Today is the final of our four Creation Time services and I want us to think about what we are called to do as part of our faith and how we can practically live that out as individuals, as a church and as a community.
Our readings today all relate to God’s call on people.
Exodus continues the story of Moses which we’ve been hearing for the last few weeks. Today we hear the Lord tell Moses to do as he is commanded, to perform a miracle making a snake from a staff; and Moses does as he was told. Then the Psalm recounts others of Moses’ miracles and how he followed God’s instructions to lead the people safely out of Egypt.
Our gospel reading is the powerful account of Jesus’ authority being questioned by the chief priests in the temple; and impressively he manages to keep his calm. The priests had heard Jesus’ teaching “By what authority are you doing these things?” “And who gave you this authority?” Of course Jesus answered in a parable, telling the temple elders that he and they, and we as readers of this parable, are all called to follow God. It was a slightly more nuanced “will you just get on with it!” or in my words “seriously, isn’t it obvious?”
So what does this have to tell us in this season of creationtide?
Well it’s that “seriously!” which jumped out at me. It’s a phrase I can be heard shouting at the TV when I think about the actions that nations and large companies aren’t taking to reduce the impacts we are making on the environment.
Businesses and Governments fly executives and politicians around the world for meetings which could happen online; Seriously?
Banks won’t move your investments from fossil fuels to renewable energy; Seriously?
Companies are still burning the Amazon forest for farming, this was an issue when I was at school; Seriously?
The news reports barely cover the fires burning in the arctic or the melting of the thwaites glacier; Seriously?
Politicians downplay fires on the west coast of the USA as being about forest management rather than climate change; Seriously?
Wealthy nations, including the UK, hesitate to transfer their share of finance and technology to poor and climate-vulnerable countries; Seriously?
The list goes on and on and on; Seriously?
In Jesus’ parable these actions fit firmly into the actions described in verse 30 ““Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing (“will you work in the vineyard”). He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
Seriously? You said you would, but you didn’t!
That sounds a lot like all the times we hear leaders make promises to change their ways, to improve their impact on the planet, to make a fairer world and to put their money where their mouths are. But very little happens, just more words. Talking the talk is often an effective way of avoiding walking the walk.
And I will happily hold my hands up and say that I am just as guilty of that. I find it hard to know what I can do to reduce my negative impact on the planet and hard even to do those things I know I should. I struggle to turn the heating down because we’re not used to wearing jumpers inside; I struggle to buy products without plastic packaging because it isn’t as convenient; I struggle to restrict our travel because we enjoy visiting new countries.
But something has made it easier; and that was the enforced lockdown due to Covid 19. One of the few benefits of the lockdown was how much more aware I became of the natural world around and our impact on the environment.
I became so much more thankful for our garden and the blessings of the animals and plants which we had time to stop and admire. I became more thankful for being able to sit in the garden and hear nothing but birds and people in their gardens; no planes, no cars, none of the background noise which we are used to. As a family we have been amazed by how much less stuff we need in our lives. We were never big consumers anyway but being in lockdown has made us more aware of how we can plan our meals to avoid waste and how to consider what we actually need to buy; it is surprisingly little.
I remember speaking to Mike in May about how this could actually see society change for the better; that everyone would notice what really matters and focus on improving the world for the better. I really thought that as a society we would learn from the lockdown and emerge from it wanting to buy less, care more, and reduce our unnecessary travel. I had such hope.
Sadly the leaders of our nation seem intent to take us back to the consumer culture we had before lockdown, rather than imagine a brave new world. But as Christians we are led by a different leader, we are led by God’s instruction to us to care for the whole of creation; it’s right there in Genesis "The Lord God took the man (and woman) and put them in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." (Genesis 2:15).
So what should we be doing to take care of creation?
I think we should take our lead from the young people who are taking the issues seriously; who are refusing to accept the status quo and demanding change. We need to be aware that our actions, or lack of actions, affects the weakest in the world and the generations to come. We need to be brave, to make a change and to model that to others. We need to walk the walk even more.
We need to make even more positive changes in our own lives and the life of the church, we need to care for creation and to model that to other people, inspiring them to do likewise.
Creation is in crisis. Yes, seriously!
So how can we walk the walk?
We can join more campaigns and sign more petitions and write more letters to our MPs. These things might seem pointless but they put pressure on our leaders and when we all do it we have an impact
We need to think more about decisions we make with our energy providers and car choices and purchases of other items - let's use companies that are committed to reducing their climate impact.
We need to take action, make tangible changes. We need to stop and seriously listen to what God is telling us to do as individuals and as a church to care for the world.
If this year of lockdown and changes to the way we live has taught us anything it must be that we can adapt and change, that we can re-assess how we have always lived and improve things.
God’s call on our lives has seldom been so vital to the survival of life on earth, and it doesn’t matter if we’ve got it wrong until now. We have the opportunity to correct the interpretation of our purpose on earth as ‘domination’; we can relearn how to live in partnership with the planet and to manage it fairly, not to pillage it for our own benefit.
Jesus says in Matthew chapter 21 “even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe”?
Let’s not fall into that trap. Let’s start insisting on change from our leaders and businesses and make changes in our everyday knowing that it is part of our lives as disciples.
Let's pray :
Living God, you call us to be good stewards of this earthly home, strengthen us to care for your creation;
forgive us when, through our greed and indifference we abuse its beauty and damage its potential.
Empower us, through your Spirit to so nurture and love the world, that all creation sings to your glory.