Season of Creation1C, 2010
A Liturgy is also available
THE EARTH THAT WE KNEW… IS GONE. LONG LIVE EAARTH!
“The Copenhagen conference, in December 2009, was supposed to be
the place where the world took an ‘historic step forward’.
Instead, it turned into a fiasco of the first order”
(Bill McKibben. Eaarth).
We are living in a scientific, pluralistic age.
And unless you have been living under a cabbage leaf,
then you will also be aware of the current universal debates about how
“our modern life-style is harming other creatures, diminishing the functioning of ecosystems, and altering our global climate patterns"
Planet Earth is in peril. All creation is suffering.
As you can imagine or already know, several folk have put their concerns
in books, during workshops,
at politically rallies and conferences, and
through the media.
And as I have for the past five years, today’s liturgy, and the ones
for the next three weeks, all follow an added new Lectionary season…
The Season of Creation.
Much of the impetus for this new liturgical season comes from
the work of Australian scholar, Norman Habel.
Traditionally the church calendar or Lectionary is shaped around three years.
And each year has seven main seasons:
Advent, Christmas, Epiphany,
Easter, Pentecost, Lent.
And the rather long general time, called After Pentecost or Ordinary Sundays.
This additional season claims some of that After Pentecost time
by designating the four Sundays in September each year,
traditionally associated with Spring in the southern hemisphere,
as the Season of Creation.
And each of those four days have been given a theme.
This year the themes are Ocean, Fauna, Storm, and Cosmos.
So I would like to think it is important stuff
we are saying and doing this morning.
I am informed that approximately 71% of the earth’s surface
is covered by ocean - continuous body of water that is
customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas.
More than half of this area is over 3,000 metres deep.
And the collective volume is approximately 1.3 billion cubic kilometres.
Scientists also claim that life within the ocean evolved some
three (3) billion years prior to life on land.
And they estimate that 230,000 marine life-forms of all types
are currently known, but the total could be
up to 10 times that number.
We also know that the ocean has a significant effect on the biosphere.
Oceanic evaporation as a phase of the water cycle,
is the source of most rainfall and ocean temperatures
determine both climate and wind patterns that affect life on land.
But… the oceans, the sea, that 71% of the earth’s surface
we usually don’t consider much outside our Summer vacations,
is changing due to global warming.
Now, as I was preparing these comments (three months ago in early June),
a few things were happening around me:
(i) I was reading Bill McKibben’s latest book,
Eaarth: Making a life on a tough new planet.
My reading was primarily to do a review for Insights magazine.
(ii) The BP oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico was continuing to grow,
and all attempts to stem its flow were proving to be in vain.
Indeed, in a radio interview on ABC Radio National Breakfast,
McKibben said that this year we will really sense God’s humour
when the hurricane season strikes…
• they will go further inland and live longer, due to the sun’s rays being absorbed by the dark surface of the oil,
warming the air, dropping even more record rain.
And while that interview was happening…
(iii) Reports were coming in that a water spout had crossed the coastline
in far northern New South Wales causing extensive damage.
Callers to ABC North Coast reported there had been falls
of more than 270 millimetres of rain that morning.
So the theme of Ocean Sunday was suddenly proving to be very important.
Bill McKibben is an author and founder of the environmental organizations
Step it up and 350.org and was one of the first to warn
of the dangers of global warming.
I invite you to listen to a selection of just some of Bill McKibben’s comments
on oceans and climate warming:
“The oceans… are distinctly more acid and their level is rising; they are also warmer, which means the greatest storms of our planet, hurricanes and cyclones, have become more powerful” (McKibben 2010:45).
Because of our emissions and our burning of cheap fossil fuel, a process
“that Britian’s Royal Society described as ‘essentially irreversible’” (McKibben 2010:10).
To make his point further McKibben says:
“One barrel of oil yields as much energy as 25,000 hours of human manual labor – more than a decade of human labor per barrel. The average American uses 25 barrels each year, which is like finding 300 years of free labor annually. And that’s just the oil; there’s coal and gas, too” (McKibben 2010:27).
Economics and growth have become the watchwords for modernity!
At the same time research is showing the earth’s ice caps
and glaciers are melting with “disconcerting and unexpected speed” (McKibben 2010:45).
We have already raised the temperature nearly a degree Celsius.
“…the ocean is more acid than anytime in the last eight hundred thousand years, and at current rates by 2050 it will be more corrosive than anytime in the past 20 million years” (McKibben 2010:10).
“On the last day of 2008, the Economist reported that temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula were rising faster than anywhere else on earth, and that the West Antarctic was losing ice 75 percent faster than just a decade before. …Name a major feature of the earth’s surface and you’ll find massive change” (McKibben 2010:5).
The changes could hardly be more fundamental!
“The earth that we knew – the only earth that we ever knew – is gone” (McKibben 2010:27).
If you are beginning to hear ‘doomsday’ and ‘apocalypse’ then I guess I can’t blame you.
I had the same feelings as I read McKibben’s book.
We can be numbed by all the figures and percentages.
We can say the scientists are probably overstating our woes.
The anticipated future can be paralysed by our fears.
Indeed, it’s hard to brace ourselves
“for the jump to a new world when we still, kind of, live in the old one… We’re so used to growth that we can’t imagine alternatives; at best we embrace the squishy sustainable, with its implied claim that we can keep on as before” (McKibben 2010:102).
Well, McKibben is not all negative and alarmist.
He does offer some suggestions – some words or metaphors – for change.
And those five words are: Durable, Sturdy, Stable, Hardy, Robust.
And for of us that all means reshaping our society:
• from big to smaller,
• from growth to maintenance,
• from expansion to scale down,
• from global to neighbourhood.
But you’ll have to read his book!
Human beings, especially in the so-called ‘West’, have historically been reluctant
to consider themselves as part of the web of nature.
Indeed a web within a web.
Likewise, Australia does not have a good record when it comes to climate change.
Governments since the early 1990s have all adopted a strategy
of more-or-less do little to nothing at home
and work hard to prevent others from taking major action.
So there has been an encouragement of community apathy.
Not to mention the often cosy relationships between the fossil-fuel lobbyists,
called the ‘greenhouse mafia’, and many politicians -
all exposed by a 2006 ABC Four Corners program, and
Clive Hamilton’s book, Scorcher: The dirty politics of climate change.
But if our biblical tradition suggests anything, human beings are part of nature.
The problems comes when Christians – usually fundamentalists –
claim that the mythical stories of Genesis 1 and 2,
are more ‘true’ or more ‘factual’ than science and evolution.
So in many quarters there is a raging attack on ‘progressive’ religion:
• from fundamentalists who don’t believe one can accept evolution
and be religious, and
• from the ‘new atheists’ who caricature all people of religion
as fundamentalists (MZimmerman. The Clergy Letter Project, 22/5/2010).
But modern science is saying and has been saying, again and again:
the universe must be regarded as a whole;
it is of intrinsic value, and each part,
participates in that intrinsic value as each part
participates in this wonderful web of life.
Each part… rather than one species or organism
separating itself out as more important than the rest.
It is time for radical change. It is urgent.
To recall the words of a long-haired, locust eating desert prophet:
‘The axe is at the root of the tree.’
Global warming is not just another important issue
that human beings need to deal with.
Rather, it is the demand that we live differently.
And it demands a paradigm shift in who we think we are (McFague 2008:44).
So we do something important today.
As we begin the season of Spring we also begin to celebrate
the liturgical Season of Creation.
And to be reminded we are a part of nature,
even as the oceans, the fauna, the storm and the cosmos, are.
A part of nature. A part of the universe. That whole
“complex, interrelated and interacting... matter-energy in space-time... of which humans are an integral part...” (Gillette 2006:1).
PS: In Australia we have just come out of another Federal election - with a hung parliament, which is another story...
During such events the Uniting Church produces an election resource pak.
This year it was called 'Building an economy for life'.
And under the heading 'Tackling climate change - Seeking just policy' it was stated:
"Tackling climate change presents us with the opportunity to reassess our relationship with the natural world and the ways our economic systems can, and have, helped or hindered ecological flourishing.
• To ensure the future of our planet, we must begin to transform our economy from one based on fossil fuels to a 'green' economy that reflects respect for the limited resources of the planet and the need for justice and equity among all people.
• Australia must commit nationally and internationally to strong and binding greenhouse emissions reduction targets.
• We must urgently implement a range of policies, including a carbon price signal, that will effectively drive down our domestic emissions and force the redirection of resources towards the research, development and implementation of renewable energies.
• Nationally and internationally, we must develop and distribute new technologies that reduce our consumption of resources and production of waste products.
• Our approach to managing our natural resources must be informed by the best scientific research and not by political expediency.
• Just environmental policies would support all people in making necessary transitions to a more sustainable way of living.
• A strong global agreement will only be achieved when adequate assistance is given to developing countries to help them address their own emissions levels and adapt to the effects of climate change while allowing them to continue to increase their prosperity."
"Building an economy for life. Federal election 2010". UCA National Assembly. NSW: Sydney. UCA Assembly.
Gillett, P. R. 2006. “Theology of, by, and for religious naturalism” in Journal of Liberal Religion 6, 1, 1-6. (An online journal).
Hamilton, C. 2007. Scorcher: The dirty politics of climate change. VIC: Melbourne. Black Inc.
McFague, S. 2008. A new climate for theology. God, the world, and global warming. MN: Minneapolis. Fortress Press.
McKibben, Bill. 2010. Eaarth: Making a life on a tough new planet. VIC: Melbourne. Black Inc.
Peters, K. E. 2002. Dancing with the sacred. Evolution, ecology, and God. PN: Harrisburg. Trinity Press International