In this week’s prayer email:
- Time for Creation/Season of Creation
- Short Notes: Colombia, Syria, Welcome Summit, South African Visitors, Those Imprisoned and Tortured
Time for Creation/Season of Creation
“The beginning of human pride is to forsake the Lord; the heart has withdrawn from its Maker.” Sirach 10:12
The evil of pride – and the need for humility – are the clear themes of this week’s Revised Common Lectionary readings. In the Gospel, Jesus makes the point by using the example of a person choosing where to sit at a dinner party: those who choose the best place may find themselves demoted, while the humble are lifted up.
But in the readings from Sirach and Jeremiah, it’s not just an individual making bad decisions – it’s whole societies. Pride leads them to abandon the God who has given them so much and instead to trust in their own wealth and power. And this does not end well – for the things we choose in place of God are never actually able to save us.
“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:13
The result is not simply sorrow for individuals, but disaster for society as a whole … and indeed even for the land
“The Lord lays waste the lands of the nations, and destroys them to the foundations of the earth.” Sirach 10:16
Last year, in his encyclical Laudato Si‘, Pope Francis noted that our current ecological crisis has its roots in such a turning away from an attitude of grateful thanksgiving to the Creator of all things – a turning which places us at risk of “worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot” “The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast,” he noted, quoting his predecessor. And he added: “For this reason, the ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion.”
That conversion involves reorienting ourselves to focus on Christ. And it inherently also involves considering creation – and giving thanks for it – as a glorious gift and revelation, its intrinsically precious parts existing in harmony and revealing God’s goodness and love. The interior conversion also leads to action to protect creation, including all our fellow human beings. “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue;” the Pope noted, “it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”
To underline the importance of a way of life that is centred on God and cares for all that God has made, Christians around the world this year are joining together to observe ‘Time for Creation’ or ‘Season of Creation’ between the 1st of September and the 4th of October. The idea for such a time came first from the Orthodox Church, was taken up by many ecumenical bodies such as the World Council of Churches and (locally) Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, and has now been endorsed by Pope Francis, the Anglican Communion, and others.
We’ll be giving you resources for prayer and action each week. This week, we’re sending – in a separate email – a powerpoint from Elizabeth Perry that reminds us “The Earth is the Lord’s” Another of Elizabeth’s powerpoints is coming with a future email, as well.
You might also wish to look at:
- Season of Creation, a collaborative website from the Global Catholic Climate Movement, the ACT Alliance, the World Council of Churches, the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, Green Faith, and the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network
- The ‘Creation Time’ resources from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland
- Pray and Fast for the Climate’s prayer points for September
Please use some of the prayers – and pray that this time brings Christians around the world closer to God, each other and the earth.
On Wedneday, the Colombian government and the FARC rebels officially agreed a peace accord that could help to end the fifty-plus-year conflict that has caused harm to millions throughout the country. The accord will go to a plebiscite on the 2nd of October: if approved, it will then begin to be implemented.
The accord is not without controversy: some feel that it is too lenient in dealing with ex-guerillas; others are concerned about its stance on paramilitaries. We’ll have more on the issues and the vote later this month, but for now, please give thanks for the willingness of both sides to undertake the difficult work of negotiations – and to take risks for peace.
Prayer idea: St Francis’ Prayer “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace” is well loved in Latin America as here. Why not play this version of the hymn as you pray for Colombia, asking God that St Francis’ words become a reality for all Colombians.
Investigators from the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have submitted a report indicating use of chemical weapons by both Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and Islamic State fighters. The Syrian government forces, it said, dropped bombs containing chlorine gas on civilians, while the Islamic state fighters used sulfur mustard. The report has gone to the UN Security Council, which will discuss it on Monday.
A UN Security Council resolution passed in 2013 decided that, in the event of “any use of chemical weapons by anyone in the Syrian Arab Republic,” the Council would “impose measures under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter” Chapter VII includes a range of measures from “complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations” to armed responses, if the former interventions are deemed ineffective. Samantha Power, the US’s ambassador to the UN stated: ““it is essential that members of the Security Council come together to ensure consequences for those who have used chemical weapons in Syria” and warned that failure to act would suggest that “impunity reigns,” causing a damaging precedent. France has also called for action. Russia, however, has historically opposed anything seen as harmful to the cause of President Assad, whom it supports.
Please pray for the members of the UN Security Council as they consider their response to the report, asking God to grant them wisdom, courage, honesty and an ability to work together for the common good. Pray that whatever decisions are taken make it less likely that chemical weapons will be used in the future. And please continue to pray for all those affected by these specific attacks and the wider ongoing conflict.
- Welcome Summit and Efforts to Protect Unaccompanied Minors
On Saturday, 10th September, Citizens UK and Christian Aid will be hosting a gathering for the groups behind the Refugees Welcome movement around the country.
The Summit offers participants a chance to come together, take stock of the British response to date, celebrate what the Refugees Welcome movement has achieved, and gain the skills needed to build a more welcoming Britain. Participants will also have the opportunity to ask politicians and UN agencies to respond on key issues, including the protection of refugee children, development of community sponsorship, and building of strong communities.
Pray that the event will be a blessing to all who long to ‘welcome the stranger’, offering encouragement and skills to help people live out their vocation of hospitality.
Pray, too, that those who are working to protect unaccompanied minors, especially in Calais, may be given wisdom to discern how best to act. Pray for all child refugees, with or without accompanying adults, who are struggling with fear and anxiety after facing so much uncertainty and danger in their early lives. Ask God to heal them of trauma and to raise up a welcome that offers them hope for their future.
- South African Visitors
On 8 October, there will be an opportunity to meet with four South African women who are working to improve their community’s food, water and energy security and to prepare their area for life in a changing climate. We’re hoping that the occasion will be an inspiring one – the four have an amazing story, and we’re hoping that those who come from this area will also share what’s happening in our own communities … so that we can all learn from each other.
The event will be at Dorchester Abbey, with which the women’s project is linked (the Diocese of Oxford as a whole is linked with the South Africa Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman). If you’d like to attend the event, please email email@example.com. Please pray for the travel and preparations. And please pray that the event – and the whole of the women’s visit – may lead to greater understanding of the environmental and justice challenges we all share, and may provide new resolve and inspiration for communities here and in South Africa.
- Those Imprisoned and Tortured
Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.
Following on from this week’s reading in the letter to the Hebrews, please continue to pray for all who are suffering unjustly, especially those who are suffering because of their faith in Christ. Take a look at Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Open Doors for examples of particular people for whom our prayers are requested. Might you also pick someone from the Christian Solidarity Worldwide “Encourage” list and write to them?