URC Daily Devotion 29 April 2024

Monday 29th April 2024
 
 
Leviticus 18: 28 

 ‘otherwise the land will vomit you out for defiling it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.’

Proverbs 8: 22 – 31

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work
    the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
    before the hills, I was brought forth—
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
    or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
    when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
    when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
    so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
    then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
    rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
    and delighting in the human race.

Reflection

This is the first in a series of reflections, exploring a different take on ‘the five marks of mission’. To be clear, I find the original versions very helpful, as they represent the holistic nature of God’s mission – 1. Tell the good news, 2. Teach and nurture believers, 3. Tend to those in need, 4. Transform structures of injustice and violence, and 5. Treasure the whole of creation. But in my book Holy Anarchy, I wanted to show the importance of locating this mission, and ourselves, in the context of the insidious social and economic systems which surround us. Along with a growing body of theologians, I find it helpful to name these systems ‘Empire’, as a way of reflecting their history, the huge imbalances of power in the world, and how certain forces and assumptions continue to ‘colonise’ us, even unconsciously. This is not a new insight, but we have not been consistent in seeing it. The truth is that the mission of God has always been exercised within broader systems – from the Babylonian Empire, to the Greek, to the Roman. These systems have a bearing on the challenge and on the nature of the alternative which God invites us to pursue: the different kingdom, which is more like ‘holy anarchy’, a realm where things are turned upside-down and inside-out for the sake of shalom and justice for all creation.

At the heart of the current version about Empire, we are destroyers of ecosystems. The Earth has become ours to be used. We defile it – and there are consequences, like being vomited out. By contrast, from the very beginning, our faith tells another story, which starts with creation – and which rejoices in the inhabited world. It is only in that context that God delights in humanity. This is why I invert the five marks, beginning with the broadest web of connections which we are damaging. In Paul’s terms, creation groans in labour pains. Our first mission task, then, is not to focus on us, but listen to Earth. Hear the groans of creation, the vomiting which is Nature’s reaction to our exploitative systems. The first task is to be attentive. How can we respond to these groans?

Prayer

God of all creation,
teach us to pray
so we do not only pray for creation
but learn to listen to it –
the roaring seas and melting ice,
the burning forests and flooded deltas,
the last cries of extinct species
and the broken webs of connection;
teach us to hear its groans,
to know what we are doing,
to lament and to change,
for we are only tenants
and the Earth is yours.
Amen.

Today’s writer

The Revd Dr Graham Adams is a minister of the Congregational Federation and tutor at Northern College in Manchester

 

Copyright

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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