Thursday, May 31, 2012

Month's End: Pentecost and Praying the News

The last Sunday in May was Pentecost this year. Pentecost is a fitting time not only to look back at the gift of the Holy Spirit at the Pentecost described in Acts 2:1-21, but also to consider how the Spirit calls and empowers the church today to share the Gospel.

Our Psalm on Pentecost Sunday (Psalm 104:25-35, 37b) praises God for the earth and for the great variety of creatures  – “O Lord, how manifold are your works” – and for God’s provision for creation. It’s a picture of the abundance and biodiversity we would expect to find in the unspoiled creation of a gracious and loving God.

The Epistle lesson from Romans 8:22-27 describes human beings and all of creation waiting together for redemption. Paul talks about hoping for things we cannot yet see, because “hope that is seen is not hope”.

Surely the Spirit calls us in the church to be part of God’s redeeming work for the earth as well as humankind. The world described in Psalm 104 is a picture of the Reign of God, where even the Leviathan, the serpent of the sea, is something good and playful. One way to tell whether a push or pull toward action is of the Spirit is to look at whether it works for or against the restoration of God’s creation. Even when hope seems slim, we are called to trust in God’s power and do the redemptive work of the Gospel.

Some of the news stories from this past month were so devastating that we might very well find it difficult to pray in response to them. Where do we begin? Our spoken prayers can seem inadequate. St. Paul says (Romans 8:26): “We do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” I ask your prayers for some of the situations that leave us at the point of placing much hope in the deep prayer of the Spirit

Acceptance our repentance, Lord for the wrongs we have done: for our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us, Accept our repentance, Lord.
From the Litany of Penitence (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 268)

Please pray for:

The future of life on the earth as greenhouse gas levels rise.  Many scientists consider 350 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to be the upper limit of safe levels of the gas for life as we know it. Today there were reports  that monitoring stations this spring across the Arctic are measuring more than 400 ppm. Worldwide, levels average around 397ppm. May also brought a report from the International Energy Agency(IEA) that CO2 emissions reached a record high of 31.6 gigatonnes (Gt) in 2011. This is a 1.0 Gt increase over 2010 levels.

Wisdom to find just and compassionate ways to address the economic consequences of climate change. We are beginning to understand more about the way climate change will affect us economically. Some are beginning to talk about what scientist and climate writer Joe Romm calls “Dust-Bowlification”, the expectation that the sort of aridity associated with Dust Bowl may spread from Kansas to California by mid-century, endangering agriculture and food security. CBS News ran a piece on assessing the risk of climate change that explored some of the economic effects we have already seen.

People exposed to toxic chemicals. Discussion of the proposed Safe Chemicals Act  has brought our attention to our exposure to toxic chemicals. For example, an article today reports  that chemicals like fire retardants are being detected in common foods. Young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of these chemicals.

Grateful hearts.  Along with some record-breaking heat and severe weather, May has also brought some beautiful days to be outdoors in Nebraska. May we continue to find joy and meaning in God’s creation and give God thanks for the goodness of God’s creation.

We might also 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)