Stewards of Global Change–Earth Day 2015

“The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”  Psalm 24: 1

The President in his weekly broadcast tells the world, on the eve of Earth Day, “we only have this one world”.   The concerts on the Washington Mall with a quarter million people in attendance project the same message:  THIS IS THE ONLY WORLD ENTRUSTED OUR CARE!    For those of us in the church:  What are our plans as stewards of “everything in the world and all who live in it”?

Remember filmstrips?  It was back in the 70’s I shared with a youth group a filmstrip produced by the Presbyterian Church.  If I recall correctly, the title of this filmstrip was “The Big Blue Marble”.   In my memory as a pastor, this was one of my first attempts to sensitize those around me in the church to become stewards of the world around us.  Stewardship isn’t just about our use of time and talents and money in building up the church.   In specific ways, we are called be activists for this beautiful globe God has entrusted our care.  So my question:  Are we ready to re-commit as advocates in caring for the earth?

I write this blog because I am frustrated.  It is spring and everything is slowly turning green.  I am looking out my study window watching a handful of neighbors working on their lawns.   I am also well aware that many in our world are limited when it comes to a basic resource:  water.  This has become a clear issue for me in watching my 2 year old grandson living in California playing in one inch of water in his little pool.  It’s a given that water cannot be wasted!  He is learning how to dive into a pool of plastic balls instead of a pool of water.  It’s also a mandate that those living in California cut back water usage by 25%.   What have we done (or not done) in caring for thus beautiful earth?

I am also frustrated because this issue of climate change has become a political grenade…being tossed back and forth waiting for the next natural disaster to strike.  With the issue of global warming in the political arena, there can be no winners.  There will always be a “right” and “left” in assessing blame for this crisis.   Is there a place for the church in reconciling some of the differences we find between the “right” and the “left” on the political spectrum?

And then we have the issue of what we teach in our schools?  Who’s at fault for this deterioration of our world’s natural resources?   Are we going to depend on FOX NEWS or MSNBC for our information?   What are we going to hear from our pulpits about this issue?  What twists and turns are we going to hear these next 18 months as the our nation electes a new President?  I have lot’s of questions!

I see very little that is positive emerging from the political arena when it comes to protecting this “Big Blue Marble” for future generations – our children and grandchildren to enjoy.  I am frustrated because the depressing fact remains:  The “Big Blue Marble” is fast drying up and turning brown!   But this doesn’t have to happen!  I still believe there is power to be found within the church — faith communities drawing upon our spiritual resourcefulness in attacking this issue of climate change in caring for this earth.

It is a good thing that the church is recognized earth day on many of their liturgical calendars.  I know this is the case in the Presbyterian Church.  This is the weekend many in the church will be promoting positive change in the use of natural resources—those things we can be doing as stewards of this beautiful earth.

I ran into a good article by Rebecca Barnes titled “Caring for God’s Creation” that talks of a certification process for churches pledging to care for the earth.  This pledge emerging from the 1990 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church says,

God calls us  to cherish, protect and restore the earth, and it focuses on four areas: worship, education, facilities and outreach. It encourages environmental education and public policy that supports environmental protection.  It emphasizes stewardship so that God’s holy creation will be sustainable for all life and future generations.[1]

It’s time to shift conversations about climate change and care for our world away from the politicians and back into the church.  It’s time to look at the care for our world as an issue of stewardship in demonstrating that “people of faith” know the problem and how to solve it….in caring for the holy ground God has entrusted our care.

Some of the eleven suggestions (paraphrased) from the Barnes article for “Earth Care Congregations”:[2]

  1. Celebrate Earth Day in worship
  2. Vacation Bible School programming
  3. Home energy audits
  4. Purchase of fair traded products
  5. Insulation blankets on water heaters and pipes
  6. Thermal shades on windows
  7. Automatic controls an faucets
  8. Recycling
  9. Reusable supplies
  10. Purchases from local vendors
  11. Stewardship of resources with local plantings

I hope and pray that God will enter our hearts as we gazed upon this beautiful world of blessings God has entrusted our care.  I hope and pray that we all find ways to take one or two steps forward in making this a better world in which to live.

May God bless us in these efforts….

 

Two Presbyterian Church Resources:

www.pcusa.org/earth-care-congregations

www.pcusa.org/environment

 

[1] Rebecca Barnes, Presbyterians Today, Vol 105, Issue 2, March 2015, pg. 30)

[2]   Ibid.

JIM WALLIS BLOG ON ISIS

Jim Wallis’ Blog, God’s Politics, is a must read in understanding why so many young people, some from the United States, are drawn to the ‘dangerous theology” in describing the war with ISIS. This article points to all the miss information being fed to us by Bill O’Reilly and Fox News slamming Obama (no surprise) in defining this conflict with ISSIS as a “Holy War”.

Bill O’Reilly, Fox News’ top-rated political pundit and talk show host has devoted a great deal of attention to ISIS atrocities and what he believes the Western response should be. Unfortunately, while O’Reilly rightly condemns ISIS as evil, he frames the conflict as a “holy war” that ISIS is waging against the West, Christians, and anyone else who does not share ISIS’ extreme views. O’Reilly defined his “talking points” as “Judeo/Christian philosophy versus the Jihad.” According to O’Reilly, “this is now a so-called holy war between radical jihadists and everybody else including peaceful Muslims … The holy war is here. And unfortunately it seems the President of United States will be the last one to acknowledge it.” While it’s a common Fox practice to turn everything into a partisan issue against President Obama, O’Reilly is also spreading a very dangerous theology.

I found Wallis’ five points helpful especially when it comes to our call to take responsibility in helping young people understand why it’s so dangerous for young people who are getting swallowed up with the “cult like” propaganda being fed them.

This is the link to the Wallis Blog:

http://sojo.net/blogs/2015/02/26/5-things-know-about-isis-and-theology-evil

FILLED WITH HOPE, I AM WAITING

In this sacred Advent season of waiting and hoping I encountered an editorial written by John Wimberly (The Presbyterian Outlook, 12/22/14, pg 5) addressing a concern I have had for years.  My basic question:  Why don’t we give some of our churches more time before closing them?   John Wimberly says in his editorial:

The congregation I served for 30 years was almost closed and the building sold back in the 1970’s.  Thank God the congregation convinced the presbytery to give them more time for God to work through their ministry.  Today, Western Church is a vital, urban ministry where people worship God joyfully, children are educated and the homeless have been fed, clothed and given social services for more than 30 years…..thanks be to God that the majority of presbyters were in no rush to judgment.  They decided to wait with God for something to happen as Western Church.

I thank God for the urban church I served for 28 years, the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church in Saginaw, Michigan.  I am glad the church has an intentional transitional pastor, Rev. Jim Williams, working with this church and presbytery in helping this congregation determine their future.  I pray that the Presbytery of Lake Huron give this church time and resources to help them determine what God has planned next for them.

And thinking about church buildings, the church spends too much time worrying about real estate.  Let’s invest more time thinking about what we could do to maintain a Presbyterian witness in some of these buildings we decide to close.  I can name three former Presbyterian churches in Saginaw with buildings no longer under the Presbyterian umbrella that continue doing ministry in various neighborhoods (Grace, Washington Avenue and Wadsworth Avenue).

Buildings and dealing with church real estate is perhaps the one big obstacle in making the decision to close a church.  As John Wimberly continues to say:

When I see our judicatories selling off property (make that: congregations), I am profoundly troubled.  Unable to envision a successful ministry in the old Central Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC, our presbytery sold the buildings in the early 1980’s to a coalition of community groups.  Today, the buildings house a thriving community center and a non-denominational church in one of D.C.’s most vibrant neighborhoods.  Others had and implemented a vision we lacked.

Again, I would hope that presbyters would consider holding onto these properties and ministries.  It is absolutely true that once a building is sold or torn down the opportunity for a Presbyterian ministry in that location probably ends forever.

It is my hope and prayer that some of the resources the Presbyterian Church invests in helping to form new congregations could be invested keeping some of our small struggling urban (and rural) church doors open.

I am waiting and hoping to see more of our urban (and small rural) churches find ways to keep their doors open.

The WILDERNESS Road to GAZA

Thoughtful article by Raafat L. Zaki published this past week prior to Israel’s ground  invasion of Gaza.  Let’s keep the dialogue open in discussing this conflict between Israel and Palestinians who live in Gaza.   Raafat is the Executive, Synod of the Covenant.  This article contains excellent links that contribute to this discussion.

http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1101990260408-370/The+WILDERNESS+Road+to+GAZA+.pdf

THE BLACK CHURCH IN DETROIT

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THE BLACK CHURCH IN DETROIT

Preparing for the 221st meeting of the General Assembly in June

SEE:  http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/today/gospel-detroit-061 

This is painful.   Only one full time black Presbyterian pastor in Detroit with an African American Population in the city of over 82%!   Where are the resources from “connectional” friends in Presbyteries and the General Assembly?  What happened to support urban congregations used to get from General Assembly?   I don’t believe we have a single staff person assigned responsibility for helping urban congregations in doing urban ministry.

 

The congregation I served in Saginaw, the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church, had around 18-20% African American membership.  This is another example an urban church in a predominately black population and I am was a white pastor.  The only black pastor in the Presbytery of Lake Huron is in Flilnt, Michigan.  Again our multi-cultural/urban congregations need more support / resources and black pastoral leadership. 

 

What are we doing as a General Assembly, specifically and intentionally, in growing multicultural urban worshipping communities?  Isn’t this a goal of the 1001 New Worshipping Communities?   What about support our established urban congregations need to survive?  And yes, we need to find ways to support our black pastors wishing to serve in our cities!

 

This quote from an article I recommend reading (that elicited my writing this blog):    

Our cities—and the churches in them—are in trouble. In 1960 Detroit had 45 Presbyterian congregations. By 2013 that number had dwindled to 12—and of those 12, only four had full-time pastors.    If we in the PC(USA) recognize that the church is to stand for peace in the neighborhoods of cities like Detroit, how do we explain the demise of African American Presbyterian congregations in the host city for the 221st General Assembly (2014)—a city that is so predominantly African American?

……In a city (Detroit) with such pressing needs, what few Presbyterian congregations there are have been largely unable to afford even the minimal compensation necessary to support full-time pastors. In a city where 82.7 percent of the population is African American, like Jesus and like Betti Wiggins I weep when I sit at a table with the mayor and other leaders seeking a better life for its citizens and realize that I am the only black pastor representing the Presbytery of Detroit. One is a lonely number.

 

WHEN JESUS WEEPS

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WHEN JESUS WEEPS

John Buchanan in his blog entry titled “Weep Together”talks of the of the various narratives blocking meaningful negotiations on the part of both Israel and Palestine. http://jmbpastor.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/weep-together/

This is a topic that will require serious and thoughtful prayer and discernment when the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly meets in Detroit this coming June.

The hymn, When Jesus Wept, immediately comes to mind: 

 When Jesus Wept, the falling tear

In mercy flowed beyond all bound;

When Jesus groaned, a trembling fear

Seized all the guilty world around.”

Presbyterian Hymnal #312

Do we not all groan and weep for these people longing to live on sacred ground and in God’s Shalom / Peace.  

Prayer:  Let there be peace in our hearts and minds throughout the world God has given us all to share.  AMEN