While they might have disappeared from our headlines, replaced by different apocalyptic concerns over the spread of the Coronavirus, the forest fires in Australia have not gone away. And with the hottest months of the summer to come, more are expected. The images have been frightening – much more so for the people who must live with them. Beyond the traumatic impact upon their lives and the death that they have brought to many communities, they have impacted the natural world too. It is estimated that one billion animals have died, and those that have survived are left without food and water to sustain them.
The extreme temperatures in Australia are linked to a weather pattern called the Indian Ocean Oscillation which climate change caused by humanity has made more extreme over the past decade. While causing hot dry weather in Australia, the oscillation in the sea temperature of the Indian Ocean led to extreme rainfall and flooding in East Africa before Christmas. The swathes of open water became a breeding ground for locusts, leading in the New Year to vast swarms 30 miles across. A disaster that New Scientist this week described as of “biblical proportions”, eating everything in their path, the locust swarms threaten the food security of many communities that might be described as vulnerable.
Such images remind us of the impact of climate change on the human and natural world. But in our rapid media cycles, they come and go. Over the past few months, in the face of climate change, we have been exploring the climate of change that is needed in our inner discipleship. Recognising our embrace of environmental mission needs to go deeper than “greenwash”. That we should humbly come to God in confession for the part we have played. But are we ready for such a change that allows us to share God’s heart for his “good” creation?
The sixth of the “Twelve Steps Towards Freedom” is that we are “entirely ready to have God remove all our defects of character”. So, this month, the question is are you ready?
Remember, the story of the man who comes to Jesus with a question – ‘Good teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?’. A question that mattered to him. Mark in his gospel says he “ran up to him and fell on his knees before him”. (Mark 10v17). And how he left – sad at Jesus reply because “he had great wealth”; “One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10v21) He sensed the urgency. Wanted to live in God’s way beyond that which he was doing already. But he was not ready. Not ready for the costly external change that was needed. Not ready for the deeper internal change that was needed for living God’s eternal life.
So, are we ready? This month Lent begins, and “Living Lent” is again with us. Sponsored by the Baptist Union and other churches across the UK through the JPIT – “Joint Public Issues Team”. “Living Lent” encourages us to give up more than chocolate as we journey with God towards Easter. To “Create a Climate of Change” through Lent, taking small steps towards caring for creation and addressing climate change; Go single-use plastic-free; Commit to using alternative forms of transport; Commit to living locally; Buy nothing new; Reduce your electricity consumption by 10%; Go vegetarian or vegan. All these steps will reduce your Carbon Footprints, expressing your desire to care for creation.
Some of us embraced these challenges last year. And it was not always easy. Giving up single-use plastics for example. Many of the veg in our supermarkets come wrapped in plastic that can’t be re-cycled, although over the past year I have noticed more loose items in the veg aisle and brown paper bags to take them home in. And giving up meat or reducing your consumption and embracing a plant-based diet can seem daunting – well it did to me! And yes, they are external. So were the things that Jesus’ asked the man to give up. So are other things we might give up in Lent. But external things matter. Lent is meant to create a lasting change in our lives beyond the traditional 40 days of fasting. What we leave behind are only signs of our inner readiness to know more of God’s life within us.
Last year “Living Lent” did produce some lasting change for my family. We started to go to local greengrocers where there was more loose veg available to buy. While giving up meat was a step too far, we have given up red meat through the past year and increased vegetable-based dishes in our diet – although we still eat red meat on celebration days such as birthdays and on our wedding anniversary! And the amount of plastic that we put out to landfill and into our recycling bin has reduced.
These are small steps towards lasting change, that will only come about as we ready to have God change us on the inside. This Lent check out the Living Lent website. Sign-up to receive the daily emails to encourage you on the journey. Share the idea with your friends in your church and in your small group. Commit to doing something together. And pray that God will make you ready – not only to “create a climate of change” through Lent but through into our continuing walk with the God of all creation. Change that over time will bless the rich in Australia and the poor of East Africa. Both are vulnerable when it comes to climate change.
This is the sixth blog in a 12 part series from Dave Gregory. To read the first post ‘Addicted’, please click on this link.
Rev Dr Dave Gregory is Ministry Team Leader at Croxley Green Church, a former President of the Baptist Union, and co-ordinator of Messy Church Does Science. He is a JRI Director.
This article was first published on Seventy-Two and it is reprinted with their permission.
Free image by sandid on Pixabay: