Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Global Warming Preach-In: The Mountain Top

(A sermon for Interfaith Power & Light's National Preach-In on Global Warming, preached at All Saints' Episcopal Church 2/14/2010)

The mountain top never fails to opens our eyes to bigger truths.

At the bottom of the mountain one sees the long journey ahead: the destination is so far away, it may seem even impossible to reach.

It’s amazing that in the midst of a hike, the bigger picture gets lost. The overall size of the mountain is reduced to vast pockets that surround the hiker, which can feel overwhelming, but in reality is only a small portion.

When you reach the mountain top, and view things from there, one sees the world differently. The close detail of individual things is encompassed into the beautiful tapestry known as “the big picture.”

Finally, there is the desire to stay on the mountain top. It’s so beautiful there. All of the pressures of daily life are lifted, and there is the sense of completeness: like there is no more work to be done.

Reality, however, calls us back down off the mountain, back into our lives.

The mountain top experience is also about ideas. It happens when eyes are opened and we begin to see the picture is so much bigger than we realized. Often it has to be journeyed to, the moment of realization is powerful and shakes our core, and we are hopefully changed when we return to daily living.

All of this is present in this morning’s Gospel, as well as the story of Moses. Those who witnessed the events saw God in a new way: they saw transformation, and they in turn were transformed.

Instead of breaking down either of these accounts further, I wanted to share something else.

I get all sorts of emails from large groups that I am a part of or newsletters I subscribe to. I have to admit that I don’t always open them of read them carefully. I’m usually too busy or concerned with interacting with individuals or the smaller groups that make up our church or local community. On Tuesday, one of those newsletters caught my eye with its title:

“Last chance for procrastinating preachers.”

That caught my eye…

When I opened it, I learned that Interfaith Power and Light, a group that I worked personally with while I was in Cleveland, was calling the National Preach-In on Global Warming for this weekend:

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day: “Love Creation.”

I was already thinking about the subject before reading the email. Lately I have been frustrated on the subject of Global Warming. When we had our first big cold spell (my thermometer said negative 18 degrees at one point), when on more than one occasion while out and about I would hear someone say “[Harrumph]: so much for global warming.”

With the big snow in Washington DC and the presence of snow in Atlanta, I’ve been seeing this sediment expressed in political battles and in the media as well.

This is a problem, because Global Warming isn’t indicated by one day being particularly warmer than the next. It’s incorrect to speculate that these snows, or a cold streak of days, are proof that Global Warming isn’t real.

Speculating on the meaning of severe weather events is not new, and is not limited to skeptics of Global Warming. Deadly heat and dust storms in Australia last year, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and a deadly heat wave in Europe in the summer of 2003 were all touted by some to be proof of Global Warming.

We all know, by the number of times that a storm is predicted here and turns into nothing, that it’s difficult to accurately predict the weather. The same thing is true about predicting what meaning is to be found in individual storms.

(From the article "Climate-Change Debate is Heating Up in Deep Freeze" in the NY Times:)

Jeff Masters, a meteorologist who writes on the Weather Underground Blog, said that the recent snows do not, by themselves, demonstrate anything about the long-term trajectory of the planet. Climate is, by definition, a measure of decades and centuries, not months or years.

Climate scientists say that while no individual episode of severe weather can be attributed to global climate trends, there is evidence that such events will probably become more frequent as global temperatures rise.

It is a fact that the overall trend of the last hundred years is rising, and the last 20 years in particular have been alarming and unprecedented.

The science is united and indisputable: Global Warming is a reality.

The Episcopal Church has embraced this position, and is already actively working in the fight to change, and I am proud of the work of our church.

But what is especially exciting to me is that communities of faith of all types have taken the issue forward, and it’s coming from all directions of the spectrum: conservative and liberal; as well as Jews, Muslims, Hindus and others.

Sally Bingham, founder of Interfaith Power and Light, Deacon in the church, Canon at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and friend of mine, wrote this for today’s Preach-In:

Protection of Creation has reached every mainstream tradition in America. We have earth liturgy, earth friendly practices and adult education happening everywhere. Seminaries are teaching environmental ethics. Young people are hearing more about environmental issues than any generation before us. The ecumenical Patriarch, leader of 50 million Greek Orthodox, called degradation of the environment a sin. Recently the Pope added pollution to the list of sins in the Catholic Church. And in his address on World Peace Day he said, “if you want to cultivate peace, protect Creation.”

....Science can give us all the facts and figures, but science cannot do it alone. It is religion and our faith that provides transforming power and a new way of being in the world. It is religion that transforms our hearts. There has got to be a sacred relationship between humans and nature. When God made the world and said it was “good”, we were given the job to keep it “good”.

Life isn’t about being comfortable. Being fully human is challenging and only after one faces the challenge will one receive rewards. Jesus brought a new message that called for behavior change. It was not well received and yet we know he is right.

Yes, we are sustainable and we will survive. Humans are resourceful, clever and committed once we see or feel a threat. Our faith will give us the courage to make the changes we need to make. Once we fully understand the threat to our life sustaining systems, we too will change our behavior. Many of us already have and more are changing all the time.

(One other thing to note is that) Jesus brought a message of peace. The environmental message is also one of peace. It is a peaceful movement rooted in love and justice- a perfect theme for Valentine’s Day. It cries for love and appreciation of all that God created. Every butterfly that flutters: every bee that pollinates our food. There will not be peace on the earth until every species and person has access to clean air and clean water. Working together we can deliver a message of solidarity, love and peace which will come when we can universally declare an end to the war humans declared on the earth.

When we can stand together and say, enough is enough. We want to live and we CHOOSE a resurrected life over death. Thus on this Valentine’s Day we will invite the earth and our neighbors to be our valentines. We can begin showing acts of Love toward our neighbor and love toward nature.”

Sally message of “Practicing Love” is a good one, and it leads me back to the mountain top:

The mountain top experience is not restricted to mountains. People experienced a mountain top moment with the photographs and video of the earth from the Apollo Missions in the late 60s, cumulating with the most arguably the most famous photograph ever: the Apollo 17 view of the fully lit earth on December 7th, 1972. We could finally see, from a distance, the complete beauty of our home, and it pointed to the interdependence we all have on each other, and our planet.

I hadn’t reached my first birthday when that picture was taken, but I have come to understand its significance. We owe it to our generation, as well as those to come, to fulfill our roles as stewards: to honor God’s entrusting the world into our care.

We must take the hard next steps, individually and collectively, and address climate change…as an act of faith.



Just a Few Things about Scott ... said...

Hey Kurt,

Just read your sermon; and it made me think of a post a buddy of mine put up on Facebook. The link is at the end of this comment section. For what it's worth, I'm neither here nor there on this issue. I just thought you might be interested in the article. Take care. Scott.


Kurt said...

Thanks for your comment & link, Scott.

The Fox News report is, in my opinion, deceptive. It states that Jones was "admitting in an interview with the BBC that there has been no global warming over the past 15 years." In other words, suggesting that the data was falsified or hid because it suggests that Global Warming isn't real.

That's just not what is said in the interview. The BBC article is here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8511701.stm Linked to it is the Q & A with Jones.

Kurt said...

This might be an even better article:

Just a Few Things about Scott ... said...

Like I said at the start, I am neither here nor there on the issue. I have read reports on both sides of the issue, and quite honestly, when you get past the polemics, both sides seem to make respectable arguments. So I can't honestly say that either side has convinced me that they have the right "read" on the situation.

So for me, the real issue becomes the issue of poverty. As a Christian, I am called to care for the poor of this world. And as Western economies make this move towards eco-friendly business practices, they are driving the agricultural sector towards the increased production of bio-fuels. This, in turn, is driving up the cost of commodities worldwide; and it is not the industrialized West that is feeling that pain. It's the impoverished people in the Developing World that can't afford the basic staples of life.

This is a link to a recent Oxfam report (http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSL2432915720080625) on this very issue. You should check it out (if you haven't already), and when you get a chance, I'd love to hear your thoughts.