[For a UK national Christian radio/video channel ]
Thank-you, for this opportunity to talk about Climate Sunday
That is the title of a lively and ongoing campaign across the brilliant spectrum of mainstream churches in the UK and also in Ireland which is a response to the the UK’s hosting of the twenty-sixth United Nations Conference dealing with the very very urgent threats to the beautiful balance of the way this planet works, which have been so clearly and forcefully brought to our attention by the honesty and integrity of science.
We use the word climate, of course, as shorthand for a whole terrifying heap of linked emergencies: extinction, the loss of habitat and of biodiversity, the accelerating rise in sea levels and in the incidence of extreme weather events. There is no point in pretending these things aren’t happening, nor can people of faith in conscience stand by [cf Ezekiel 33] and leave their friends in the dark.
If God delights in the benefits of the balance and cycles which have cradled the whole of recorded human history, [cf psalm 147 ] then surely, when our species, through unjust use of Earth’s resources, knowingly lives and act in such a way that these are destroyed and disrupted, and all that has breath [cf Psalm 150:6 ] is gasping, this has to be seen, as a minus – as disobedience to God, which calls for a change of mind and lifestyle. [Mark 1:15]
But it’s the particularity of what it means to be followers of Jesus that leads us beyond mere concerns into a life lived in abundance with love and an active and joyful concern for justice.
Christians are called to read the signs of Creation, indeed Jesus expects us to be able to. And the things that we would understand as climate are definitely included. God doesn’t just make lifeless objects: every creature is made to offer praise.
Jesus intervened as directly in the life of the wind and the waves as when he spoke to human beings whose lives were out of kilter. No surprise: God makes them both. And those who romanticise fellow creatures need to appreciate that ‘satan’ is in natural causes as well as in human malice. There are some things with which human beings, like other creatures, find themselves in opposition, and that’s something to get used to. We’ve all been germicidal maniacs over the past year.
Jesus directed our gaze to the short, hard life of the birds, showed we should learn from the trees, and led his disciples to recycle the skills and gifts of the life they had known hitherto, for the sake of Good News.
Good News, as it says at the end of Mark’s Gospel, not just for us, but for every creature.
Now as a grassroots minister, for twenty-five years I’ve seen countless special Sundays come and go. A flash in the pan, then back in the filing cabinet and back to the predictable cycle of everyday Sunday worship.
Climate Sunday -and the situation that its responding to is profoundly different. It should move us forward, and insure against slipping back. And whilst the service churches are bing invited to celebrate this year might be a one-off, it’s an opportunity for healing, for change, for growth, for mission and outreach as the church learns to come into its own as people of hope beyond hope, letting others see the good they do, that they may praise our Father in heaven.
Google Climate Sunday: you get to a page with abundant resources for praise, preaching and celebration. What you choose and how you do it will be up to you and the gifts and treasures of your own location and tradition, though there are three emphases.
First of all that worship happens. the Church with psalms must shout. No door should keep them out. Let everyone know you’re dedicating celebrating a Climate Sunday Service: praise God our Creator and sustainer: enjoy it, be encouraged. I’ve written material suitable for URC/Presbyterian or Congregational Churches, there’s material for Anglican/Episcopal and other traditions too, (including Salvation Army) as well as some brand new worship songs and links to Bible readings and suitable hymns.
Then Commit: make a holy promise to yourself, and as a church, to try out some of the very very easy stuff, like changing all your lightbulbs to low energy, turning church grounds into a haven for wildlife. and showing a welcome for God’s other creatures, reducing waste in all sorts of ways. No more single-use plastic in church events. Make sure you enjoy what you do, because then you’ll keep going, and others will join in.
Finally Speak Up: churches have very different views and relationships with our national leadership, but broadly speaking we will want to encourage and show our permission for government to give leadership in choosing a blessed direction, shouldering the costs ands spreading the load of the changes that are going to happen, for the good of the whole beautiful planet, the home we share; the church, as it were, where life gathers in such abundance and such variety to praise the God who makes us, loves us, sustains us -and calls us, by grace, into action, for his name’s sake.