Daily Office Reflection
Some days when I've read about the impacts climate change already has on the web of life on our planet, or when I've experienced the extreme or unseasonable weather events of “global weirding”, or when I've heard about what our political leaders and the media deem important and then compare it to the reality of what is unfolding as a result of greenhouse gas pollution, I wonder about our huge capacity for denial and inaction. Most Americans know on some level that climate change is happening and that humankind is responsible for most of the changes in global climate, but that knowledge isn't deep enough to make a difference in our lives. We continue to make long-range plans as if everything will stay the same, we continue to produce and use energy in ways we know are harmful, and we continue to accept the priorities of leaders who bury climate change way down the list of things needing our attention. The disparity between what we know and how we live is so great that it sometimes seems surreal.
Today’s Daily Office lessons bring together two themes that can speak to us in this new world of global warming and also remind us that while this new situation is on a scale we have never before known – truly global and truly life-threatening to all living things -- our often indifferent response to it and the reasons for that indifference are deeply rooted in the human spiritual condition.
The passage from Paul’s First Letter to Timothy (I Timothy 6:6-21) advises being content to have the basics like food and clothing. When we are not content and focus on getting more money to get more than the necessities, we wander away from a focus on the faith and the way of life Christ taught us. “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil,” says Paul. For those of us who already are among the wealthy in this world, people who like most Americans have much more than the basic necessities, we are “to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share.”
It’s easy to see how the love of money from the fossil fuel industry influences our political leaders and keeps us from changing our energy policies as fast and completely as we need to change them to avert the worst of global warming; it’s easy to see how certain politicians and business leaders place the love of money above the love for caring for God’s creation. It’s perhaps not so easy for some of us to see how the love of money lies at many of the excuses the rest of us make for accepting the status quo. That’s where today’s Gospel reading (Luke 14:12-24) can help.
In response to someone at a dinner party exclaiming, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Jesus tells the story about the guests invited to a great banquet making excuses for not going. They are all good excuses; for each, there is something they consider more important that needs their attention. After inviting instead the people who would usually not be invited to such a gathering, and then anyone who could be compelled to go, the host says “none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.” Good things, things we all consider important, provide excuses for not tending to the best thing, ultimately resulting in a great loss for us.
We don’t do the things we might do to advocate for meaningful action on climate change because our busy lives are full of good things to do that seem more important at the moment. We don’t practice environmental stewardship as well as we might in our homes and parishes because there are other things, many of them good and important things, that take priority for us. Surely part of answering an invitation to a banquet in God’s kingdom is living now as if the essential gifts God has given us for life on this planet are worth conserving. Concern for our neighbors near and far who are already suffering from the impacts of climate change and concern for future generations (and for our own future) require us to set aside those good but nonessential things that lull us into existential denial and create the great gap between what we know and how we live. Being content with what we have and listening with honest and open hearts for our own excuses can help our willingness to act be more consistent with the knowledge we have.