September 10, 2023 - 15th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 18)
Sometimes, O God,
Your Word is hard for us.
Sometimes, O God,
we don’t want to hear You.
Sometimes, O God,
we’d rather sing our nice hymns,
pray our comforting prayers,
and turn away from what You require.
Send Your Holy Spirit,
that we may turn to You,
in the Word read and proclaimed,
that we may listen, understand, change and obey.
“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance” (Ex 12:14). “Whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Rom 13:9)
Today’s first reading is God’s direction to Moses and Aaron about the institution of the Passover, the actions that preceded the Israelites’ escape from bondage into freedom. It also serves to remind future generations of Jews about the ritual they should perform to reconnect with God’s liberating power – as a people. It reminds us that the context of the eucharist, our central ritual which is modeled in part after the Exodus event, is a matter of life, death and rebirth. Just like the Passover unifies and energizes our Jewish sisters and brothers, the eucharist can summon forth our integrity and courage to face the climate crisis and to take action.
At our worship, we come not as a group of individuals, but as a community with a common purpose and a common life; we are one body because we all partake of the one bread. Our understanding of communion has, however, been limited to humans only, when in actual fact in the Eucharist it is the communion of individuals, angels and archangels, and the whole creation. This is the unity which is expressed in every Eucharist. And so we must also hear the cry of the Earth and all God’s creatures.
Confrontation is unpleasant and hard, even when our cause may be right and just. Today’s Gospel describes justified confrontation as a necessity. The climate crisis requires confrontation with the world’s powerful governments, financial institutions, and extractive industries. Each of these entities benefits, in various ways, from the status quo of the climate crisis. Banks and financial institutions enjoy profits from oil and gas – which they have financed to the tune of trillions since the Paris Climate Agreement. Extractive industries profit from the continued growth of their businesses at the very time when they should be giving way to clean energy. Some governments benefit by playing to a nationalist, anti-climate, anti-immigrant, anti-women base of support.
If it is wrong to destroy God’s creation, then it is certainly wrong to profit from such destruction. Religious communities have a responsibility to society, and a sacred duty, to speak out in the face of wrong. Confrontation of evil is part of the prophetic tradition of the church. Now is such a time to raise prophetic voices.
In the words of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
So as people of faith we are called to act – we draw strength from our traditions from our shared Eucharistic celebration, from songs of joy and lament. We draw on the love we have for neighbors and for our children, and we stand on the prophetic tradition of the saints who go before us. Wake up! It is time!