Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday Repentance

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Our confession of waste and pollution of creation and of our lack of concern for future generations bears on environmental stewardship more obviously than do other parts of the Litany of Penitence. A closer examination and reflection on our Ash Wednesday prayers, however, reveal many links between the faults we confess and the way we do -- or do not -- care for the earth.

Confession of our self-indulgence, exploitation of other people, an intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our blindness to human needs and suffering are intertwined with the way we care for the environment. In particular, environmental degradation often affects people living in poverty to a greater degree than it affects wealthier people.

On April 21, the Episcopal Church will sponsor an ecumenical forum on the topic of The Intersection of Poverty and the Environment. The forum, which will be webcast at 11:00 Central time, will feature Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. For now, the fact that the church is highlighting the relationship between poverty and environmental degradation provides a starting place for reflection during Lent.

Today’s text from Isaiah (Isaiah 58:1-12) says that a true fast, a day truly acceptable to the Lord, consists of acts of mercy and justice. When we do these things, says Isaiah, we will find ourselves strengthened and guided by God. The passage ends with the statement that those who meet the needs of others and relieve suffering will “be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in”. We cannot repair and restore the world so that everyone has adequate food and water and health unless we greatly reduce pollution and address climate change. In a complex world, habits and actions that seem innocent and harmless to us might very well be causing hardship for people somewhere else. Part of following Jesus is learning more about our world, more about the sources of pollution and climate change and their effects, so that we can be certain it is Jesus we are following.

God of the desert, as we follow Jesus into the unknown,
may we recognize the tempter when he comes;
let it be your bread we eat,
your world we serve and you alone we worship.

(From the Collects for Ash Wednesday in A New Zealand Prayer Book , p. 573.)

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