Time to Repent: For Earth’s Sake



As a self-identified tree hugger, one of my favorite hymns is How Great Thou Art!:

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art

I love being out in nature and enjoying God’s creation.

  • Watching the sun rise over the ocean,
  • walking barefoot in a field,
  • taking in the panoramic view at the top of a mountain,
  • listening to the rushing flow of a waterfall,
  • tasting the sweetness of a just picked strawberry

. . . these are awe inspiring to me. In these moments, I wonder how people can doubt there is a God when they experience the divine pleasure that is found in creation.

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Garden of Gethsemane. In the place where Jesus is believed to have gone to pray before his arrest, stand olive trees with roots that are more than 2,300 years old. With branches full of olives these trees are grounded in the land and stand as a silent witness to all that has happened and continues to happen in Jerusalem even as they offer a simple presence of grace and peace.

In contrast, in other parts of the Holy Land, I saw entire fields of olive trees that have been cut down by settlers who are trying to drive the Palestinian people off land that legally belongs to Palestinians.

Seeing tree after tree cut down to a stump was so disheartening to me and devastating to the people who have now lost their livelihoods.

It breaks my heart how people abuse and destroy God’s creation – killing these living and life sustaining parts of our eco-system as a weapon against others.

And this week, I read a terrifying article about a new climate change report. According to National Geographic,

“The world is not ready for the impacts of climate change, including more extreme weather and the likelihood that populated parts of the planet could be rendered uninhabitable, says the planet’s leading body of climate scientists in a major new UN report.”

The information doesn’t come as a huge surprise but the concreteness and immediacy of what we are doing to the earth is startling. This report will – I hope – serve as a wakeup call.

We as humans have created a situation that not only is destroying God’s creation but also is threatening our own supplies of food and water. Our level of consumption and excess is directly impacting the ability of the earth to regenerate and nourish those who inhabit it.

Having received this report and understanding the implications, as people of faith, we are now responsible for turning it around.

In our work at the United Methodist Committee on Relief, we see the effects of this crisis in the increased number and severity of natural disasters, in the mass migration of people who are in search of food, and in conflicts that rise up among people fighting over limited natural resources.

We at The Church of the Village, have experienced the impact first hand as Hurricane Sandy came through our neighborhoods . . .

…and while the government’s billion dollar flood walls might add a layer of protection, they do not address the underlying destruction of God’s earth or prevent anymore super storms.

The extent of damage to the world is so enormous it might leave us feeling, in the words of Augustine of Hippo,

“The times are bad! The times are troublesome!”

Thankfully, he doesn’t leave it at that. St. Augustine goes on to remind us,

“But we are our times. Let us live well and our times will be good. Such as we are, such are our times.”

And while we are well into this season of Lent and perhaps are relieved to see an end in sight for our Lenten disciplines, it might be be wise to interpret this climate change report as a call to repent – not only for 40 days but to examine our very lifestyles for the long term both individually and as a church.

  • Instead of just trying to remember to recycle, what it would look like if we reduced the overall amount of waste we produce?
  • The question is no longer paper or plastic shopping bags but asking how can we purchase less to put in those bags.
  • Let’s not wonder if we can afford to buy organic produce. Why not figure out how to plant a community garden or invest in a community supported agriculture farm share?

As we become more intentional about living simply so that others may simply live, we release our attachment to that which is unnecessary. When we break our habits of coveting more “stuff,” we have an opportunity to deepen relationships with each other and with God.

Taking the focus off “things” helps to clarify what is truly important in our lives. We can begin to reconnect with the earth in new ways, appreciating these amazing resources that are entrusted to our care.

We are a faith community committed to justice. We recognize that we are connected to each other, to God, and to the earth. How can we make significant changes to live simply, share our excess with sisters and brothers, and take concrete and consistent steps to help nurse God’s creation back to good health?

Won’t it be a beautiful day when we are in a position to sing from Isaiah 55:12

For you shall go out in joy,
and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

May it be so. In the name of Jesus. Amen.