Called to care for God’s creation, a reflection by Bishop Akiyama

Called to care for God’s creation, a reflection by Bishop Akiyama

Dear friends in Christ,

Recently, I was chatting with a stranger, and eager to find common ground, I commented on the weather. The stranger obliged with a friendly response, yes, it is certainly warmer than typical in the fall here. Walking away from that encounter, I reflected on how these kinds of benign exchanges about the weather are no longer going to be gentle approaches to getting to know a stranger.

A conversation about the weather used to be a neutral exchange. It was a way to begin a conversation with someone to extend friendliness and explore further topics for engagement. In these times of climate change, a comment about the weather could quickly become a debate about whether the unseasonable warm/cold weather can be attributed to Mother Nature or is the result of our human behavior that is accelerating global warming.

The other morning I read the lyrics to a hymn that drew me into reflection about climate change and our response:

I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise,
that spread the flowing seas abroad and built the lofty skies. 
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
the moon shines full at his command, and all the stars obey…

This hymn is not about science, it is about joy and hope in the wondrous beauty and expansive reach of God’s creative power. This hope is not about shrugging our shoulders with “oh well” and neglecting this creation as if God does not require us to respond. It is about harnessing and expressing our joy that, in Christ, all will be well, and therefore we are called to act with all due haste and joy.

In a recent conversation with a senior at Oregon Episcopal School, we discussed his generation’s primary and urgent concern about climate change. After hearing the depth of his knowledge, his urgency for all of us to change our behaviors, and his ideas about changes each of us can make, he concluded by expressing deep hope and optimism. He said, “And I still do have hope that we will do what we need to do–that we will be ok.” It must be added that this student was raised in a family and culture anchored by a deep sense of spiritual wisdom.

Our diocese has a Creation Care Working Group that has been charged with providing for us wisdom, guidance, scientific insight, and practical things we each can do to respond to climate change.  My earnest desire for us is to joyfully engage in the everyday practices necessary to change the course of climate change. Our fear will not save us. Our faith calls us to live ever more deeply into the hope of the resurrection – to live fully into the knowledge of Christ within us and Christ before us – such that in joy and love and unfailing hope, we can make choices and sacrifices in favor of God’s creation.

The final verse of the hymn reminds us of the power of giving thanks to God:

Lord, how thy wonders are displayed,
  where’er I turn my eyes,
if I survey the ground I tread
or gaze upon the skies.
There’s not a plant or flower below
  but makes thy glories known,
and clouds arise and tempests blow
  by order from thy throne;
while all that borrows life from thee
  is ever in thy care,
and everywhere that we can be,
  thou, God, are present there.                                         
I Sing the Mighty Power of God

Lyrics: Isaac Watts

It is in our thanksgiving that we make room within to receive that which God is calling us into. We are called to care for God’s creation. The earth is eager to receive our care. Let us do so with joy, hope, and trust that in all that we do, God is present in us and with us.

Blessings,