7.12.15 in DiscipleChurch

DiscipleChurch Family and Friends:

Question for Sunday: “Does every snowflake share responsibility for the avalanche?”

We all know this parable so well:

LUKE 10: 25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Now stop for a moment and re-imagine this parable. Re-imagine that the man left stripped and beaten and defenseless on the side of the road is . . . the planet Earth and all its non-human species.

Who put it there? Who stripped it and beat it and left it defenseless? And who walks by it without helping?

This Sunday I will be preaching mostly about our reaction to Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” (“Praise be to you, O Lord”), issued on May 24, 2015. (You can read “Laudato Si” online for free. It’s just under 200 pages long. I recommend that you to do so before Sunday.)

To preach on this, I will need to speak some about what Francis has written in “Laudato Si” about the critical condition of Earth and its species and the causes of that condition. I will need tospeak some about Francis’ teachings about the responsibility of all of us for this condition — because of our indifference, because of our denials that there is indeed a crisis or that we are causing it, and because of our sinful and selfish determination to continue our radical consumerism. Clearly, this teaching is based upon Francis’ conviction that God’s (not our) Earth is indeed in critical condition because of us, and that we must make radical changes now in our economic practices and life styles, utterly consistent with the teachings of Jesus, to preserve the Earth for future generations.

And I will need to speak some about his teaching that our denials are rooted in our deification of market forces whose only goal is only “more” — more profits, more technology, more growth, more gratification of immediate material wants, more exploitation of the earth’s water resources and fossil fuel. (In this regard, Francis’ teaching resonates deeply with Section 160 of our 2012 United Methodist Book of Discipline.) And of course I will talk about the intimate connection which Francis discerns between our exploitation of the earth and our exploitation of the poor, whom he argues suffer most from the environmental crisis.

But mostly I will be talking about our reaction and resistance to this encyclical, and how similar it is to our historical reaction to the church’s teachings and stands on slavery, and on racialdiscrimination and segregation, and on child labor, and on tobacco use, and on capital punishment, and on war.

And I will be asking us to hear, in “Laudato Si” and in the critical condition of our mother Earth, another insistent call to us by Jesus to live simply and humbly and gratefully and, yes, spiritually — another call by Jesus to recognize our true nature and the true source of our true happiness.

Hope to see you this Sunday at 8:30 am in Leonard Chapel.

Your brother,



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