Dear companions on the journey: On the ﬁ rst Earth Day, April 22, 1970, I was a high school student. A friend and I walked the mile from my house to school, carrying two large black plastic lawn-and-leaf bags. We picked up all the trash we saw on that route: soda cans, newspapers, gum wrappers, cigarette packages (there were a lot more of them in those days). By the time we reached school, both bags were full. While I remember this fondly with a certain amount of “I was there at the beginning” pride, it feels now as though it was a simpler, more innocent time. We were concerned about trash, and air and water pollution, rather than about destroying life on earth with greenhouse gases.
Earth Day is still April 22; in fact, the month of April is considered “Earth Month.” What does global warming, or as many call it, “climate disruption,” have to do with our faith in God or following Jesus? My favorite answer to this question is Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it; the world, and those who live in it.” Global warming is one of the biggest threats facing humanity today. The very existence of life—life that religious people are called to protect—is jeopardized by our continued dependency on fossil fuels for energy. Every major religion has a mandate to care for Creation. We were given natural resources to sustain us, but we were also given the responsibility to act as good stewards and preserve life for future generations.
I’ve been thinking about climate change or climate disruption in the context of Easter. This year, Easter is April 21, the day before Earth Day. Most of us probably grew up thinking that the Resurrection was a onetime miracle about Jesus, an anomaly that proved he was God. I believe that Jesus’ resurrection is a statement about how reality works: always moving toward resurrection. Everyone has those times when we can’t imagine what good can come out of the tragedy, the sorrow, or the pain we’re experiencing. These small “deaths” to the self can be tipping points, opportunities to choose transformation. Often, people choose bitterness or blame instead. But if we choose to walk through the depths—even the depths of our own mistakes or misunderstandings—we will come out the other side, knowing we’ve been taken there by a Source larger than our selves. Writes Richard Rohr: “Surely this is what it means to be saved. Being saved doesn’t mean that you are any better than anyone else. It means you’ve allowed and accepted the mystery of transformation, which is always pure gift.”
What deaths do we need to die to experience resurrection hope in the face of climate change? Do we need to give up the idol of economic growth? Do we need to die to the current systems and powers that degrade humans, nonhumans, and the rest of creation and thus cause us to be hopeless? Do we need to become less "business as usual", and more of a resurrection people? Belief in resurrection hope should cause us to be a different sort of people. Christians should think, purchase, eat, travel, and act in novel and courageous ways because we are motivated daily by the resurrection of Jesus.
This winter, our congregation was certiﬁ ed by the Presbyterian Church (USA) as an Earth Care Congregation. To become certiﬁ ed as Earth Care Congregations, churches take the “Earth Care Pledge” and complete activities and projects in the ﬁ elds of worship, education, facilities and outreach. You can see the entire Earth Care Pledge at page 3 of this newsletter. First Presbyterian Church of San Anselmo is the only Earth Care Congregation in Redwoods Presbytery, and one of only four Presbyterian Earth Care Congregations in the Bay Area. Much of the work to determine whether we qualify as an Earth Care Congregation was done by the Rev. Doug Olds, our parish associate, as part of his doctor of ministry project. I am grateful to Doug, and to all those who have helped us move toward resurrection when it comes to climate change.
Those of us passionate about the planet are pleased to be counted among the congregations that care for God’s Earth, but we also know there is much work to be done. As 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg said, “Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. … And if solutions within the system are so impossible to ﬁ nd, maybe we should change the system itself.” That sounds scary. It sounds like death. But on the other side is resurrection. Together we serve, Joanne