in in the maker of heaven and earth!

James 5: 13-20

The reader of the letter of James is known for his focus on action “faith without words is dead” James 2:17, shows us that once the gospel has been received, it is to be lived out in the Christian life.

To say, ‘Is anyone among you in trouble, let them pray’, ‘Is anyone among you sick, call the elders to pray’ ‘if the rain does not fall, pray for rain’ – at first sounds like an over spiritualisation of the issues. Are we then ‘sending thoughts and prayers’ and doing nothing?

But if we understand this passage within the theology of James, we see that action is taken for granted – prayer, then is the underpinning of the clear call to action. Action undergirded by prayer is a powerful formula for change. Prayer not only connects us with God, it connects us with the community of God as we ‘call together the elders’.

We see different types of prayer modelled in this passage. We see prayers of lament for those in trouble, and also prayers of thanksgiving. We see prayers for people who are sick and also prayers for the climate. We can see how our health is dependent on the health of the Earth. We depend upon the web of life for our well-being. We need to confess our sins and commit to new ways of living in harmony with the community and with the whole of creation.

Through prayer we can connect with other believers and turn to God for strength and be restored. The theme of salvation, forgiveness and restoration are God’s ways of bringing those whom he loves back to life in its fullness (body, mind and spirit); becomes the backdrop of understanding the James text.

The healing of our bodies and souls is set in the broader context of creation. The reference to the story of Elijah’s faith in 1 Kings 17 & 18 seeks to open up for the reader that the prayer of the one who has faith prevails, even when praying for relief from a drought, the healing of the Earth. Human health and wellbeing is dependent on the health of the eco-systems that sustain us. We need to confess to the damage we have done to God’s Earth and commit to new ways of living in harmony with the community and with the whole of creation.

The writer places confession and forgiveness of sins through prayer at the centre as a way of restoring harmony between God and humanity. Prayers of lament are also an important part of discipleship and stewardship of Creation in order to bring about healing and restoration.

James highlights the importance of prayer in the life of a disciple. If you consider yourself an activist – are you praying about the Climate crisis? Are you praying for God’s mercy for people and places suffering devastating and catastrophic drought or flood, storms or erosion? We must also pray for the political processes, for COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021, and for God’s Spirit to change the hearts of world leaders, to give them compassion and embolden them to take unpopular but necessary decisions.

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (5:16b). Faith can move mountains.

Mark 9: 38-50

In the gospel passage there are two sections which make up the lesson for today’s reflection: verse 38-41, and verses 42-50.

Setting this passage in context we notice in Mark 9: 33-37 that Jesus teaches about the dangers of being swayed from the heart of service and ministry by indulgence in privilege, status and power amongst those who are his disciples. He points them to a ministry of humility, service and tolerance.

“Whoever is not against us is for us” v 40

In verse 38-41 we see that the disciples are critical of people casting out demons in Jesus’ name – because they are not professed disciples like the twelve. (Cole, 1983: 151). Jesus judges them for their attitude towards those who are doing good deeds. These deeds might be spiritual or basic physical needs like a glass of clean drinking water. In this passage Jesus forbids partisanship between the disciples and the world. There will be those working in the same area of caring for creation, providing water and relief needs, who hold different beliefs than ours. We need to be willing to work in partnership with them for justice for the poor and for creation.

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck, and they were thrown into the sea”. v 42

Mark uses strong language to warn of the danger of causing children and young people to stumble. Climate injustice is at heart intergenerational justice. We are abusing the resources of the generations to come. A recent UK survey claimed 90% of young Christians see the climate as today’s most pressing and urgent issue, and yet 90% also say their churches are not doing enough on climate change. If churches are slow to pray, speak and act on the climate emergency, this passage suggests God will judge us harshly for causing young people to stumble in their faith. Our response needs to be in lament and repentance, in prayer and fasting, and in speaking out and acting decisively.

“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off” v 43

In verse 41-50 the teaching of Jesus turns towards personal attitudes of the disciples, as he expands on his teaching about humility and charity of heart and action towards others. Once again Jesus shows great concern for righteousness of relationships between God and the people, and how by all means the task of discipleship ought to be a clear channel for making possible for people to be united with God through Christ.

Restoration and reconciliation between God, humanity and creation can be hindered by our personal attitudes. This graphic depiction of the removal of a destructive body part shows that there are very large sacrifices that need to be taken. The road ahead is not easy.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again”? v 50

Salt was used before there was refrigeration as a way of preserving meat and to stop it from going rotten. We can see that our planet is being devastated, and polluted, becoming in the words of Pope Francis- a pile of filth – can Christians become the salt that is rubbed in, to preserve and protect it. A tiny amount of salt can preserve a large piece of meat. Or have we lost our saltiness – are our lifestyles and value systems exactly the same as others?

As disciples of Christ we are called to a life of simplicity and sacrifice. We are the restoration generation!


Diakonia 2006 The Oikos Journey

Abundant Africa , Renew our World 2021

Carson, D.A; France, R. T; Motyer, J. A; Wenham, G. J (Editors). 1994. New Bible Commentary. Inter-Varsity Press: England.

Cole, R. A. 1983. The Gospel according to St. Mark: An introduction and commentary. Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester, England.

Von Rad, G. 1972. Genesis: A Commentary. SCM Press: London.

Migliore, D. L. 2004. Faith seeking understanding: An introduction to Christian Theology (Third Edition). William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, Michigan.



God, creator of the universe:
Fill us with your love for the whole of creation,
Awake in us the passion to work for your world
with passion and boldness
Lift us up on eagles’ wings, so that we may not be overwhelmed by the task ahead.
In the power of the Holy Spirit who renews the face of the Earth.

Gathering in God’s name

Call to worship

Creator God
We come before You today
With open minds and loving hearts.
We thank You for the gift of Your creation
And all You have given us
We are called to be your disciples,
Teach us how to build a world of love, justice and peace
And to be better stewards of Your creation.


Loving God,
You have invited us into relationship with You, and others.
For the times when we have turned away and broken the bonds between us.
Lord have mercy
Lord have mercy

You have given us many gifts to share with one another.
For the times when we have used them without regard for others.
Christ have mercy
Christ have mercy

You invited us to be to be Your disciples in the world.
For the times when we have rejected Your invitation and taken our own path.
Lord have mercy
Lord have mercy

Responding to the Word of God

Prayers of the People

We give thanks today for the many gifts God has given us:
for the beauty of the earth and the abundance of its creatures,
for food to nourish us and water to quench our thirst,
for the seasons that nurture us and the relationships that sustain us.
May we be good stewards of creation,
using our skills and talents for the benefit of all.
Lord in Your mercy
Hear our prayer

We remember today all those whose lives are already affected by climate change,
especially the poorest and most vulnerable throughout the world.
We pray that God be with them and suffuse them with the gift of hope
and strength to fight for a better world.
Lord in Your mercy
Hear our prayer

We pray for our churches, around the world,
that as communities of faith we may be active participants in work for climate justice.
We pray for those in positions of leadership,
that they may use their voices to speak out on behalf of those most vulnerable to climate change,
and the whole of God’s creation.
Lord in Your mercy
Hear our prayer

We pray for ourselves, that we may recognise the invitation to discipleship as a gift.
May we open ourselves to recognising the many people and places in which God works, building relationships with all who strive to protect God’s creation.
Lord in Your mercy
Hear our prayer

(Churches Together in Britain and Ireland)

Celebrating at the Table

Sharing the Peace

Peace is God’s gift, both peace with God the creator and peace with all creation. May our gesture be the expression of this gift. Let us give one another a sign of peace. The peace of the Lord be always with you


Sending Out

A prayer for COP26

Father, we pray for you to raise up a generation of leaders with the courage to take responsibility for our changing climate, and the part we have played in it. We intercede for our politicians and leaders as they will gather at COP26 in Scotland. Move them to act in the best interests of all nations today, and all peoples in the future, in order to avoid catastrophic changes. We ask You to fill the hearts of all who lead rich nations. Give them your mercy and compassion on poor countries already suffering the effects of a changing climate. Just as they have been moved to cancel debt in the past, encourage them also to release funds so that poor communities can adapt to the effects of climate change, and develop cleanly. And inspire us, Mighty God, to amend our lives for the sake of your Earth, your climate, your people.
All: Lord, in your mercy, lead our leaders and us to truth and transformation.

(Adapted from The Sanctuary Centre – climate change prayer)

We light a candle for climate justice
Spirit of God, you established the dance of Creation:
Bring life out of death, bring order out of chaos.
Call us to radical action: to care for the web of Creation
To share our resources justly and to work for the renewal of our Mother, Earth.
We light this candle as we commit ourselves to act and pray for climate justice

(Archbishop Thabo Makgoba)

by Rev Mkhuseli Lujabe, Cape Town