Thursday, November 17, 2011

Seeing and Serving Christ

Proper 29A

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Proper 29 Collect, The Book of Common Prayer, p. 236

This last Sunday of the lectionary year focuses on Christ as King of kings and on God’s restoration of all things through Christ.  The Gospel text, Matthew 25:31-46, first identifies Christ with a king sitting on “the throne of his glory”. As Jesus describes what the king will do, however, we find Christ also identified with the people in greatest need who are most likely to be ignored, the opposite of a king seated in glory: “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

The meaning of this is plain: When we see people in need and do what we can to meet their needs, we see and serve Christ. When we fail to see those in need, or see them and ignore their needs, we fail to see and serve Christ.

We know that in today’s global community, despite our access to information from all over the world, those most affected by pollution and climate change are often ignored and virtually unseen by people in other places.

Because of concern about our own water and land, Nebraskans now know about the Alberta tar sands. What many of us do not know, however, are the effects of the pollution from the mining of the tar sands on people living downstream from it. This magazine recently published a photo essay about the community of Fort Chipewyan and how the health and culture of the people there have been affected by tar sands mining.

UNICEF released a report on Monday called Children and Climate Change: Children’sVulnerabilities to Climate Change and Disaster Impacts in East Asia and the Pacific. The report describes ways in which children, because of their developing bodies and immune systems and their place in society, are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. It describes the direct impacts from storms and higher temperatures; the increase in diseases such as cholera, diarrheal disease, dengue, and malaria; and psychological, educational, and nutritional impacts of climate change. Here also, the situations described are nearly unknown and/or ignored by people in our part of the world, but the report stresses that they are very real to the children in that part of the world.

These are only two examples of situations in which we fail to see those in need or see them and ignore their needs, thus failing to see and serve Christ. Our Sunday lessons remind us that Christ is King of kings but is also identified with the poorest of the poor. To forget either – that Christ is the ultimate authority or that Christ is found among those people we easily ignore – leads us to all sorts of moral and theological error and weakens the church’s ability to serve God’s children.

This Sunday's passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:15-23) says that the church is the body of Christ. If the church serves as the body of Christ, we must be about the work of reconciliation and restoration, which dovetails with the work of seeing and serving those in need.  Working towards the restoration of all things in creation, including eliminating pollution and curbing global warming, would do a lot towards making clean water, ample and healthy food, and healing available to all of God’s children. If we are the authentic church, the body of Christ, we will be about this work, seeing and serving the poorest of the poor in the name of the King of kings.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Praying the News: November 13 2011

Praying the News has become a regular feature of the Green Sprouts blog, a way of lifting up people and situations to God and inviting readers to do the same. Prayer is not a substitute for action; neither is action a substitute for prayer. Each is strengthened by the other.

Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Collect For the Conservation of Natural Resources (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 827)

Please pray for:

Wise leaders.  With this week’s IEA report stating that “the door is closing” on the opportunity to hold global warming to 2°C (see Numbering Our Days: Five Years ), we need wise leaders more than ever. Speaking at a gathering at the UK’s Royal Society to discuss the ecological impacts of climate change, Jo Philips, the Head of Climate Change Adaptation at WWF-UK said: “Current limited global ambition means that children around us today could be living through this ‘worst case scenario’. We have to take responsibility now. We know what we have to do and we have the solutions – we now need the leadership and commitment necessary to tackle this global problem before it is too late.”

The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF). The CVF is a group of nations that already are heavily affected by climate change. They are meeting now in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to prepare for the upcoming COP17 conference in Durban, South Africa. Of special concern is the understanding that the less vulnerable (and more powerful) nations at COP17 are discussing proposing an international agreement that would begin in 2017 , after the five-year door of opportunity has closed.

Climate justice for Africa and poor people around the world. With the COP17 meeting in South Africa, leaders from Africa – including Archbishop Desmond Tutu – have created the “Have Faith – Act Now” campaign to advocate for climate justice. Pray for their voices to be heard.

Protection for those affected by severe weather and sound understanding. Last week’s severe weather included a big storm in Alaska and unusually strong November tornadoes in Oklahoma. As of November 4, the U.S. this year had already set a record with fourteen billion-dollar weather disasters. Pray that as extreme weather events become more common and more severe that we receive and are able to understand honest information about the relationship of these events to climate change.

With thanksgiving for the decision to have a more careful review of the environmental effects of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Pray for wisdom and courage for those making the final decision about the pipeline, and pray for the people who worked hard to make our officials aware of the concerns around this project.

Pray for our own hearts to be open so we can see the needs in the world around us and gladly respond to those needs:

O heavenly Father, who has filled the world with beauty; Open our eyes to behold your gracious hand in all your works; that, rejoicing in your whole creation, we may learn to serve you with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for Joy in God’s Creation (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 814)