“Seen and Unseen”

As night fell on the first Easter evening, Jesus’ disciples gathered behind locked doors—not to celebrate, but to hide, not to plan for the future, but to grieve. That same morning, they had received incredible news. Jesus was not in the tomb. He had been raised. In the garden, he called Mary by name. She held him in her arms. And yet, the disciples were not joyful, not at peace. They were terribly afraid. This reaction makes perfect sense if we remember that despite what had happened to them, the world around them went on as it had before. The same authorities who killed Jesus were still in charge. They still wielded the power of crucifixion. They were still determined to put a stop to the movement Jesus mobilized, to silence the voices of the people crying out for justice and healing.

As citizens of the earth, and disciples of Jesus, perhaps we find ourselves in a similar situation today. We know that, for ourselves and for our planet, a new kind of life is possible. We have the knowledge, the power and the responsibility to join with our Creator to work for a sustainable future. But time is short. The task is incredibly urgent. And our leadership is failing us. Climate change deniers are in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency. Our president has stated his intention to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement for climate change. This absurd policy is a rejection of science. Who marched for science yesterday? Thank you. Best signs you saw?

The stance of the administration on climate change—in addition to denying all common sense—perpetuates a deathly disease of the soul. We will not find healing until we face just how sick of spirit we are. Our spirits are sick, after centuries of learning to exploit rather than befriend, creation. In the name of civilization and progress, we have been trained to seek the destruction of our indigenous sisters and brothers, and to threaten our whole world with extinction.

In an article called “Climate Change as Genocide” Professor Michael Klare reports:

“On March 10th, Stephen O’Brien, under secretary-general of the United Nations for humanitarian affairs, informed the Security Council that 20 million people in three African countries—Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan—as well as in Yemen were likely to die if not provided with emergency food and medical aid.” Klare explains that this unprecedented famine has multiple causes, one of which is climate change. He laments that though the amount of money needed to save the lives of these 20 million people is relatively small, the world’s response to this point has fallen far short. He concludes: “Here’s the question I think we all should be asking: Is this what a world battered by climate change will be like—one in which tens of millions, even hundreds of millions of people perish from disease, starvation, and heat prostration while the rest of us, living in less exposed areas, essentially do nothing to prevent their annihilation?”[1]

As I read this article, imagining the suffering that is possible, and likely, if we do not act, I found myself short of breath with fear, chilly with dread. Like the disciples, I want to lock myself into some safe place with the people I love. I want to hide from the madness of our current political situation. I want to shield myself from the deep pain of the world. I want to avoid the real danger of confronting the powers—within and beyond myself—that benefit from the status quo, and which will fight with every available weapon to maintain it. But we can’t find real safety behind deadbolts. We will only find our own fear. And, locked within those rooms of terror and despair, numb apathy and overwhelmed cynicism, we will be unable to act.

The climate ribbon projects asks us to ponder… What do you love and hope never to lose to climate chaos? “What do you love?” This question lets in light and air and unlocks doors. “What do you love?” I love watching the herons’ daily commute between the Mississippi River and Lake Crystal. The first watery taste of spring rhubarb. The sky… “What do you love?” This question urges both vulnerability and strength. This question creates space for us to move toward action. As Gan Golan,the artist in charge of the climate ribbon, explains,

When people are given space to express these feelings [of fear and grief] collectively, together with other people, something very different happens. Instead of isolation, people find solidarity. And instead of suppressing those feelings, people feel that they can let them out and move past them. Instead of feeling disempowered, people actually look around and see everyone else who is expressing similar things and they find connection and strength and they suddenly move to a place of faith that we actually do have the collective will and the power to tackle an issue of this scale.

What do you love and hope to never lose to climate chaos? Let’s take some quiet moments to reflect, prayerfully, on this question. Then, when you are ready, take the ribbon you received, and write your response in a short statement. Add your name and hometown, and age, if you wish. Everyone should have a ribbon and there should be enough markers to share. Later, during the offering, we will ask you to bring your ribbons (along with your regular offerings) to the communion table.

What do you love and hope to never lose to climate chaos? The good news of Easter is that even when we cannot act, God acts. The disciples bolted the doors shut. Jesus came in anyway, and stood among them. They were afraid, completely possessed by their fear. Jesus’ tender words, “Peace be with you,” broke through their terror. Then Jesus showed them his body, his pierced side and scarred hands the evidence of his wounds and his healing. It was then that that the disciples rejoiced, at last. They rejoiced because even as there was no denying the marks of suffering; there was also no denying the evidence of resurrection. They realized that the life that Jesus embodied now was not simply a continuation of the life they had always known, not a resuscitation of the same old same old, the status quo. The life Jesus gives the world is entirely new.

As I Peter 1:3 says, “God has given us a new birth into a living hope.” The life Jesus gives is life that locks cannot stop, life that breaks the cycles of violence and exploitation, life that ends the rule of terror for good. Jesus breathes on us, as he did on those first disciples. He commissions us with that resurrection life. He sends us out from the locked rooms of our fear. He propels us to act in partnership with God.

Amen.

[1] https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/04/20/climate-change-genocide