Spiritual Connections – Lent 5, 2023

Mar 26, 2023

Welcome to Spiritual Connections, our occasional newsletter offering theological perspective on what is going on in and around our Presbytery. Read, reflect, and share with those you think may appreciate these words.

For this season of Lent, we will be sending Spiritual Connections out weekly to our larger Presbytery contact list, as a resource for spiritual reflection in this season of reflection and preparation for Easter.

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Psalm 130 – Waiting for Divine Redemption, A Song of Ascents.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.

Today’s Spiritual Connections is from the Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo, PSNE General Presbyter and Acting Stated Clerk.

This past week the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its sixth report titled, “Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report.” The Washington Post puts the headline front and center, that in the next ten years we as a global community are on track to pass emissions markers that will put us on track to out of control and catastrophic global warming. From their article come these chilling words: “The report released Monday by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that the world is likely to surpass its most ambitious climate target — limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial temperatures — by the early 2030s.Beyond that threshold, scientists have found, climate disasters will become so extreme that people will not be able to adapt. Basic components of the Earth system will be fundamentally, irrevocably altered. Heat waves, famines and infectious diseases could claim millions of additional lives by century’s end.” It also puts forward the blueprint for avoiding disastrous results for the planet and all living beings on it: immediate and drastic curtailment to the use of fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas. The report also makes it clear that we have the tools to transition to solar and wind, but it needs the will of public and private investment alongside governmental policies to bring us quickly to where we need to be to avoid disaster.

More and more people I talk to today are very aware of these things, understand them and also notice the changing climate around us. The conversation I hear most often is one of grief. Of feeling the sadness of knowing that our time is almost out, that our children and grandchildren are going to suffer and we will be responsible in one way or another. That those places we loved as children are disappearing, animals are going extinct, and options are falling away. There is a feeling of helplessness, even hopelessness.

This past week I was with some colleagues and one of them reminded us that the Bible is full of stories that tell us that the people of God have “been there before.” Most of our present difficulties find a corollary in the biblical narrative. This week’s Psalm reminds us that God’s people have cried out before, felt and known they are helpless, acknowledged that they are part of the problem and need forgiveness and that somehow with God’s help we can find our way to co-participate in the ministry of salvation. We are not alone! This isn’t a solution to the climate crisis, but it is a reminder that if we would call upon God in this moment of acute crisis, cry out and weep, wail and gnash our teeth – we just might get somewhere. And we can’t get anywhere without tapping into this spiritual power and authority.

Are we sufficiently inconsolable over this crisis? Are you at the point of crying out to God over the destruction of Creation that you and I both actively participate in and are held hostage to being unwilling participants in? Are you? Am I?

I have a feeling the answer is no. Because if we entered into that level of grief, well, I know what it would do to me – it would overwhelm and probably render me helpless. I remember gathering up starfish at the Jersey shore as a child, being able to fill up my plastic beach bucket. I took my daughter to those same beaches when she was little. She never has seen a starfish in the wild, only in aquariums. The gorgeous orange starfish of my childhood are gone. Gone. This past winter when we were in Colombia I heard less parrots making noise in the trees in the early morning than the year before. I worried about them and wondered if this was just a one-year anomaly or a sign of something more serious. The change in the noise level in the mornings scared me.

The Psalmist talks about grief, real grief. Terrible, tragic, earth-shattering grief. The sort of grief that knocks you down and makes you wonder if there will be generations after you. I wonder to myself what would happen if we simultaneously accessed what that sort of grief can be like around the climate crisis and what the power of God can be in a moment like this….what would that do? Who would we become? What would we accomplish? What if our belief was as strong as our grief? What sort of power for transformation could that have? I wonder….

Blessings on this fifth week of Lent,


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