Do you see? Do you hear? - Reflections 9-25-19

Texts for Sunday September 29, 2019
16th Sunday after Pentecost

Amos 6:1a, 4-7
Psalm 146
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31

Last week the news about sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, captivated me: sailing across the Atlantic to lower carbon emissions on her trip to speak to the UN; handling numerous media interviews with calm; telling the US Congress I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists.  

Inspired by Greta's Fridays for the Future weekly protests, on Friday 9/20, an estimated 4 million people globally took to the streets in massive climate strike, many of them students who skipped school to do so. More such strikes are expected for the weeks ahead.

On Monday, the attention moved to the UN Climate Action Summit which was called to highlight the progress and promises of countries and businesses in reducing use of fossil fuels. There wasn’t a lot to highlight. Some people seem to be working earnestly if slowly. 2050 was mentioned as the year for zero emissions for several countries and others said they would abide by the Paris Agreement targets. Greta delivered an enraged and fiery speech, speaking for the generation who will suffer the consequences of others’ inaction, rebuking leaders for the lack of urgency in their responses.

The story in today’s Gospel tells of a rich man who saw but did not see, who heard but did not hear the cries of a poor man lying at his gates. He lived an entitled, privileged life, assuming that somehow deserved all that he had. Ultimately, the rich man dies and finds himself in the midst of a fire of his own making. His lack of response to that which was right in front of him (Lazarus the poor man) has brought this consequence to him.

Imagine, if you will, that the rich man represents all those who deny or actually just ignore the effects of climate change. And the other man, Lazarus, suffering at his gate, is the earth with all its ecosystems, watersheds, lands and creatures.  If you think it is too big of a stretch to cast the whole earth as Lazarus in the story, put the “least of us” in that role for they are the ones most affected by failures to act to protect God’s creation. Climate change mirrors and intensifies all the inequalities that we experience – racial, economic, gender. 

Surely, those who are represented by the rich man can see, but will not see, rising seas, melting permafrost, cracked earth from drought, swollen stomachs from famine.  Surely, they can hear but will not hear the howls of storms that destroy buildings and people’s lives, the running water through age old glaciers that shrink to nothing, the crackling wildfires that burn forests and homes of all kinds of animals, including humans. Sooner rather than later that rich man is going to thirst from heat. “Warn others” he will say, but all of those others have been asked to see and hear and have not….by Greta and those 4 million protesters, and by scientists who have been sounding an alarm for at least 40 years.

The psalm this week cautions us against trusting in rulers/leaders in whom there is no hope. The text from Amos scorns those who turn their back over the ruin of others. 
But, 1 Timothy invites them to “take hold of the life that is really life”. 

God the Creator, God the Renewer, God the Sustainer  urgently invites us to the life that is really life.

The earth is a planet of beauty and abundance; the earth system is wonderfully intricate and incredibly complex. But today living creatures, and the air, soil, and water that support them, face unprecedented threats. Many threats are global; most stem directly from human activity. Our current practices may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner we know. (ELCA Social Statement: “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice,” 1993)
The question is whether we will see and hear that which is just outside our gate.

O God, where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope. Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance. Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance. Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination. Where spirits are, daunted and weakened, grant soaring wings and strengthened dreams. All these things we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.(Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 76, Copyright © 2019, Augsburg Fortress )

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245