On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. ~ Revelation 22:2
You can only risk your life when you are in love. ~ Henri Nouwen, quoted in Climate Church, Climate World
This year our All Church Read book is Climate Church, Climate World by UCC pastor and activist Jim Antal. We’ve got an opportunity to visit with Rev. Antal coming up next week. Whether or not you’ve had a chance to spend some time with Jim’s book, I hope you’ll consider attending.
One of the things I appreciate about Climate Church, Climate World is that it balances naming the stark reality and challenges of our global climate crisis with a hopeful call for the church’s continuing mission. The situation is indeed dire: we cannot recycle our way out of these desperate times. We all have roles to play, and we all must raise our voices to shape government, industry, and the other powers-that-be, towards justice, healing, and transformation.
Even now, poor nations are flooded or devastated by extreme weather, in ways that are only beginning to play out in richer nations. On Sunday, we read a bit from the Book of Revelation, a stunning, beautiful, and mysterious piece of our canon that is all-too relevant these days. In the final chapter, we who tangle with such ancient wisdom are blessed with a vision of the City of God, one that is accessible to all (though perhaps difficult to reach!). In the center of the city is, of course, a garden, and there is the Tree of Life, the redeemed mirror of the Genesis story of exile and betrayal.
I’m going to be a little bold here: I absolutely think that First Congregational Church of Bellingham has vital work to do in our own piece of transforming culture to heal climate. But I also think you will very likely need First Congregational, or another place of spiritual community, to survive the coming decades.
The writers of Revelation (the “Revelation Community”) knew what it meant to struggle against impossible odds, to band together in radical counterculture that brought hatred and even violence. In the years to come, we will face extreme weather, expanding refugee crises, new outbreaks of violence, and breakdowns of systems we have come to rely on.
And we can turn to each other, and turn to the Spirit, to survive, to learn, to grow in ways that find this new reality not just survivable, but more beautiful, more just, more connected, than what we have known before.
It sounds scary. It sounds overwhelming. It sounds terrible, at times. And it sounds beautiful if we listen. I don’t know how to do it without trusting each other. I don’t know how to do it without the mystical, wacky, troubled, wondrous community that I usually call ‘church.’
Yours in the Good News,