I had the privilege today of preaching at my local parish on ’Creation Sunday’. The video of the service can be found below with some powerful liturgy and poignant prayers leading us towards the Eucharistic table.
Adel, St John’s Sermon-
Let me begin with some words from an old song.
I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed days, the dark sacred nights
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
It’s true, isn't it? This world – the mountains, the rivers, the seas, the creatures, the complex and intricate web of life – is wonderful, a theatre of God's glory teeming with both life and possibility. It is beautiful and, at times, quite literally takes our breath away.
In the opening pages of Genesis, we hear the poet, in mythic metaphor, describe the creation of the world. After each unfolding day, we see God, like an artist looking at the masterpiece they have created, saying, 'it is good, it is good, it is good.'
And then, on the 7th day, God declares it is very good. The Hebrew word behind this is 'bobby dazzler'... No, but that gives the sense. God created all that is, He delights in it, it is filled with potential and possibility. And we, as humans, share in this enjoyment of this world. For this, we give thanks.”
Made in God's image, as our Psalm reminds us, human beings are called to reflect His loving kingship, journeying through history, allowing the possibility and potentiality latent within the world to unfold in ways that reflect the beauty, love, and compassion of the Creator God.
Sadly however, human beings have betrayed this calling to tend and keep; creation groans.
We have opened the door to the sin of ecological violence, and it is beginning to overwhelm us.
Instead of acting as gardeners and caretakers, human beings, at least from the time of the Industrial Revolution and on to our own modern industrial civilization, have too often plundered and pillaged the earth to support economies and lifestyles that are unsustainable and incompatible with a liveable future. The myth of progress and development which many of us have been brought up with is being replaced in the younger generation by despair,
Creation groans: global wildlife populations have plummeted by 69% on average since 1970
Creation groans: scientists agree that today's extinction rate is hundreds, or even thousands, of times higher than the natural baseline rate.
Creation groans: insects and bird populations are in serious decline.
Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy.
And so, as we move from the wow of creation, the beauty, I want us to spend a moment thinking about the 'ow,' the painful moment in history we find ourselves in, the brokenness. I want us to listen, as Pope Francis says, 'to the cry of the earth' by focusing our attention on climate breakdown.
Global temperatures are already 1.2 degrees above preindustrial levels and are wreaking havoc across the globe through floods, droughts fires and an increase in extreme weather.
Fires in Europe and North America - Creation Groans
Floods in Libya - Creation Groans
Famine in East Africa - Creation groans,
our hearts are heavy,
and our souls are sad.
However, things are set to get a whole lot worse, as we are on a trajectory to reach 2.7 degrees above preindustrial temperatures—a world of mass migration, mass starvation, and societal collapse.
In the words of the UN Secretary-General,
'We are on the highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.’
These rising temperatures are undoubtedly caused by human beings through the burning and use of fossil fuels. We turned to fossil fuels for blessings, and indeed we were blessed for many generations, but now, at the hinge of history, our addiction and dependency on fossil fuels are jeopardizing all we hold dear.
In the words of Sir David King, former chief government scientific advisor,
'What we do over the next three to four years, I believe, is going to determine the future of humanity. We are in a very, very desperate situation.’
How should we respond?
So, how should we live? I want to suggest that we need to rekindle our commitment to love.
Jesus said this: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul. And love your neighbor as yourself. There are no greater commandments than these."
Jesus is clear: our lives are to have vertical and horizontal dimensions. We are to love God AND love our neighbors.
A love for neighbors—our near neighbors, those in our cities, parishes, and communities. If the the days ahead are to be difficult then our churches would do well to be loving and resilient communities. One of the ways we can show love in a time of climate breakdown is to talk. Katherine Hayhoe, both a christian and a leading climate scientist, says that this is the most important thing we can do. Talk, chat, and share with others.
We need to talk to our friends, family, neighbours, work colleagues, and others about the climate. If we talk about it, it prevents us from slipping back into functional denial. Talk leads to action on both an individual and community level; this, in turn, influences the political and economic will of the city and nation.
A love for neighbors—our global neighbors, including our brothers and sisters who live in distant lands. A love for the poorest nations if the world who bear have contributed the least to the rise in global temperatures, but suffer the worst of the consequences. Let me spell this out, the richest 1% in the world produce twice as much emissions as the poorest 3.8 billion. Climate breakdown may indeed require us to live more simply that others may be allowed to simply live.
And perhaps, although this probably isn't what Jesus is referring to, we should include a love for future generations. Our generation stands at the hinge of history, in that if we do not embed the radical systemic changes that are necessary, then our children and grandchildren will face hardships that are barely imaginable for us.
We all know that recycling, eating less meat and flying less help to lower carbon emissions. Yet the stark reality is that this is not enough, if we are seeking to avert the worst of what may be, by showing love and compassion to future generations, we need systemic change, to avert the worst of what may be and to adapt to what is already locked in.
And Jesus practices what he preaches; he loves his Father and embodies and enacts this love time and time again.
Love looks like something; love is a verb. Love is actualized and embodied in action.
Let's dig deeper while keeping an eye on how we should live in a world of climate breakdown.
Love looks like Justice.
Cornell West said, "Justice is what love looks like in public, and tenderness is what love looks like in private."
Justice is the dream of the prophets that stirs imaginations, making a new world possible. It's the hope of Amos, looking forward to a time when "justice will roll on like a river."
Justice is also at the heart of God, as Isaiah says, "For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him."
To be a friend of God is to do justice.
In Jesus, the Word made flesh, we see justice embodied and entwined with extravagant mercy. He welcomes the weak, gathers the oppressed, and challenges the unjust structures and systems of his day.
Justice is setting the world to rights. It stands against oppression, domination, and economic exploitation. Justice stands with the poor and powerless and speaks out for those without a voice.
And so, we see in Jesus' final week that he engages in a symbolic action causing disruption. He breaks the law. He overturns tables. It is non-violent direct action, civil disobedience. In flipping the tables and driving out the money changers, Jesus quotes from the prophetic justice
passages. Jesus, the activist, is concerned about justice.
In Jesus, the Word made flesh, we see justice embodied and entwined with extravagant mercy.
In our own time of climate breakdown, standing at the hinge of history, we are called as God's servants to be the justice-shaped people of God.
As Martin Luther King put it, "A church that has lost its voice for justice is a church that has lost its relevance for the world." Or, more positively, we may say justice is in our missional DNA.
In our world of climate breakdown, the justice-shaped church looks to enact change by speaking truth to power, exposing and renouncing the beast of consumerism and capitalism that have brought us to this point. Justice looks like the church driving a spoke into the wheel of climate injustice in order to avert the worst of what may be.
Love looks like Tenderness.
Cornell West reminds us that Jesus is tender and kind toward those on the margins, the poor, and the downtrodden, to those suffering.
In a world marked by exclusion, Jesus embraced the leper, the weak, the outcast, and the marginalized. Jesus listened and loved those who did not have a voice. He was moved with compassion and in tender kindness brought hospitality and healing to those pushed to the edges.
As we move further into climate breakdown, let the church be known for its compassion, kindness, and tenderness. For those in our communities with climate grief, let us be kind and loving. As we move further into climate breakdown, the financial stresses on the most vulnerable will intensify. We will see this over the winter - those already struggling to keep afloat will be hit the hardest. Let the church, let this church, be known for tender compassion. As millions are displaced and more refugees make their way to our nation, let us be tender, kind, and compassionate.
Father of Creation, God of Compassion, You created a world of wonder, Of possibility and potential. You declared it to be good. For this, we give thanks. To you be praise, honor, and glory.
Father of Creation, God of Compassion, In this time of climate breakdown, Wake us from our slumber, Equip us afresh to be the justice-shaped people of God. Father of Creation, God of Compassion,
In this time of climate breakdown, Wake us from our slumber, Equip us afresh to our priestly and prophetic calling. That we would speak truth in a culture of denial, That we would enact hope in a culture of despair, That we would face what will be with love-filled action, That in humanity’s darkest hour you would enliven us so We would bandage the wounds of those caught beneath the wheels of climate injustice, That in humanity’s darkest hour We would have the courage to drive a spoke into the wheel of climate injustice itself. Father of Creation, God of Compassion, You created a world of wonder, Of possibility and potential. You declared it to be good. In our grief, In our mourning, We give thanks. To you be praise, honor, and glory.’