Thursday, October 25, 2018

EmmDev 2018-10-25 [Wherever I am...] God cares about the Land.

Week 4: Dimensions of Mission

God cares about the Land.

God's mission is cosmic, starting with creation (Gen 1 & 2) and concluding with everything made new (Rev 21:5). Paul implies that salvation and our adoption are intertwined with that of creation (Ro 8:22-23).

While God's mission is cosmic in reach and impact, it's local and contextual in implementation, starting by transforming individual lives. It's a ministry of presence with deep listening to people's needs, pains, joys and frustrations in daily life. Land is a crucial aspect of life, providing a means of accommodation, food and work, as well as belonging and identity. Land is integral to creation; so it features in both the cosmic and local dimensions of God's mission. God says, "The land is mine." (Lev 25:23).

Land is an emotive issue in our current economic and political climate. Many Christians have mixed feelings, acknowledging past injustices while suffering anxiety about land redistribution. We must ensure productivity for ongoing sustainability and food security, as well as ecological justice for future generations. So how does the land feature in our faith and spirituality?

Stewardship, covenant, justice, salvation, and the sacraments all relate to the land. Deut 11:12 says God cares for the land. Lev 25:1-7 talks about a sabbatical for the land to rest from cultivation. Lev 25:8-55 specifies a Jubilee for land redistribution. Isa 5:8 warns against accumulation of land; Jer 2:7 condemns defiling the land; Mic 2:1-2 condemns coveting and seizing the land, defrauding people of their homes and inheritance. Mark 16:15 records Jesus telling his disciples to "preach the gospel to all creation" and 2 Cor 5:17 says, in Christ "the new creation has come."

The central tenets of our Christian faith mentioned above are inextricably linked to the land. God's first calling to humankind was to care for creation, including the land. When he established his covenant with Abraham, he promised land and descendants. Both the sabbatical and Jubilee years relate to land. The sacramental elements of water, bread and wine are products of the land. And salvation is extended to all creation, groaning as in the pangs of childbirth as we wait to be acclaimed as God's adopted sons/daughters.

Can there be any doubt that we're called to care about the land as God does, to exercise responsible stewardship, and to respect the land as an integral part of our divine inheritance? Land is crucial to God's cosmic mission in our local context. How does land feature in your lifestyle and Christian calling?

But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.      (Deuteronomy11:11-12)

Glynis Goyns is a minister serving at St Francis, Waterkloof. She represented the UPCSA on the Board of SAFCEI, a faith-based environment NGO from 2005 to 2018 and is deeply committed to ecological justice.

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