“It’s about time you got trained for that,” said my friend Charly when I told him I was leaving today for Tempe, Arizona for a presenters’ training on “Living Sacramentally, Walking Justly.” He knows that for 35 years the core of my work has been the link between personal spirituality and social and environmental justice.
I’m taking this training, put on by the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church, so I can present for them this summer at several United Methodist Women events in California and Nevada, and so I can use the resources and training I receive in future work. United Methodist Women is quite progressive as an organization, although that is not always apparent at the level of the local church.
I arrived here in Tempe around noon. It was hot and getting hotter. A conference employee told me it was 111 degrees, approaching the record of 112 degrees for this date. Meanwhile I saw on CNN (which I don’t get at home) that 100 homes had been destroyed so far in the raging Black Forest wildfires in Colorado, and that giant windstorms (La Derecha) were threatening several states. Are we seeing evidence of climate change? Although no specific weather event can be directly attributed to climate change, increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increase the odds of such events. And record-breaking extreme weather events are increasing in number.
What does it mean to “live sacramentally?” It means acknowledging the holy in the midst of what we often take for granted as the ordinariness of life. I have written: “We live in a sacramental universe, a universe that is an expression of the divine. A sacrament is an `outward and physical sign of an inward and spiritual grace.’ The inward and spiritual grace at the heart of creation is revealed by its outer and physical manifestations… God’s beauty and love, power and energy are mediated through the natural world.”
I have also quoted the late Thomas Berry, who pointed out that since God’s glory is revealed and mediated through the natural world, when we degrade the earth’s bounty or turn its natural beauty to ugliness, it changes how we experience God. When the earth is diminished, its ability to mediate God to us is diminished, and thus our experience of God is diminished as well. To read more on this topic, see A Sacramental Universe.
Living sacramentally in a time of climate change requires us to recognize the sacred all around us, in the earth community and in the very elements of life; to value the water, air, soil, plants, and living creatures with whom we are intricately connected; and to live as responsible members of the community of life. There are complex issues to sort out and hard decisions to be made, but if we shirk our responsibility we will be complicit in further harm, and our grandchildren’s heritage will be climate chaos.
Now it’s beginning to get dark. It’s getting cooler – 104 degrees. A slice of moon is out, and a few stars. It’s truly beautiful.
Yes, there has been much damage. But there is still so much of beauty to be saved.