Saturday, April 1, 2017

Praying the Earth's News and Taking Off Our Grave Clothes: April 1, 2017

Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Collect For the Conservation of Natural Resources (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 827)

The earth’s news this week included what is becoming an all-too-familiar set of stories about extreme weather, climbing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane to of along with rising global temperatures and sea levels, and particular local struggles for environmental justice. 

This week, however, brought unusual news for us in the United States, and since the laws of science aren’t bound by our geo-political boundaries, this U.S. news brings new concern to the whole world. This week our national political will resulted not in the usual too-little-too-late mode of steps toward addressing climate change, but in an attempt to take giant steps backwards in our fight for climate stability. That attempt took the form of an Executive Order intended to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. This action signals a breathtaking disregard for the reality of climate change and its effects. That disregard also signals to other countries that the United States intends to continue to be a leading global polluter, and that our political leaders don’t intend to assert global leadership in mitigating global warming. 

Hope lies in the fact that legal challenges will at least delay and at best prevent the implementation of this Executive Order. Hope also lies in the economics of energy, where wind and solar energy compete with fossil fuel energy. But those hopes don’t erase the fact that the choices of the American people have resulted in a very real threat to the entire planet.

Tomorrow’s Gospel is the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-45). The New Revised Standard Version translates Jesus’s instructions in Verse 44 as “Unbind him, and let him go”, while the New International versions says “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” We bind ourselves up, wrapping ourselves in grave clothes, when we numb ourselves to realities we would rather not face. We wrap ourselves in grave clothes when we pretend that something that is glaringly out of the ordinary is normal. Perhaps we ignore a worrisome physical symptom in ourselves, something that should be brought to a doctor’s attention, because we don’t want to deal with what the doctor might tell us. That sort of normalization of something aberrant isn’t life-giving.

It seemed to me this week in planning this post that normalizing the turn we have taken as a nation with regards to environmental degradation would be a way of binding ourselves up comfortably in our own grave clothes. Prayers of repentance might be a good way to mark our understanding of the gravity of our situation. Actions — even something as simple as naming the reality of climate change and our negligence in addressing it — will help to unbind us and let us truly live.

Almighty God, who created us in your own image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of you holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and fore ever. Amen.
Collect for Social Justice, Rite Two (The Book of Common Prayer)

Please pray for:

The will to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Atmospheric carbon dioxide needs to be measuring around 350 ppm for climate stability. The March 30 reading at the Mauna Loa observatory was was 409.39 ppm.

Our political leaders.   

Those who have died in mudslides in Colombia this weekend, and those who survived and are dealing with the mudslides and floods. As of this writing, at least 112 people have died in the mudslides.

Pipeline fighters in the Great Plains. Both the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline have been revived under the new administration. These pipelines not only would contribute to the burning of fossil fuels and threaten to pollute water sources and disturb prairie ecosystems, but the locations of the pipelines continue to raise justice issues for indigenous people and ranchers and farmers living along the routes of these pipelines. 

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Prayer In Times of Conflict (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 824)

As we pray for others, 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)