Gathering Song: O Healing River (VT 706)
Welcome and Land Acknowledgement
Call to Worship and Opening Prayer
Hymn of the Month: Ososo (Come now, O Prince of Peace) (VT 391)
Children’s Time – Brad Lepp
Kingdom Report: Creator’s Call in a Climate Emergency – Vern Riediger
Giving with Gratitude
Kingdom Report: Project Neutral – Melana Janzen
Hymn: There’s Enough for All (VT 757)
Farewell to Gary and Lydia Harder
Scripture Reading: Colossians 1: 15-23
Sermon: Reading the Bible with Ecological Eyes – Randy Haluza-DeLay
Including: Hosea 4:1-3, Job 12: 7-10, Joel 2:21-23, 28, John 3:16-17
Hymn: Touch the Earth Lightly (VT 145)
“Lobby Time” for online
Listen to the sermon here.
START THE CLOCK!
TUMC Sermon – Ecological justice theme. – Randy Haluza-DeLay (email@example.com)
READING THE BIBLE WITH ECOLOGICAL EYES.
The theme today is “Ecological justice.” I have titled this message, “Reading the Bible with Ecological Eyes” because Scripture is essential to our practice, even in what seems like these difficult and NEW challenges, like climate change, biodiversity crises and socio-ecological justice on a planet that has entered a new era in which homo sapiens – the so-called “wise species – are a force of such power that we are changing the very biosphere and geology of the planet.
And so, we necessarily come to the Bible with this attitude: asking new questions of old wisdom.
And that will challenge us – Biblically, religiously, and culturally. That’s why I included the bottom picture. If you think “That’s upside down” just remember that the planet doesn’t have an up or a down, so this makes as much sense as the other way. BUT, because of the practices of our culture, we are also used to seeing and thinking with the Global North up top. And in Western cultural mindsets, what is UP TOP is also Higher than, or, ugh – BETTER THAN. So this map subverts that unintentional psychological and social hierarchy.
If you remember nothing else from this message, remember this:
IT IS ABOUT THE NEED TO RETHINK!
This is the first important step to ecological justice.
Of course, it is more complicated than that, because thinking does not necessarily lead to Right Action.
Let me also say that I know you at TUMC are concerned about ecological justice. I was at a climate-related event last month and folks from this congregation were stationed at a booth.
And of course, there was the TUMC Climate Choir…
I daresay you KNOW that the earth is facing severe problems – like this chart which shows a Great Acceleration in the past half-century with numerous indicators of global ecological degradation suddenly skyrocketing – climate change, ocean acidification, species extinction, declining soil fertility, and more. And ecological degradation already threatens human lives and wellbeing around the world.
So, let’s get on with “READING THE BIBLE WITH ECOLOGICAL EYES”.
What I am saying is that mindsets matter. Our culture, for example, shapes what we see when we see a dandelion.
The challenge for Christians is that we are culturally-bound people, reading a Holy Scripture that was created within other cultures. we also believe that that Scripture was intended by the Creator of all, FOR ALL – that is, for all cultures and peoples everywhere.
And yet, we read and understand through those lenses of our own culture. And so we miss some of what is potentially important, valuable – even ESSENTIAL in this day and age.
For example, the Western, and especially modern Western world segregates humans from the rest of creation. This is Anthropocentrism – thinking that the Bible is all about humanity and humanity’s relationships with the Creator. What happens when we include ALL creation when we read the Bible? Can ‘ecological eyes’ lead us toward a more fulsome ecological justice? OH – let me say here, that I only grudgingly accept the term “creation care” and much prefer this “ecological justice” way of talking.
A big part of an ecological consciousness is to is to go beyond “nature” and see things as interconnected – Ukraine is a petrowar, for example, and South Sudan and Syria are climate conflicts, making Syrian refugees, in part, climate refugees. Global social inequality drives ecological degradation. Palestine is a conflict of land and place and belonging, and Israeli destruction of olive groves is just a portion of the environmental injustices occurring there. And so on.
So among other things, to read the Bible with “ecological eyes” is to look for interconnections, and how they depict the kinds of relationships God Creator has with the more-than-human world.
So what is in this Colossians passage? You have heard it, so here is a shortened version, but please go back to it and re-read in it’s fullness.
There are several points that I want to highlight from this passage.
from this passage.
1) Start with “making peace” is prominent there at the end. How? “By his blood”. Jesus’ death and resurrection make peace. Full stop. The Easter message.
2) Who is the “making peace” for? “All things!” “proclaimed to All creatures”! This is not a bobble of translation, the Greek word there actually means “everything in creation.” It really does mean the “gospel of peace” is for all plants, birds, fish, ecosystems, and so on. Easter is for ALL Creation.
3) Earlier in the passage, Christ “in whom, through whom, and for whom” ALL creation was made; “all things have been created through him and for him.” Jesus is Creator — This makes the Incarnation even more profound. The Creator became part of Creation! “In carne” literally is “in the meat” (like “carne-vore”). We say “in the flesh” but that is profound!
4) And then, “in whom all things hold together” – like ligaments holding together the skeleton, animating or moving the parts. GOD IS Sustainer, God is IMMANENT in the world, not just transcendent. God/Christ is here NOW.
This is just a sketch of the passage. For now, let me just re-emphasise some basic points.
FIRST, Rethink! SECOND, a caveat!
SECOND, a caveat – ALL humans are not the same. In terms of ecological damage, SOME humans have more responsibility. Even if we are supposedly on the same boat or planetary spaceship.
Some humans have more responsibility.
This is why I have this slide, which depicts the “ecological footprint” based on income tenths. Ecological footprint is a measure of resource and energy use – impact – like the impact of a footstep on fragile land.
What it shows is that we are not equal – it is only the top 30% of Canadian incomes who have ecological impacts HIGHER than the Canadian average. Altho we should also point out that about 65% of Canadians have incomes in the top ONE PERCENT of the human population of the planet. So we are part of the global rich, even though I want to emphasize that we are not all equal. The “rich” among humans take larger shares of the planet’s energy and resources and have more of the environmental impact. These are basic facts of ecological INjustice.
The point is that ecological justice CANNOT be accomplished without looking at the structures that are at the root of any problems. This is why I don’t like “creation-care” much – it does not usually address structural issues that can only be solved by COLLECTIVE action. To WITNESS means to ADVOCATE to the powerful and decision-makers for Change.
THIRD, we talk of shalom. We depict “The Peaceable Kingdom” as per this painting, drawn from the visions of Isaiah. According to Colossians, Shalom is not just peace-making among the human community but the Community of All Creation.
This is an indigenous cultural notion, and here is the cover of an amazing book by Randy Woodley, an Indigenous North American biblical scholar that I highly recommend.
Rethinking our cultural mindsets probably means learning from other cultures. And Reading the Bible with Ecological Eyes GETS US TO THINK about how the Scriptures relate to ALL CREATION.
So, quickly, let’s look at some other passages to show pieces of the process a little more. As you listen to the passage read, THINK “How would I read this if I was thinking about Nature/all of creation, about interrelationships of humans and land and other created things?”
What thoughts come to you as you think about the ecological relevance of this passage?
1) This is one of several passages in scriptures that talk about the land mourning or creation groaning because of humans. In this worldview, all things are connected so any parts that go in a direction not of God’s desire (what we usually label as “sin”) affect all the other parts of the created world.
2) And again, we see that Creator cares about all creation, enough to point out the suffering of other-than-human parts of creation.
3) Lastly, let me emphasize that “knowledge of God” cannot be seen as having “correct doctrine”, being Christian or anything like that. We know that so-called “good Christians” do all sorts of wrong things, including or especially damage to the planet. While I have emphasized “thinking” today, in the Hebrew worldview, “knowledge” refers to application of the good mind to good action – as it does in other cultures. I want to thank MiGEL Soui – a Wyandot scholar at Wilfrid Laurier University – for pointing this out to me this week.
Ok, on to the next passage, and remember, As you listen to the passage read, THINK “How would I read this if I was thinking about Nature/all of creation, about interrelationships of humans and land and other created things?”
Pretty simple here – listen to Nature? OK, BUT….
… A few points to add
1) This is not just Nature as metaphor, like take a lesson from the sparrow or the lilies of the field.
2) The creatures here actually KNOW God and what God does. And they tell of it. They are fellow and faithful wayfarers with human believers on the journey of life.
3) And Lastly, we can see that God also holds THEIR life and breath in God’s hands too.
If this is true, does that alter the way we think of animals, birds, plants, soil, land? Do these entities deserve abundant life, or justice?
I have added this passage because we almost always read the last verse, maybe sometimes with a couple of the verses before it, but we don’t usually include the first couple of verses. So even if Scripture presents a more comprehensive and ecological picture, our religious practices might inhibit our ability to get that fuller picture. Be aware!
And now we come to one of the most famous verses in Christian Scriptures.
For God so loved the “world” that…
In the Greek, this word translated as “world” is “COSMOS.” Oh my! Can you get more ecological?For God so loved the Cosmos. Don’t limit God’s love or the sending of the Christ into Creation just to humans!
By now you’ve seen that God does indeed love the entirety of creation. We’ve already also seen that there could be an underlying assumption that other creatures believe and have a relationship with the Creator, and that Jesus’ action is for the entirety of the cosmos.
Homework: Re-read John chapter 1 and substitute Cosmos for everywhere it is translated “world.”
ON WE COULD GO. These are just sketches. A deeper analysis from an ecological hermeneutic will unpack even more.
Now, I was going to say a few things about the Idea of Humans as “higher than” or having “DOMINION”. It too is a concept by which Christianity COLLABORATES with ecological degradation, and people usually point to the Bible as the source of such an anti-ecological worldview.
But I will leave it with a blunt statement from Pope Francis from Laudato Si.
“…the Judaeo-Christian thinking…that grants man “dominion” over the earth has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature…(and) is not a correct interpretation of the Bible…” (Laudato Si’, #67)
Francis too is telling us to READ THE BIBLE WITH DIFFERENT EYES, and RETHINK.
Let me end with this picture again today, from the booth that TUMC folks were at during that climate event a couple months ago.,
The cookies represent different options.
If we do nothing or do “business as usual” the planet goes to a crisp – like those cookies on the end.
If we do some sorts of solutions – and in this picture, it is “market-based solutions – we drive up the cost of weak fixes to a level affordable by only the wealthy. And not all parts of a damaged global biosphere can be fixed by throwing money or technology at it.
This is why I think “creation care” is too mild. It emphasizes environment as nature, and misses the necessity of changing the social and economic systems that operate independently of individual behaviour. Ecological justice is shalom-making, It requires doing everything possible to generate the systemic changes needed to truly safeguard Creation.
This is the point of the 7 Calls for Climate Action that some of us in Mennonite Church Canada have proposed. (Look it up – search Google.)
So the best options are to Think and Work with attitudes of justice-for all Creation. And to do it together, like your Project Carbon Neutral. Canada and the world needs to move or transition from here where the wealthy and powerful of the planet are doing great and ungodly damage to that which would be SHALOM for the ENTIRE GLOBAL COMMUNITY OF CREATION. We need some sort of “just transition” for ecological justice – which would be justice “the least of these” on the planet. Can Christians model that? Like the cookies on the end – see how many there are? Because their recipes are less high-falutin’, baked with a bunch of cooks, and meet the needs of everyday people instead of reinforcing the privilege of Global elites. Those are the cookies that I want to help bake – and eat!
There is much else that could be done. At this point I want to encourage you to be like a dandelion – remember, that people see it as a weed and are annoyed, but they make wishes on it. Thank you.