by The Rev. Alison Lee
One of my children is studying at the University of Arizona; when he declared his major in Architectural Engineering, I was intrigued – what on earth is this discipline, and what did he plan on doing with it? He responded that he hopes to be able to design buildings for other planets, as we’ve messed up this planet so much that we’ll need somewhere else to live.
I responded in an angry knee-jerk fashion – you need to use the gifts with which God has blessed you and help here, on Earth! His response? Nope, you boomers and older messed it up, it’s your responsibility to fix it, because you are taking away our future, the future of young people. I am trying to help figure out a new future for us.
Another young person I know wants children but doesn’t know if they should bring young children into a world that is experiencing more frequent ‘one-in-a-hundred-year’ climate phenomena, and where, they believe, the future is climatically uncertain. When I have shared these stories with others who are more of “my vintage,” shall we say, and who do not have very frequent contact with young adults, they are shocked at the pain and anger that younger people are feeling around climate change.
At the Easter Vigil, some of the Scripture readings we may hear are The Story of Creation from Genesis, Israel’s Deliverance at the Red Sea (Ex 14:10-31, 15:20-21), a deliverance into new life, Salvation Offered Freely to All who thirst for the waters of life (Isa 55:1-11), The Valley of Dry Bones where God tells Ezekiel to prophecy and breathe new life into the dry bones (Ez 37:1-14), and then Ezekiel’s A New Heart and New Spirit (Ez 36:25-28), “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.”
Listening to these scriptural passages, can we open ourselves radically and vulnerably to the Holy Spirit, and to a new heart for ourselves that helps us to live into the Gospel of Matthew 22:37-40, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
With these words, I wonder if we know who our neighbor is? Is our ‘neighbor’ the person who looks like us? Talks like us? Or are we willing to expand our own horizons and look at God’s crazy (to us) unconditional, creative, beyond imaginatively glorious love, and extend our understanding of neighbor not only to people who are different to ourselves, but also to the sky, the air, the plants and vegetation of the earth, to the soil, to the bizarre-looking creatures of the sea, the Leviathans, to coral and scorpions, to rattlers and grizzlies, to eagles and owls, to worms and toad, to seeds, spores, and water? Can we understand that even if we do not mean harm and ill, our actions have consequences? That our children and grandchildren will inherit this earth from us, including all the messes we have inherited and created? I don’t want any of our children, or grandchildren, or great-grandchildren drinking water poisoned by lead or infused with tiny beads of degenerating plastic.
This Earth Day, fifty-two years after its inception in 1970, even as we give thanks to God for all the blessings in our lives, can we commit to making changes in our lives, and in the lives of our churches, that will create new life and fruitful change in God’s vineyard, so our young people do not believe that their future is being stolen?
God gave us free choice and will; this Great Vigil, a time of death to our old ways of living and being born anew into new life, can we use it to partner with God and allow God to use us to do more than we can ask or imagine to glorify God, now and always?
The Rev. Alison Lee is the Interim Rector at Church of the Epiphany in Flagstaff and is a member of the diocesan Creation Care Council.