If my role were one which involved authority or discipline, then it might be easy, but maybe it is all the better that I can do no more than appeal, and attempt to convince….
….That the green of our love for the Earth remains in view alongside the penitential purple of Lent.
Ultimately, though, it is not the Chaplain, but the Christian Calendar which issues this challenge:
The Church in its many forms is about to enter a season, variously observed- and sometimes pointedly ignored, – which leads us towards the defining story of Christianity: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Word Made Flesh, who commissioned the Church to be bearers of Good News to Every Creature
Liturgies, hymns, and ways of worship have been cherished and refined throughout the ages, safeguarded against dilution from trivial and transitory issues. Local custom can be at least as rigid as the conscientiousness of an official denominational committee.
The plight of Creation is not such a triviality, to be put on one side whilst we get on with the proper business of being church, but rather, a concern, to take account of which, will deepen and enrich the whole of our faith.
Thus, what I feel compelled to raise, is whether the Easter Message has been hedged around in something of a ring of steel (or perhaps an impenetrable crown of thorns ) comparable to that we will encounter in the COP meeting in Glasgow later this year.?
Close to 500 congregations have made the commitment involved in taking on the identity of an Eco Congregation. How many of these will set that aside as we begin to observe Lent, and move on to Easter?
In the coming weeks we will welcome Jesus with branches, and see him nailed to the Tree, received gently by the Earth, and re-establish contact with his community though a meeting in a garden. The greenery of the story is in plain sight, but will we see it?
Thus it’s an encouragement that Pope Francis, in his Lenten message lists environmental devastation amongst the ‘satanic’ challenges we face . Sometimes we have let such language become emptied of its meaning.
But the denialism which Jesus himself faces up in the temptations, the twisting of truth that all will be well if we trust greed and power and step off the precipice, is insidiously present in our church and national life.
Does anyone expect the message of ‘Satan’ to be obvious? It would be of no danger if so.
If you make something of Lent, you might ponder these questions:
- Do I, or does my church, evade the implications even of the scientific consensus on the Environmental Emergency which we actually believe we accept? Are we always looking for someone else to make the first move?
- Do we insist on perfection, and on ‘solutions’ in the responses to the emergency? Even sustainable energy has an impact, though that may not be sufficient reason not to give things a try.
- If we could make a leap, rather than a step, in our practical response (e.g. from coal/oil to heat-pump, rather than to the temporary and intermediate step of fossil-fuel gas), would we be prepared to do so?
- Is the fate of the world allowed to remain a merely mystical matter in the prayer and worship of my church, or is a clear connection made ?
- Will our message throughout and beyond Easter be one which celebrates a ‘saved’ world, or one which rejoices in the continuing solidarity of Christ in the struggles ahead? Is there a difference ?
- If I’m ‘doing something for Lent’ will this build up my hope and resilience, and ability to face the truth that climate science works hard to uncover? Is there anything more valuable that it might achieve than this?
- If I’m doing something good/worthwhile, as an exceptional Lenten discipline, will I also have the courage to shout about it and make it visible, even at the risk of being thought immodest. Is the risk not just as great that folk will miss out on the encouragement? (Matthew 5:16) let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Quoting Pope Francis:
“Christ’s wounds are also represented in “environmental disasters, the unequal distribution of the earth’s goods, human trafficking in all its forms, and the unbridled thirst for profit, which is a form of idolatry,”