Reflecting on the Solemn Collects of our Good Friday liturgy last year in the post Good Friday: Grief, Compassion and Hope, I talked about the weight of grief as we hear again the story of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion and the way that resonates with the weight of grief felt by people paying to attention to climate change and its effects on all forms of life on this planet.
The weight of that grief is heavier this year than it was last year. Since last Good Friday, 2014 has been declared the warmest year on record. As 2015 is underway, we continue to break records for the hottest continuous twelve months on record. Arctic sea ice has hit its lowest winter maximum on record. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now commonly at or above 400 ppm. A new study shows that the rate of sea level rise is greater than previously thought.
California is under a Drought State of Emergency while the northeastern United States is emerging from big winter snow totals that broke records in places like Boston. Both situations produce negative economic impacts for people. Some parts of the world suffer from flooding and damaging storm winds while others see worsening drought. Along with producing immediate harm from floods, winds, and burning forests and prairies, these extreme conditions increase food insecurity.
But Good Friday reminds us that we do not grieve alone. It can feel that way, because we live in a society that often turns away from facing challenges like climate change because we don’t know what to do with grief. Good Friday gives us a day when grief is acknowledged, felt, and even expected. It’s a day for people paying attention throughout the year to feel less alone in our grief and to be part of a worshiping community that can gather to grieve
The weight of grief for our biosphere has grown heavier in a year, but the promise of Good Friday that compassion for those who suffer can lift us all into a place of some sort of hope still rings true. Hope is not uninformed optimism; hope is not an irrational belief that we will magically return to a time before climate destabilization. Hope is faith that love has power we cannot fathom and even the worst of human experience can be redeemed.
And, more than ever, I still believe this part of last year’s reflection to be true:
Gathering our strength and doing whatever we can to prevent and relieve the human misery that results from environmental degradation is the only choice we have as followers of Christ. Choosing to acknowledge the problems we face and working to address them with so little evidence that we can succeed is where we draw on our faith and our hope.
We are an Easter people, even on Good Friday and because of Good Friday. Opening ourselves to grief, lamenting and being present to the reality of so much loss, also allows us to experience genuine compassion, the entry point to genuine hope.