Sermon for Sunday, 23 May 2021 Pentecost
By Revd George Mwaura
Psalm 104: 24–33, Acts 2: 1–4 and John 20: 19–23
God of new beginnings, come, descend among us, and renew our faith and hope by your Spirit, we pray in Jesus’ name.
It feels so good to come here and share fellowship with you today.
But I am also very conscious that there are those who will not be able to join us here
because of health concerns and other commitments. To them, I say this: may the Spirit be with you!
In many ways, I can see the parallel between our return to church
and the children of Israel as they came out of exile in Babylon and cautiously started rebuilding.
The past eighteen months or so have been a catastrophe on a global scale.
And even though, here at the Church of Christ the Cornerstone, we have escaped much trauma,
all around us there is misery and death.
So, it is good to be here, first to give thanks to God,
to rejoice in the name of the Lord who brings new life out of desolation and to see your faces!
A month or so ago Joe Biden, the President of the USA, hosted a virtual earth climate summit.
This meeting generated many good promises from world leaders, including the USA,
which pledged to cut its emissions by 50% come 2035.
Mr Biden said this would be a decisive period for tackling climate change.
This summit was the first in a series of meetings expected to focus on climate change,
culminating in the UN climate summit to be held in Glasgow in November.
Unlike his predecessor, who had withdrawn America from the Paris Agreement,
Joe Biden is not a climate emergency denier, and neither can we afford to be.
The Paris Agreement in 2015 was a huge landmark, in that it obligated almost all nations who signed up
to try and limit global warming below 2 °C. This is a humongous task,
and it requires every one of us to get on board.
Why is it necessary for us in the church to talk about climate emergency
especially on Pentecost Sunday?
Because in the last one year or so we have relegated the climate debate to the back seat because of the pandemic.
But now we need to bring it back to the top of the agenda!
Because when we talk about climate change, we are talking about God’s world
and the commission to be good caretakers of it.
We are talking about the same planet that the Psalmist praises God for, when he says,
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
Psalm 104: 24
This Psalm reminds us of the goodness of God and all of creation.
But we must also remember that this is the same Earth
that we have used and abused for our selfish ends.
Ezekiel reminds us of our exploits and their consequences. Listen:
As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats: Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture. Must you tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet?
Ezekiel 34: 17–18
The truth is, for too long we have been like the stubborn sheep and goats in Ezekiel’s passage
who have had their fill of water and food and left nothing but fouled up water for everybody else.
We have deliberately engaged in acts that have destroyed the Earth’s sustainability
so that we could be comfortable in our little patch.
If we do not act now, we might not have a place to celebrate future Pentecost services.
But, despite the grim picture painted by climatologists, activists, and prophets like Greta Thunberg,
our response has been that of burying our heads in the sand.
But the beauty of God is that God is always faithful.
Even when we are unfaithful and foul the pasture and the water,
God remains with us, pushing and prodding us to realise our sins, repent, and forge a new path.
The miracle of Pentecost reminds us that new life is possible, but only with God.
As the Psalmist reminds us in verse 30:
When you send forth your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
So, on this feast of Pentecost, we see God fulfilling his promise not to abandon us.
God sends the Spirit of Truth to the whole world and its people
and this Spirit comes like a violent wind and shakes us up!
God has sent the Spirit to renew us as a Church and to heal the very face of the ground we walk upon
especially after such a terrible year when the pandemic brought life to a standstill.
We must never forget that just as all of creation was spoken into being by God,
all of creation can and will be redeemed by God.
Jesus said to his disciples,
‘Receive the Holy Spirit. … everything you forgive will be forgiven, ….’
John 20: 22b–23a
Yes indeed, we have the power of the Spirt of God to heal the damage we have done to Mother Earth.
The way forward in addressing climate change will require all of us to go green.
But going green for everyone calls for more than a token replacement of your light bulbs
with LED lights, although that is a good place to start.
Going green, at its core, is about recognising our correct relationship with God and the created universe.
It will demand a clear understanding of our role as caretakers of earth,
and our failure up to this point in fulfilling this role.
From this humble position we must seek out ways to personally live so that we honour creation,
love our neighbours, and help build sustainable communities.
Such actions might demand changed behaviour in how and what we consume
and what governmental and development policies we support.
Because ultimately that is what this is all about,
getting back into right relationship with God and the world around us.
By consuming without care and exploiting the Earth’s resources without thought for the future,
we have destroyed the harmony God intended between us and the Earth.
It is imperative that we humans stop seeing ourselves as the centre of creation
and assuming that everything revolves around us. And this thought is not absent in the church either.
Just listen to any Christian as we thump our chests – ‘Jesus died for me, me, me, me!’
And we are right: he did die for us. But that is not a licence to be irresponsible!
According to the Book of Genesis, we are not the centre of creation.
Rather we are the caretakers of creation. That is an important distinction.
We were asked to multiply and fill the face of the Earth.
But that command was equally given to the birds of the air and the fish that reside in the waters.
God then made the distinction between us and the created creatures by asking us to have dominion over them.
This dominion is not a right to crush, exploit, deny, dominate, or even drive them to extinction! Oh, no!
Rather, Gods sovereign authority over the domain of creation has been granted to us.
We have been made co-custodians and mandated to exercise authority in such a way
that brings out the goodness of creation.
We are to act as God’s midwife: securing the future of his creation through our responsible actions.
It is the creation that is the centre of God’s focus and not just you and me.
We must never forget that the Spirit is leading us towards the time
when Jesus will be called King among all the nations.
As Isaiah says, the trees of the forest will sing and clap in joy.
The Heavens will be glad, and the Earth shall rejoice at the coming of the Lord.
And we will find joy as we join in the work of the Spirit of renewing, redeeming and honouring God’s creation.