We live in a complex world these days. That’s a truism that hardly needs stating. A part of the complexity is that our language is changing. Like many, I’ve become a fan of the Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, who landed safely in New York after a 2-week journey across the sea. She has talked pointedly and openly about the fact that we are in a climate crisis, an emergency. She uses dramatic language to make clear her generation’s feelings about what’s happening to the earth.
The language around climate has changed a lot over the years. We started talking about environmentalism or the environmental movement; then it became climate change, then global warming, then climate disruption; some in the environmental movement began focusing on weather changes 50 years ago and a few years ago some groups began using the term “climate justice” to call attention to the unjust ways we humans have abused nature. Language has changed to challenge the lack of progress in political will to make substantive changes to keep our average temperature at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius across the globe. Now, the language that is used is emergency or crisis. And just because we didn’t have wildfires this year and smoke around Nelson, that doesn’t mean that our average temperatures aren’t warming significantly. Language changes to mark the increasing interest and concern of society, but also to push to make changes.
Language has changed a great deal with regard to human sexuality also. There is some consensus, although not complete, about the acronym LGBTQI2S. It stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Questioning, Intersex, and 2-Spirited. Other acronyms include an “A” in reference to Asexual and plus to refer to other expressions of gender. And there is different language usage within different expressions of human gender identity. Some trans folk use the pronouns they and them to refer to a single person. There is the expression of cis-male and cis-female, non-binary male, and so on. I’m learning just like everyone else and it is challenging to be intentional around language. And lest we just dismiss all of this as political correctness, justice is never about doing what is politically expedient; it is all about what it means to be human and part of the human family.
In thinking today about Kootenay Pride weekend, I was reminded of The Affirming Ministry Handbook. There’s some good information there and the introduction talks about human sexuality, about inclusion and welcome, but also about our common quest for justice around a whole host of issues that affect us as human beings. For example, the handbook makes the connection between ending prejudice and the imbalance of power, climate change, gender equality, racism. The climate emergency is forcing people to move, which has an impact on people living in poverty, race relations, discrimination against women or people of different religions. I heard on the radio about a gay couple in Jamaica, married, who are being sponsored as refugees by a group in Rossland. People who identify other than cis-male or cis-female are persecuted in many places around the world, and as fears rise about the climate emergency, those persecutions get more and more acute.
Today, we read about Jesus eating with Pharisees in Luke’s Gospel. It’s a story about the mission of God’s KinDom for the world, that balance can go off and those in power or those privileged by wealth and status can become presumptuous in who they want to associate with. It’s a sobering story about inclusion and pushing the boundaries of what it means to be part of the human condition.
As a Church, we affirm that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us—dwells among us, still—and we behold that grace and truth. In fact, we are called to live in that grace and truth. Our relationships with one another in the church, but also in this global world, need to reflect that grace and truth. Our human community is based on grace and truth.
Church leaders talk about forming community around 4 key ingredients that are rooted in grace, truth and love. The first is having a shared purpose; we have that in our purpose statement, “We dare to follow the Way of Jesus, embodying the Love of God.” A healthy community supports the taking of risks in trying something new, in using new language, in being vulnerable and open; and we do all of this while grounded in prayer. The third mark of a healthy community is expressing gratitude and living from a place of deep thankfulness. We are grateful for each other; that’s what Jesus was driving at in his story about feasts and expectations—it’s all about being grateful for all people. And lastly, a healthy community is all about hospitality. As Jesus reminded us, health and hospitality go hand-in-hand. If you are ostracized from the community, your health will suffer, persecution of you will increase, and life deteriorates. But when we are truly welcomed into community, when there is a true and deep sense of belonging, people experience greater health and wellbeing.
This is the gospel that Jesus preached, having a deep and shared purpose, taking risks in terms of justice and inclusion, living from a deep sense of gratitude, and cultivating open hospitality that welcomes and enhances our wellbeing and the wellbeing of the planet.
That’s what today’s Kootenay Pride is about; that’s what today’s world day of prayer for the care of the environment is about—kicking off the Season of Creation. We can live and grow in community together. We can live out Jesus’ call to hospitality and love. We can honour our differences and value one another. We can do these things because God’s love is planted deep within us and there is nothing that we can not do. Amen.