36 “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being,[a] and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
I’m very much a young woman from the Midwest.
I love flat farmland and white oaks and the riverbanks of Northern Illinois. I love the autumn leaves and the way Lake Michigan freezes over. I think trees should lose their leaves in beautiful dances to the ground, and I think that the savannahs along the Rock River are breathtaking.
I don’t understand earthquakes and I miss thunderstorms.
When I left the Midwest, when I said yes to my first call in a congregation in Palo Alto, CA, my thesis advisor Ted Hiebert told me that I should never take the redwoods for granted. I wondered how anyone could look at those beautiful giants not be overwhelmed.
Three years later, I’m not quite used to this landscape. On the drive from Palo Alto to Pescadero where I now work, I spend the last twenty minutes by the ocean.
Almost without fail, I lose my breath coming over the last ridge before I turn inland again.
I’m somehow used to the redwoods, but this view—this never-ending water running into sky—I never get used to it. The waves keep coming, never exactly the same, but never completely different. They remind me of God, and they remind me of this call to love creation that I can’t refuse—because how can you not love the ocean?
This love for our world and for each other marks us as Christians and as a species on this planet—we are connected and so we have to act out of that connectedness in love.
It seems so easy and straightforward
--but it is hard.
NASA released an article this week about how the global concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – the primary driver of recent climate change – has reached 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in recorded history. They included quotes from some of their leading scientists about what this milestone means to them.
Have you seen it?
It is not surprising that we’ve reached 400ppm—the world is responding to how we’ve failed to love the earth.
Nature is crying out as we frack more of the earth, as we pollute more air and water, as we create more waste, as we drive more and share less.
Climate is changing and thus cultivating agriculture is more difficult.
Water is scarcer.
More people go hungry and illness spreads more easily in denser populations as people seek refuge in new locations—and these hungry and homeless people have been people of color and people who are poor first.
It’s all connected.
That is a scary reality that we’ve created for ourselves.
It cannot be undone—not in our life times.
It’s bad and it’s a terrible way to love our neighbors.
Anyway, we know all this. I know all this.
And still, when I read, NASA’s piece with some of its scientists’ reflections on climate change, I froze.
We are a society that has inadvertently chosen the double-black diamond run without having learned to ski first. It will be a bumpy ride.
As a college professor who lectures on climate change, I will have to find a way to look into those 70 sets of eyes that have learned all semester long to trust me and somehow explain to those students, my students how much we as people have altered our environment, and that they will end up facing the consequences of our inability to act.
These aren’t scientists just speaking from the science—they’re speaking from their hearts.
As a species we’ve done so little to stop the change in earth’s climate that we’ve created.
Some of us in the world just don’t care, or don’t believe the science or have other, more immediate needs like struggling to pay rent or protecting our children.
But there are others of us who know and believe the science and have the time to respond and haven’t.
We’ve gotten stuck in place, feeling helpless and unable to respond to climate change—overwhelmed by the facts and figures that point to the end of everything we know about creation and life in it.
We look to the impending end of everything and everyone that we know and love and we become paralyzed.
This is not the first time members of our species have faced the real possibility of our end or worried about future generations—parents have clung to their babies and children in real fear when we’ve faced colonization, Cold War, Nuclear Weapons,etc etc.
And this is different only in that all creation faces this reality together and there is no way out—it’s already in motion.
Facing head on the reality of climate change means facing a self-created trauma.
Psychologists define trauma as something that is inflicted on someone that can be perceived as a threat and cannot be resisted. One of the effects that trauma causes is a “paralyzing lack of agency.”
There is too much to do, too much to lose.
And so we do nothing.
But this is where I think Christianity is necessary for the climate change movement.
We bring two powerful assumptions to the conversation.
The first is this: Our world is so broken.
We cannot deny that our human actions—and mostly the actions of industrialized countries—have created a new world. Environmental activist Bill McKibben says that we’ve changed creation so much that we need a new name for our planet Earth. While the world that the Genesis stories of creation tell us are made out of God’s love, McKibben says that this new planet “represents the deepest of human failures.”
Our Reformed Tradition sort of prepares us for this brokenness, right? Calvin reminds us of our “total depravity”—we’ve always been broken—and says that this brokenness is why we need God’s grace to save us through Jesus.
So it’s nothing new that we can’t save the world ourselves.
It’s our faith that holds us when we live in fear and helps us work in hope, as we face a world we must live on ‘lightly, carefully, gracefully.”
Because our faith has a second assumption: God loves this world—and us.
“in the very moment we are marked as sinful by the world, God marks us as loved, as recipients of forgiveness.
Marked in this way, we are freed to act not as perfect creatures, but
as fallen people who are nonetheless called to persistently seek ways to embody
God’s will for the flourishing of all creation.”
That is, after all, what the greatest and second greatest commandments call us to, right?
You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.
All the Law and the Prophets and the world depend on these two commands.
Love one another—love one another in caring for each other and for the earth because we are each of us connected to other people and all creation.
Love one another because it is the only way to us heal from the trauma.
When we love one another, we remember that the earth isn’t the only climate we can change—when we love each other, we change the climate of our hearts, so that we—together—face the new world with hope, not fear.
And in hope we can move into action.
We can reduce our carbon footprints--
We can reduce the amount of water we use--
We can tread lightly on the planet when we travel--
We can tread lightly on our food systems and eat less meat and buy locally grown foods--
We can work for political change on all levels of our government---
We can work for change within our denomination, particularly in the process to divest from fossil fuel companies.
Each of these actions are necessary in our work to make a better world.
I want to focus for just a moment on the movement to divest from fossil fuels. At its heart, the movement centers around the commitment that if it is morally wrong to hurt the planet, it is wrong to profit from that climate change. Since Bill McKibben and students from Middlebury College first began the divestment from fossil fuel campaign in 2011, millions of people around the world have joined the movement.
Jesus was a powerful community organizer, because he understood that the powers and principalities of his time were no match for the work of love in the world. Social movements continue to be a viable way to change things because they recognize our interconnectedness.
When we stand—together—and take our money away from fossil fuel investments, we tell those companies that they no longer have the singular right to our world.
Love can change things.
Because “the power of our love is what the resource companies… inevitably underestimate precisely because no amount of money can extinguish it. When what is being fought for is an identity, a culture, a beloved place that people are determined to pass on to their grandchildren, there is nothing companies can offer as a bargaining chip.” What grace reminds us is that we are not on our own. That when we love each other, we discover that we are loved—as God has loved us. Love one another—the world depends on it.
That is some powerful love, church, and that love and grace can cover our fears and trauma, and strengthen us for the work ahead. Amen.
 Dr. Gavin Schmidt, Climatologist and climate modeler at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies
 Laura Faye Tenenbaum, Oceanography Professor, Glendale Community College; Communications Specialist for NASA's Global Climate Change Website
 Jones. Trauma and Grace. 13.
 Ibid., 15.
 McKibben’s Eaarth, 153-ff
 Jones. Trauma and Grace. 37
 Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything, 342