Zion’s Pastoral Leadership Team requested adding a Creation Care page to Zion’s webpage, where we could post information, articles, resources, links to helpful and partner organizations, etc., as a tool to help keep some momentum going following up on Ken Pitts’ and Katherine Jameson Pitts’ sharing on Christian faith and climate change, January 12, 2020.
Articles and Information
A CATASTROPHIC OPPORTUNITY by Pastor Mathew Swora, January 27, 2020
Fires raging across Australia. The acidity of the oceans increasing to the point where shellfish are suffering. Thousand-year floods happening every few years in the Midwest, alternating with long droughts and killer heat waves. Climate catastrophes combine with war and persecution to drive 65 million people from their homes in the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. And those who can least afford disruptions to their livelihoods, the poor, are the ones who suffer most.
Climate is no longer but a polite conversation starter. It is a matter of justice, of loving our neighbor as ourselves, for reconsidering and remembering our place as unique creations of God, but not as separate creations from the rest of God’s creation. Our role and identity as bearers of God’s image does not place us above creation, as Western, dualistic ways of thinking would have it. The Bible does not only call us to be stewards of creation, but its priests, who represent God to the plants, the animals and the forces of nature, and who are to represent and nurture creation to its Master and ours.
I speak of Creation and the environment from a biblical and theological perspective. I don’t have the credentials to speak from a scientific perspective. But from my high school chemistry class (don’t ask me about my grade) I learned that changing the chemical composition of a liquid, a solid or a gas (like the atmosphere), is likely to change its behavior. It makes sense that if we take carbon and methane out of the ground and pump it into the air through tailpipes and smokestacks, we’re changing the atmosphere’s chemical composition, and, therefore, its behavior. My lack of scientific credentials does not entitle me to discredit that hypothesis. The evidence before my eyes, and in the headlines, is enough to support it, as well as the corroborating testimony of friends from Central America, Europe and Africa, especially, again, the poor who did the least to cause global warming, and yet who suffer the most from it.
Is this truly a matter of concern for the church of Jesus Christ? How does it relate to our commission to “make disciples from all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching to observe everything I commanded you….(Mt. 28:18-20)?” How can climate be spiritual? The Russian Orthodox theologian, Nicolas Berdyaev, said, “My bread is a material matter; my neighbor’s bread is a spiritual one.”
While the current consequences of our unrestrained fossil fuel consumption and combustion are dire, and growing worse by the day, this is not only a catastrophe in the making. It is an opportunity as well. Climate justice and creation care will require the restraint of our appetites and conveniences, along with some costly, jarring readjustments of technology, lifestyle and culture. But in such restraints and changes lie opportunities to regain what we have lost and forgotten in our power-gobbling, entertainment-focused, consumeristic culture of haste and waste, heedless of speed and blind to the blessings of the here-and-now because of our compulsive defiance disorder against time and distance. How many times I have heard people remark on how wonderful and restful was their recent “staycation,” how going nowhere for a change and tending to their gardens, their neighbors, or reading the book that has gathered dust for ages, and watching the sunrise refreshed them more than their cross-country drive to Florida, or the charter flight to Cancun ever did. Travel anymore is such that, by the time we return home, we need a vacation just to recover from our vacation.
This catastrophic opportunity will require some changes in the way we do church. Our facilities will need to be updated to be carbon neutral or even energy positive (think windmills and solar panels). But that’s nibbling around the edges. What might church and discipleship be like if we are more attentive and appreciative of all that is here, now, personal, relational, local, simple, even small, like the taste of fresh, home-grown produce, rather than the rush of grandiose, blockbuster entertainment, mass markets, and mechanical power? If “small is beautiful” and “live simply so that others can simply live” can help us reverse the greenhouse gas effect on the planet, how might they also help us “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8) and “follow Christ?” I think I can see the connection. Can you?
• MCC Contest Winner Lucas Klopfestein video “Climate Change: You Can Make A Difference”
• Caring for Climate: Beyond Denial and Despair, February 27, 2020 Webinar recording
• Ken Pitts, “Climate Change Engagement” January 12, 2020 Sunday School at Zion Mennonite Church
• Climate change as a spiritual crisis, by Douglas Kaufman; February 13, 2020
• Webinar – Caring for climate: Beyond denial and despair
Sign up to join the webinar on Thur., February 27, 7:30-9 p.m. ET
• Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions: a partnership of Goshen College, Eastern Mennonite University, and Mennonite Central Committee
• Zion Mennonite Church Climate Engagement, videos of education and inspiration from Sunday School and worship, on January 12, 2020