Tread Lightly: Gospel and Climate Change
May 9, 2016 § Leave a comment
I was asked to preach a sermon on climate change a while ago. I was inspired to post it today. This is not something I would opt to do myself for a number of reasons I won’t go into here. Alas, I am happy to have thought through how the gospel speaks into climate change. I hope you find the gospel here. And as always…
May only truth be spoken, and only truth received.
There is a temptation when talking about climate change to use shock, awe, disbelief, guilt, pessimism to try to get us to change our ways. How many times have we heard, we need to get our climate change ducks in a row so our children and grandchildren don’t have to live with the consequences.
The thing is, it was this fear based motivation that got us here in the first place. Even though the past hundred plus years have seen the most incredible growth humankind had ever seen, it was never enough. Instead of a culture of plenty we ended up with a mindset of scarcity. And when we feel like things are scarce we grasp at whatever we can get our hands on. But things were not scarce, there was more money, more food, more everything than ever before. And yet we felt like if our neighbour had more we did, we not have enough. We were afraid of looking like we might not be as well off as the Jones. It was the fear of not keeping up with the Joneses that got us to where we are.
I’m sure we have all heard before that the definition is insane is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Well, I think this is where we stand with climate change. Instead of using fear of our children’s future as a kind of motivator, why not question whether we need to be motivated at all.
How about our psalm today? Psalm 85 verse 10: “Faithfulness will spring from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.” Faithfulness will spring up from the ground. This is the most heartening statements I have ever read. What does it mean that faithfulness will spring up from the ground? Well, there is the worldly way of looking at it and saying, whatever we are faithful to is what will come from the ground. There is plenty of evidence for that around us.
In preparing for this sermon, I watched a documentary about plastic… and how much of it ends up in our oceans. The documentary was scary… there is an incredible about of plastic in our oceans… I mean a truly staggering amount. I think if we looked at this we could say we are all faithful to our use of plastic. There is probably not one of us that has not used plastic in one way or another today. And so we find our evidence. We are faithful to our plastic and it is indeed springing up from the waters.
Thankfully the Bible is not a book that is about us. It is not as the popular acronyms might have it, as Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth. It is first and foremost a book about God. The psalmist knew this. And so, if the Psalms are about God and not us… what does our psalm tell us. “Faithfulness will spring up from the ground and righteousness will look down from the sky.”
If it, the bible, is about God, then it is not our faithfulness that is doing the springing up… But God’s.
It’s on God’s faithfulness that we are here today. God was faithful taking in taking His people out or Egypt. Faithful in raining down manna from heaven, faithful in fulfilling all the scriptures in the Life of Jesus, faithful in raising Him from the dead, faithful in releasing us from the Power of Sin even though it was at the cost of His Son.
We see God’s faithfulness springing up around us, all over. The battlefields of the world wars are now covered with grass, trees, and flowers. They are now a place of learning and healing. Our faithfulness on those battlefields was to death… but God’s is to Life.
That’s the point. Our faithfulness is always changing. When we learn from our mistakes our faithfulness turns from what was destructive to something life-giving, like the battlefields. When we see the atrocities we have committed for what they are, and turn from them, God will always be there to turn us back towards Godself and then remind us that He is God.
God is faithful to life and love. But more than that, God is eternally faithful to life and love. He will never get tired of cleaning up after our mess. Because it is in that cleaning up that we see the majesty and love of God that brings more and more people into relationship with Him. And that’s all God wants. There are graphics out showing there you how long it takes to breakdown different consumer products… it features plastic products that take 500 years to degrade. That is a long time… none of us will ever see the final degradation of the first piece of this featured plastic. But God, eternal, will see the last piece of this plastic degrade and whatever garbage we manage to come up with before we figure it out. Before we figure out how to be good to our planet again.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to belittle the fact that we need to take better care of our planet… not at all. I am just trying to put it into a Gospel perspective. God’s plan, is the Kingdom of God here on earth. Where everything will be the way God intended it. And we need to remind ourselves that if this is the plan of the One who created the whole universe, we can have faith that it will come to pass.
So where does that place us in this story if we can be confident that the kingdom will come indeed? Should we be doing better? Of course, but not because we have been scared into it. But because by the Power of God, it is already on its way: Believe it, or not.
We have seen time and time again that when we align our will with the Will of God good things happen. When we align ourselves and actions with the Will of God we catch glimpses of the Kingdom breaking in here and now. When the kingdom breaks in, the life and love of God become tangible even if only for a fleeting moment.
Climate change is real, its problems are real. We are blessed to be able to be the new home for thousands of Syrian refugees who are the very image of this reality and its severity. Is it something we need do something about? Absolutely. Can we afford to ignore it? Not if we claim to care about anything or anyone… not while we claim to be Christians. Christ aligned His will with the Will of God and saved the whole of creation. As Christians, followers of Christ, ones who are to be Christ-like, it is upon us to align our will with the Will of God.
That is a huge claim, and a huge weight to place on our shoulders, it’s one we have placed there ourselves. But thankfully God knows us, and knows that we will buckle under the weight of such burdens, and so He has said to us “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29
Where there is burden, there is God. Where there is God, there is a promise.
We have a huge burden in changing our ways to propely respect our planet. It is almost certainly bigger than we can fathom. But we may rest easy it also rests upon the shoulders of The Lord Almighty, and if God is for it who can be against it?