We began Lent yesterday with the Litany of Penitence (pp. 267-269, The Book of Common Prayer). We confessed our failure to love and serve, our unfaithfulness, the “pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives”, our self-indulgence, our anger and envy, our dishonesty, our “intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts”, and our failures to pray, worship, and share our faith as we should. Then we asked God to accept our repentance for some specific sins, including this:
For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us,
Acceptance our repentance, Lord.
In the months since the last post on this blog, much has changed in our nation politically, while the changes occurring in nature to our climate and everything in the biosphere that depends on climate stability continue to accelerate. The question that has gnawed at me for awhile now seems even more urgent: How best can people of faith acting as people of faith respond to our ecological crisis?
Two pieces of an answer return to me every time I pray and reflect about this: hope and prayer. Certainly there are important things to do in our roles as citizens; citizen advocacy for bold policies based on the best science is a necessity if we are to get out of this century with anything resembling the world as we humans have known it up to now. But that sort of action is a moral imperative for everyone, not just for people of faith. What do we uniquely offer a world in crisis? Hope and prayer.
We Christians offer the deep hope of people who are steeped in the Easter story of resurrection. We pray the litany of penitence because we have hope that true repentance brings about real changes in us and, through us, changes in the world around us. We know that God cares for us and all of creation, and our faith in God’s care gives us hope that our efforts to mitigate climate change and pollution are not meaningless even if we don’t reach the goals we have in mind for our efforts. We have faith that God is working with us and through us and for us when we work on behalf of other people and other living things, and that same faith gives us hope for a good outcome for our best efforts. I’ll be writing more about hope in the weeks ahead as move through Lent to Easter and then from Easter to Pentecost.
Prayer, however, is the most obviously unique gift to people of faith. Our hope informs and encourages our practice of prayer, and yet we also pray at times when our hope falters.
During Lent, look for weekly posts here for Praying the Earth’s News for the week. The news about what is unfolding can be so daunting that we are tempted to ignore it, yet even when a problem seems too big to begin to comprehend or tackle, we can pray. It certainly is preferable that our prayer be accompanied by action if possible, but that doesn’t make prayer on its own of no use while we are still finding our way to action.
Theologian Walter Wink says this about intercessory prayer:
When we pray, we are not sending a letter to a celestial White House where it is sorted among piles of others. We are engaged rather in an action of co-creation, in which one little sector of the universe rises up and becomes translucent, incandescent, a vibratory center of power that radiates the power of the universe.
History belongs to the intercessors, who believe the future into being. If this is so, then intercession, far from being an escape from action, is a means of focusing for action and of creating action. (Engaging the Powers, pp. 303-3-4)