Barnabus and Jeremiah
I had somehow not anticipated how much environmentally-flavoured preaching at this time involves being a bearer of bad news. Being, proverbially, a ‘Jeremiah’.
Even in the couple of months since I began this job, the prospects for the state of the world well within most of our lifetimes have quite dramatically worsened, at least as regards public reporting of climate science consensus and of the limited success of such nations of the world as are seriously pursuing even the upper limit of the Paris Agreement
And yet at the end of a chaplain’s visit, quite diverse congregations are not emerging weeping or shaking with fear.
When I first began training for ministry, my grandmother observed that I was ‘smiling more’ and I do hope that worship is a nourishing experience as well as a serious one. One of my Bible heroes is Barnabus, the Encourager.
But I don’t think I’m seriously underplaying the situation, or being unduly jolly. And through it may be, to some extent, because few of us do not quite think through the implications, though I don’t think this is why the Eco-Congregations I have so far encountered do exhibit a certain spiritual buoyancy.
The safe space of Christian worship, at its best, is a place both for good news and bad news, for joys and sorrows. As a distinctively Christian environmental movement, we bring to the fraught and sometimes bitter environmental debates a trust in God, the experience of grace, and the remit of forgiveness, which may also involve receiving the forgiveness of our own complicity in the crisis, if only to set us free to act.
At the staff meeting today, we heard from 1 Corinthians 13, both the acknowledgement of the mystery and unpredictability of life, and of the affirming gifts of faith, hope, and love.
As a Member of the Iona Community, I like to claim that other triplet, as part of one of our most loved prayers: “Courage, faith, and cheerfulness”.
My online Advent Calendar, as a devotional project for this season of reflection has led me into some unexpected thoughts based on the Sunday readings.
Most of all, though, the importance of building up the confidence and faith of the church, to be a People of Hope, and of hospitality, come what may.