Journey Toward Hope

What Is God Asking of Us Today?

Palm Sunday: Matthew 21:1-11

There is an urgency in Jesus’ voice. Jesus’ urgency is driven by what he understands God to require of him, and he needs his disciples to help him fulfill his calling. And so Jesus summons two disciples, and assures them that because their actions are aligned with the word of God, they will succeed in their mission.

This was a time when there was a broad understanding among people that if the Lord has need of something, then whoever is in a position to fulfill that need must respond. And according to scripture, when the disciples found a donkey and a colt, their owner (that person is not named) immediately understood and cooperated with the request – at no small sacrifice.

Having been called to be disciples in the year of our Lord 2020, all of us have experienced God’s urgent cry to take action to restore God’s great gift of creation. Just as Jesus had need of a donkey and a colt, God has need of restoring the created order that humanity has overturned in only a few generations. As the UCC’s report “Breath to the People”: Sacred Air and Toxic Pollution makes clear, our upset order not only threatens the future of our children. It also threatens their health and livelihood right now in places like Houston, cancer alley Louisiana, and parts of Ohio.

It’s time for us, as Jesus’ disciples, to join environmental justice advocates at facilities on the Toxic 100 list, at fracking sites, at oil refineries, and at the railroad tracks where coal is shipped. The demand we must make of the toxic corporations is simple. “The Lord has need of an earth that supports life. From this day forward, you must replace this toxic economy with an economy that protects rather than destroys life.”

Once Jesus sits on the donkey, the people in the crowd take off their cloaks and lay them on the road to honor Jesus and advance his mission. 

On this Palm/Passion Sunday, amidst the urgency of the climate crisis, each one of us must ask, “What will I remove… what will I take off… what will I give up… what will I do without… to honor God’s creation and allow the earth to move towards restoration?”

Not only that, but all of us together must ask, “How can I join with others to make smooth the path ahead? How can I combine my assets and God-given gifts with those of others to end the pillaging and extraction of earth’s resources?”

When Jesus enters Jerusalem, turmoil erupts. When you truly encounter Jesus, business as usual ceases. All at once, you are reminded that THIS is the ONE we are called by God to follow.  And somewhere in the crowd, someone with a loud voice, someone who has spent some time with scripture, that person reminds us of two things. “The earth is the Lord’s.” (Psalm 24:1) And one thing more – this one from Jesus’ lips to his disciples. “You shall do greater works” than me. (John 14:12)

Indeed, God has set before our generation the opportunity to participate in a great work: the reconciliation of humanity to all of God’s creation (as Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts it in the Foreword to The Green Bible).  God has issued to our generation a common calling, a unifying vocation, an inescapable moral claim, an unstoppable mandate to restore God’s great gift of creation. How will your congregation respond?

The Rev. Jim Antal serves as Special Advisor on Climate Justice to the General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. He has authored Climate Church, Climate World.