Tag Archives: climate change

Surely the day is coming and now is

Reading
Jeremiah 31.27–34

 

The poet proposes a two-stage philosophy of history which is crucial for the full acknowledgment of exile and the full practice of hope in the face of exile. The negative has happened; the positive is only promised. The poem places us between the destruction already accomplished in 587 B.C.E. and the homecoming only promised but keenly anticipated. The oracle places us between a death already wrought and a resurrection only anticipated. — Walter Brueggemann, A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming

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The last couple of Sundays, we’ve been visiting the time of the Exile, which was around five hundred years before the birth of Jesus. Do you remember?—the people of Judah and the city of Jerusalem were taken as exiles to Babylon, and there they stayed until Babylon itself was defeated. Then they were allowed to go ‘home’, though of course most people who had known Jerusalem as home were dead by now. 

It’s impossible to overemphasise the importance of the Exile—for Israel, for us as Christians, for the whole world. 

It was in the Exile that they began to write much of the Hebrew Scriptures, or the Old Testament. They started to collect and put together the ancient stories of Israel were while they were in Exile. 

Scribes gathered together the old traditions to write the stories of the past, stories like the Flood, or the life of Moses. At the same time, prophets such as Jeremiah spoke new words into the current age.

In Babylon, the exiles had to work out a theology that responded to a place of defeat. The old idea had been that Yahweh was Israel’s God, and the other tribes and nations had their own gods. Yahweh was just the best of the bunch. Until he wasn’t, because the Babylonian gods had defeated him and shown they were more powerful. 

What could the exiles have done with this? I guess they could have decided the Babylonian gods with names like Bel, Nebo and Ishtar were the winners, so they should ditch Yahweh and pledge allegiance to them. 

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The Flow of Grace

Reading
Luke 16.1–13

Grace only works on those it finds dead enough to raise. — Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus

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We’ve heard maybe the toughest parable in the whole of the scriptures today. A shifty steward has been ripping off his boss; his boss finds out, and sacks him. Before it’s too late, the shifty steward fraudulently reduces the amount his boss’s clients owe him. Not only do the clients think he’s a great bloke but his boss praises him too. And Jesus says to us, Be like him! What on Earth? 

I’ve heard that the great St Augustine once wrote about this parable, saying Jesus really oughtn’t to have  said that. Or words to that effect. (Actually, what he said was in Latin, so it was much more profound.)

So let’s see what we can make of this parable. 

First thing, and it’s really important to understand this: it comes straight after the parables in Luke 15 about lost things, the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost sons. Why did Luke put it here? 

Here’s one reason: one word. That word is ‘squander’.

Now, I can go for weeks without saying ‘squander’. I’ve got nothing against the word, it just doesn’t come up that often. It was like that for Luke too. He only uses it twice: firstly in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, who squanders his inheritance; and in the very next parable, the Parable of the Shifty Steward, who fraudulently squanders his master’s money. Coincidence? I think not. 

Let’s try and draw some more connections between these two parables. 

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Hope not fear … fresh words and deeds

Reading
Luke 12.32–40

1. “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore”—“Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.

2. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters. — from Laudato Si’, Encyclical of Pope Francis

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In the 1930s, dark storm clouds were gathering over the peoples of the world. The Nazi Party had come to power in Germany, and the other nations were watching with great anxiety. What would Adolf Hitler do? 

The churches of Germany found out quite quickly what Hitler would do. A program was begun of 

  • downplaying the Old Testament; 
  • declaring that Jesus was not a Jew, but of the so-called ‘Aryan race’; 
  • pushing baptised members who were of Jewish descent and other so-called ‘non-Aryans’ out of the life of the church; 
  • and of emphasising ‘manliness’ over ‘feminine’ values. The churches were pressured to put ‘German values’ above the gospel. 

This was the time that the ‘Confessing Church’ emerged. The Confessing Church was determined to keep the good news of Jesus Christ at the centre of the church’s life. The Confessing Church was a church of resistance, which numbered among its members the pastors Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemöller. 

It was a frightening time. The Nazi regime was reinforcing its grip on the whole of German society, including the church. 

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Heaven on Earth (but not yet)

Readings
Revelation 21.1–6
John 13.31–35

 

The Lamb is leading us on an exodus out of the heart of empire, out of the heart of addiction to violence, greed, fear, an unjust lifestyle or whatever holds each of us most captive. It is an exodus we can experience each day. Tenderly, gently, the Lamb is guiding us to pastures of life and healing beside God’s river. — Barbara Rossing, The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation

In this world we’re just beginning
To understand the miracle of living
Baby, I was afraid before
But I’m not afraid anymore
Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth?
Ooh, heaven is a place on earth
They say in heaven love comes first
We’ll make heaven a place on earth

— Ellen Shipley/Richard W. Nowels

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Preachers are often told they should stay out of politics, that religion and politics are two different things altogether. That’s because people rightly feel preachers shouldn’t tell you which party to vote for. Yet as the first ever NSW and ACT General Secretary Rev. Frank Butler once said, saying ‘these things matter’ should not be confused with ‘saying vote for politician x’.

Yet from time to time, we must comment on the political life of our country. How do I know that? The Bible tells me so. It tells me in quite a few places; one is the Book of Revelation. 

John the Visionary sees 

the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.… I heard a loud voice from the throne say, ‘Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God.’ 

In his vision, John sees heaven coming down to earth. Of course it does! In his own model prayer, Jesus tells us to pray along these lines:

Your kingdom come,
your will be done
  on earth as in heaven…

Is seems that earth is the business of heaven, that heaven wants to be on earth. Or does the joy of heaven spill over to the earth? 

And where is heaven anyway? The ancients thought it was just above the sky, which was bounded by a dome over the earth. So God was ‘up there’, while we are down here.  

Earth as dome

Today, we know differently. The universe is vast, vaster than we can imagine. Einstein once said that he knew of only two things that were infinite: the universe, and human stupidity. But he wasn’t sure about the universe… 

Michael Battle, an African-American theologian, says:

My simple definition of heaven is this: where God is present. After all, heaven is God’s abode—where God hangs out. Should we desire heaven on earth? Yes, we should desire to hang out with God.

Heaven can be on earth. (I’ve had Belinda Carlisle’s 1987 song ‘(Ooh) Heaven is a place on earth’ as an ear worm all week. If you’re the right vintage, I may have given you the same ear worm. My apologies if so.) 

Heaven can be on earth—but so often it isn’t. The earth is good, it’s beautiful, but it’s scarred. Now more than ever. So we hear of riding sea levels, and Pacific nations vanishing. We have a United Nations report that warns of a million species at risk, and whole ecosystems collapsing. 

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Lend a Hand—in a time of change (28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C)

Reading
Jeremiah 29.1, 4–7

 

Sometimes, when I look at where I am in life, I wonder how I got here. I could never have predicted when I was a young boy growing up that one day I’d be a minister in a church that I’d never heard of, a church that didn’t exist yet. I couldn’t imagine that I’d be living in a place on the other side of the world, where my birthday was in winter and Christmas was in summer.

I couldn’t have dreamt that most of us would have phones even better than Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone. I never imagined that the smart phones we now have would have more powerful computers than those that guided the moon landing in 1968.

I couldn’t have dreamt that my daughter Erin would come to me when she was a little girl and ask my if I played with Blu-tac as a boy. When I told her that we didn’t have Blu-tac when I was a boy, she straightaway asked me if I played with twisty-ties. I had to tell her there were no twisty-ties when I was a kid either. I felt so old.

I couldn’t have dreamt that the pace of change would be so fast that you now hear twenty year-olds saying, Back in the day…

It’s not all light-hearted, though. I couldn’t have dreamt in my wildest nightmares that I’d be living in a time when 97% of climatologists tell us that climate change is real, and that human activity bears a great deal of the responsibility.

I couldn’t have dreamt I’d see the largest displacement of people from their homes in world history. That’s what we’re seeing in Syria right now as people flee or are driven from their homes. The World Health Organisation has called this the worst ongoing humanitarian crisis on earth. According to The Atlantic magazine:

Four million Syrians are internally displaced; with homes either destroyed or unsafe, they have moved to temporary housing within Syria’s borders. Another two million have now fled the country, pouring into neighbouring countries at a rate of nearly 6,000 every day.

Those of us who went to the Holy Land in April heard something about this while travelling through Jordan.

No one knew how true it was back in 1964 when Bob Dylan sang The times they are a-changing. But then, I doubt he did either.

We don’t all ‘do’ change well, so what do we do when the times are changing? Hide from it, embrace it, go with the flow?

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Friday fragments — 19.03.10

Climate Change

Climate change is under some scrutiny at the moment, and the ranks of the skeptics seem to be swelling. Take a look at the CSIRO website if you need convincing that climate change is real.

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Doctrine Working Group material

I mentioned How to Read the Bible last Friday, but the Doctrine Working Group has a lot of great (and brief!) material on various topics, including Guidance for the Church’s faithful thinking, Sexuality and Leadership, Apologetics, Baptism and Peacemaking. Good stuff for small groups!

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Gendercide

The Economist has a distressing story of the infanticide of female babies in China and other parts of Asia and the Middle East. Only read it if you’re feeling strong.

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‘Cricket’s wide call’

A perceptive and helpful story on the Lara Bingle affair.

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