On 5 June this year we celebrate both Pentecost and World Environment Day.
Many of us feel extremely worried as we look at the global situation. We are facing a triple “pandemic” of climate change, biodiversity collapse and pollution. Those hardest hit are those who have caused the least damage. We have less than three years for our carbon emissions to begin to drop, and yet emissions continue to rise; and we are reaching dangerous tipping points.
Already the Brazilian Amazon has changed from carbon sink to carbon emitter. Melting permafrost is releasing vast amounts of methane. The devastating heat waves across India and Pakistan led them to re-open coal mines that had been closed. The war in Ukraine seems to have increased the demand for new fossil fuel extraction in other parts of the world. We are lost and confused.
The followers of Jesus were also lost and confused. After three incredible years of following Jesus, walking with him, learning from him, sharing with him, they had seen him tortured and murdered. Then the word began to spread that he was alive again, some people saw him, ate with him, touched him. Slowly they began to believe that it was true – he was alive! But then at the Ascension they were left again confused and upset. He said I am calling YOU to be my witnesses, stay in Jerusalem until you are clothed with power. They were so confused, no doubt afraid, maybe they would also be killed if they mentioned Jesus’ name.
People can debate what exactly happened, what were the tongues the fire, what exactly were the different languages. But what is crystal clear is what happened to the followers of Jesus.
There was a complete transformation in their lives:
From scared they became courageous
After seeing what had happened to Jesus, no wonder they were afraid of both Roman military and Jewish authorities. They were in hiding, and now suddenly they had the courage to preach in front of great crowds of people.
They were given a mission, they were sent. There is a saying that “a church without mission is like a fire without burning”.
The Fifth Mark of Mission tells us that we are called to “Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the Earth.”
Firstly in our mission we must confess and lament that we have failed to protect the integrity of creation – it is of vital urgency that we commit to renewing the life of the Earth.
The very first mandate that we were given by God was this: “care for my Earth”, when God placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and said “work the Earth and look after it” (Gen 2:15).
If you are worried about the future, know that action creates hope! The Spirit inspires and empowers us.
What do learn from Pentecost about how to take up this challenge?
From separated – to united
One of the signs of the spirit is that they were one, they came together regularly to meet and they weren’t hiding away, lonely and stressed in their own corner. Day by day they spent time together in the temple, they broke bread.
People have different angles on caring for creation. Some are passionate about preserving animals or birds, others care passionately about the fact that people don’t have access to clean water. Some are fighting climate change; others are plastic warriors. We need to come together, support each other and carry the mission out.
We need to work with those of different faiths and those who have no faith. Join networks, work with others, link up on social media.
Transformative change doesn’t take place when individuals change, it takes place when networked individuals change.
From selfish to generous
Peter to protect himself said: ‘I do not know this man’. Now we read that all that who believed were together and had all things in common, they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all as any had need. No one had need amongst them.
Climate change and environmental degradation have at their root greed. That we can take more and more from the earth, consume more and more, destroy more and more. In order to protect the planet we need to aspire to a simpler lifestyle. We need to live more simply so that others may simply live.
The wealthier nations that have benefitted from fossil fuel-based development over decades need to provide funding to assist developing nations leapfrog to renewable energy. We all need to live more simply so that others may simply live.
From sorrowful to joyful
From the sadness and despondency of losing their beloved Jesus, they were now so joyful that people thought they were drunk at nine o’clock in the morning! To care for creation is a joyous thing, we connect again with nature, spend time in nature, growing good things in God’s earth, seeing beauty where there was none before.
Many of the activities that we will take part in – such as clean ups, tree planting, food gardening, are moments of great fellowship and great fun!
Let our work be based on love for God and love for God’s creation. Part of our ministry involved enabling others to connect with nature – organising hikes with young people, opening our church gardens to the community – creating opportunities for our church members to spend time listening to God in Creation.
You will not protect what you do not love!
So in our mission to renew this Earth, the only Earth we have, let us be filled with these marks of the Spirit – be courageous, have a purpose, become united, be generous and be full of joy.