Category Archives: Messages

Beginnings and Continuings – A Reflection by Wally Stratford

See the source imageOnce upon a time – in the time before time began, a large ball of energy – a seething mass of grumblings and groanings, of flashes and fire, of bumblings and bouncings, floated here and there. Then one day – in that time before time began – it exploded with a tremendous bang and bits and pieces of energy flew far and wide – continuing to this day. The Universe was born!

Many, many, many years later than that time before time began, a group of scholars – probably all men – probably all elderly men, gathered to reflect on the world they knew – their aim, to write about its beginnings. This a really impossible task so they decided to tell it as a story.

It began – “In the beginning …” and went on to tell of the way God went to work to create the world. It was a story of great acts by God out of which the world was assembled. They write “God said let there be this, and let that occur…” and they added, “and it was so” as each action was completed. The picture that may be imagined is of a powerful – remote – God sitting some distance away and creating by decree. It all happened, wrote the scholars, and the earth became a finished article. (Genesis 1&2).

But then the story changes and the God of decrees becomes a worker of dust. (Genesis 2:7) “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground.” I wonder if you have ever tried to form anything from dust – it is an impossible task- the dust remains a pile of dust.

The story persists – and God persists, and the human form takes shape – but without life. And then God draws even closer and “breathes into the man’s nostrils.” Perhaps you have never breathed in anyone’s nostrils, but if you ever decided to do that – how close would you need to be? Very close!

One might imagine hearing God say as breath was breathed, “The life of God for the life of humankind.” And the man lived!

The man received a gift of life – a gift handed to him in the action of the God whose spirit had a major part in creation. The breath, we may claim, contained something of the breather, and imagination can show us that something, as the presence of God – not from a distance but in intimate contact.

We know and understand that our breathing is an absolute necessity for the preservation of life. If we stop breathing, we stop living. The breath contains the elements necessary to energize the activities of our body.

The imaginings in right brain thinking, remind us that with breath comes the presence, or spirit of God, in whom life is enriched. As we cannot survive without breathing, so also, we cannot not receive the Spirit. They are fundamentally linked as foundational for life, the gift that knows no boundaries. There is more!

If we now take something of a giant step forward in time, we will discover Moses talking to a bush. (Exodus Chap.3 But this was no ordinary bush. Moses was soon to discover that this bush and its surround were emblematic of sacred presence. Even the ground on which he stood was sacred.

From the bush a voice called Moses to return to Egypt, there to challenge Pharoah to let the Israelites go free. This was a daunting task and Moses was loath to take it on. The challenge continued, so Moses asked for some identification. It would be useful to know who or what it was that was speaking to him. “Give me your name…”

What he received was not a name but an enigmatic statement of being. I AM! Then for further affirmation a reminder of an ongoing presence from the God of their ancestors. Transliterated in English as YHWH the term is unpronounceable but most expressive as a doorway to understanding presence. Finding security in this presence Moses took on the task and confronted Pharoah. Pharoah had to learn to his considerable cost, that this presence was not going away, and finally set the people free.

My name for this presence is YHWH-Spirit. It makes sense for me when linked to the story of beginnings and humankind’s gift of life. YHWH-Spirit fed and led the Israelites away from slavery into a desert, there to wander for some time. Visible as smoke in the day and fire in the night YHWH-Spirit guarded and guided the Israelites as they continued their journey home – to the place originally promised to Abraham. As they travelled, they had to learn again the true nature of the covenant to which their ancestors had committed their lives in the gift of the life given.

The life that each has is what it is. The profile of life is the same for all and is not affected by shape or colour or creed or behaviour. So, how do we account for the range of difference among the many lives being lived?

If I decide to present you with a gift (for whatever reason), and carefully wrap it securely in attractive paper, you may be very pleased and even find the wrapping expressive of my feelings in giving it to you. But you will know nothing of its contents until you remove the covering.

If life is to take on meaning and find expression in your daily peregrinations, it must like any gift, be unwrapped. Unwrapping life does not, and indeed cannot occur in a moment. Life is always continuing and expanding. This changing condition of life requires a progressive unwrapping – always more is revealed.

There is, however, abundant evidence to suggest that the unwrapping is not proceeding well and, in many cases, not at all. I wonder if many are fearful of what they might find.

Failure to unwrap, it might be suggested, leaves the gift languishing on the table; we pass by daily.

Rev Walter Stratford  28th August 2021

oOo

Tomorrow’s message

Following the positive feedback directly to us, Greg Jenks has kindly given us access to his message for Good Friday at Grafton Cathedral. We would prefer to see comments posted at ‘Leave a reply’ on the post page rather than by return email. That way everyone can share your thoughts.

Good Friday Sermon 2021- The Heart of the Good News

Greg’s sermon for Good Friday in 2018 created some controversy, especially in Sydney Anglican circles:

Good Friday Sermon 2018 – Rethinking the Cross of Jesus

Detail from Christ of St John of the Cross, Salvador Dali, 1951

oOo

A Palm Sunday Message

from The Very Rev’d Dr Greg Jenks, Dean of Grafton Cathedral, NSW and a Senior Lecturer at Charles Sturt University, NSW.

[Greg has kindly provided us with last Sunday’s sermon in video and written form. It is a challenge for our times and for each of us to reflect on.]

The Video

The Text:

As we celebrate Palm Sunday today, our Jewish friends are observing Passover.

To our Jewish neighbours here in Grafton, to our Jewish citizens around the nation, and to all Jews everywhere—whether in Palestine or in the Diaspora—we say Chag Pesach sameach (happy Passover festival) and we wish them ziessen Pesach, a sweet Passover.

Passover and Holy Week are for ever entwined, even if some years our different calendars mean that we observe them a few weeks apart.

For many centuries, Jews have ended the Passover seder with these words: 

L’Shana Haba’ah B’Yerushalayim 

Next year in Jerusalem

Jerusalem draws people of faith—not just Jews, but also Christians and Muslims.

We want to be there.

For sure I do, just as soon we are allowed to fly once more!

That was also true in ancient times.

At Passover time the population of the city would swell from 20,000 (some say up to 100,000) to 2,000,000 people.

Any Jew who could be there would be there.

And so would the Roman army!

The stage was also set for conflict.

The Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, came to Jerusalem for the Passover, but not for religious reasons. He was there to keep an eye on the crowd and ensure direct control of his bolstered garrison during the week-long festival of liberation from enslavement.

This week, together with our Jewish friends, we celebrate the crazy idea that the compassionate power at the very heart of the universe is on the side of the powerless, and opposed to every form of empire.

This week drips with intense religious meaning, but also with powerful politics.

Every empire, no matter its religion, is held to account by the sacred truths we affirm this week.

We have a choice in the way we understand our religion, whatever our faith happens to be. 

We can choose to see God as endorsing the emperor, or the ways our society arranges power, wealth and opportunity. That has always worked well for religion as we get a cut of the action: tax-free lands, freedom from military service, governments funds for church buildings and programs. Sometimes even a seat in the House of Lords.

That kind of god rides into Jerusalem on a white horse surrounded by the banners of imperial privilege and with the power to arrest, imprison and kill their opponents.

There is a different kind of god who rides into Jerusalem on a donkey.

Such a god enjoys no imperial privileges and commands no army. His kingdom is not of this world. Or more correctly, his kingdom in this world reflects the way that the divine will is enacted in heaven. Far from getting access to government funds or a place at the table when big decisions are being made, this donkey-riding-god is murdered by the people who enjoy imperial privileges.

The god who rides a white horse thinks he has defeated the god who rides a donkey.

But it is not so.

The slaves are set free, the crucified one is raised to life and exalted to glory.

That disruptive truth is central to the Passover story as well as to Holy Week.

Today I invite you to pause and think about which kind of god you imagine yourself to be serving.

Does your god ride a horse or a donkey?

About Greg

oOo

What has life taught me?

via Tim O’Dwyer.

A retired senior citizen was asked what sort of changes he was feeling in himself? This was his sage response:

1 After loving my parents, my siblings, my spouse, my children and my friends, I have now started loving myself.

2 I have realized that I am not “Atlas”. The world does not rest on my shoulders.

3 I have stopped bargaining with vegetable & fruit vendors. A few pennies more is not going to break me, but it might help the poor fellow save for his daughter’s school fees.

4 I leave my waiter a big tip. The extra money might bring a smile to her face. She is toiling much harder for a living than I am.

5 I stopped telling the elderly that they’ve already narrated that story many times. The story makes them walk down memory lane & relive their past.

6 I have learned not to correct people even when I know they are wrong. The onus of making everyone perfect is not on me. Peace is more precious than perfection.

7 I give compliments freely & generously. Compliments are a mood enhancer not only for the recipient, but also for me. And a small tip for the recipient of a compliment, never, NEVER turn it down, just say “Thank You.”

8 I have learned not to bother about a crease or a spot on my shirt. Personality speaks louder than appearances.

9 I walk away from people who don’t value me. They might not know my worth, but I do.

10 I remain cool when someone plays dirty to outrun me in the rat race. I am not a rat & neither am I in any race.

11 I am learning not to be embarrassed by my emotions. It’s my emotions that make me human.

oOo

Prayer as Social Action

Richard Rohr
 The Politics of Prayer
Monday, December 28, 2020   I’ve often said that we founded the Center for Action and Contemplation to be a place of integration between action and contemplation. I envisioned a place where we could teach activists in social movements to pray—and encourage people who pray to live lives of solidarity and justice. As we explained in our Center’s Radical Grace publication in 1999: We believed that action and contemplation, once thought of as mutually exclusive, must be brought together or neither one would make sense. We wanted to be radical in both senses of the word, simultaneously rooted in Tradition and boldly experimental. We believed . . . that the power to be truly radical comes from trusting entirely in God’s grace and that such trust is the most radical action possible. [1] To pray is to practice that posture of radical trust in God’s grace—and to participate in perhaps the most radical movement of all, which is the movement of God’s Love. Contemplative prayer allows us to build our own house. To pray is to discover that Someone else is within our house and to recognize that it is not our house at all. To keeping praying is to have no house to protect because there is only One House. And that One House is Everybody’s Home. In other words, those who pray from the heart actually live in a very different world. I like to say it’s a Christ-soaked world, a world where matter is inspirited and spirit is embodied. In this world, everything is sacred; and the word “Real” takes on a new meaning. The world is wary of such house builders, for our loyalties will lie in very different directions. We will be very different kinds of citizens, and the state will not so easily depend on our salute. That is the politics of prayer. And that is probably why truly spiritual people are always a threat to politicians of any sort. They want our allegiance, and we can no longer give it. Our house is too big. If religion and religious people are to have any moral credibility in the face of the massive death-dealing and denial of this era, we need to move with great haste toward lives of political holiness. This is my theology and my politics: It appears that God loves life—the creating never stops. We will love and create and maintain life. It appears that God is love—an enduring, patient kind. We will seek and trust love in all its humanizing (and therefore divinizing forms. It appears that God loves the variety of multiple features, faces, and forms. We will not be afraid of the other, the not-me, the stranger at the gate. It appears that God loves—is—beauty: Look at this world! Those who pray already know this. Their passion will be for beauty.  

[1] Richard Rohr, from Radical Grace, anniversary edition (December 1999).

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Prayer as Political Activity,” Radical Grace, vol. 2, no. 2 (March–April 1989).

Franciscan Richard Rohr founded the Center for Action and Contemplation in 1987 because he saw a deep need for the integration of both action and contemplation. If we pray but don’t act justly, our faith won’t bear fruit. And without contemplation, activists burn out and even well-intended actions can cause more harm than good. In today’s religious, environmental, and political climate our compassionate engagement is urgent and vital.

370,000 people now subscribe to Richard Rohr’s daily meditations.

oOo

The Faith of a Radical Christian – Don Cupitt

The Faith of a Radical Christian – theologian, Reverend Don Cupitt is interviewed by Neville Glasgow.

Reverend Don Cupitt speaks about the concept of salvation, the comparison of his view of Christianity to Buddhism, how people view God as perceived through cultural values, and the concept of sin. He then speaks about Jesus as a revolutionary, and “Christian Platonism” – Christianity intertwined with Greek philosophy.

He then discusses the role of the Church in society, and his own personal role within it as a priest. He speaks about the idea of evil, and addresses the question of why God allows suffering – he says human beings are responsible for the world, and that is where change needs to come from. He also talks about miracles, belief, and the need for Christianity to transform from tradition to a ‘new’ Christianity.

The interview concludes with further discussion about his radical views on Christianity which compromised his position in the Church, with some labelling him as a heretic.

Go to:

https://www.ngataonga.org.nz/collections/catalogue/catalogue-item?record_id=174712

[Thank you Tim O’Dwyer for this link]

oOo

What the world needs now and always

The Transforming Power of Love – Richard Rohr

     
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. —1 John 4:7–8 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. . . . This I command you: love one another. —John 15:12–14, 17

Love is perhaps the last thing anyone wants to be reminded of in these days following the election in the United States. Yet our resistance to love is precisely why we need to talk about it! We have strayed so far from love; and yet, love is the essence of who we are, and how we are called to treat one another.

“Whoever loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). Unfortunately, many Christians think, “If I read the Bible, I’m born of God; or if I go to church, I know God; or if I obey the commandments, I know God.” Yet the writer of 1 John says it’s simply about loving. Note that the converse is true also: “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). In the Gospel of John, Jesus takes this to its logical conclusion. He does not say, “There is no greater love than to love God.” Instead he says, “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends” (John 15:13). As biblical scholar Allen Dwight Callahan writes of this passage, “Jesus has loved his followers so that they may love each other. Love calls for love in turn. Love makes love imperative.” [1]

The beginning and end of everything is love. Only inside of this mystery of the exchange of love can we know God. If we stay outside of that mystery, we cannot know God.

When most of us hear the word “commandment,” we likely think of the Ten Commandments; that is not what Jesus is referring to here. He speaks of a “new” commandment surpassing and summing up the “ten” of the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 20:1–17; Deuteronomy 5:6–21): “This is my commandment: Love one another” (John 15:17). He also says that the entire law and the prophets are summed up in the two great commandments: to love God and to love one another (see Matthew 22:36–40). Perhaps we don’t want to hear these commandments because we can never live up to them through our own efforts. We’d like to whittle this down to a little commandment, like “Come to church on Sunday,” so that we could feel we have obeyed the commandment and accomplished love. But who of us can say that we have fully loved yet? We are all beginners. We are all starting anew every day, in utter reliance on the mercy, grace, and compassion of God. This is a good example of “the tragic gap” that faith always allows and fills.  

[1] Allen, Dwight Callahan Love Supreme: a history of the Johannine Tradition (Augsburg, Fortress, 2005, 78-79.

oOo

Checking on our friends

We hope the members of our growing network of progressive thinkers and explorers are all safe and well. Rex Hunt has taken the initiative of inquiring of several of the scholars and practitioners we follow just how they are managing in the Covid crisis.

Here are their responses:

Brandon Scott (USA)

Hi to everyone in Aussie Land, Margaret and I are here in Taos NM in the wonderful house we stayed in last fall. We are halfway through our 5 week stay. We travelled in our quarantine bubble. Things are pretty shut down here, but we get out for walks and short car trips; always something new to explore. 

From the news, some parts of Australia, esp Melbourne have had a hard time. Hope everyone is doing well. 

If Tyche favors us, it looks like our four year nightmare may be coming to an end. Take care and be safe.

Joe Bessler (USA)

Thanks so much for thinking of us! We’re doing pretty well even as cases in Oklahoma are at their highest levels yet and continue to, pressuring hospital staffs. At school we’re doing all online. I’m transitioning from the Dean’s office where I’ve been for the last two years. 

How’s the economy there? Are you all on edge as you move into summer—concerns of fires? Has drought eased? 

We’re all on edge with the election coming up—that Trump is not being utterly rejected, 

And with still a fair chance of winning (and anything can happen in the next couple of weeks), is beyond my comprehension. 

Jack Spong (USA)

How nice to hear from you.  The stroke slowed me down considerably so I live in the past today. I am not depressed. I had a wonderful life and I look forward to what comes next.  Australia was very kind to me and formed many of my happiest memories.  I remember meeting you for the first time in Canberra and being very pleased with your leadership.  That was never diminished by a long association.  Thank you for that. 

Please give my best regards to my friends. I recall them well and with gratitude.

Keep the fight up.  We have much to be proud of.

Jeff Proctor-Murphy (USA)

Thanks Rex! Appreciate the warm thoughts. We’re hunkered down and so far have avoided the virus. Church has been virtual since mid-March and likely ’til Christmas Eve. 

We’re all getting along fine. Love to you and yours!

John Churcher (Britain)

Thanks for the email and for your concern. It is good to hear from you in these challenging times. 

I cannot remember whether or not I told you that although the prostate cancer treatment appears to have been successful there was a very unpleasant side effect in that the radiation damaged the blood vessels in the bowel and I have been bleeding daily for the past year. Things came to a head 3 weeks ago when the GP wanted me to have a blood transfusion but the hospital decided otherwise. Then, almost immediately, having waited 5 months for the second argon beam coagulation treatment [having been told that I would be waiting only 2 -5 weeks….] The consultant who carried out the treatment thinks that he has done the trick… Fortunately I am feeling much better…

Obviously regular preaching ended abruptly in March and so far shows no sign of restarting but lockdown has given me precious time to catch up on all those books waiting to be opened…

I have just finished re-reading Geering’s “Christianity Without God”, brilliant book!

Best wishes to you and hope that you continue to enjoy retirement and stay well away from those Covid bugs – we need you fit and well for a long time yet!

Gretta Vosper (Canada)

Has it not been almost the worst year E.V.E.R? I hope you and Dylis have been staying well. 

Scott continues to work in the long term care facility he’s been at for the past many years. It is a publicly funded one which receives from the local government an additional 2/3 of what the province provides. So they have been able to keep COVID out of the home excepting one staff person whose partner brought it home from a private home that had a staggering number of deaths. Money truly is the root of all evil. The company that owned several of the private homes in which dozens died paid out huge profits to its shareholders in the same quarter. Time to dismantle some of the more egregious corporate laws, like limited liability, for instance.

Imagine me heading off on a rant straight out of the box!!

West Hill, too, has been spared any COVID losses. We did not return to regular meetings when we were permitted to simply because we felt our members were too vulnerable. 

The result has been that we have extended our community reach to the UK, Africa, the US and all across Canada. 

It has been a good thing in that, but we have many seniors who are not able to connect at all. It is like solitary confinement for them. So so so difficult. 

Thank you so much for reaching out… As it begins to warm up there, I hope you are able to avoid the kind of destructive fires that were so devastating last year. 

Wesley Wildman (Aussie in USA)

I’m running along just fine here. Weird times in the USA with weirder to come given the strange election. 

My routines haven’t changed much aside from not traveling. Not sure how much I need to travel anymore, in fact. 

But I miss not connecting with people in person. 

Jerome Stone (USA)

So nice of you to be concerned, Sue and I are both OK.  But I do have trouble getting a wi-fi connection. (Long story.)

We have both voted.  We mailed our ballots.  We think they will get through.  Our daughter’s mailed-in ballot was received.

Been reading Spinoza to stay calm.  He’s half right.

oOo

From St Francis to Pope Francis – progressive thinking

ENCYCLICAL LETTER FRATELLI TUTTI
of Pope Francis
ON FRATERNITY AND SOCIAL FRIENDSHIP

3rd October 2020

Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all.

1. “FRATELLI TUTTI”.[1] With these words, Saint Francis of Assisi addressed his brothers and sisters and proposed to them a way of life marked by the flavour of the Gospel. Of the counsels Francis offered, I would like to select the one in which he calls for a love that transcends the barriers of geography and distance, and declares blessed all those who love their brother “as much when he is far away from him as when he is with him”.[2] In his simple and direct way, Saint Francis expressed the essence of a fraternal openness that allows us to acknowledge, appreciate and love each person, regardless of physical proximity, regardless of where he or she was born or lives.

2. This saint of fraternal love, simplicity and joy, who inspired me to write the Encyclical Laudato Si’, prompts me once more to devote this new Encyclical to fraternity and social friendship. Francis felt himself a brother to the sun, the sea and the wind, yet he knew that he was even closer to those of his own flesh. Wherever he went, he sowed seeds of peace and walked alongside the poor, the abandoned, the infirm and the outcast, the least of his brothers and sisters.

WITHOUT BORDERS

3. There is an episode in the life of Saint Francis that shows his openness of heart, which knew no bounds and transcended differences of origin, nationality, colour or religion. It was his visit to Sultan Malik-el-Kamil, in Egypt, which entailed considerable hardship, given Francis’ poverty, his scarce resources, the great distances to be traveled and their differences of language, culture and religion. That journey, undertaken at the time of the Crusades, further demonstrated the breadth and grandeur of his love, which sought to embrace everyone. Francis’ fidelity to his Lord was commensurate with his love for his brothers and sisters. Unconcerned for the hardships and dangers involved, Francis went to meet the Sultan with the same attitude that he instilled in his disciples: if they found themselves “among the Saracens and other nonbelievers”, without renouncing their own identity they were not to “engage in arguments or disputes, but to be subject to every human creature for God’s sake”.[3] In the context of the times, this was an extraordinary recommendation. We are impressed that some eight hundred years ago Saint Francis urged that all forms of hostility or conflict be avoided and that a humble and fraternal “subjection” be shown to those who did not share his faith.

4. Francis did not wage a war of words aimed at imposing doctrines; he simply spread the love of God. He understood that “God is love and those who abide in love abide in God” (1 Jn 4:16). In this way, he became a father to all and inspired the vision of a fraternal society. Indeed, “only the man who approaches others, not to draw them into his own life, but to help them become ever more fully themselves, can truly be called a father”.[4] In the world of that time, bristling with watchtowers and defensive walls, cities were a theatre of brutal wars between powerful families, even as poverty was spreading through the countryside. Yet there Francis was able to welcome true peace into his heart and free himself of the desire to wield power over others. He became one of the poor and sought to live in harmony with all. Francis has inspired these pages.

5. Issues of human fraternity and social friendship have always been a concern of mine. In recent years, I have spoken of them repeatedly and in different settings. In this Encyclical, I have sought to bring together many of those statements and to situate them in a broader context of reflection. In the preparation of Laudato Si’, I had a source of inspiration in my brother Bartholomew, the Orthodox Patriarch, who has spoken forcefully of our need to care for creation. In this case, I have felt particularly encouraged by the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, with whom I met in Abu Dhabi, where we declared that “God has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and has called them to live together as brothers and sisters”.[5] This was no mere diplomatic gesture, but a reflection born of dialogue and common commitment. The present Encyclical takes up and develops some of the great themes raised in the Document that we both signed. I have also incorporated, along with my own thoughts, a number of letters, documents and considerations that I have received from many individuals and groups throughout the world.

6. The following pages do not claim to offer a complete teaching on fraternal love, but rather to consider its universal scope, its openness to every man and woman. I offer this social Encyclical as a modest contribution to continued reflection, in the hope that in the face of present-day attempts to eliminate or ignore others, we may prove capable of responding with a new vision of fraternity and social friendship that will not remain at the level of words. Although I have written it from the Christian convictions that inspire and sustain me, I have sought to make this reflection an invitation to dialogue among all people of good will.

7. As I was writing this letter, the Covid-19 pandemic unexpectedly erupted, exposing our false securities. Aside from the different ways that various countries responded to the crisis, their inability to work together became quite evident. For all our hyper-connectivity, we witnessed a fragmentation that made it more difficult to resolve problems that affect us all. Anyone who thinks that the only lesson to be learned was the need to improve what we were already doing, or to refine existing systems and regulations, is denying reality.

8. It is my desire that, in this our time, by acknowledging the dignity of each human person, we can contribute to the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity. Fraternity between all men and women. “Here we have a splendid secret that shows us how to dream and to turn our life into a wonderful adventure. No one can face life in isolation… We need a community that supports and helps us, in which we can help one another to keep looking ahead. How important it is to dream together… By ourselves, we risk seeing mirages, things that are not there. Dreams, on the other hand, are built together”.[6] Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all.

CHAPTER ONE

DARK CLOUDS OVER A CLOSED WORLD

9. Without claiming to carry out an exhaustive analysis or to study every aspect of our present-day experience, I intend simply to consider certain trends in our world that hinder the development of universal fraternity.

SHATTERED DREAMS

10. For decades, it seemed that the world had learned a lesson from its many wars and disasters, and was slowly moving towards various forms of integration. For example, there was the dream of a united Europe, capable of acknowledging its shared roots and rejoicing in its rich diversity. We think of “the firm conviction of the founders of the European Union, who envisioned a future based on the capacity to work together in bridging divisions and in fostering peace and fellowship between all the peoples of this continent”.[7] There was also a growing desire for integration in Latin America, and several steps were taken in this direction. In some countries and regions, attempts at reconciliation and rapprochement proved fruitful, while others showed great promise.

The complete encyclical is available at: Fraternity and Social Friendship

oOo

The Climate Crisis – An Opportunity for Which the Church was Born

by Dr Richard Smith

Sermon – All Saints Floreat UC, Perth, Sunday, 13th September 2020

Old Testament Reading
Ecclesiastes – Epilogue
(Trans. Lloyd Geering),
New Testament Reading

Matthew 19:16-24 Rich Young Ruler

The Moral Challenges of Climate Change

In 2007 the Prime Minister declared Climate Change to be ‘The Greatest Moral Challenge of our Generation’. At the time, I was working in Indonesia on the application of Satellites from Space to detect the illegal clearing of rainforests for our much-loved Palm Oil. It was part of an Australian plan to buy Carbon Credits under the Kyoto protocol to offset our nations emissions. We were part of a United Nation program called REDD for Reduction in Emissions by Deforestation and Degradation for which we developed the satellite technology. The Indonesians balked at its implementation and the REDD initiative collapsed into a seeming ‘Murder Mystery’. What had collapsed were the religious values of honesty and integrity – the vital social pillar of sustainability.
Five years ago, Pope Francis’s Encyclical Laudato Si – ‘On Care for our Common Home’,
called on all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action” to address the
Climate Crisis. In 2017, the national Synod of the United Church of Christ in America (of the Congregational tradition) passed a motion naming the climate crisis as “an opportunity for which the church was born”. Our WA Synod employed environmentalist, Jessica Morthorpe to lead our young people into this brave new era with her five-leaf program of sustainability.

These were encouraging signs.

Our Jewish scriptures tell us of the moral crises faced by the Hebrew people; of escaping slavery in Egypt, building a United Kingdom under King David and rebuilding their nation after the Babylonian conquest and exile. These three historical streams, evolved into the great Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Separate, was the Wisdom stream of writings, recording not history, but human experience and knowledge from which we are still gaining insights into the human predicament. It is in this stream scholars place the authentic parables and sayings of Jesus.
From this Wisdom stream, Science from the Latin scientia to Know, would emerge, leading to the discovery of the Earth as a unique self-creating entity, with life developing by Evolution through processes of chance and human purpose. This new way of seeing Earth, is called Nature (from the Latin – natura for birth). As I celebrate entering my 78th year, I reflect on my own origins, resulting from the romance of my parents and the act of good luck of being conceived in the middle of WW2.

The first lesson we learn from our Scriptures is the importance of Sustainability. In Leviticus 25:23 The Lord reminded the Hebrews ‘… the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants. For Aboriginal people: ‘The Land owns us, and not we the Land’, reflecting their sacred duty to care for the land and hand it back in the same condition in which it had been given.

A year ago, we were reminded of this truth of sustainability when some 6 million young
people worldwide protested at the inter-generational inequity of global warming. These
protestors were our grandchildren’s generation who will see the end of the 21st Century and the full fury of climate change, unless we act. Jesus reminds us that ‘the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these’ (Mark 10:13-16).

The second lesson we learn is from Ecclesiastes to ‘Stand in awe of Nature and do what it requires of you. For everything we do Nature will bring to judgement …whether it be good or evil’. Nature’s Laws exist to maintain the integrity of life on Earth and show no mercy – for example if we defy Nature’s law of gravity, we will come off the worse for wear. If Nature’s laws are disobeyed, we are warned we will suffer the consequences for 7×7 generations (Gen 4:13-15, 23). But, Nature as Jesus reassured his disciples also offers us unlimited generosity and mercy through the gift of life, means of sustaining it, and enriching it with unlimited beauty and love (eg. Matt. 6: 25-34). Such Wisdom of seeing God in Nature resulted in Dutchman Baruch Spinoza in the17th Century, being banished from the Jewish Community and declared a Heretic. Albert Einstein who believed in Spinoza’s God, recognised the mutual importance of Science and Religion saying: ‘Science without Religion is Lame and Religion without Science is blind’. He also said ‘God is a Mystery, but a Mystery that can be understood’.

A third lesson we learn from scripture is the Ten Commandments, or Decalogue of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, fundamental to both Judaism and Christianity (Exodus 20:2–17 and Deut. 5:6–17) and the ethical cradle of Western Civilisation. On coming to Jesus, The Rich Young Ruler understood these commandments in their prescriptive form, but Jesus told him the principles they embodied, required him to share his wealth with the poor (Matt. 7:12). Climate Change is a similar dilemma. It is caused by the lifestyle of the Rich like us, without realising that the climate impact of our emissions falls disproportionally on the Poor on the other side of the world. Therefore, most of us probably have no sense of having a moral obligation to reduce our emissions.

Continue reading