Third Sunday in Lent [by Rev Dave Bookless PhD]

(March 22nd: World Water Day 2022)

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Isa 55:1-9
Ex 3:1-8a,13-15
2nd Reading
1 Cor 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9
by Rev. Dave Bookless PhD, Director of Theology with A Rocha International


Taking these lectionary readings in context, their message for sustainability is not straightforward or simplistic but concerns our underlying attitudes and values, and how these are reflected in how we live as God’s people in God’s creation. The unifying theme we are taking is that of:


Text: Luke 13.5 ‘Unless you repent, you too will all perish.’ Jesus’ words are deeply uncomfortable for those of us who want to hear words of comfort or reassurance, but perhaps we need to hear them.

  • As we look at God’s creation, which he declared ‘all very good’ in Genesis 1.31, we see human sin and selfishness in the multiple ecological crises we face: climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, waste, pollution etc. (see later for examples and include some from your own context).
  • The word for ‘repent’ is ‘metanoia’, not just feeling sorry but a complete change of heart and mind leading to a change of behaviour. God is calling us to ‘metanoia’ concerning our failure to keep the first command in Scripture – to reflect God’s character in looking after God’s world (Genesis 1.26-28)
  • In each of our readings, the hearers are challenged to accept God’s invitation to metanoia – to repent and be transformed. In Isaiah 55, God’s people in exile had become too comfortable in Babylon and resisted the risky adventure of returning to Jerusalem. Like many today, they’d become addicted to working for does not satisfy (v.2), trying to fill their spiritual void with more and more things and money. In Corinth, the pursuit of pleasure and idols were drawing Christians back from their commitment to Christ, and Paul challenges them to ‘stand firm’ and rely on Jesus to resist temptation (1 Corinthians 10.12-13). In our Gospel, Jesus gives one last chance to a fig tree to be fruitful (Luke 13.6-9) – perhaps something we can apply as we hear scientists’ predictions of only a few years in which we need to change our behaviour to avoid complete climate meltdown.
  • Metanoia – being transformed in order to become an agent of God’s transformation – is a process with several steps to it as we ALTER our attitudes and behaviour:
    1. Admitting we are part of the problem – recognising our contribution to nature’s destruction.
    2. Lamenting and repenting of the mess we make of God’s creation (Romans 8.22 creation’s groaning)
    3. Turning to Christ ‘in whom all things hold together’ (Colossians 1.17) for forgiveness and to receive his refreshing and transforming Spirit (Isaiah 55.1)
    4. Examining our lifestyle, attitudes and behaviour to see where changes need to be made.
    5. Reforming / renewing our lifestyles as individuals, churches and nations to live more sustainably, and to bear good fruit (Luke 13.9) in enabling God’s creation to flourish and all people to thrive.


Old Testament reading / Psalm
  • Isaiah 55 is the climax to chapters 40-55, known as Deutero-Isaiah, probably written to Israel in exile in Babylon. The context is of people who were comfortable and settled in exile, yet God is now challenging them to give up false securities and enter into his risky promise of the great banquet.
  • The passage can be used to avoid environmental concerns, by claiming spiritual things are more important than material ones (v.2 ‘why … labour for what does not satisfy?’; also vs. 6, 9). However, the Hebrew worldview did not make this separation, and saw creation both as infused with God’s character. So, water / wine / milk / bread (vs.1-2) are good things, and God’s blessing is shown in rain, snow and growing plants (v.10) and in creation singing God’s praise as it thrives (vs.12-13).
  • 2 ‘What does not satisfy’ is putting our faith in material things as an end in themselves, forgetting they belong to God and we are dependent on God. A lesson for today’s consumerist cultures!
  • 8-9 ‘The heavens are higher than the earth’: both heavens and earth are part of God’s creation, but since sin entered the world, the heavens are separate as God’s home. In the new creation, the heavens and earth will be re-united when God will dwell among us (Revelation 21.3).
New Testament reading
  • 1 Corinthians 10.1-13 draws parallels between the temptations that faced Israel in the wilderness and those facing the young church in Corinth, surrounded by pagan religions that encouraged idolatry and sexual excess. The key message is to ‘stand firm’ (v.12) knowing God is with us and won’t let us be tempted beyond what we can endure (v.13).
  • What are today’s temptations in a world where the idols of consumerism, hedonism and economic growth are all-powerful? How have our churches compromised the Gospel by ignoring Christ’s radical teaching on serving either God or money (Matthew 6.24)? How can we stand firm against the tide to conform in our lifestyles: our attitudes to money, possessions and waste?
  • Luke 13.1-9 contains two short passages concerning the need to repent and produce good fruit. The heading in some Bibles, ‘Repent or Perish’, shows what a stark choice the Gospel provides.
  • The story of the tragedy of the Tower of Siloam is only found in Luke. It touches on theodicy: why does a good God allow innocent suffering? Jesus is clear God doesn’t send tragedies to punish people but that we should learn from them. Suffering in nature – disease, disasters – have always been there but are increasing in a world of Climate Chaos, hitting the poor and defenceless hardest.
  • Our response should be ‘metanoia’ (vs.3,5) which is more than repentance. It is a complete change of mind and attitude leading to transformed behaviour.
  • Like the fig tree (6-9) our ‘metanoia’ should result in good fruit. We can apply this not only spiritually but ecologically to our lifestyles, our churches. What is good fruit in a situation of ecological chaos?
Stories / illustrations / videos:

We need to look out for and avoid becoming, “The Genetically Modified church, where the DNA of our societies has been patched in such that the Gospel we preach is no longer biblical.” Peter Harris, President & Founder of A Rocha (

Environmental & Sustainability themes / links:

Statistics and Facts on how humanity is affecting Planet Earth:

  • 68% of wildlife populations have disappeared since 1970 (WWF Living Planet Report, 2020)
  • 6 billion people live with potential water scarcity (Swiss Sustainability Management School)
  • Plastics make up 80% of all marine debris (IUCN)
  • We are currently on track for between 2 & 5.4°C global warming by 2100 with catastrophic results (IPCC / NOAA)
  • In 2017 we lost 1 soccer pitch of forest every second (The Guardian)
  • Globally we produce 2.1 billion tonnes of waste per year, potentially growing by 70% by 2050 (World Bank)

Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)


Gathering & Penitence

Giver of Life, in the midst of a plundered earth, we groan with creation
Have mercy on us
Giver of Life, In the midst of poisoned water, we groan with creation
Have mercy on us
Giver of Life, in the midst of polluted air, we groan with creation
Have mercy on us
Giver of Life, in the midst of mountains of waste, we groan with creation
Have mercy on us
Giver of Life, in the midst of a world of war, we groan with creation
Have mercy on us
Giver of Life, we who are made in God’s image have gone astray and creation groans with us
Have mercy on us

From Worshipping Ecumenically, WCC Publications. From the ECEN website

Response to the Word
  • If suitable, the intercessions could consist of various people bringing forward symbols of our broken relationship with creation, placing these before the altar / holy table, and returning to God that which is his by creation for renewal and transformation. Items will vary in different contexts but might include: plastic-wrapped fruit & vegetables; mobile phones; car keys; battery-operated toys; weedkiller; TV or A/C remote control; tinned fish; energy bills
  • A response could include David’s words in 1 Chronicles 29.14 ‘Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.’
Holy Communion

Blessed are you, Creator God, for you spoke and all things came into being, light and dark, land and seas, beasts and birds and creeping things. Fruit trees and grain and flowers of the field.

To you be glory and praise for ever.

Blessed are you, Sustaining God, for you cause the earth to bring forth its harvests,
You provide for all your creatures, and give us gifts to cultivate and cook good food,
Meeting our needs and gladdening our hearts.

To you be glory and praise for ever.

Blessed are you, Promise-keeping God, though we turn against you, you continue to provide. When your people were in slavery, you set them free, and fed them in the wilderness with bread from heaven. You led them to a land flowing with milk and honey and taught them to live with you in the land of promise.

To you be glory and praise for ever.

Blessed are you, Redeeming God, for you have sent your Son, our living bread from heaven, to walk this earth and live our life; to sit and eat with sinners, To die for us upon the cross; bread broken, wine poured out, To rise again and lead us to the banquet where all our hungers are satisfied,

To you be glory and praise for ever.

Therefore, with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven,
we proclaim your great and glorious name, for ever praising you and saying:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,

heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Accept our praises, heavenly Father, through your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, and as we follow his example and obey his command, grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit these gifts of bread and wine may be to us his body and his blood; Who, in the same night that he was betrayed, took bread and gave you thanks; he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.

To you be glory and praise for ever.

In the same way, after supper he took the cup and gave you thanks; he gave it to them, saying: Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.

To you be glory and praise for ever.

Christ is the bread of life:

When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory. Send your Spirit on us now, that in bread and wine we may feed on Christ with opened eyes and hearts on fire.

May we and all who share this food offer ourselves to live for you

and be welcomed at the heavenly banquet where all creation worships you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

Blessing and honour and glory and power be yours for ever and ever. Amen.

Sending out

May God who established the dance of creation,
who marvelled at the lilies of the field,
who transforms chaos to order,
lead us to transform our lives and the Church
to reflect God’s glory in creation.
And may the Blessing of God Almighty …

From the Eco-congregation Module 2 Celebrating Creation

Hymns & Songs
  • Take my life and let it be
  • Christ’s is the world (a touching place)
  • Beauty for brokenness
  • God in his love for us lent us this planet
  • Over all the earth (Lord, reign in me)
  • Restore, O Lord, the honour of your name

by Rev. Dave Bookless PhD, West London