–This sermon begins a series on the Bible and ecology.–
Here once more this declaration from John 1 verse 14: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”
The Word, what we sometimes refer to as God’s Wisdom, became flesh and lived among us. What if we think of the ‘us’ here as not just the human ‘us’, but as the creaturely ‘us’? John loves the big picture. An expansive reading of verse 14 finds support later in the same gospel account, when we read (3:17) that “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Whatever the ‘world’ might mean in this verse, it is certainly bigger than just the human soul.
What does it mean to be a pastor during a biodiversity crisis? When I think about this question, I often think about the career of Holmes Rolston III. In the spring of 1959, a young Rolston began serving as pastor of a congregation in Virginia. He was well-prepared. He had completed a Ph.D. in theology not long before and had deep family connections to the region. However, as his biographer, Christopher Preston, tells the story, the congregation quickly became annoyed with Rolston’s use of scientific language. In addition, Rolston’s exploration of the local countryside had prompted him to worry about the effects of development and some of the newer mechanized farming methods. Apparently, he expressed some of these concerns to congregants who disagreed. Rolston’s pastoral appointment did not last long. [This essay appears on the Mennonite Creation Care Network website. Point your browser that way for the rest.]
This last week there was an interesting Twitter exchange involving Elon Musk, which is to say that this last week was an ordinary week. This particular exchange began when the head of the UN World Food Program said that 42 million people are currently at risk of starving. He went on to challenge some of the world’s most wealthy people, including Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, saying that a one-time donation of $6 billion would stave off this disaster. Musk responded, via Twitter, saying that if the World Food Program could show him that $6 billion could solve world hunger, he would give it immediately.
Michael Northcott does not shy away from calling the climate crisis an apocalypse. However, he sees it as an apocalypse in the biblical sense of the word, which is to say, climate change makes “visible the relationship which was formerly hidden between the foundation and structure of the earth and human history” (p. 16). In the popular mind the term ‘apocalypse’ is associated with destruction, but in the biblical world it also carries the connotation of revealing something that was hidden. As the line from Northcott’s book quoted above suggests, both senses of the word are appropriate here. The burden of A Political Theology of Climate Change (Eerdmans, 2013) is to show how climate change exposes, as a thoroughgoing failure, the Enlightenment’s disconnection of human society from its environmental moorings.