Sermons: Climate Action Sunday
On Sunday 7th November 2021, the Climate Action Team at St George-in-the-East led our Parish Masses. The congregations heard two brilliant sermons – a reflection from Nathaniel Darling at the 9:30am service and a longer address from the Rev’d Shana Maloney at the 10:30am service. Their wonderful talks are reproduced for our blog below. Nathaniel is a member of the Action Team at St George’s who earlier this year led our Fair Energy Campaign. He is also a Pastoral Helper in the parish. Shana is a Curate at St John of Jerusalem church in south Hackney.
Reflection on Mark 1:14-20 and climate change (Nathaniel Darling)
In our Gospel today we meet Jesus calling his first disciples: Simon and Andrew, James and John. They were going about their lives: making a living, casting their nets into Lake Galilee. Jesus said to them the time was near. They were instructed to repent, and believe, to leave what they were doing and start afresh on another course. And immediately, they did. They would go on to learn that this repentance demanded not cheap words, but the costly giving of their whole lives.
Over the last week, COP26 has been taking place. Governments have been meeting in Glasgow to talk about climate change. Protestors have taken to streets around the world to demand action. There have been some encouraging signs of progress, but so far insufficient commitment to action that would keep our world on track for 1.5 degrees heating, rather than 2 or even 3 degrees.
Climate change can seem a complicated scientific problem, with complex technological, engineering or economic solutions. And so it can seem a problem for other people - for experts and governments.
But it is also a simple human predicament. We have learnt—too slowly—that much about our way of life, that we benefit from and have reason to value, comes at a cost. These costs are often hidden from us: a flight to the Canaries appears to only cost £15. But burning the energy that sustains our lives costs dearly: it brings about the heating of the earth, the rising of sea levels, and the intensification of extreme weather with increasing droughts and floods. These costs, on the whole, so far, we are leaving for others to pay.
We know that we must love our neighbour, and that we too have to ask ‘who is my neighbour?’. And this climate story tells us that in this age our neighbours extend far beyond our own locality or borders. Our neighbours are Palauans, Pacific Islanders, whose islands are fast becoming uninhabitable as seas rise, devastating storms become more frequent, and freshwater supplies are contaminated by salt water. Their president said this week that we may as well bomb their islands. And our neighbours are south Madagascans, whose carbon emissions are over 40 times smaller than ours in the UK, who are living through years of drought, whose streams have dried up and whose food supplies are threatened. These too are our neighbours, and it would be an understatement to say that we have not loved them as we have been commanded to.
And now we know, like Simon and Andrew, James and John, that we are being called to stop, and repent, not with cheap words, but with costly action.
What kind of costly action are we willing to take in our individual and collective lives? And what kinds of action will we expect and demand from the governments we elect?
We bring these questions before God who forgives us and who calls us again to repent and believe—and to act.
Sermon: Come, Follow me. We about to do something new. (Rev’d Shana Maloney)
Inspiration: Hamilton, My Shot & History has its eyes on you.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our rock, and our redeemer.
I bring you greetings from the people, your brothers and sisters, friends in Christ at St John of Jerusalem. I thank Fr Richard for his invitation to offer a word to you on this Climate Sunday when we as a church think about God’s creation and our participation. It is my privilege to do so, and I also thank you for your patience and time.
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’
This is our moment. This is our time and we’re not throwing away our shot. This morning in scripture we hear of a moment in history. Jesus stands amongst and within us to say Come, follow me. In the middle of doing the everyday. In the middle of doing ordinary things, doing what is comfortable. In the middle of following the norm. Jesus calls. These would be disciples are not looking for Jesus. They are too busy with the nets. Casting, mending, and casting them again. They may not have even noticed Jesus, but he not only sees them Jesus speaks to them. There was Simon and Andrew casting a net into the sea. Casting a net. The image of throwing the net out to sea – the waters that connects us and then bringing it together, but this time Jesus says I will make you fish for people. Come. Follow me. We about to do something new.
I lived and worked in Stepney Green for a little while. It was a new place, a new area, I was out on my own. My family were a little worried – especially the family in Barbados. My father and his siblings are a close-knit bunch. When my grandmother died, my aunt made sure to connect more with the family living abroad and since I had just move and was young – a baby in their eyes –that meant that it was my turn to get the phone calls and messages more than I wanted or needed. I messaged my cousins asking them if one of them could do something wrong so that I would be left alone. I love my aunts, but they could talk for two hours, and I still hadn’t gotten a word in yet. So, I had to come up with a plan to limit the calls but also let them know I’m okay. So, this is my moment, I had a plan. I took two photos: I came to the Limehouse docks and took a photo of the waters and boats – my grandmother always said the water connects the world – she meant through boats and people. The second photo I took was of West India Quay, telling her the sugar that Barbados once produced docked right here in the east end at West India Quay, it is also the place that connected dock workers because the west India company connected the Caribbean with England since it first opened in the 1800s. I sent these two photos as my plan I’m good, I know you’re there and basically leave me alone. Friends, my grandmother has 10 children 7 of which are my aunts – I received 5 phone calls that day – rather than being soothed by my sentimental gift. It turns out they were more worried I was missing home and that more family members should check in with me! Total failure. I had to figure out something new and fast! Come. Follow me. We about to do something new.
This morning Jesus calls us into something new - a renewal of our vocation – our calling. This time not only to people but this time for the rest of creation – our earth. The truth is that we can only respond to our calling or a call, as those disciples did to theirs and my calls with my family – if we are truly listening to what is needed. By this I do not mean simply hearing, but really, truly listening. Can you hear the earth crying? What have we done to the earth? This enormity of resources that support us – what have we done? The earth roars out from afar with the more than usual eruptions from volcanoes. It raises its temperature so high so we will notice the ice caps and zones are melting. It raises its waters so that we know that islands are sinking. The air is so polluted that pilots are asking more and more for a visual in our London sky. The clouds open so often that flooding has become a norm in across the UK. What have we done? The Earth cries, give me life too, Let freedom rain and justice flow for me too. Come, follow me. The earth needs us to do something new.
This is our moment. This is our time and we’re not throwing away our shot. Jesus says the ‘kingdom is near.’ We are living between crisis and opportunity, the sweet spot for justice and transformation. Jesus declares the critical moment has come: God begins to act in a new decisive way. In the words of Dr King, “we are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” This is our moment. This is our time, and We are not going to throw away our shot! The invitation, “follow me,” is also the invitation to leave behind; It is our moment and our time to turn away from the things that harm the earth. Like the story of Jonah that we all know, I too and probably some of you would like to turn away, the anxiety is high, and the pressure is on, it is easier to ignore the issues of creation and justice, it is easier to leave it to the next generation. Or it is easier to stay in our safety nets and comforts. But the Jonah passage we meet this morning calls us into a leaving behind without preparing, a turning away from that which causes harm. It is the face towards justice and building and empowering of community. Climate change threatens our air, our water sources and food supply. It disrupts livelihoods, forces families from their homes and pushes people into poverty. Therefore, if we do nothing, we participate in creating an increase in poverty, wars, displacement, further inequality for the already marginalised in society and less hope for smaller, less financially stable islands and countries. Come, follow me. The earth needs us to do something new.
History has its eyes on us. Friends, we live in a resurrected story, participating with the gift of the Holy Spirit and the call of Jesus Christ. In the Eucharist, life is found here, indeed a life to live in and a life to live by through the sharing of Christ’s love for all of creation. The presence of Christ at the Eucharist presents us with the intimate connection. The cry of freedom is not only the cry of exploited, oppressed, alienated, divided, and frightened humanity. It is also the cry of the creation which humanity is destroying. Humanity’s freedom is bound up with the rest of creation. Nature too awaits her true resurrected story. The cry for freedom unites humanity and nature in a single hope. History has its eyes on us. We have our eyes on history. You see that something new is not simply a single act, it is a continued renewal in our commitment to God through Christ and therefore a continued recommitment to love. Love God. Love Neighbour and Love God’s creation. That love is not simply a feeling, it is an action. The moment we chose to love we begin to move towards freedom. But this unity of love can either be destroyed by our divisions around caring for the earth or it will survive as partners in a new community, a community we can continue to pass on to the next generations. This love for creation with community takes care, commitment, knowledge, trust, and selflessness.
We about to do something new. For we have been gifted a beloved community of Christ. Not Simon without Andrew or James without John, or Fr Richard without Rev Shana, or the priests without the people. But all, forming a community. We are going to have to do this together. At some point we will have to say, I can’t do this alone, but I know I can if you join me. So the impact becomes bigger, stronger, and sustainable. Ultimately, it’s about letting go of our own little life so that we can receive God’s life. This letting go happens we become open to hearing, offering what we can and together. It says, If you can afford to change energy companies or buy organic then I will do something else I can afford. If you have the gift to speak out, to protest, I can offer you the space to be heard. Offer you some food for the fight. If the international community needs help, then we reach back and make their voices known. By the time we finish, we would have covered every aspect of the creation’s crisis and injustices that the whole of God’s creation flourishes. In the middle of comfortability. In the middle of following the norm. God calls. In the hustle and bustle of our London life – the TFL running, the night bus is going, cyclists are moving, we working to survive, the lights are on green. But the grace of God, through Christ the Holy Spirit approaches. Pauses. Stops us in our tracks. And says, Come. Follow me. Friends, Cast the net. In union with Christ and all of creation let us do something new. This is our moment. This is our time and we’re not throwing away our shot.
 Bell Hooks, All about Love