Saturday, November 20, 2010

The King of All Creation

Archbishop William Temple was quoted in yesterday’s reflection in Forward Day by Day, a reflection from 1936 about the involvement of the church in what today we call social justice ministry:

The Christian’s duty in regard to slums is not merely to tell the inhabitants that their squalor is of small consequence because soon they will pass to the house of many mansions.

It’s easy to imagine that if Archbishop Temple were here today, he would tell us that our duty with regard to climate change isn’t merely to say that the effects of climate change on our planet won’t matter because our home is in heaven. 

In the great circle of the liturgical year, we come this Sunday to the Reign of Christ or Christ the King. The collect for Christ the King talks about all the peoples of the earth being brought together under Christ’s rule.  The kingdom is both the end of the story that we tell each liturgical year and the beginning, as the following Sunday we begin our preparations for the birth of the King in a stable.

Whatever other interpretations we might place on the Scriptural passages about the kingdom of God and the rule of Christ, it’s evident that when we truly believe that Christ is everything described in Colossians 1:11-20, we experience an inner transformation that re-orients us radically. In the words of this passage, such an encounter with the reality of Christ transfers us to Christ’s kingdom. This radical shift makes it possible for us to live into our identities as citizens of Christ’s kingdom even while we are living in Nebraska in 2010.

This passage from Colossians emphasizes that Christ is the king of all things, both on earth and in heaven. This Sunday we celebrate Christ as the “firstborn of all creation”; next Sunday we are preparing for the birth of Christ, for the Incarnation, where God’s love for creation brings God to be born as a human being, living as one of us on earth. 

Christ is not only the king of heaven, but also the king of all creation, both heaven and earth. How we treat one another and the environment that sustains life becomes doubly significant when we remember that the kingdom is both eternal and now, both infinite and right here. Paul tells us that Christ himself “is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Honoring Christ and his kingdom as we do this Sunday entails honoring all of creation. Looking toward a time when all the peoples of the earth are brought together under Christ’s reign entails caring for our brothers and sisters in all parts of our world. We honor Christ as our King when we tend carefully to our connections through Christ to one another and to all of creation.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Catastrophe and Faith

Today’s Daily Office lessons include Habakkuk 3:1-18, which ends with these words:

17 Though the fig tree does not blossom,
   and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails
   and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
   and there is no herd in the stalls, 
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
   I will exult in the God of my salvation.

The prophet Habakkuk describes a catastrophic scene, a complete crop failure coupled with a loss of livestock. This description of desolation ends, though, with a strong statement of faith: despite this utter calamity, I will celebrate in God.

November tree
I rejoiced to see this passage this morning, as I was thinking about a sobering piece that Joe Romm posted on Climate Progress yesterday. “A stunning year in climate science reveals that human civilization is on the precipice summarizes ten of the biggest stories in climate science in the past year. The picture that emerges from these summaries is a catastrophic one, with our only hope being a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions very soon. All of these stories will affect us in Nebraska in one way or another. Perhaps of most immediate concern to us in the Great Plains are these two: a prediction from the National Center for Atmospheric Research  of drought patterns fifty years in the future if emissions are not controlled, with our section of the country predicted to be experiencing a worse drought than we did in the 1930’s Dust Bowl days, and a prediction from the UK Meteorological office of average temperature increases between 13 to 18 degrees F. over most of the United States in the next fifty years if we keep on our current emissions path.

November daisies in Nebraska
It’s important to share this sort of information in this blog, but it’s also important to place it in a faith context that helps us figure out what to do with the information.  Christian hope in the face of news that could easily lead to despair has been the subject of several other Green Sprouts posts; a major contribution of religion to the discussion of environmental degradation is the ability to shine light into darkness, to bring hope where there is despair. And even when hope is hard to come by, there is still the hope that we can rejoice in God and as we rejoice to come to love God’s creation enough to save ourselves from total disaster.

A theme of Advent is the coming of the light into the darkness. As we move into Advent in the next couple of weeks, it’s a good time for Christians to take a deep and prayerful breath, look straight into the darkness climate scientists tell us we are entering, and bring some light into the darkness. Faith isn't denial of the darkness; faith is the ability to find God in the darkness.