Climate Change and the Golden House

256px-ShipTracks_MODIS_2005may11Have you sometimes felt you’d be better off not knowing? But you can’t help knowing what you know, or think you know?

This is a time like that. It doesn’t just feel like that. It is a time like that. I know, for instance, that the over-riding challenge of our time is climate change. I also know that the ruling party in my country denies that climate change is real, and that neither major party sees climate change action as Priority #1. I know from articles like the one in yesterday’s (“Carbon tax gets renewed attention but still faces resistance“) and the U.N. report that the clock is ticking. We’re fiddling while the Earth burns.

NeroThe story of Nero burning down Rome appears to be apocryphal. I know that now. But before I knew that, I wondered what the Roman Senate was doing. Did the members of the Senate follow Nero’s lead? Did they light their own matches? Did they applaud? Did any of them head for the well for the water buckets to douse the fire?

The real Nero Claudius was much different, but also, it turns out, much the same as the one I thought I knew. Britannica speaks as “infamous for his personal debaucheries and extravagances.” Its biography of Nero offers the following on the burning of Rome and the aftermath.

The great fire that ravaged Rome in 64 illustrates how low Nero’s reputation had sunk by this time. Taking advantage of the fire’s destruction, Nero had the city reconstructed in the Greek style and began building a prodigious palace—the Golden House—which, had it been finished, would have covered a third of Rome. During the fire, Nero was at his villa at Antium 35 miles (56 km) from Rome and therefore cannot be held responsible for the burning of the city. But the Roman populace mistakenly believed that he himself had started the fire in Rome in order to indulge his aesthetic tastes in the city’s subsequent reconstruction. — “Nero: Biography and Accomplishments,”


Trump Hotel with gold-infused glass, Las Vegas, NV

Today, Nero and the U.S. Senate mock what I know: climate change is real and action on climate change should be priority #1 for every political political party and nation. Knowing Jesus’ parable about the foolish man who built his house upon the sand, and the wise one who built his house upon the rock, I keep hammering on the door of the Golden House that’s built on sand. “Our prayers are hammer-strokes against the princes of darkness,” said Jacob Christoph Blumhardt long ago. “They must oft be repeated. Not a single stroke is wasted.”

I add my little hammer-strokes to those of Governor Jerry Brown, Bill McKibben,, the Sierra Club for the rescue of the rain forests, the oceans, and all things green from the Golden House that threaten to entomb us. I can only live by what I know: the cry and hope that the hammer-strokes are not too late.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “In Memoriam,” canto 54

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 10, 2018.

Rizpah and her children

As the snowstorm cancelled schools in Minnesota last week, 90 year-old Lorraine Garrison was surrounded by family and friends who celebrated her life.

Lorraine’s grandson, Jeff, reminded the minister of the story of Rizpah, the diligent mother who perched her body on the rock after two of her children were hanged by the Gibeonites, and stayed there for five months to keep the birds and animals of prey away. Lorraine was a Rizpah, watching over her adult children and her grandchildren from her room in the nursing home in Chaska.

“Rizpah” – Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)

Sin? O, yes, we are sinners, I know—let all that be, 60
And read me a Bible verse of the Lord’s goodwill toward men—
“Full of compassion and mercy, the Lord”—let me hear it again;
“Full of compassion and mercy—long-suffering.” Yes, O, yes!
For the lawyer is born but to murder—the Saviour lives but to bless.

He’ll never put on the black cap except for the worst of the worst, 65
And the first may be last—I have heard it in church—and the last may be first.
Suffering—O, long-suffering—yes, as the Lord must know,
Year after year in the mist and the wind and the shower and the snow.

Heard, have you? what? they have told you he never repented his sin.
How do they know it? are they his mother? are you of his kin? 70
Heard! have you ever heard, when the storm on the downs began,
The wind that’ll wail like a child and the sea that’ll moan like a man?

Election, Election, and Reprobation—it’s all very well.
But I go to-night to my boy, and I shall not find him in Hell.
For I cared so much for my boy that the Lord has look’d into my care, 75
And He means me I’m sure to be happy with Willy, I know not where.

The story comes from Second Book Samuel 21:10-11: “And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night. And it was told David what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done.”

Thank God for the Rizpahs of this world who will never let Willy get lost.

The Refiner’s Fire

While reflecting on Malachi’s strange metaphor of  the refiner’s fire, Via Lucis’  post “Stillness Crieth Out” (re-posted here last week) re-focused the sermon. Here are the words from Malachi:

“Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way for me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? “For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap….” – Malachi 3:1-2.

Thank you, Dennis Aubrey and PJ McKay, for you splendid insights to to these grand Romanesque and Gothic sacred spaces that still bring the soul to stillness and wonder.