Benediction Online

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Forgive for the sake of the Planet

2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

This week scientists in Berkeley issued an alarming report. It says that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change are driving Earth toward an irreversible change.  One of the researchers said, "You can envision these…changes as a fast period of adjustment where we get pushed through the eye of the needle. As we're going through the eye of the needle, that's when we see political strife, economic strife, war and famine." It’s not new news. We are heading towards a planetary catastrophe.

Today’s reading from 2 Corinthians says, “Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day…. we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

It’s certainly comforting, as our bodies age, to know that this is not everything there is. Even though our bodies are wasting away, we are being made new on the inner planes, even though all that we see is temporary, we have hope in the eternal love of God and the eternal life we have in the Spirit. The way we live our lives is what will endure – the qualities of love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness and mercy are what will last. The rest is just passing.

But we have to beware of the distortion. The distortion which says, since all this is temporary, since all this is just providing the setting for the real work which is internal and eternal, we don’t need to take care of the world we’re in, here and now. That is a distortion of what Scripture says and it is a temptation which comes straight from the sin matrix. “Take what you want and don’t worry about other people. Look after number 1. There’s not enough to go round so make sure you get your share.”

With more and more humans being born everyday, it seems inevitable that by 2050 our global population will have reached 9 million. That means we’ll have to become much more efficient to sustain ourselves.  Even today millions live hungry, but in this country there’s an epidemic of obesity. We are using far more resources than we need. Many of those resources are not renewable.

Another message from the sin matrix is “there’s nothing you can do anyway.” That is a lie, but a very tempting one. It’s more comfortable to think that there is nothing we can do and just go on living in the same way. But if we do that, we will be responsible for suffering and misery which could have been avoided. Caring for our neighbor is no longer just giving a dollar to the Foodbank or helping at an overnight shelter. Caring for our neighbor means caring for those we don’t know, can’t see and will never meet, it means caring for those who aren’t even born yet.

Our baptismal vows call us to seek and serve Christ in all persons. That includes those who will live with the legacy of our greed as well as the poor of this country and the poor of the Sub-Saharan countries who are already affected by climate change.
We can do something. Here are a few things we can do:
Eat less meat – the beef industry is one of the largest producers of greenhouse gases. Meat is also an inefficient way to produce protein – it takes far fewer resources to grow a pound of protein from vegetable sources than a pound of protein from animals
Eat food that is seasonally abundant and buy it locally – it reduces the greenhouse gases used to transport food long distances
Use a smaller car and ride share whenever you can
Use as little plastic and other packaging as possible and recycle everything you can

None of those are new ideas, and they’re all important. But here’s something else to think about.

One of the authors of the report I quoted also said, "We have created a bubble of human population and economy ... that is totally unsustainable and is either going to have to deflate gradually or is going to burst.”  "We desperately need global leadership for planet Earth."

When Jesus said, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand,” he wasn’t talking about the United States in 2012. But he could have been. We will never get the global leadership we need when everyone is busy fighting each other. Our leaders can no longer lead because they are embroiled in partisan battles. And we are allowing it.

We are allowing our culture to become a place where you cannot respect someone with whom you do not agree. Here in Los Osos, we have seen the sewer wars turn neighbor against neighbor. Nationally it is impossible it seems for Republican and Democrat to speak to one another. The rhetoric between those who disagree is now based on contempt, and it’s only going to get worse as the election approaches.

We need to stand up against this kind of divisive thinking. And the first place we need to stand up to it is in our own minds. It could not be the mindset of the country if it were not the mindset of the people. Like me, you’re probably already thinking, well it’s not us, it’s them. But that’s the problem. It’s all us. We are in this together. We all live on this planet. Yes it’s easier for some people. It’s easy to get resentful when we think about people who are richer or more powerful than we are. But they have their own problems too.

Every time you have an “us and them” thought you are helping to perpetuate the problem. Every time you blame or get angry, you are perpetuating the problem. Which isn’t to say that you have to give up your own opinion, but know that the other opinion, however misguided it may seem, is being held by a beloved child of God.

So here’s my challenge for the week. Think of someone you find quite awful. I’m thinking of Rush Limbaugh, but you can make your own choice. It doesn’t have to be someone whose politics you dislike, it can be anyone who comes to mind. Now you get tot pray for them everyday. And you also get to ask God to transform your own heart and mind so that you can forgive them.

Forgiving does not mean pretending there are no differences. Forgiving does not mean that you have to agree or be best friends. Forgiving means that you let go of the anger and the contempt and the hurt and think about that person as a beloved child of God rather than the person who did you wrong, or the person who says such awful things.

It’s not easy. But at a fundamental level it is the lack of forgiveness of ourselves and others which is destroying this planet. It’s not a coincidence that we pray “Give us this day our daily bread,” and then immediately, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who sin against us”. The flow of forgiveness, of forgiving and being forgiving, is as important to sustaining life as is bread.

It is here in the bread, God’s sacrifice of reconciliation, that we know God’s forgiveness. My our offering, our gift to the world, not just be food for the hungry, but forgiveness for the good of the planet.


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