The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 4
THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
and throughout the year 2013
What does God require of us? (cf. Micah 6:6-8)
Jointly prepared and published by
The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
The Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches
Day 4 Walking as children of earth
Leviticus 25: 8-17 The land is for the common good, not personal gain
Psalm 65: 5b-13 The fruitful outpouring og God’s grace on the earth
Roman 8: 18-25 The longing of all creation for redemption
John 9: 1-11 Jesus’ healing, mud, bodies and water
If we are to walk in humility with God, we will need always to be aware of ourselves as part of creation, and recipients of God’s gifts. There is a growing recognition in today’s world that better understanding of our authentic place in creation must become a priority for us. Among Christians, especially, there is a growing awareness of the ways in which ecological concern is a part of “walking humbly with God”, the creator; for all we have is given by God in his creation, and so is not “ours” to do with as we wish. It is for this reason that from 1 September to 4 October Christians are called to observe the Time for Creation—a practice increasingly observed by many churches. In 1989 the Ecumenical Patriarch, Dimitrios I, proclaimed 1 September as a day of prayer for the environment. The Orthodox Church’s liturgical year starts on that day with a commemoration of God’s creation of the world. On 4 October, many churches from the Western traditions commemorate Francis of Assisi, the author of the “Canticle of Creation”. The beginning and closing of the Time for Creation are thus linked with the concern for creation in the Eastern and the Western traditions of Christianity, respectively.
The Christian story is one of redemption for all creation; it is creation’s own story. The belief that, in Jesus, God becomes a human person, in a particular place and time is a central belief around which all Christians gather. It is a shared belief in the Incarnation which carries with it a profound recognition of the importance of creation - of bodies, food, earth, water, and all that feeds our life as people on the planet. Jesus is fully part of this world. It may be slightly shocking to hear how Jesus heals using his spittle and the dust from the earth; but it is true to this real sense of the created world as integral to God’s bringing us to new life.
Across the world the earth is often worked by the poorest people, who frequently do not themselves share in the fruitfulness that results. At the same time it is these communities who have a particular care for the earth, as the practical wisdom of working the land is shown forth in their labours.
Care of the earth includes basic questions of how human beings are to live within creation, in ways which are more fully human for all. That the earth - its working and ownership - should so often be a source of economic inequalities, and degrading work practices is a cause for great concern and action for Christians together. The covenantal recognition of these dangers of exploitation with regard to the earth is spoken about in Leviticus’ instructions concerning the Year of Jubilee: the land and its fruits are not given to be an opportunity for “taking advantage of one another”, rather the working of the land is for the benefit of all. This is not just a “religious idea”; it is tied to very real economic and business practices concerning how the land is managed, bought and sold.
God of life, we thank you for the earth, and for those who care for it and bring forth its fruits. May the Spirit, the giver of life, help us to recognise that we are part of creation’s web of relationships. May we learn to cherish the earth and listen to creation’s groaning. May we truly walk together in the steps of Christ, bringing healing to all that wounds this earth, and ensuring a just sharing of the things that it brings forth.
God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.
- Today’s readings invite Christians into a deep unity of action in common concern for the earth. Where do we practice the spirit of the year of Jubilee in our life as Christians together?
- Where, in our Christian communities, are we complicit with things that degrade and exploit the earth? Where can we work more together in learning and teaching reverence for God’s creation?