Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Pray for Us
distributed 10/23/09 - ©2009

There is a wonderful comedy routine that has demolished my ability to read the Christmas story from Luke with appropriate reverence.

It comes from the 1960s comedy group, "Beyond the Fringe", in a short bit called "Gospel Truth." Set back at the time when Jesus was born, a reporter from the Bethlehem Star interviews one of the shepherds, and the dialogue isn't what we hear in most Sunday School pageants.

The part that sticks in my mind comes after the shepherd tells of the angel's announcement, "Unto ye a Child is born. Unto ye a Son is given."

The reporter asks, "Yes. What was your reaction?" The shepherd answers, "Total shock. I mean I wasn't even married at the time. And I thought, you know, 'Blimey! What was I doing this time last year?'"

As I recall (but can't document, even with the wonders of Google), it goes from there into an absurdly long discussion of the confusion between singular and plural versions of "ye". If it is the singular ye being announced by the angel, that is a problem for the shepherd, but if it is the plural form, then the angel brings wonderful good news.

This week's Notes has the title, "Pray for Us" -- and I intend a more sober variation on the double meaning that was so much fun from Beyond the Fringe.

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Tomorrow -- Saturday, October 24 -- is the international day of climate action that has been called into being by "350.org". It is now being described by the organizers as "the single most widespread day of political action the planet has ever seen -- we're closing in on 170 nations, and more than 4000 rallies and events." (Actually, in the two days since that was written, the count has gone to more than 4,500 events in 174 nations.)

If you have been paying any attention to Eco-Justice Notes through the last several months, you know that we have been deeply and passionately involved in the 350 cause. Eco-Justice Ministries called into being a local coalition, 350Denver.org, and -- substantially through our efforts -- over 30 registered events are happening in our city this weekend. As part of the coalition, Eco-Justice Ministries has encouraged churches to ring their bells 350 times, built cooperation between a church and a social service agency so that energy efficient light bulbs can be distributed in a low-income neighborhood, instigated the planning for an interfaith worship service, and organized a massive public rally at the Colorado State Capitol. We've coordinated the media coverage for the metro-wide day of action, and we've set up a team of professional video producers to document the day's events.

It has been an exhausting and exhilarating season. This is by far the largest and most complex project that Eco-Justice Ministries has taken on, and has been possible only through the diligent efforts of many volunteers. Tomorrow, it all comes to fruition.

Ten days ago, I sent an email to several hundred pastors in the Denver area. After confessing the number of times I'd written to them about the 350 cause, I said:

This Sunday, as your congregation gathers for worship, we will be blessed if you will remember this movement in your collective prayers. In thousands of settings around the planet, concerned people will be taking action toward the healing of God's creation. We will be calling on the world leaders who are creating climate policies to remember the poor of the world, future generations, and the delicate web of life. We are acting in compassion and for justice, in the deepest traditions of our faith.

In a multitude of locations and styles, we will be lifting up the number "350", because many scientists now believe that 350 parts per million is the highest safe level for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Getting to 350, and preserving Earth's climate in a viable condition, requires a reduction from the rapidly rising levels of CO2.

Your prayers this Sunday will empower and sustain us as we witness on behalf of God's beloved and threatened Earth community. Thank you.

Today, I make the same basic request of you, the readers of Notes, that I did of those pastors. Pray for us -- for all of us around the world who are joining in witness through the 350.org international day of climate action. Through the next two days, hold us in your thoughts and prayers as we act in faith for the healing of creation. Thank you.

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But today I also draw on the humorous ambiguity of language to stretch beyond the message that I sent to Denver churches. Even as I ask very sincerely that you pray for those of us who are leaders and witnesses in this weekend's day of action, I also know that we should all pray for "us", for all of us, for all people, for all creation.

The news from scientists is increasingly urgent and dire. The world is in very deep trouble, and the crisis of global heating is one of the most critical signs of Earth's distress -- but certainly not the only one.

In the face of this crisis, the nations of the world are struggling to craft some sort of agreement about climate change policy for the upcoming UN meeting in Copenhagen. The US Senate is moving toward consideration of a far-from-perfect bill that would start to move this country toward action on climate. President Obama is scheduled to give a major address on the topic of climate change this morning.

Politicians and world leaders know it. You and I know it. God's creation is being devastated by human impacts. We know that we are in trouble, and yet we seem incapable of gathering the collective wisdom and will to break the crisis. The enormous inertia of our institutions, and our deep fondness for lives of affluence and convenience make change almost insurmountable.

It is not enough to pray only for the activists who will be visible and outspoken this weekend. We must pray for "us", in the hope that we may all be empowered and sustained in doing what so obviously needs to be done. Pray for us. Pray that God may work in and through us all, for the healing of creation.

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In that old British comedy routine, a singular "ye" is worrisome, but a plural "ye" is good news. So too with our prayers today.

If we only pray for those who take to the streets, then those who stay home need not be involved, and that isn't sufficient. A narrow "us" won't get the job done. But the most inclusive "us" opens the door to great good news. If the widest sense of "us" helps to connect the transformative power of God to the whole of human society, then there is hope for the world.

This weekend, and beyond, pray for us, please. Thank you.

Shalom!

Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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