So we are in our fourth week of our new series, ‘Church – but not as you know it.’ What has Climate Sunday got to do with that? In any case, we spent about twelve weeks focussing on creation and the environment before the summer. Haven’t we done the climate bit? And what has it got to do with being church and the gospel anyway?
• Well, first of all, churches across the world and the country have engaged or will be engaging with Climate Sunday, so we are joining in with our brothers and sisters.
• The changing climate is impacting our brothers and sisters across the globe, ruining their crops, flooding their homes and displacing them as refugees.
• In the USA we have seen raging fires out of control.
• The Amazon forest is being cut down at an alarming rate and will not be able to be considered the world’s carbon sink if it continues (and it should it be anyway).
• There have been disastrous weather patterns across the world, which have impacted the UK with places being flooded numerous times. In addition our wheat crop harvest is down 40% which is attributed to climate change.
• We have been praising God as the author of creation, the saviour of the world – not just humankind. We often talk about the glory and majesty of creation and have been celebrating that through the photos we have shared: how can we do this and then not care about the world in which we live?
• We are Tenants of the King. As a Baptist Minister and climate scientist Dave Gegory has said, do we want to add to the disorder or keep in step as stewards?
• We need to be reminded in order to change and not let things slip to the back of our minds. Covid 19 is the immediate crisis. We will get through it. The climate situation is an existential crisis – if we don’t do anything there will be disaster.
I’m not going to go into statistics – they are easy enough to find. Do re-visit the ‘Tenants of the King’ series which can be found on our website. What we will do this morning is consider the concept of Jubilee found in the Old Testament and think again about what we can do. Then we need some action and we need to pull together.
So let’s hear about the Jubilee from Leviticus 25.
I am not an OT scholar or original thinker. I draw on the wisdom and understanding of others and hopefully allow God’s Spirit to guide and lead as I reflect on these things before sharing with you. Leviticus 25 is striking because in this chapter God lays out a plan for living that encompasses the environment, the economy and society. It is radical, not compatible with ruthless economics and I don’t think Israel ever put it into practice. Most people would say that it goes against selfish human nature – and they are probably right. An example of our selfishness is seen in panic buying. As soon as the government announced new measures, people started buying toilet rolls and clearing shelves of basics. I saw one man walking up from Gravesend high street with a Tesco trolley full of toilet rolls! Bit like having a comfort blanket I suppose.
In contrast, what we see in Leviticus is a vision of a different kind of society. I am indebted to the thoughts of Derek Tidball, former principal of the London School of Theology, as we look at this passage. We are going to focus on the agricultural aspects, but do read the whole passage and see the radical nature of what God set out. The chapter begins with the concept of a Sabbath year for the land – Jubilee applies to 50 years and has broader application. God as Creator knows and understands the workings of the world and the balance of creation. We often delight in quoting the detail of existence and how minute changes mean life could not have happened, using this as an argument for a creator. Here in Leviticus we see one of those details. Give the land a rest. Let it recover. Don’t farm it until it is exhausted and becomes a dust bowl.
The concept of the Sabbath year reflects the pattern of creation and that we are told God rested on the Sabbath. We used to take that as a pattern for our working lives, because we too need that Sabbath rest. However, with the coming of the industrial age and even more so with the internet age and our need for everything now, that has been set aside. We have treated the earth and the environment in the same way. The concept of Sabbath rest established by God indicates the following:
• The world and all that is in it is not designed to be run on an industrial 24/7 basis.
• God is concerned about the replenishment and renewal of the earth and the people he has created.
• The world belongs to God and he has the right to order it as he chooses. The question is will we follow that order?
If God is concerned for creation; concerned enough to bring it into being and establish its order; to send Jesus to die for the world he has created; then we should be concerned to be good tenants and stewards, not adding to the disorder, but following God’s plan.
The Sabbath rest and concept of Jubilee, established by God, are relevant to us as followers of Jesus Christ, because they raise issues of social justice, merciful living and authentic worship. As followers of Jesus we are required to
• show compassion, the example he set as he fed the hungry, healed the sick, raised the fallen and called sinners into the Kingdom and the family of God.
• Live mercifully. What does that mean? Enabling others to be released from poverty and debt; working to ensure people are paid a good price for their labour and their goods; reducing our impact on emissions and pollution; being aware that our actions affect people in other countries who bear the consequences disproportionately.
• Provide hope. This is central to the gospel. Jesus’ announcement of the arrival of the Kingdom was very practical. Read Luke 4:14-20 and then read what he did throughout the gospels. Jesus provided hope for now and for eternity in his sacrifice and resurrection.
• Worship authentically. The letter of James is clear about this:
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
We can’t praise the God of creation, and then disregard the world God has created, or those who live in it.
We are going to pause to pray and then think again about what we can do.
What can we do
The video shows small steps. We can do these and more. We need to change our attitudes and this begins small, but we need to dream big. My grandsons have started gardening and grew vegetables and flowers in the small courtyard that is their garden. When we take these small steps we begin to connect with the world God has brought into being and value it far more. We understand it better and this leads to bigger steps.
Please go back to the message ‘Tenants of the King: what can we do?’ which I preached in July. There are some practical steps outlined there which we can take as a church and as individuals. Here is a reminder:
• We can commit to becoming carbon neutral at the church centre. In order to do this we will need a small group of people – two or three – willing to carry out the A Rocha Eco Church survey; communicate the results to us as a church; point the way forward.
• We need someone to investigate the practicalities of installing solar panels on the church roof and then letting the church know so we can decide what to do.
• We need secondary glazing in the buildings we own. They are energy inefficient and cold.
• I have thought throughout this year that we need to do something with the garden at the front of the church, turning it into a community garden with mini allotment and perhaps a bench or two. Independently two other people have suggested the same thing. This is something we could easily do as a church project; so could two or three people get together to come up with a plan and bring it to the church.
• Link with a project through BMS or another Christian organisation that is making a difference to the environment of people in poorer communities as they share the love of God.
• Each of us needs to consider our home situation and how we can reduce our carbon footprint, reduce our plastic use, think about reusing rather than buying new.
• Constantly ask ourselves how we can live more simply so that others can simply live.
• Please could you could contact me if you are willing to be part of the core group to move on these things.
Church – but not as we know it. Here are some very practical changes that will speak to the world around us. They are part of bringing in the Kingdom and sharing the hope of the gospel.