Saved and Saving

Many years ago, when I was in ministry just across the harbour in the north end of Halifax, I was invited to the groundbreaking ceremony of the L’Arche Community that was being built just a couple of blocks from United Memorial, the church I was serving. 

For those of you who may not be familiar with L’Arche, L’Arche creates communities of friendship and belonging. In L’Arche, people with and without intellectual disabilities live, work, learn, and grow together. L’Arche demonstrates that when persons with intellectual disabilities take their place at the table, they contribute to a more just, compassionate, and vibrant world for all. (https://www.larche.ca/en/inclusion-and-belonging)

Part of the ceremony was a blessing by a Mi’ Kmaq elder who said in part something about everything coming from Mother Earth… the cement and the electrical… the plumbing and the insulation… My western educated brain got hooked by that statement… sure, I could understand that what we ate, drank and were clothed with came from the earth, but plumbing?  The ceremony concluded and I went on with my day, week, but the elders statement lingered. I don’t know how long after that ceremony it was that the light dawned on me, “Of course EVERYTHING came from the earth! There is NOWHERE else for it to come from!” EVERYTHING we create, is created from something that is already here.

Dr. Marcia McFee, the creator of the Holy Vessels series, wrote this, “This week we turn our attention to the cosmos, to our place within the whole of creation. This week we are reminded of the magnificence and raw power of the reign of God. The God who heals through a gentle touch is also a God who rebukes wind and waves. The story also reminds us that the work of following Jesus is costly. Let’s listen as the story unfolds in Matthew 8: 18-27

Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. A scribe then approached and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

Remember that literalism is the enemy to deeper understanding… that gospel is a very particular genre of writing, it’s the reflections of the early Christians on the life of Jesus.

Matthew is written about 85 years after Jesus’ death, so not exactly an eyewitness! Which doesn’t mean there isn’t truth and power in the stories, it simply means that we may have to look below the surface of some of the stories and that they may mean different things to different people and different things to us at different times.

The ‘storm’ that has dominated our collective consciousness this past year is Covid19, but it’s a storm that has different impacts depending on a variety of factors, including your living circumstances, your income, your employment, in fact, just about every facet of life. As Damian Barr tweeted last year, “We are not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm. Some are on super-yachts. Some have just the one oar.”

The other storm is climate change.They are connected.

Experts have seen that “climate change, globalization and land use changes such as urbanization and deforestation can contribute to the emergence and transmission of diseases” (Katie Clow, One Health professor at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph).

There is a lot of evidence showing that climate change and deforestation are making the transmission of zoonotic disease and pathogens easier in our steadily growing human population. Moreover, a new study shows that there are more deaths due to COVID-19 in areas where the pollution is high. In short, our environmental issues contributed greatly to the dilemma that we are facing today. It’s why talking about changing our lifestyles to help our environment recover is as relevant as ever before.

In today’s reading, Jesus and the disciples are in a boat and … and in going to the other side, they are going out of Jewish territory. The Sea of Galilee is liminal space, a place of transition, where in following Jesus, they will encounter homelessness, fear, stress and storms. What would Jesus have to say about the climate change storm? How would he ‘rebuke’ the winds and the sea? First of all, let’s remember that we are in the boat with Jesus. Let’s also remember that there is a cost to following Jesus. What steps are we willing to take alongside Jesus to still the storm of climate change?

Greta Thunberg said this, “We can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow,” she says, “That is all we are saying.”

Do you know what Earth Overshoot Day is? I didn’t, until I began doing some research for today’s sermon.

Ecological overshoot occurs when humanity’s demand on nature exceeds what ecosystems can supply. In other words, when we use more natural resources than the biosphere can regenerate. Earth Overshoot Day is the day of the year when we have used up one year’s supply of “nature”. In 2019 “Earth Overshoot Day” was July 29 meaning that from this day humanity lives beyond the ecological capacity of planet earth. In 2020, it was actually a little bit later, in August, due to the shutdown of so many things. Every year the day arrives a little earlier… In 2012 the day was August 22, in 2009 it was September 25. In 1970, Earth Overshoot Day was December 29th, that was the last year when humanity (almost) lived within Earth’s capacity. If Earth’s history is compared to a calendar year, modern humans have been around for 37 minutes and managed to use up one third of Earth’s natural resources in the last 0.2 seconds. (https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/planet-earth/state-of-the-planet/overuse-of-resources-on-earth/story)

Did any of you do the Footprint Calculator that was included in Thursday Thoughts this week? If you did, were you shocked at how many earths it takes to support your lifestyle?  If you didn’t, I encourage you to do so.

At this point, you might be tempted to throw up your hands in despair and give us. That the storm is just too big for us. That we are few and the problem is huge. Margaret Mead once said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

And Jesus says, I will be with you…

The line ‘to live with respect in creation’ was added to The New Creed in 1994.

Often, when faced with something as vast as climate change, it may seem like we can’t do anything to counteract it, but that’s not true.

I offer this list, entitled 10 simple things to do now to help save the planet: https://livelearn.ca/article/living-in-manitoba/10-simple-things-to-do-now-to-help-save-the-planet/1.   

  1. Conserve water
  2. Conserve energy
  3. Eat sustainably
  4. Plant Trees
  5. Recycle
  6. Carpool/Use public transit/Bike or Walk
  7. Give up plastics
  8. Volunteer
  9. Buy second hand/buy local
  10. Educate yourself and others

Those are all very practical ways to combat climate change, they are also made through a certain middle-class lens, however, most of us here are middle class. I wonder how many we could commit to.

But there is also a spiritual dimension to climate change.  

I subscribe to Geez Magazine, a magazine about social justice, art, and activism for people at the fringes of faith in both Canada and the US. The Fall 2019 issue focused on climate issues and one of the articles was about a group called EcoFaith Recovery.

EcoFaith Recovery was founded when Robyn Hartwig gathered a group of friends and colleagues together. She says, “Many of us found that we were not spiritually grounded and that our current faith practices were not sufficiently rooting us to weather the storms (ecological, economic, social, political, and spiritual) of climate change and cultural and ecological degradation. So we often felt overwhelmed by the incessant bad news, finding ourselves either compulsively acting to fix the problem or “checking out” emotionally. Many of us sought ways to get involved in actions or efforts of our congregations and local organizations, but often left these experiences and meetings feeling more isolated than when we came. And many of us found ourselves exhausted and burned out by the endless needs and urgent pleas of our “good causes.”

As they met over a period of five years, they asked questions of themselves:

“What exactly are we doing that helps us recover our sanity? That breaks us out of isolation? That grounds us spiritually? That empowers us to choose engagement rather than disengagement?”

Simple practices emerged immediately – practices many of us had learned from a variety of sources, our faith traditions and community organizing primary among them. But when we began to consciously engage these practices, they deepened profoundly and became The Practices for Awakening Leadership. Today these seven practices shape and ground us as we grow and mature in the personal, interpersonal, community, and public dimensions of our lives.

ACCESS Spiritual Power.
Recognizing the magnitude of the crisis and its unmanageability, as well as our own God-given power and place within God’s evolving universe, we access spiritual power when we come together and as a way of life.

DEVELOP Relationships.
Recognizing the interconnectedness of all life and the power-among that arises when we engage in mutual vulnerability and authentic relationship, we resist isolation by intentionally developing relationships with others, prioritizing relationships with the land, creatures, and people whose life experience is vastly different from our own.

DISCOVER Our Stories.
Recognizing the power of knowing our own life stories and how we have been shaped by land, history, economy, culture, and other forces, we seek to discover our own stories and invite the stories of others, particularly those whose stories have been silenced.

In the process of story sharing, we discover the power of God at work connecting our stories to write a new story of collective liberation and transformation.

MENTOR One Another.
Recognizing that our skills and perspectives are both unique and limited, we intentionally seek out and offer mentoring to one another, drawing out one another’s giftedness while offering our own best gifts for the mutual development of ourselves as leaders.

ACT Together.
Recognizing the important yet limited nature of individual actions, and recognizing that issues that affect us collectively must be addressed collectively, we intentionally engage in collective action.

REFLECT On Our Actions.
Recognizing that our mutual learning, growth, and maturation depends on our ability to engage in honest conversations about our individual and collective leadership, power dynamics, and the impact of our actions on others and on systems, we prioritize regular individual and collective reflection.

RESTORE Balance.
Recognizing the deadly and deadening effects of addictive patterns on personal, communal, and global levels, we support one another in restorative and life-giving practices even, and especially, as we participate in the unrelenting work of restoring justice and balance to social, economic, and ecological systems.

This is how we:

  • recover our true vocation as people of faith and citizens of Earth;
  • recover our sanity in the midst of an addictive culture and economy;
  • recover a right-relationship with all of creation, including human and non-human communities;
  • recover the courage to rise up with the most vulnerable and oppressed in the face of systems that escalate injustice and climate chaos; and
  • recover our prophetic imagination for the flourishing of an earth-honouring and life-honouring faith, economy, and culture.
  • We are EcoFaith Recovery, and we are recovering.

https://geezmagazine.org/magazine/article/ecofaith-recovery

There is a cost to following Jesus. We leave behind familiar shores and enter unknown territory. We leave behind things we have been taught in order to learn new ways of being.  We lean into the brokenness that calls healing, renewal, and restoration. We work toward recovery of ourselves and our communities AND our environment because we know that our healing is intertwined and interdependent. We do it accompanied by Jesus, who is always with us.

Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity, amen.

Matthew 8: 18-27
Lent 5 – Restoration
March 20, 2021 – SMUC

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