This sermon was delivered by Rev Sue on Sunday 27 January 2019 in a slightly different way. Members or the congregation pretended to interrupt her with the questions by the bullet points.
Coming in today you will have been given a leaflet telling you about this year’s theme – creation. We shall celebrate the beauty and wonder of the creation, thanking God for all that he has given us. But we also need to act urgently to prevent the devastating damage to that creation that will be done unless things change quite radically. We need to consume less, to reuse and recycle more. We need to find greener ways of producing energy, and less polluting transport options. We need, globally, to eat less meat, so that the planet can sustain its population. We’ve already started, with recycling boxes at the back of church, for instance.
- What’s it got to do with church? We should be focussing on the gospel, not social issues.
That’s a very good question. But I believe that this is very much part of the gospel. Who made the world? Yes, of course, it was God. He made it in all its beauty. He made the tigers and the butterflies, the forests and the coral reefs, the polar bears and the penguins. And all are at risk from climate change. How little we appreciate God’s creation!
Although Jesus had no concept of climate change – how could he? – he was clear about our obligation to the poor. We heard in today’s gospel reading that the very first time we hear about him teaching in the synagogue he tells us that he came to bring good news to the poor. And people, too, all over the world are suffering because of climate change. Hurricanes and floods destroy the homes of millions of people. For others, the rising sea-levels are encroaching on their land – about 20% of Bangladesh is likely to become submerged, and much more of the land will become too salty to produce food. As droughts destroy crops and livestock, farmers can no longer feed their families or find work. As always, it is the poorest people who will suffer the most – the ones Jesus has come to liberate.
- It doesn’t affect me. It’s happening overseas, not here. In any case, in 20 or 30 years some of us won’t be here.
Don’t you think that perhaps it’s already affecting you? Look at the pollution in the air. Did you know that Bury has some of the most polluted roads in Manchester? Including the Bury New Road where it crosses the motorway? And air pollution is linked to increased risks of heart disease and lung cancer?
But even if it doesn’t affect you directly, Jesus, in the parable of the Good Samaritan makes it clear that we must love our neighbours, the people who need our help. And we have just noted how many of the poor are suffering.
A great theme in the Old Testament is the Promised Land. The people of Israel looked forward to living in a land of milk and honey where they would settle and make it their own. Their children and their children’s children would live there. What inheritance are we leaving to our children and our grandchildren? A planet with its resources used up and its oceans turned into rubbish dumps.
- What little I can do won’t change anything. It’s up to the government to solve it.
Well, I certainly wish they would do something about it! Do you think that right now the politicians are getting on with solving the world’s problems? Don’t forget that Jesus had only 12 disciples, and they fled when he was crucified. 7 weeks later, the church numbered 2000. Now Christianity has reached all the corners of the world. Everything starts with someone doing it first. Jesus said that faith could move mountains, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to do anything. And we are not on our own. People all over the planet are waking up to the perils of climate change, and beginning to do something about it. In a few weeks’ time our Sunday School are going to tell us what they think about it – young people are leading the way. I agree that lifestyle changes are not enough – we live in a democracy, and we must make clear to our politicians that we care about the planet, and expect them to co-operate for its good.
- What’s the point of doing anything unless China and America do it too?
You know, I’ve noticed that a lot of people these days drive straight through red lights. So, is it OK if we do that, too? If they are doing it, we might as well? Or what about income tax? If other people are dishonest, perhaps we shouldn’t bother either. Where is the bit in the 10 commandments that says we only have to obey if everyone else is? We are all influenced by what the people around us do. People who see solar panels on their neighbours’ houses are more likely to install them on their own. When people begin to cut down on the meat in their diets, it becomes a trend and many more people join in. Let’s hope that China and America will follow our example. What is definitely true is that if none of us do anything we are heading for a catastrophe on a global scale that has never been seen in human history.
I hope we agree that there’s a problem and that we need to do something about it very soon. It can feel overwhelming. Where do we start? That’s where eco-church comes in. It’s a project supported by all the major Christian denominations, and it encourages us by giving us lots of small targets to achieve in every area of our church life. When we signed up, we were very pleased to find that we already were dong some of the things required, and could tick them off straight away. We’ve done some more since – our service sheets have ecotips and the church magazine articles. This service has worship on the theme of caring for creation – and more are planned in the future. We have energy efficient light bulbs and are investigating green electricity. We care about the way our churchyard is managed. The diocese has an aim of 32 churches to register by next Easter – we are already one of those – and to have 16 churches with bronze certificates by then. We should do that very soon. It’s not all about doom and gloom – we shall celebrate and have fun. Have a look at the leaflets you were given as you came in to see what is planned. I for one can’t wait to see what the Sunday School will have to tell us in March!