Climate Change and the Nations

Haggai by Giovanni Pisano, Sienna, Italy.

Haggai by Giovanni Pisano, Sienna, Italy.

“The Philippines envoy to the UN climate change conference has issued an emotional announcement that he will go on hunger strike unless talks lead to a “meaningful outcome”. Click HERE to read the whole story in The Independent.

Naderev “Yeb” Sano is not the only one who’s fasting. So is a dear friend in Pennsylvania. Carolyn and I were in kindergarten together. Our families were best friends. We grew up in each others’ living rooms. We went to the same church. Went to Sunday School and Confirmation together. Graduated from high school together. Our parents retired to the same retirement community in Cornwall, Pennsylvania where one after the other they each came to the end of their lives concerned about the shape of the future. Carolyn and I come by it naturally, I suppose, and the Kidder DNA and the Stewart DNA, although different, is like the DNA of the entire human species: essentially the same.

What happens to the human species if the scientists have it right? How do we care for each other across the planet – ONE species in the Philippines, Poland, the Netherlands, Argentina, and the USA – facing the daunting changes that are coming? If we believe that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, what changes will we make individually and together to exercise that responsibility?

Carolyn and “Yeb” Sano have decided to fast until the meeting in Warsaw leads to a meaningful outcome. Fasting is not for everyone, although I can’t help wonder what impact it would have if there were a fast across the world that spoke louder than words to the national representatives gathered this week by the United Nations in Warsaw, Poland.

In place of fasting this morning I looked again at the strange little book of Haggai in Hebrew Scripture, and what did I see? A civil leader named Zerubbabel and a religious leader named Joshua trying to lead their people during a time of colonial occupation. We, too, live under colonial occupation – the occupation of international greed and neglect of the planet, its people, and the environment itself. Perhaps Carolyn and “Yeb” are like the prophet Haggai, whose term of ministry BTW was less than four months. “The word of the LORD (the word is in caps because it refers to the reality that is beyond all human naming and controlling, “YHWH”, which is no name at all) came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, ‘Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations… On that day, says the LORD of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel, my servant,… and make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you, says the LORD of hosts.” (Haggai 2:20-23).

The climate shaking that has driven “Yeb” and Carolyn to fasting is no respecter of nations. It knows no national boundaries. Nationalist thinking has outlived its time. There is only one people. Only one human species in a wonderful diversity of geography, culture, color, religion, and language. The “kingdoms of the nations” are gathered today in Warsaw, and one of their representatives from the Philippines is shaking the presumption of all of the thrones. The national delegates bear the equivalent of the king’s signet ring to sign and seal agreements and documents on behalf of the modern equivalent of their kings. Sometimes in life a person IS like a signet ring for a new order, a man for our time like Naderev “Yeb” Sano.

“Where are the ashes!!!”

Gordon C. Stewart, February 24, 2012

It happened on Ash Wednesday.

“They’re missing! Where are the ashes?!” It’s fifteen minutes before the Service. “Where are the ashes!”

Every year I put the ashes for the Ash Wednesday Service in the credenza in my office. I never gave it a second thought that we had moved the credenza out of my office last fall. I rush downstairs to look for it. No credenza anywhere. Then…I remember. We sold it at the Annual Fall Festival! Somebody has our ashes!

What to do with no ashes? Burn some newspapers? Smoke a cigar and use the ashes? No time.

I grab a pitcher and pour water into the baptism font.

I begin the Service with the story of the missing ashes. Smiles break out everywhere. Maybe even signs of relief. “Instead of the imposition of ashes this year, we will go to the font for the waters of baptism, the waters of the renewal of life.”

We have some fun justifying the change in the Service, focusing on the that part of the Gospel text for the day – the words of Jesus himself. “And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen my others….But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret…”(Mt. 6:16-18).

People come to the font, one-by-one, for “the Imposition of … [Water]”. I dip my hand into the font. “Pat, (making the sign of the cross on her forehead), “Dust to dust; ashes to ashes. You are a child of God. Live in this peace.”

After the Service is over, one of the worshipers asks whether anyone has done the same for me. She reaches her hand into the font. “Gordon, dust to dust, ashes to ashes. You are a child of God…..”

I’ll never forget it. Neither will they. And somewhere in this world someone has a credenza with a sack full of ashes. Whoever you are, feel free to keep them. They’re all yours.