It’s NOT Too Early to Prepare for Lent!

I was going to issue an invitation. But invitations don’t convey the urgency required. So, I am issuing a challenge. I challenge readers to begin now to prepare for Lent. Ash Wednesday is March 6; Easter, April 21. I know. It’s not even Thanksgiving… or Advent. Lent? Now?

 
Let Lent, 2019, be a season of deep examination and repentance. Not only for ourselves but for creation! But that discipline will take some time. Starting now!

 

Prepare. This blog has cited the principles of Professors Barbara Rossing and David Rhoads. The first principle is to learn about the degradation of God’s creation. There are countless resources for background, including those on the MNO website (http://mnosynod.org/eco-reformation-project/). But to make this season of repentance relevant to your congregation, explore the environmental issues in your own context. Begin locally. Orient yourself to the changes happening in your region and identify potential resources you will need to bring on board.

 
Partner. You can’t know everything. Who are the community resources that can bring the social, scientific, political and economic concerns and possibilities into focus? Engage them early, not only to clarify your direction but to strengthen your planning. To involve the community in reflection, examination and visioning will deepen the experience for those in your congregation and beyond.

 
Plan. What will be the scope of your Lenten experience? What can you bring into worship? And what about learning – with a variety of audiences and settings? If we are truly seeking repentance, then an action component is required also. Lent is more than confession, more than contrition; metanoia involves a change of heart, mind and behavior.

 
Return to me with your whole heart. Let this year’s season of repentance seek a return not only of individuals but of creation.

 
Remember you are dust…to dust you shall return. In previous Lenten observances the focus has been on the mortification of the flesh. But, from an ecological perspective, what would it mean to suggest that we are made of stardust? To remember our origins in the constantly renewing and evolving creation… and to remember our destiny as a return to that connection with all things …This Lent could emphasize the interconnection and interdependence of all things. And it would be quite appropriate to emphasize the systemic sin that is endangering Earth.

 
Let this Lenten observance examine the facts and be well founded in truth-telling. This could be a painful Lent, a bit like dying, if the truth-telling also required hard evidence of the destructiveness of our affluence and privilege. If there needs to be real change, it may be painful change as we surrender what we have enjoyed and transform our political and economic realities to new standards of justice and sustainability.

 
“What will you give up for Lent?” Something more than chocolate or coffee. Perhaps what is needed is more expensive food and clothing in order to provide more just wages for the laborers. Perhaps more expensive fuel as we shift to renewable energy. If the planet is to truly heal, certain expectations and behaviors may need to cease, not for a few weeks but for ever.

 
Let this be a season that seeks to recognize and obey God’s design and activity. Let this not be a time of blaming and finger-pointing, but a time of wondering. What if? It is not enough to proclaim the judgement of God without the announcement of a new vision, a new promise, a new creation.

 
Let this be a time not to mortify but to restore the dignity of individuals, of peoples, of species, of creation itself.

 
Rend you hearts, not your garments. Let this be a season that tears open and remains open. Let this not be a mere ritual but a true examination and a true turning, with a new heart for a new creation. This takes time. More than an Ash Wednesday or a Good Friday. More, in fact, than a mere forty days. But forty days is a beginning. And the beginning has some urgency.

 
But we are an Easter people. We celebrate the triumph of life seeking life. We celebrate more than a resurrection of the body, but the restoration of a new creation. To be restored to life and dignity is to be restored to our true selves, restored to paradise, restored to wholeness, intended from the beginning, extended to eternity.

 
We are dust. We are made of the same molecules and particles that have circulated through the ages of this planet and the ages of the stars. We are connected to all things. We share the origins. We share the suffering. We share the future. We are dust and to dust we shall return!

 
This Lent let those words be a promise of hope.

 
That’s the challenge. How will that challenge be taken up by you?

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What Do We Do With All This Stuff?

One of those things that are viral on the internet….
Today, in the cutest voice, my 8-year-old daughter asked me to start recycling. I chuckled and asked, “Why?”
She replied, “So you can help me save the planet.”
I chuckled again and asked, “And why do you want to save the planet?”
“Because that’s where I keep all my stuff,” she said.

 
Where do we keep all our stuff? Why so much stuff?

 
My wife and I are helping to pack up her parents’ home in preparation to sell. Both parents are gone now. The home is empty, now just a house. The folks have lived in this home for more than fifty years. There are precious treasures here…. And a lot of stuff! These people had been executors for several relatives in the past, and there were documents kept dating back to 1926. It’s not like hoarding, wherein piles of newspapers are kept, and balls of string, and bags of rubber bands, cupboards full of plastic containers and ice cream pails, kept just in case they might be needed later. This was meticulous record-keeping, without sorting and throwing records away at an appropriate time.

 
At the same time as we are working on their home, my wife and I are planning to relocate and are down-sizing our own. It’s hard! Sorting requires piles for disposal, piles for confidential shredding, piles for recycling, piles for donating, piles to keep for a little while longer and piles to keep and pack. Whew!

 
I think everyone knows about boxes that have been tucked away since the last move… if you haven’t used these things in this many years, get rid of them!

 
And then there’s the realization that your children don’t want your treasures. They have their own styles and their own treasures. They don’t entertain like your own parents did. Fine china and sterling silver aren’t necessary and are high maintenance to boot. So, those treasures are taking up space for purely sentimental reasons. You might ask yourself, “If this is too good to use, is it really useless?” Or “If we want to keep this because it’s special, why not use it and make every day special?”

 
We didn’t grow up in depression times, but we learned the lesson that it’s hard to simply throw away something that you spent $XXXX on.

 
And we won’t be bothered with a garage sale, taking the time to organize, promote, set-up, clean up, only to get 10 cents on the dollar. And have to haggle with bargain hunters to boot!

 
We must say it has felt really good to make several trips to the charitable thrift store where someone may purchase something usable to them… even at 10 cents on the dollar!

 
Jesus spoke of a man (Luke 12-13-23) who had so much stuff (crops) he didn’t know where to put it. He had to build more storage! And then he felt secure. The problem was, he died, and all his security passed on to others. Jesus cautioned about focusing on wealth at the expense of being “rich in God.”

 
Since our considerations revolve around the care of the planet, being “rich in God” has a dimension in being “rich in Earth.” What has all this stuff cost, not in dollars and cents but in natural resources, perhaps irreplaceable resources? What will it continue to cost, even in disposing in the landfill? Will decomposition result in noxious gases, polluted water and soil? Will it continue to take up space, even in a communal dump, over decades and decades to come?

 
As much as possible my wife and I want to repurpose what we no longer need or desire. And yet, there is this niggling feeling that, even in passing stuff along to someone else, somehow, we still contribute to an ever-expanding desire for more stuff, more consumables, a different, if not greater, standard of living. Consider what you see on television with citizens in other lands and cultures carrying, wearing, and consuming stuff with our brand names. Why must people and places on other continents look like North America?

 
Do we really need all this stuff to feel secure? OK, some economists are going to insist that yes, we do. “Consumption creates sales, which create jobs, which provide security….”

 
And yet, how much time has been taken up now with sorting, re- distributing, re-organizing… not to mention any potential conflict over who gets what stuff? There’s a waste of time… and we don’t get time back. Maybe security is really more deeply grounded in togetherness, deeper conversation, heart-to-heart care. Relationships invested with time.

 
Consider this as you go through your closet…
Who will have to take time and effort to sort and re-distribute all your stuff?
Should you be doing something about it now, yourself?
And as we become more cautious about renewable and sustainable resources, do we need to consider sustainable time? Time cannot be renewed. Maybe only repurposed….

Christian Mission in an Ecological Age Part 6

The background for this series of blogs rests with this article from the Lutheran School of Theology – Chicago
http://currentsjournal.org/index.php/currents/article/view/20/41. It serves as a foundation for the concluding two blogs suggesting new directions in the missional mandate of the church. Readers are strongly encouraged to read
the article for its own integrity and authenticity in presenting the ideas summarized here.

The article is A Beloved Earth Community: Christian Mission in an Ecological Age, written by
David M. Rhoads, Professor of New Testament, Emeritus, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and
Barbara R. Rossing, Professor of New Testament, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

NOTE: This essay was first published in Mission after Christendom: Emergent Themes in Contemporary Mission, Ogbu Kalu, Peter Vethanayagamony, and Edmund Kee-Fook Chia, eds. (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 2010), 128–43.

Rhoads and Rossing insist that to affect a lasting change to the global environmental crisis it’s not enough to advocate for change “to the system”; it’s not enough to count on scientific technology to solve climate change or provide new sources of affordable, sustainable energy; it’s not enough to get our church people to take shorter showers, drive less and recycle more…. The political/social, technological, and behavioral changes will not be effective in the long run without a spiritual change.

Their fifth principle for mission in an ecological age is this: Earth-care action is integral to the mission of our Christian communities and our spiritual discipline.

What’s the spiritual problem? It could be described many ways. At stake is the separation of human behavior from the environment. It could also be described as the failure to see nature as sacramental. As humanity becomes more urbanized, humanity becomes less connected, does not feel in relationship with the environment, with nature, except as something to use, manipulate and exploit. Nature is a thing, not a relationship. Our Christian faith has emphasized reconciliation with God and with one another, but precious little is said about reconciliation with the earth and its creatures.

A sense of “being curved in upon oneself” is revealed in the manipulation of nature for personal profit, an entitlement to resources without regard for ethical distribution or sustainability. Personal convenience comes at the price of the quality of air, water or soil. Progress and market expansion have been blind to the devastation left behind. Pursuit of an idealized lifestyle has sacrificed simplicity, serenity, cooperation, even generosity.

What will change without a recovery of a sense of awe and wonder; curiosity for its own sake, rather than utility; a return to an interconnection, an interdependence among all people and among people and other creatures and natural processes?

Attention to the environment has been criticized as ‘one more thing to do for an already stretched and depleted congregation.’ But Rossing and Rhoads insist eco-reformation is not “a passing fad” or an “add-on.” Stewardship of the earth is integral to the Christian call and mission. Recovery of wholeness in the relationship with the earth is central to worship, education, property management, outreach and personal care. A reformation in thinking and behavior will apply not only to the life of the congregation, but extend beyond as expressions of discipleship, faithfulness and justice in work and society.

Perhaps the church in an ecological era needs to recover practices of the early church. Among these practices, Rossing and Rhoads mention the discipline of “truth-telling.” The church assumes the risk of challenging the powers and principalities, confronting the “empire,” naming what is oppressive and destructive and giving voice to an alternative way of living.

There is an urgency to this task. The early church expected Christ to return imminently. There was a need now to repent and reform. After a two-thousand year delay, and in the context of God acting over five billion years, the church may have become complacent, secure and even protected by the status quo.

The church needs to recover more than sacred words. There must be sacred acts, behaviors and rituals that re-enact the processes of cleansing, renewal, rebirth, and resurrection. The liturgical cycle could be more expressive of the natural processes and rhythms of rising, bearing fruit, dying, and rising again, life seeking life, life existing interdependently to provide for life beside and life in time to come, season by season, generation to generation.

It would not be helpful for the church to withdraw into isolated communities with “right” and “green” practices. It would be well to incarnate viable, sustainable – not perfect but experimental communities -with alternative values and practices. The goal must be to be leaven and yeast that bring life to the greater world. Would this not be proclamation in word and deed that God has an alternative, life-giving presence in the world and the kingdom of God is among us?

There is a hubris in this age that assumes its place as the pinnacle and end of evolution. It is assumed there is no end to this age, or its resources. If there is, technology will allow humanity – a privileged few – to escape to the stars. Is this human destiny? Or is this an infectious, invasive species that will survive for a time and disappear as creation heals itself and evolves to its own ends?

Rossing and Rhoads conclude their article by citing the eruption of Mount St. Helens and the unexpected recovery over time. After the devastation that destroyed all plant and animal life, after the aspen was burned flat, after a time when nothing grew at all, the moss came back. Then the lichen. The soil began to recover and make room for shrubbery. And those conditions allowed for the return of the aspen. Then there was home for the animals. Then the animals returned.

Rossing and Rhoads poetically suggest that this is nature’s template; this is our example for eco-reformation. Small efforts create the conditions for greater possibilities; the process for regeneration.

What if the church brought its values and behaviors to the work of this world, the policies of government and practices of industry, seeking the partnerships of neighbors to care for the good of the planet, to protect wildlife, to restore the waters and soils, to return a collective consciousness in tune with the Consciousness behind all things?

This blogging series has followed the mythical parish of St. Luke Lutheran Church on the Lake. This congregation has come to see a life beyond itself and a purpose in the world. Instead of asking, “How do we keep the lights on?” They ask instead, “How are we a light to this time and place?” Instead of giving in to despair and panic, instead of playing a guilt card to wring one more dollar, one more meeting, one more event, out of the soil of its membership, gradually becoming sterile…Instead of staying with the grief of “where have all the people” gone? There is now a grief for the disappearance of the flowers and the birds and … But instead of grieving and closing the doors to hold hands as a dwindling community trying to console itself until the end comes… This congregation is finding a new shoot out of an old stump… And new wine for new wine skins… And a living cosmic Christ who still appears, breathing a sweet, life-giving breath.

This is the hope of the church… the grace of the church… the future of the church… and the Christ who calls the community of faith to be light, yeast, seeds of hope, balm for healing, the bread and wine for community, living water for refreshment and cleansing and even play, a new genetic code for a humanity yet to be in a world that is just becoming……

Christian Mission in an Ecological Age Part 5

The background for this series of blogs rests with this article from the Lutheran School of Theology – Chicago, http://currentsjournal.org/index.php/currents/article/view/20/41. It serves as a foundation for the concluding two blogs suggesting new directions in the missional mandate of the church. Readers are strongly encouraged to read
the article for its own integrity and authenticity in presenting the ideas summarized here.

The article is A Beloved Earth Community: Christian Mission in an Ecological Age, written by
David M. Rhoads, Professor of New Testament, Emeritus, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and
Barbara R. Rossing, Professor of New Testament, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

NOTE: This essay was first published in Mission after Christendom: Emergent Themes in Contemporary Mission, Ogbu Kalu, Peter Vethanayagamony, and Edmund Kee-Fook Chia, eds. (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 2010), 128–43.

 
This blog series has followed the fall planning of mythical St. Peter’s Lutheran Church on the Lake. The Council has returned from summer holidays and is laying out its fall plan. But the Council has become aware that its environment, its context for mission has changed. The life and service of the congregation is deeply impacted by environmental changes, especially the costs of activities long-taken for granted. But the realities around the congregation are larger and deeper than dollars and cents. Because the context is changing, the congregation’s priorities must change. There is a new awareness of the direction and content of worship, preaching, Christian education, community outreach and justice making. The new priorities as stated by Professors Rhoads and Rossing are these:
1- The first mandate for mission is to learn about the degradation of God’s creation;
2- The second mandate is to embrace a Christian ethic that acknowledges the interrelationship between ecological conditions and issues of social justice;
3- The third mandate is to acknowledge that the Bible presents care for creation as fundamental to our human vocation and mission.

Recognizing that readers may very well reflect the image of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church on the Lake, we embrace this new orientation for mission in an ecological age as our own. We continue our own fall planning for ministry with the fourth of five principles.

Rhoads and Rossing state the fourth principle in our mission in an ecological age to be this: Our mission to all creation leads us to see theology in new ways, because how we think shapes how we act.

Rhoads and Rossing use words like anthropocentric, dualistic and individualistic to suggest an orientation to faith and mission focusing on humanity only, to the neglect of creation; God assumed to be above and apart from creation, rather than continuing to create and allowing all of creation to have a part in revealing the immanence of God and the nature and purpose of God; and mission has been for too long about the “saving of souls” and “personal decisions” to confess a “personal Lord and Savior”, to the neglect of the stewardship of creation and the justice of the interdependence of natural elements and tribes and nations.

So Rhoads and Rossing suggest a re-working of the first article of the creed, acknowledging the continuing nature of creation. Our sense of time needs to expand. Our thinking of God’s activity has been limited to the last three thousand years, neglecting the five billion years of God’s cosmos.

Rhoads and Rossing invite Christians, especially in the northern hemisphere, to learn from indigenous people about their understanding of the interconnectedness of all living things and the reverence for the sacred in time and space. (Readers are encouraged to check the resource list in the MNO Eco-Theology website, for the works of Reuther, Harris, Fox, and Bouma-Prediger and others)

The reality of sin is no longer seated in personal and social/systemic expressions of alienation, brokenness and exploitation but ecological sin as well. Not only do God’s people cry out for liberation and restoration but God’s land and waters and creatures seek renewal also. The sustainability of the earth requires Christian people to work for its redemption and restoration.

So, what comes of the work of Jesus the Christ? The love of God known in Jesus takes on a cosmic dimension (See Fox, Delio, Teilhard de Chardin and others). That is, the Love of God revealed in Christ existed from the beginning, became manifest in Jesus, and continues to draw all beings into God’s ultimate future.

Jesus does not seek to draw humans from earth but more deeply into it. The Christ, as God’s incarnate revelation, does not seek to separate Spirit from matter but to celebrate a lively interdependence. All of life is to be redeemed, not merely a few individuals.

This requires, then a reworking of the third article and the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The spirit is given to the community; individuals experience the Spirit in community. But that communion embraces all that is made, all that is alive, nature beyond human nature. The Holy Spirit is the breath given to all living things, and the elements of creation are the signs of the spirit’s activity.

Repentance in an ecological age involves an awakening to human conscious and unconscious attitudes and actions, embracing a worldview larger than the tribe, nation or denomination, indeed a worldview that becomes cosmic in nature. Rethinking God and ourselves and the earth compel us to re-vision and re-enact our ethics, services, and local congregational activities in terms of environmental stewardship and cosmic justice.

This eco-reformation project has revealed that congregations are reluctant to change what they have always done, to rethink and re-state what they have always believed. Addressing “faith and the environment” seems to be adding so much to do to already busy and over-extended parishioners.

But is this mandate for mission in an ecological age something more or something integral and essential? Next week: the fifth principle for mission in an ecological age.

Christian Mission in An Ecological Age – Part 4 of 6

Let me draw your attention to this article from the Lutheran School of Theology – Chicago
http://currentsjournal.org/index.php/currents/article/view/20/41. It serves as a foundation for the following three blogs suggesting new directions in the missional mandate of the church.

The article is A Beloved Earth Community: Christian Mission in an Ecological Age, written by
David M. Rhoads, Professor of New Testament, Emeritus, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and
Barbara R. Rossing, Professor of New Testament, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

NOTE: This essay was first published in Mission after Christendom: Emergent Themes in Contemporary Mission, Ogbu Kalu, Peter Vethanayagamony, and Edmund Kee-Fook Chia, eds. (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 2010), 128–43.

 
In this series of blogs we watch the mythic congregation St. Peter Lutheran Church on the Lake as it plans for its fall mission programming. In early August the congregation began building on the template of the last several years. Fall start-up had several routine events, beginning with “Back-to-Church-Sunday” and the annual picnic. Choir and Christian Education began scheduling, recruiting and promoting, just as they had done in years past.

 
But something has changed. Maybe something is changing in the congregations of this readership as well. There is a growing awareness that ministry today has a new context, a context shaped deeply by a changing environment.

 
So, the leaders of St. Peter Lutheran Church on the Lake are examining their methods and redirecting their energies, based on the mandates of Professors Rhoads and Rossing of the Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago.

 

Taking seriously the mandate to deepen the community’s understanding and commitments, the Worship Committee is undertaking a blessing of the harvest, with a review of today’s changes in the use of land, water, and transportation. Special litanies in weeks prior will lift ecological matters in prayer. The texts for messages will seek possible lenses for interpretation that include the environment and social/economic responsibility for the poor. Thanksgiving Sunday will emphasize the bounty of God’s goodness and ecological stewardship as a joyful response to this bounty.

 
The Sunday School is exploring possible resources for children’s worship, supporting the emphasis on increased environmental awareness.

 
The Social Ministry Committee is inviting community Councillors to address issues of water treatment, waste management, and the preservation of greenspaces. The mitten tree tradition will be modified to double the number of toques, mitts and scarves and distribute them among the homeless.

 
The Confirmation classes are scheduled to teach the First Article of the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer petition for daily bread, and the Eucharistic Prayer in communion. These themes will focus on environmental issues and social justice.

 
Awareness is one thing. Discerning the interconnection of environmental conditions and social justice takes awareness to another level. To actually move from awareness to discernment to action, to commit to new ethical responsibilities brings another level indeed.

 
St. Peter Lutheran Church on the Lake is doing quite well in seeking changes in its ministry. But members might ask, “Why?” Is this a new thing, a social fad of the times? The third mandate of professors Rhoads and Rossing would emphatically deny this. In their words…

“The third mandate for mission is this: The Bible presents care for creation as fundamental to our human vocation and mission.”

 
It is hard to deny that scripture has been interpreted with humanity at the center. Certainly, God is absolutely central, but human salvation history has been the theme right along. “What must I do to be saved?”

 
Mission has been about converting those who worship the gods of nature to the worship of the one Creator.

 
Hasn’t the gift of creation to humanity been the availability of nature’s gifts for humanity’s use? What does it mean to have dominion?

 
What does it mean to be God’s chosen people? Are not the faithful people a blessed people because of their relationship to God?

 
Is this not all true? Partly. But dominion is not the same as domination and exploitation. The responsibility to till and keep the land and its creatures is the responsibility of creation-care, creation stewardship, not ownership.

 
Dualistic thinking that has separated humanity from nature, masculine from feminine, spiritual from physical, emotional from intellectual has impoverished our understanding and misdirected our discipled responses.

 
Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s work in the world means bearing witness to what we are learning but also listening intently and curiously to what other faiths and traditions have also learned about the work of the divine in the world.

 
Deepening our ecological understanding includes deepening our understanding of how our teachings and missional priorities have actually contributed to the environmental crisis and eco-social injustice.

 
It would appear for some Christians, salvation means deliverance from this earth, and the goal of the discipled life is existence in the next life, not the abundance of life in this one. Indeed a distain for this physical place and time, together with an appreciation of a final ultimate conflict, places human and non-human creatures at peril.

 
Our western emphases on individualism are culturally rooted. Biblical reflection would remind us that there is no personal salvation without the salvation of the people. Indeed, all creation is redeemed and responds with praise to the glory of God.

 
Professors Rossing and Rhoads do this topic a better justice than this brief blog can do. Let it suffice to encourage reading their article more fully. This readership is encouraged to seek additional resources for biblical interpretation and theological reflection. The resource list in the MNO Eco-Theology website a helpful place to start.

 
The mandate to root our life and work in the living word of God is what sets our church apart from other ecologically sensitive and environmentally active partners. Our roots in God’s Word gives life to the “why” of what we do.

 
The fourth principle for Christian mission is this: “Our mission to all creation leads us to see theology in new ways, because how we think shapes how we act.”

Reflecting on “Christian Mission in an Ecological Age” Part 3 of 6

Let me draw your attention to this article from the Lutheran School of Theology – Chicago
http://currentsjournal.org/index.php/currents/article/view/20/41. It serves as a foundation for the following  three blogs suggesting new directions in the missional mandate of the church.

The article is A Beloved Earth Community: Christian Mission in an Ecological Age, written by David M. Rhoads, Professor of New Testament, Emeritus, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and Barbara R. Rossing, Professor of New Testament, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

NOTE: This essay was first published in Mission after Christendom: Emergent Themes in Contemporary Mission, Ogbu Kalu, Peter Vethanayagamony, and Edmund Kee-Fook Chia, eds. (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 2010), 128–43.

 

 
Professors Rhoads and Rossing have set before the church five mandates for “Christian Mission in an Ecological Age.” This blog presents the second mandate: to “embrace a Christian ethic that acknowledges the interrelationship between ecological conditions and issues of human justice.”

 
We have imagined St. Peter Lutheran Church on the Lake beginning to plan the fall ministry program. Much of what is taking shape on the calendar is a familiar routine of Fall start-ups, leading into the festival season and Advent to follow. But looking closely at the calendars, there is little if anything that acknowledges or addresses the global environmental crisis and the stewardship of creation.

 
Perhaps the same could be said for our own congregations.

 
So, the first step is to become aware of the crisis and the degradation of God’s creation. There are many sources for such information, many community partners, faith-based and secular, available for involvement. (See the suggested resources in the MNO Eco-Reformation website)

 
Earth-care is much more than recycling plastic and paper, conserving water and shutting off lights. Earth-care is a pattern of justice-making.

 
Earth-care is about the environment; its creatures, great and small; and people. The awareness we are discovering and promoting involves the inter-connection of all things.
Earth-care begins with my lawn and my neighbors’; but circles of connection extend to the water quality and air quality and waste management of my city; and then the foods we consume and the clothes we buy intersect with communities in neighboring and distant countries. It’s not just the carbon footprint in harvesting, manufacturing and shipping. It involves the decision-making of who provides what, where and why. And how people are living with the consequences.

 
Is it an accident that a greater percentage of people of color live near polluting factories, waste incinerators, and dumping fields of our cities? Professors Rhoads and Rossing cite the 2006 hurricane Katrina as an example of a natural disaster compounded by human activity. Marginal wetland property, normally a buffer between the land and the sea, had been developed, exposing to the elements the poor and people of color. It was the sick, the elderly and people of color, those with the least resources to cope, who were most affected.

 
Rising ocean levels, deforestation practices, dumping toxic waste, impact most those in developing countries. Drought and soil degradation, replacing subsistence crops with cash crops, affect food sources where there are few alternatives.

 
Actions that exploit natural resources are also exploiting our human neighbors. Corporate policies seek the most efficient production, at the cheapest costs with lowest wages, affecting health, well-being and personal autonomy.

 
Professors Rossing and Rhoads cite the example of the difference between commercial coffee production and fair-trade production. Which coffee does your church use in its fellowship? Is the cost of fair-trade coffee, when measured by the community rather than the cup, so outrageous?

 
The second mandate for the church’s mission calls for committing to social justice and environmental care. These are not separate issues. The decisions and the actions are inter-connected. The decisions in the board room affect the network in the biosphere and the economics of the developing community and the well-being of families living on the land and beside the factories and along the coastlines and riverways.

 
It’s a new way of thinking. It makes buying a shirt or a pint of strawberries a bit more complicated. It means that a seniors’ Bible study on “the kingdom of heaven in Matthew” might include consideration of the kingdom of heaven in Guatemala, and the kingdom of heaven in Antarctica and the kingdom of heaven on the bald prairies of Canada. Maybe the youth activity this month changes from an afternoon of paintball to an afternoon of roadside clean-up. Maybe the fowl supper shifts from feeding the community to feeding the homeless in the community. This requires a re-orientation, a metanoia, a transformation in what congregations, and their members, do.

 
How do we make these decisions? The third mandate addresses this. The third mandate for mission is that “the Bible presents care for creation as fundamental to our human vocation and mission.”

Reflecting on “Christian Mission in an Ecological Age” Part 2 of 6

 

Let me draw your attention to this article from the Lutheran School of Theology – Chicago http://currentsjournal.org/index.php/currents/article/view/20/41. It serves as a foundation for the following four blogs suggesting new directions in the missional mandate of the church.

The article is A Beloved Earth Community: Christian Mission in an Ecological Age, written by David M. Rhoads, Professor of New Testament, Emeritus, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and Barbara R. Rossing, Professor of New Testament, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

NOTE: This essay was first published in Mission after Christendom: Emergent Themes in Contemporary Mission, Ogbu Kalu, Peter Vethanayagamony, and Edmund Kee-Fook Chia, eds. (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 2010), 128–43.

 

 
In the last blog ( August 1) we introduced St. Peter’s Lutheran Church on the Lake. But it could be any congregation. It could be yours. The summer has passed. Council has taken a few months off. Now it’s time to plan the fall programming. Many events and emphases are traditional and routine. But the environment is casting its shadow on the congregation, its community and members. Will the congregation respond pro-actively? Will the changing context actually inform, challenge, and redirect the mission of he congregation?

 
Professors Rhoads and Rossing, from the Lutheran Theological School of Theology in Chicago, suggest it will and it must. They propose five new mandates for the church, given the theological crisis we are experiencing.

 
This is the first mandate: to learn about the degradation of God’s creation.

 
In the introductory blog, the congregation is already experiencing the impact of environmental change: increased costs for energy, impacting heating and cooling the facility, snow removal, and shipping materials; climate change, impacting heating and cooling and snow removal; rising costs for fuel are impacting family decision-making in their availability for community and church activities; rising energy costs impact the cost of food normally included in church events; city services are being affected, including water and waste, even the recycling program. Taken individually, they could happen without notice. But cumulatively families are certainly noticing; will the church board also notice and adjust its ministry accordingly?

 
So, what’s going on? Some governmental authorities challenge that climate change is real at all. But there is this evidence, this impact upon daily living.

 

Professors Rhoads and Rossing emphatically say that the congregation must become aware of what is happening in the world, what is happening to creation, what is impacting the ministry of the church and what is requiring ministry from the mission of the church.

 
There is a tremendous loss of species diversity. The earth is losing one hundred species per day. And will lose half of the animal and plant species by the end of this century!

 

The loss of the forests. these are the lungs of the planet. Forests, comparable to the size of the country of Paraguay are lost every year. Land capable of raising crops for food is being lost to desert, at the rate comparable to the size of Oman.

 

Pollution of air, water and the land. Herbicides, pesticides, toxic waste – products of human activity are destroying our aquifers, our soil, our lakes and rivers.

 

Rising population. We will reach seven billion people. Is humanity an invasive species?
Global warming. Things change in the 1800s. Industrial stacks, cars, ships, airplanes and houses are emitting toxins like never before. Before the industrial revolution there were 275 parts per million of CO2; now we are approaching 385. We are trapping heat; the temperature of the planet is rising progressively.

 

Who cares? We do! Why? Because we understand from the beginning humanity has been placed on this planet with the responsibility to steward, to care for its well-being.

 

Congregations, faith communities of every stripe are the grass-roots organizations – already in existence – called to mobilize energies and resources for the care of the planet.

 

St. Peter Lutheran Church on the Lake needs to ask itself – as do each of our congregations – What has this congregation done in the last three years to address environmental stewardship? What will the mission planning do in the coming year to raise awareness of this global crisis? And what will the congregation plan as action steps to affect change?

 

The MNO Eco-Reformation Project has extended the invitation to our Lutheran congregations to do these two things: arrange and conduct one educational event and arrange and conduct one action step in the coming year. It’s a small step. Just one. But collectively, as a synod and beyond, one step becomes many steps – a journey. Especially if we include neighboring congregations, inter-faith communities, government agencies, and community groups in the learning and the action. It’s not one more thing to do; it’s the right thing to do. It’s our mandate. It’s a way of life.

 

Next mandate: To embrace a Christian ethic that acknowledges the interrelationship of ecological change and human justice.