Pastor’s Pen for October 2017

Broken lines, broken strings, Broken threads, broken springs,

Broken idols, broken heads, People sleeping in broken beds

Ain’t no use jiving, Ain’t no use joking, Everything is broken

– Bob Dylan, Everything Is Broken[1]

Dearly Beloved,

The lyrics of Bob Dylan’s song, Everything is Broken, describe the human condition about as concisely as anyone has.  Things don’t work out like they’re supposed to; everything is broken.  Islands in the Caribbean and states along the Gulf— along with countries half a world away—have experienced this reality viscerally the past month in the wake of devastating hurricanes and floods.  As recovery efforts continue, questions about the storms’ relationships to our changing climate are close behind.  Climatologists began making links to this possibility decades ago, but instead of following the science, many of our nation’s elected leaders and the constituencies they serve still have their heads stuck in the sand. Their intransigence on this issue is one more sign of our collective brokenness. As the gut-check we call Corporate Confession puts it: “We are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.”

Over the eons, Earth has developed finely tuned feedback systems.  For decades now those systems have been relaying messages to us loud and clear, but for a variety of reasons we have failed to heed them.  In their book Big World/Small Planet,” Johan Rockström and Mattias Klum describe how the Holocene Epoch—a period of tremendous stability and natural harmony for Earth that began roughly 11,700 years ago—is ending, and how we’re entering the Anthropocene Epoch—an era of massive human impacts on Earth.   This shift, which began with the mid-18th century industrial revolution, accelerated in the mid-20th century.  “Our way of life,” they write, “is threatening to trigger catastrophic tipping points that could knock the planet out of its stable state…The world as we know it has become an increasingly complex, turbulent, and globalized place, not only socially and economically but also ecologically.”

Seem like every time you stop and turn around Something else just hit the ground

Broken cutters, broken saws, Broken buckles, broken laws,

Broken bodies, broken bones, Broken voices on broken phones

Take a deep breath, feel like you’re chokin’, Everything is broken

Michael Truog and Deb Hagen-Lukens of our congregation recently attended a climate training event led by Al Gore and his Climate Reality organization.  They will be sharing what they learned on two different occasions this month—the first, during Adult Sunday class on October 1st and the second on Wednesday, October 18th at 7pm.  I hope you’ll take advantage of one of these opportunities to hear more on this issue.

The themes we’re exploring this month as we commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation movement are: Liberated by God’s Grace (10/8); Humans are Not for Sale (10/15); Creation is Not For Sale (10/22); Salvation is Not for Sale (10/29).  At first glance these themes may not seem related to the discussion above, but they are.  The liberation God offers us in Christ includes liberation from fantasies about our right to exploit this good Earth without regard to limits and without respect to the natural systems which make this planet hospitable to life. Hope for the future God is working to bring to fruition can only spring from truth telling; never fantasies or falsehoods.

If mending this broken world is what God is up to in Jesus—and I believe it is—then our part begins with a fearless inventory of all things broken—personal, social, ecological. Metanoia is the New Testament word for this process by which we, through the gift of grace and the power of the Spirit, turn away from the path which would have us place ourselves at the center of the universe, and turn toward the path that leads toward love of God, love of neighbor, and love of Earth.  As we make this “about face” we find ourselves restored to the vocation God gave us in the very beginning—that of Earthkeeper.

In the midst of all the  challenges we face, we stake our hope in the Word who became flesh, whose love is “deeper than all that is wrong”; who uses us, fragile clay jars that we are, to bear good news in this broken world. – Pastor Erik

[1] © BOB DYLAN MUSIC OBO SPECIAL RIDER MUSIC “Everything is Broken” was released on his 1989 album, Oh Mercy.

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