Messages of Hope

Month: April 2015

Can God fix climate change?

Published / by Sandy
Rev Tafue Lusama (on left) of photo
Rev Tafue Lusama (on left of photo)

I met Rev Tafue Lasume, General Secretary of the Congregational Christian Church of Tuvalu, at the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, South Korea, where he spoke with passion and conviction about the dire prospects for the Pacific island nations as the impact of climate change is already being seen. The nation of Tuvalu itself sits on a small collection of reef islands and atolls in the Pacific Ocean. Salt water has entered the underground water table on which the people rely, and scientists suggest the islands will eventually be subsumed as sea levels continue to rise.

Rev Tafue Lasume was among participants of an interfaith summit on climate change, and one of the signatories of an interfaith document, Climate, Faith and Hope: Faith traditions together for a common future. It’s worth a read!

Rev Rob Floyd, National Director, Uniting World, asks:

Can God fix climate change?

In the wake of Cyclone Pam, it’s a hot topic once again for people in the Pacific.

Throughout the Pacific, more than 90% of people identify as Christians. Faith is central to identity. And as storms come with more frequency and high tides batter homes, emergency relief isn’t the only thing on people’s minds.

Can God fix climate change?

Will God intervene to save Pacific homelands?

Leaders in the Pacific tell us that many of their people have been taught to believe that God will save and that to act against, or even to believe in climate change, is to demonstrate a lack of faith. At the same time, as suffering increases for people deeply traumatised by recent events, a spiritual crisis seems inevitable.

Rev Tafue Lasume said recently:

“Climate change represents a spiritual as well as a physical crisis for our people. We desperately need to educate communities about the fact that God has not abandoned us; climate change is caused by humans and requires a human response.”

In response, the Uniting Church in Australia is working through UnitingWorld in partnership with Pacific churches to:

  • Educate Pacific communities biblically about environmental stewardship, justice and the presence of God, inspiring hope and action
  • Train trauma counsellors for survivors of extreme weather events
  • Plan for risk assessments, adaptation, inevitable relocation and resettlement
  • Advocate for climate justice throughout the Pacific and to a global audience

Find out more here: www.unitingworld.org/pacificchange

Please note that Pilgrim Uniting Church has launched an appeal to raise funds to help rebuild the lives of families and congregations in Vanuatu after the recent devastation of Cyclone Pam. Please contact the office if you wish to give to the appeal (82123295, office@pilgrim.org.au), or contact Uniting World direct in the Sydney office.

Beyond Emptiness

Published / by Jana

Mark’s account of the resurrection aftermath is so sparse.

The women disciples go out and find the tomb empty.

They leave frightened and bewildered.

Emptiness is bewildering.

And it is everywhere.

We try to find answers to why a German pilot didn’t receive the help he needed; and why he took others down with him.

We come up empty.

I try to find answers to why two of my friends, not much older than I am, died this past week from terrible and terrifying illnesses.

I come up empty.

It is bewildering.

The origins of the word bewildering carry the sense of being led into the woods where it is easy to get lost. Which is frightening.

Bewildered and frightened.

Lost in emptiness.

There are no answers in the emptiness.

But there is something beyond the emptiness.

In the story in Mark’s gospel it goes like this: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”

What is out ahead of us?

What draws us out of the emptiness and into new life?

Let’s decide it is Jesus who has gone ahead.

Let’s decide to follow his way out.

Beyond the emptiness, if we will, we will see him:

We will see, if we will, all the things we have seen in him already:

extravagant welcome,

boundless compassion,

limitless courage for justice.

 

I promise to see it in you.

You promise to see it in me.

We promise, together, to let others see it in us.

In this we will be found.

In this we will find our fulfillment.

May it be so.

-Jana for Easter Sunday

It was early in the morning

Published / by Sandy

On Easter Sunday while it was still dark, I arrived at church to set up for the outdoor Easter Sunrise service on the plaza at the rear of Pilgrim Uniting Church.

We regularly have ‘rough sleepers’ under the shelter of the verandah at the back of the church office adjacent to the plaza. My arrival while it was still dark caused the person closest to the door to sit bolt upright and be on alert immediately for impending danger. I reassured him ‘it was just me, you know me, one of the Ministers here in the church’. With that he relaxed, and resettled into his sleeping position. I felt glad that we could offer a place of safety and sanctuary and that we know these rough sleepers by name. I went about the work of setting up for the service, and in deference to the sweet soundscape of snoring coming from the rough sleepers, I moved our usual location to one side so as not to further disturb them.

For the service, we gathered around a brazier fire and shared stories. Afterwards, we shared freshly baked damper finished off in the brazier coals, and fish fingers, and tea and coffee. The rough sleepers came and joined us, enjoying the sweet smells of freshly cooked food, and warm drinks after a chilly night sleeping out. It was perfectly normal for us all to be together – those who had warm beds for the night, and those who slept in sleeping bags on the cold bricks under the shelter of the verandah. And some generously helped us pack up afterwards.

On Easter Monday, I came across these images of a campaign by Homelessness charity Depaul, which has launched a new outdoor campaign to deliver varying messages about living on the streets to viewers depending on their positioning near the posters. The messages encapsulate two walls across a right angle. When one side is viewed stereotypes and negative perceptions of the homeless arise, but when both walls are visible are more complex picture arises. Quite literally, “there is another side to the story”. (see the two images below – one from a limited perspective, and then the other with a more complete story)

Each of our rough sleepers have their stories – encounters with bureaucracy and welfare agencies, broken relationships, time in prison. There are many reasons they choose to sleep rough rather than go through the system to find housing. The example of Jesus enables us to see that human worth is not indexed to worldly success, and that each person is beloved of God, deserving of care and compassion.

Easter Sunday

Published / by Sandy

Spirit, lead us, light up the truth in these stories of faith we retell.
Spirit, lead us, as we become the next chapter ourselves.
(words: Paul Somerville)

The late Marcus Borg describes Easter as a sacred time during which its primordial and primal narrative is remembered and ultimately celebrated.

It is a narrative that feels at once familiar and strange to modern ears – God taking on flesh, dying on a cross, and then, astonishingly, resurrected. Simon Smart, director of the Centre for Public Christianity, says: Believers understand this as an event of cosmic significance – the core event of human history when God enters the human struggle and overcomes death. It is about divine action that opens up the possibility of redemption and the restoration of broken things; the triumph of good over evil; of a future beyond the grave that also imbues the present with grace and meaning.

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Tim Winton @ Palm Sunday Walk4Refugees

Published / by Sandy

Palm Sunday commemorates the day an itinerant prophet spoke truth to power. Jesus of Nazareth arrived at the gates of Jerusalem in a parody of imperial pomp. But he was a nobody. Instead of a stallion, he rode up on a borrowed donkey. In place of an army, he had a bunch of lily-livered misfits throwing down their cloaks and palm branches as if he was a big shot. Street theatre, if you like. And a week later he was dead. He was there to challenge the commonsense of the day. Armed with only an idea.

Jesus used to say things like this. If a child asks you for bread, will you give him a stone? Awkward things like that.

His followers called his idea The Way. Many of us are here today because the idea has stuck. We try to follow the Way of Peace and Love. Just another bunch of lily-livered misfits.

For generations, in communities all over the globe, Palm Sunday has been a day when people walk for peace and reconciliation. And not just Christians. People of every faith and of no faith at all come together as we have today in solidarity. To express our communal values and yearnings, the things that bind us rather than those that separate us.

We belong to a prosperous country, a place where prosperity and good fortune have made us powerful. Yes, whether we feel it or not, we are exceptionally powerful as individuals and as a community. We have the power of safety. We’re richer, more mobile, with more choices than most of our fellow citizens worldwide. Not because we’re virtuous, but because we’re lucky. But we don’t come here to gloat. We’re here to reflect. To hold ourselves to account. We didn’t come here today to celebrate power or to hide in its privileged shadow. We’re here to speak for the powerless. We’re not here to praise the conventions of the day, but to examine them and expose them to the truth. We’re not here to reinforce the status quo. We gather to dissent from it. To register our dismay at it. We’re here to call a spade a spade, to declare that what has become political common sense in Australia over the past 15 years is actually nonsense. And not just harmless nonsense; it’s vicious, despicable nonsense. For something foul is festering in the heart of our community, something shameful and rotten. (more…)