John the Baptist and Amos in Paris
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance…And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” (John 3: 7-14)
John the Baptist comes along this week exhorting us to a level of repentance that results in righteous action. The examples John gives of righteous action all involve honesty and generosity with our money and possessions. In particular, if we have more than enough — two coats — we must share with anyone who has nothing. If we have food, we need to share it with people who don’t have food.
The Daily Office readings from Amos the past couple of weeks prepared us well for this Sunday’s Gospel lesson. Amos tells the people that their religious observances have become empty because of their dishonesty and their disregard for poor people. “Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:23-24)
Today (December 12) the COP21 meeting in Paris reached a landmark climate agreement. Some of the negotiations this week revolved around the question of whether to stick with the 2 degree Celsius target for global warming or revise that target to the 1.5 degree mark that the Climate Vulnerable Nations need to survive. As Democracy Now reported a protestor pointing out this week: “They are not deciding how to tackle climate change; they are deciding who lives and who dies.” Hearing this against the backdrop of our readings from Amos and John the Baptist makes it clear that wealthier nations cannot take the easy way out with a 2 degree target that saves many of us but sentences people in climate vulnerable nations to death.
Another justice question at the conference was about whether wealthier developed nations, whose industrialization depended on burning fossil fuels that created greenhouse gases, should give money to less developed nations to help them adapt to climate change. In the United States, this will become an issue for Congress to address, and it could be a tough sell given our political atmosphere. And yet we hear John the Baptist saying “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none”.
This agreement opens the door to justice, but wealthier nations will have to decide whether we will walk through it. The present international commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions would result in global warming greater than two degrees Celsius, far from the 1.5 degree target. The agreements in principle to assist less developed nations in adapting to climate change will need to be backed up by the actions of individual nations. What this agreement gives us is an opportunity to repent of our past disregard for the earth’s climate and the earth’s most vulnerable people and do the right thing. We in the United States will need to press our elected officials to accelerated our transition from fossil fuels to clean energy and press them to do justice in sharing the burden of most vulnerable nations’ adjustment to climate change.
This Third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday, a Sunday to rejoice in the midst of our Advent preparation. There is joy in justice. Our rejoicing can be full rather than empty if righteous action accompanies our religious celebration.
Advent II: Repent!
twentieth century that continues to make concern for the environment a side issue. That leftover way of thinking separates concern for humankind from concern for the earth. A pinched perspective on life, perhaps a legacy of the Great Depression, gave us a sense in the last century that we could — and probably should — be concerned primarily for humankind without being concerned about the rest of creation. Given the false choice between concern for people and concern for “nature”, we chose concern for human welfare over concern for the great outdoors. (The latter, after all, would always be waiting for us when we wanted to take a break.) We developed a false dichotomy between human welfare and the welfare of other living things that not only was an intellectual error, but has resulted in the biggest threat ever to human beings around the world. Many of our politicians and pundits continue this error.
Already the impacts of climate change are being acutely felt in the South Pacific. This year we have witnessed first-hand the devastation that climate change will visit upon our region through more intense cyclones, severe storm surges, saltwater intrusion, coastal erosion, and the bleaching of corals.
Jesus teaches us to love our neighbour and especially to show practical love to the poor and vulnerable, declaring that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” In this spirit, we believe that the needs of the Pacific Islands and other communities acutely vulnerable to climate impacts should set the terms for what is agreed at the Paris climate negotiations.
The point I make is that, yes, we (here in the Pacific) are the first ones to go. But the others who think they will be OK – they’re kidding themselves. They will not be OK. Because we love the world . . . and because we love you, we are saying: alter your way of life.
The innocent go first, the powerless go first. . . And the voice from the powerless says: ‘I care for all.’
Archbishop Winston says it’s no longer a matter of whether the Paris negotiators hear “the Pacific voice. It’s not the Pacific voice that needs to be heard,” he says. Because now, the sea rising is our voice. It speaks for us. It speaks for Oceania.
Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennett
(Follow the Archdeacon’s blog at http://nebraskagreensprouts.blogspot.com/)
The Rev. John and Margaret Schaefer are involved in a process in the Omaha area to create a Cohousing community. Fr. John is the rector of St. Andrew’s in Omaha. Both John and Margaret hope that more Episcopalians will consider cohousing as a way to create intentional community. Cohousing is a type of intentional community which has been successful in creating the feeling of traditional neighborhoods where you get to know your neighbors. Many have been successfully created across the United States and the world. Cohousing pairs private ownership of homes with extensive shared facilities, including a common house. Homes can be smaller because places like guest rooms, which are used infrequently, are aggregated in the common house. Residents share these spaces as well as other resources, which are chosen by what is called a ‘Forming Group’ during the planning process. This group helps design the community, and ultimately decides how the community will function. In cohousing, there is typically an optional shared meal once a week in the common house because it is an effective way for neighbors to get to know each other. The common house usually has a large kitchen and a large dining room to facilitate the weekly meal.
Due to the focus on sharing resources, cohousing can be less expensive to live in than other housing alternative Rather than have 50 lawnmowers in a community, you might only need a few. There often are tools, books or digital media held in common. Some cohousing residents even share cars. The average cost to own and operate a car in the United States is over $9,000 per year, making car-sharing programs popular in many cohousing communities.
“Omaha Green Cohousing” is forming a cohousing community in Omaha. We recently signed a purchase agreement on 4 acres of land in the Keystone area of Omaha (8557 Boyd Street). On this 4 acres, we’ve proposed putting 32 town-home units (1,200 square feet each) and16 ‘tiny houses’ (600 square feet each). In addition, current plans include a common house, greenhouse, community gardens, dog run, orchard, and other amenities with a focus on sustainability and net zero energy use. We have experienced tremendous interest in the project and are currently growing a Forming Group. This is an exciting time, because the group is engaged in the creating of a community. Part of this is deciding how to live together—and also deciding what the neighborhood will look like and how it will function. One of the benefits to joining now is you get to be part of the process of designing the community with the architect: What will the neighborhood look like? How do we site the homes? What features do we want in our Common House? These are to be answered by our Forming Group.
If you have a passion for building community and for living sustainably, you might enjoy being in cohousing. For more information, check out our site on Facebook (Omaha Green Cohousing or https://www.facebook.com/PapillionCohousing) Meetings occur at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church 925 S. 84th St. on the corner of Pacific and 84th in Omaha. For meeting times and more information, please contact Fr. John Schaefer email@example.com or his cell phone: (402) 690-0991. For general information, please visit http://www.cohousing.org.
But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled. (Mark 6:37-42)
TNE ed: You can follow our Archdeacon’s blog here: http://nebraskagreensprouts.blogspot.com/
All In: Being the Church in Today’s World
The traditional English celebration of Rogation Days, the three days preceding Ascension Day, included a procession around the boundaries of the parish (often coextensive with the boundaries of a village). At stops along the boundaries, the congregation prayed for the welfare of the village and especially for a good growing season, and the priest blessed the fields. The procession stopped several times for these prayers and blessings, often at important landmarks along the boundaries of the parish. Along with an occasion for prayer and blessings, walking the bounds or beating the bounds also ensured a public memory and a clear public proclamation of exactly where boundaries lay. Ensuring clarity of the boundaries eliminated disputes and gave everyone a common understanding of the bounds of the parish.
Gathering our strength and doing whatever we can to prevent and relieve the human misery that results from environmental degradation is the only choice we have as followers of Christ. Choosing to acknowledge the problems we face and working to address them with so little evidence that we can succeed is where we draw on our faith and our hope.