Reflection: April 22 — Earth Day

Published on Apr 24th, 2018 by Rev. David Boyd | 0
Janet and I watched a PBS television program, Nova, about the factors that give us our climate; it was an episode called Decoding Our Weather Machine and aired last Wednesday.  There are four major factors that give us our climate: atmosphere, land, ocean, and ice.  They all interrelate along physics lines to give us our climate patterns and this allows meteorologists to predict our weather with some degree of accuracy—despite our love of lampooning the weather people.  It was interesting and well done.
But it also showed how all bets are off today with respect to predicting the weather as things are happening to each of these 4 major pillars of weather at a fairly rapid rate.  The atmosphere is storing Carbon causing the greenhouse effect and trapping heat; land is being deforested so that less carbon is used by fewer plants in photosynthesis; the oceans are warming adding fuel to already numerous storms; and the ice is melting at an alarming degree, adding water to the oceans and threatening coastal communities and countries.  But instead of the doom and gloom, the program presented options, possibilities and current research for mitigating climate change and even taking carbon out of the atmosphere; but it urged more concentrated action NOW. 
Researchers are developing technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere by making alternative energy in the form of wind and solar much more efficient.  One group is developing something called 
 perovskites, a material that is a highly efficient solar cell that is easier to use and manufacture than silicon—what is normally used in solar panels; these perovskites can even be applied as paint.  Amazing.  Carbon capture was featured in Saskatchewan.  Some farmers are shifting from a form of agriculture that tills everything into the ground to a form that leaves plants and detritus on the fields—leaves carbon on the fields to enrich the soil.  Tilled fields just blow away and the carbon content of soil degrades over time.  No-till farming can absorb more carbon.  High-tech, artificial trees are being developed that will absorb carbon from the atmosphere.  CBC reported on a plastic-eating enzyme that could be used.  All of these things are happening, but that doesn’t lessen the fact that we humans need to get off fossil fuels, stop making pipelines and begin fazing out the tar sands rather than expanding it.  It was a good show.
But, as the song says, “what’s love got to do with it?”  Or for us, how does any of this speak to our biblical text from John’s letter to the Church?
Well, there are a few very telling themes that emerge from John’s letter, which tie into Earth Day and how we need to respond to our planet’s crisis.  Fred Craddock outlines six:
One theme is that love must be much more than lip-service; love must be concrete and with action.  If we say we love the world in which we live, this love must have action.  If we say we love our children or other people all around the globe, why are we so reticent to take concrete, visible and big steps in stopping the use of fossil fuels?
A second related theme is that active love is the basis for Christian identity.  Loving action identifies us as “of the truth.”  Being “of the truth” is the truth of justice and community that upholds and gives life.  The truth of our Christian understanding of the world in which we live is that we are all connected and inter-related.
John has also related the concept that our lives of faith are not without dilemmas of conscience.  We are often conflicted and seek advice and counsel from others about resolving a dilemma.  This is part of what it means to be a person of faith… it is to wrestle.  And God is part of that wrestling, blessing us with intuition and wisdom to seek guidance.  We all need to wrestle with how we make our purchases and what efforts do we support.  Do we support local farmers?  Do we want to end the use of plastics and pass legislation here in Nelson to stop the use of plastic bags?  These aren’t just rhetorical questions.
A fourth theme that arises in this brief passage is that of confidence.  If we have wrestled well and come to a resolution, we can be confident in God’s place in the life of the world and in our own hearts.  This belies the stereotypic image of Christians as meek and mild.  We can take a stand for climate justice.  We can also have confidence that we can change as a human species and work together to make the world a better place for all life!
A fifth theme is that the Christian life comes down to faith and love.  We have faith through Jesus Christ in God who gives life a new dimension and who is about creating not destroying; we have faith in God who does not let death define our living.  And love, more than just an ethical requirement, is the commandment to love.  It is a recognition that love is at the core of who we are and what we do.  Love defines us as human beings and we live out of this love.  So, what is loving with respect to Earth Day?
The final theme that emerges is the mystical union with God, being in and of God.  “Those who keep these commandments live in God and God lives in them; we know that God lives in us by the Spirit given us.”  (1 John 3:24)  We’ve been reading David Steindl-Rast in the Thursday morning group, The Way of Silence: Engaging the Sacred in Daily Life.  Steindl-Rast acknowledges that life is a dance between word, silence and understanding.  Words can lead to silence and back to words that provide understanding.  Being in and of God and God being in and of us is this dance given sacred dimensions.  We need to cultivate silence in our lives in order to understand the words that are important to us and in order to understand the call to reinterpret words or move beyond the place that we currently occupy.  For Steindl-Rast, part of this dance is gratitude; as I’ve said before, he defines it as the moment our hearts capture that something awe-inspiring has occurred before our heads are able to describe it.  In that “ah-hah” moment, we find deep understanding and connection to life.  We realize that the boundaries between us and God and us and each other are so blurry as to be non-existent.
In the world in which we live, we have many neighbours, including the environment; and what does John ask of us?  To love our neighbour!  The environment is in us and we are in the environment all infused with the sacred, with God.  This is the cosmic, mystical reason why climate justice must be foremost in all we do.  If we love, we must love the earth concretely and with integrity.  We love each other, we must do so more than just with words.
This is our 21st century mystical and faithful challenge, to be loving in action and in words, and to act with confidence in celebrating new life.  We need to change our behaviours, but we can change because we love and because God is in us and we are in God.  We are mystical beings who desire to live with abundance and hope, and with love in all that we do.
That’s why I’m celebrating Earth Day today, and why we decided to have a parade.  Because we love the earth, we can make decisions that enhance all life for all.
Perhaps some of what I’ve said is summed up in Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem “Widening Circles.
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

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