January 20, 2019 – Catalyst for Hope

Text:  John 2:1-11

Last Sunday, I spoke about the anti-pipeline protest in northern BC, and how it uncovered the complicated issue of the Indigenous and settler relationship in this country. I confessed how my encounter with Indigenous people has led me to admit a particular worldview many of us share that has caused the most pressing issue on the planet, climate change. I appreciate your feedback and comments whether you agree or disagree. My hope is to create a space where we can discuss, discern and act around problems in the world. We are not here to talk about politics or to find out who is right or wrong.

There is, however, a role, we as Christians must play in response to what’s happening in the world. At the core of our faith, there is theology of incarnation; God became flesh; this very world is where God dwells. Our primary focus is not on afterlife but on this life we are given, and not on waiting for a new earth, but on caring for it by living in the here and now. Traditionally we kept the distance between God and the world as if God was somewhere up there looking down on us folding arms, and disengaging. We singled out the word, ‘dominion’ from the first creation story in Genesis; ‘be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over creatures.’ But we forgot our location as the youngest among the creation in the same story, and our destiny to learn from our siblings, those who were created before us in God’s household.

I have been wondering where we could find hope for our planet earth. Scientific research continues to give us warnings, one after another, that unless a significant change is made globally the game will be over. The governments, politicians and policies, however, don’t seem to be willing to solve the problem of the climate change. One can be easily discouraged by looking for a change from outside. The change we need is born from within as it has always been. In search of hope, I started reading Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything, beginning from the last chapter. I was encouraged by the hope Klein had in her book. She sees climate change as an impending disaster ripe with opportunity: not just environmental change, but also a significant reordering of the global political, economic, and social order. A positive change and transformation has always happened from the bottom up, not the other way around: the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, and the Anti-Apartheid movement just to name a few. We see the same movement, if not more, around the world on the issue of the climate change. People, not just experts in climate change but regular people, are waking up and speaking up on behalf of the whole creation.

For Vandana Shiva, eco-activist from India, hope is not optional. Shiva believes that we must have hope that humanity can fight ecological crises. For more than thirty years, she has campaigned to promote biodiversity, especially in her home country of India and the nearby nation of Bhutan, where she has helped create 122 seed banks to preserve species. “Hope is something we cultivate in our daily consciousness through our daily actions,” said Shiva. One practice she suggests is to see how everything is interconnected in every meal we have. Shiva points out the common teaching across cultures to express our gratitude to the creator for the bread and for those who grew it. By becoming conscious in our eating, and engaged in political and social activism, we can recognize that there is an interconnectedness of care for the earth and care for the community. In our daily bread, there is the link between ecological action, social justice action, health action and political action. It’s all in that food that we eat two to three times a day!
Shiva’s insight on the interconnectedness brings us back to our most fundamental relationship with God and everything else. The climate change challenges us to redefine our place in the grand scheme of things. We are not just energy consumers. We are made of energy. In fact, we rely on nature every moment of our lives for water, air, food and habitat. How can we destroy the natural world when it is us human beings who are most sustained by and totally dependent on it? We are not ultimate owners of anything or landlords of any properties, but temporary dwellers in the body of God, we call the earth.

Today’s story reminds us of the role we must play as temporary dwellers. At a wedding party, Mary noticed that wine gave out. Mary said to Jesus, “They have no wine.” We can feel a sense of urgency as well as her trust in Jesus who could turn things around. The response of Jesus, however, is somewhat disheartening. “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” And Mary said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Not long after that, Jesus performed a miracle, so the wedding party could go on, and the wine became even better. What can we learn from this story? How Jesus transformed water into wine, or why Jesus was reluctant in the first place even though he was going to do it anyway was not the point. The point is how Mary maintained her hope when the wine gave out, and especially after there was no clear answer from the one she trusted. I’d like to think that it was Mary who helped Jesus notice the need to do the work of transformation. The mother of Jesus in this story is a catalyst to the work of generosity. Indeed, the need is a concern to her before it is to Jesus.

We don’t have the luxury of being hopeless especially when it comes to climate crisis. Like Mary, we begin to notice the issue. We see how the world is in need and trouble, realizing that it’s no longer someone else’s problem. We begin to suffer together with those who have been and continue to be affected by the crisis. Many of us deeply worry about our future generations who will be most affected by it. We begin to speak out on behalf of suffering creation, ‘our wine is giving out and we must act on it.’ We encounter reluctance or denial on many levels. We are challenged to maintain and cultivate hope and to say ‘do whatever God tells you.’ Who knows? We can become a catalyst to the work of transformation and all the dwellers in the body of God can recognize the better wine – a more harmonious and sustainable way of life – and the One who is the source of all things.