Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC)

Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

Lectionary Reflection Year C, Proper 12, Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture)

Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Lesson: Genesis 18:20-33

The LORD said to Abraham, "How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know."

So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the LORD. Then Abraham came near and said, "Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" And the LORD said, "If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake." Abraham answered, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?" And he said, "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there." Again he spoke to him, "Suppose forty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of forty I will not do it." Then he said, "Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there." He answered, "I will not do it, if I find thirty there." He said, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it." Then he said, "Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there." He answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it." And the LORD went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.

NRSV Copyright
Reflection on Genesis 18:20-33 by the Rev Wanda Copeland

The background for the recounting of this interaction between Abraham and the Lord actually begins at v.16. The Lord is wondering aloud if Abraham should be informed about what is going to happen to Sodom. The Lord plans to destroy the inhabitants and town of Sodom for their moral depravity (which continues into Chapter 19). This is a first in our Scriptures. These people are the first to be removed from the land on which they dwell because of their moral character. Place is so significant for any people. Where we live and move and have our being, substantially impacts who we are and how we function in the world. It shapes how we see ourselves, others and our world view. "Environment" doesn't just mean how many siblings we have or whether both our parents worked outside the home. It also encompasses whether we live on a lake, in the mountains, or in the inner city. So also, we have a very real impact on our environment. This story boldly states that what we say and do does matter. Abraham asks will the city be destroyed if there are only fifty righteous people in the entire town. Yes, even if there are only fifty people doing the work of God, desiring and striving to live according to God's commands, God will spare all the others. Abraham continues to ask until the Lord acknowledges that if only ten faithful people can be found, the city will be spared. When we are tempted to believe that we can't make a difference, this conversation between Abraham and the Lord reminds us that we have to be persistent, faithful and let our light shine. We can make a difference in our world, even in the seemingly insignificant things we do. So, stop to pick up that trash on your walk, use less water at home, carpool. It does matter!

Copyright Statement

To Reflections on other Readings for this Sunday:
Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Genesis 18:20-33
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Psalm 138
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New Testament 2 Colossians 2: 6-15
Gospel Luke 11:1-13
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Additional Reflections:
Last Sunday's Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Lesson
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Next Sunday's
Old Testament( Hebrew Scripture) Lesson
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Wanda Copeland is the rector of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Elk River, MN. Wanda was the second co-chair of the Commission (1996-2001) and Chair of the Episcopal Ecological Network (2001-2004)She originally wrote this reflection in 1998. She and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to Wanda, our Webverger or any other MEESC member, or mail them to:
MEESC Holy Trinity Church Box 65 Elk River, MN 55330-0065 USA

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