It’s a Global Message

John 21:1-9 by Rev. Diane Bennekamper

Green Sunday Climate Change 4-21-13

It was much more than a decade ago when I first heard the Massachusetts UCC Conference Minister, Jim Antal, say, “if you aren’t preaching about global warming once a month, in not too many years, you’ll be preaching about it every week!”

It hasn’t quite come to that, but no one ought to diminish the rightful concern for the environment – for the natural world – that has long been an interest within our denomination.

UCC General Synod actions have expressed concern for God’s creation and called for responsible stewardship as long ago as 1975 with the resolution “A Perspective on Christian Life Style and Ecology,”; >followed in 1989 with the resolution on the “Integrity of Creation, Justice and Peace…”; a specific resolution on “Global Warming,” in 1999; and “A Resolution on Climate Change,” in 2007 calling on all of us to urge our governmental leaders ‘to respond to global warming with great urgency and firm leadership by sponsoring mandatory measures that reduce the absolute amount of greenhouse gas emissions…’ and to take further steps to create a more sustainable infrastructure.”

Clearly, we have been an environmentally aware and pro-active church for decades.

What is our motivation?  No, this isn’t some left-wing, left-over hippie idea.

It is …“Scripture [that] compels us to act on our faith grounded in wonder, reverence, love, and respect for all of God’s creation. For plants and animals, global warming means that many will be unable to adjust to the changing climate and will become extinct, thus reducing the diversity and beauty of God’s great earth. The impact on human life is equally severe. Our changing climate will impact our poorest and most vulnerable brothers and sisters the hardest. Many will lose their homes, crops, and livelihoods to increasingly volatile weather and rising seas.”

This is not just our issue – it is a global one.  Did you see the Editorial Board article in the New York Times yesterday… it was quite stunning, and was made all the more real by the film we showed here last night – Chasing Ice.

The New York Times related that:

“The central Arctic Ocean has been covered in ice for eons, but under the influence of global warming, nearly half of it is now open water for part of the year. Commercial fishing has not yet begun there, but the urge to begin fishing is almost overwhelming.

The waters of the central Arctic, an area the size of the Mediterranean, hold the last untouched fishing stocks on this planet. At present, they also lie beyond the boundaries of settled international law — more than a million square miles outside the reach of the exclusive economic zones that protect the national waters of the five countries with coastlines on the Arctic: the United States, Russia, Canada, Denmark and Norway.

What ice once protected, it is now up to humans to protect. Beginning later this month, the ice nations will discuss an international accord that would impose a moratorium on commercial fishing until scientists have had a chance to study the fish populations and underwater environment. Eventually, these waters would be opened for carefully managed fishing…

In a curious way, the year-round Arctic ice, which has persisted for some 100,000 years, has made international agreements covering the use of these waters by Arctic nations unnecessary. If an Arctic fishing accord is reached… it will be only the third such agreement; the first two regulated search-and-rescue operations and responses to oil spills as new drilling areas and shipping lanes opened up in coastal waters. No matter how severe, how austere, the Arctic may seem in our imaginations, it is almost unbelievably fragile, as are many of the species newly exposed under what is now open water. It is time, now, to intercede and protect this environmental oasis.”

This is one small example of how the environmental issues we face have international interest and impact  –  an impact to be felt far more by the baby we baptized this morning or by the children we have just sent off to church school and their counterparts world-wide.

That is, perhaps, one reason why one of our own, Maggie Sloan, wishes to share a message with us from her studies in Scotland.

Maggie’s message is, at its heart, a religious one, as she expresses her concern for those beyond herself who will suffer if we do not make changes in the way we live that have such a cumulative, devastatingly destructive effect on our environment.

Not only is a response to climate change an international issue; it is an interfaith issue, as well.

Last night in the panel that followed the movie, we heard from:

Karl Schatz, who talked about the directive in Judaism: Tikkun Olam – Repair the World (both help each other through charitable works and take care of the earth and its creatures).  He considered and asked us to consider the question, “Does your faith  lead you to causes or do your causes make you feel drawn to faith?

The Schatz’ family’s farming, self-sustaining lifestyle has increased opportunities to connect with and brought more meaning to their faith – connecting to the earth, recalling the agricultural festivals (Sukkot during the harvest and Passover in the spring).   He described Hazon which is the premier Jewish environmental organization.   Hazon means vision.

A member of the Baha’i faith, Parivash talked about the shared responsibility we have for the environment.  We’re all interconnected.  The environment and nature is a sign of God – a gift.  Education brings transformation of the human heart.  She described instilling these lessons in her children from young ages – taking time to clean up the trash left by others around Lake Auburn (near their home) for the last 20 years, to raise awareness and inspire action.  Nasser, her husband, said that their religion and science go hand in hand.  We may come to mentally understand something through science, but it is the heart that commands the mind to take action.

It is part of Judaism, Christianity, Baha’i, virtually all religions to be good stewards of the earth.  We’re all members of the human race.

Drawing on the reflections of Laurel K. Taylor of Eden Seminary, with regard to today’s gospel text, let me ask:

“How is God made known in your life? Within the world of the Bible, the Creator communicates through creation. Remembering the ongoing theme of revelation through creation, it is easier to see that idea in today’s Gospel lesson from the book of John.  In this narrative, we see the familiar post-resurrection theme in which the disciples do not recognize Jesus. When he tells the disciples to cast their net on the right side in 21:6, they do not yet know who he is.

His words and actions do not reveal his identity as the breaking and blessing of bread did in Luke’s gospel. Rather, the fish, by filling the net in uncountable numbers, reveal Christ’s presence to the disciples. Only then do they recognize him…

The relationship between Jesus and nature that we see exhibited in John 21 highlights the significance of Jesus’ [repeated] command [in verses 15-17] to “feed my lambs.”

It is important enough to ask three times, “Do you love me,” and upon receiving an affirmative response insist upon care for those Christ cares for. They are “lambs,” animals who are both a part of and as vulnerable as creation itself.

We know that many people among us are vulnerable, but the natural metaphor, immediately following the revelation of the resurrected Christ through nature, serves as a reminder that all creation is vulnerable and in need of our care… This text communicates that Jesus continues the longstanding biblical tradition of a close divine relationship with creation. It acts, too, as a powerful reminder that we are but one element of God’s created world, and as invitations to enter into relationship with God and with the resurrected Christ through our care for the natural world. If we wish to serve God, we must feed the lambs among us. We must serve one another…”

Let me close with these thoughts from Wendell Berry, 21st century poet and environmentalist:
“To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration. In such desecration we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness, and others to want…

To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.”

May we strive to treat God’s creation sacramentally.

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