The biblical scholar Robert Altar paints a vivid picture of pilgrims ascending up Mount Zion to the Temple as they chant a psalm that begins by declaring, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” In essence, the pilgrims were proclaiming that the Temple, the place held to be the residing place of God, was a microcosm of the larger world. God’s presence was to be found everywhere. Yet, as the psalm continues, it is made clear that this presence is neither welcomed nor experienced by all. It comes with a fight, and it is experienced by those seeking to live a just and moral life. The pilgrims climbing up that hill were among those seekers. (More.)
In the Gospel reading for this Sunday, we are faced with the agonizing vulnerability of a 12-year old girl who has fallen ill. The father of the girl begs for Jesus to lay hands on her, but while en route to the family’s house, Jesus is delayed by the healing of a woman who had been hemorrhaging blood for 12 years. At first, this delay appears costly. Jesus is informed that the girl has died. When he arrives, the house is in full commotion, weeping, and loud wailing. The finality of death seems to define the moment until Jesus announces that all is not lost for the girl is asleep and not dead. Upon Jesus’s instruction, she rises. (More.)
When General Synod approved a resolution in 2015 calling on church members to address the space debris problem, one UCC minister criticized the decision, writing in the Huffington Post that the issue would be better addressed by NASA than by a church body. He might have a point if NASA were taking care of business, but it’s not. Instead, it’s saddling other national space agencies with the most important chore of our spacefaring civilization - taking out the orbital trash. (More.)
In a poem rooted in an ethic of creation justice, Jennifer Maidrand writes, "And I wonder if we will be able to conjure enough love for earth and flesh and microbe to begin to work against our own destruction; and follow divine instruction." Read the full poem performed recently by the author at the Yale Graduate Conference in Religion and Ecology: (More.)
Imagine that you have the opportunity to improve the lives of countless persons by simply flipping a switch that can go only one of two ways. If you flip the switch to the left, a certain segment of the population will be condemned to poor health from the moment of their birth onward, but if you flip the switch to the right, none of those persons will suffer that fate. According to the data presented from a recent study, this simple moral choice is essentially the choice our society makes when it decides whether to use energy from a coal or oil plant. According to an article published this month in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the number of preterm births decreases significantly after a nearby power plant closes. (More.)
Recently, as I undertook my daily devotional practice of reading a chapter from the Bible on my train ride into work, I came across a verse that placed a finger on what is perhaps the hardest continual spiritual challenge I face in my fulltime ministry of environmental justice. To understand the significance of this verse from the book of Numbers, I must first place it context. After years in the wilderness, the Israelites are finally on the doorstep of the Promised Land when they receive some despairing news. The spies that went ahead to scout out the Promised Land came back with a report that essentially said, “Yes, indeed, it is a land flowing with milk and honey, but there are giants who live there and they devour anyone else who attempts to reside there." Numbers 13:33 then reads, “To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” (More.)
The following message was delivered at First Congregational Church of Sonoma, UCC, on Earth Day of 2018 as part of the Justice for #EachGeneration campaign that calls for a thousand sermons in support of the 21 youth who are suing the federal government over climate change.
When Naomi Klein was twenty-six years old, she visited the Philippines to do research for her book “No Logo,” a story about the destructive business practices of large corporations. She met hundreds of exploited workers who were in the midst of struggling for their rights, banding together to fight businesses such as Disney or Nike. It was a simple narrative, but Klein was shocked by a detail that seemed to contradict everything she knew about activism: all of the workers wore clothing from the very brands they were fighting against. (More.)
While waiting to speak at an environmental event earlier this year, another speaker told me a fascinating story. As part of his work for a university program dedicated to energy research, he invited a prominent fossil fuel executive to a graduate-level seminar. For the class, these sharp and highly informed students prepared themselves with arguments to deftly rebut the climate denialism they fully expected to confront. The actual encounter, however, went different than they anticipated. The executive befuddled them with heart-felt declarations of how his corporation was doing the will of God. The students did not know how to respond. (More.)
The second of two excerpts from Jim Antal's recently released book Climate Church, Climate World. The first excerpt shared a fictional letter set in the year 2070. The letter painted a bleak picture of world thrown into climate chaos and despair. What follows offers a scenario that indicates future suffering as well hopeful possibilities.
The year is 2100. You’re sitting in a hot arena with about five thousand others. The air conditioners, powered by solar energy, have reduced the outside temperature by 25°F to the standard setting of 88°F. Like everyone, you travelled to this event in an electric vehicle charged by solar or wind power. While travelling long distances is rare, you were willing to sacrifice to attend this gathering convened by the World Council of Churches. Millions of others from all over the Earth are participating in the conference electronically. It promises to be a wonderful celebration of the enormous progress made over the past eighty years. The opening speaker is a teenage girl. (More.)
To Environmental Stewardship Mission Group of the New Hampshire Conference, I had suggested that we have a youth conference on Environmental Justice, as we had had the example of the International Indigenous Youth Council winning the "Movement Makers Award" at the UCC General Synod for creating an environmental justice movement to protect their water sources. I called the conference the "New England Youth Environmental Justice Summit." I wanted to stress the regional aspect of the conference because I wanted the youth of this and other regions to understand that they are all in this environment together and that they can work together to solve regional problems. I invited speakers and activist from different states and organizations to present in order to have a varied program. This model can be duplicated in other regions, as well. (More.)