“The Time is Now” – Reflection by Jane Doull , Sept. 29, 2019

Preamble[if you have time !] This second of a series is particularly inspired by Catherine Keller’s Political Theology of the Earth [2018] which I think might turn out to be the most important book I’ve read this calendar year, and which led me into two other books of hers, one referenced last week, one which you’ll hear more about later. I hope some of my readers are moved to order her books, of which I can give only the faintest , most tantalizing glimpse in my little reflections. Of course I have Naomi Klein in mind, and I have the current Canadian federal election in mind, and Greta Thunberg who got a worldwide movement of young people started, and the climate strike I attended Sept. 27, and more. Sunday Reflection-writing has much in common with making stew or soup of whatever comes to hand.

More preamble [if you still have time] In case you had difficulty following my Sept. 22 , 2019 reflection, here’s a segue I provided my people on Sept. 22, before the readings: To review what we said last week- The first Genesis wasn’t about God making something of nothing, It was about the Divine, the Holy, the Spirit being present with and in the deep, the chaos, the primordial soup –  cooperating with it to make something good, very good- not coercing,  but letting be, letting light and ocean and plants and sea creatures be. And- then as now- there’s good news in this.  There have been many beginnings since, large and small.  We see beginnings large and small each spring, each time of new growth.  And even in the fall, the endings are sowing the ground for new beginnings.  Our United church creed speaks of God who has created and is creating- Creation goes on all around us always.   I would suggest our job as humans is to cooperate with this divine creativity. And these days especially our cooperation really matters- Our loving collaboration in letting life be, and thrive, on this earth. Especially now.  Life on this earth is up against some challenges, indeed crises.  And we need to listen…
And these were our readings: Jeremiah 1:4-8, 1 Corinthians 7:29, 32  (Paul on “kairos“) and the late lamented Irish mystic John O’Donohue’s poem On Citizenship which I found on Parker Palmer’s facebook page.

I come from south shore Nova Scotia where we have open seas year round.   But the North Shore of Nova Scotia was a different story, at least it was when I moved there in 2002.  The Northumberland Strait froze over in the winter – and with it Wallace Bay and Tatamagouche Bay and all the other bays along the shore.  Wallace ran  a yearly  contest to guess when the waters would thaw.  Within living memory, as the older residents told me,   the freezing was far deeper- you could safely walk or ride across the harbours -that’s how the doctors travelled to make house calls.  By 2002   you wouldn’t risk it any more.  People were told- stay off the ice.And by the time I moved away in 2007 the Northumberland Strait froze later and for a shorter time- and no longer  all the way across.  Now that Nova Scotian North Shore apparently does not freeze at all.   Great for lobster season, but not so great for the northern fish the lobsters need to eat.   [this latter piece I saw on CBC news, in an interview by Kayla Hounsell with north shore fishermen and with Boris Worm , a marine biologist ].

You don’t  have to be a scientist to read the signs of the times. You just have to pay attention.  But the scientists see what we are seeing and then some. 

We are used to the powers that be not listening to country people.  I’ve seen this again and again in my years as a small-town resident.  But why do they not listen to scientists?

The scientists have warned us for decades.  Governments and businesses and all of us   could have stopped climate change in the 80s-did not happen. They and we  could have done something in the 90s or the 2000s- did not happen.  [see a review article in Times Literary Supplement for Sept. 13, 2019 “Is it too late?”

But why?

It’s an old story- since biblical times, prophets have spoken truth to power – you’ve got to change your ways. Now. Usually they got ignored or worse.  Jeremiah for instance. They tried to muzzle him – throw him down a well- put him in jail.  Modern prophets get ignored too, Muzzled, or fired from their jobs,  Or slammed in someone’s tweet. Or, in some countries, locked up or killed. 

Meanwhile, false prophets have always told  the powers that be what they want to hear. In our day they include  climate change deniers , often funded by the money of those who did not want any talk  about climate change- in case it interfered with their bottom line.  They would like us to believe that climate change has nothing to do with human activity, that there is no  emergency ,that we can happily keep expanding our economy, business as usual and then some, even in a recent post that the ice cap isn’t really melting.  [seen on Facebook Sept. 28- I refuse, on principle, to share this, not wishing to give it more circulation]. 

Their friends in high places assure us: we don’t need a carbon tax; technological solutions will show up in time and they’ll be enough to solve everything; environmentalists are out to kill jobs.

But the prophets have not given up. The scientists keep working. The long-time environmental thinkers and activists keep writing and speaking.  And now we have new prophets- the students, Greta Thunberg,  and now millions of others , including right here.  Leading strikes and marches, 

Forming climate activism committees, Speaking out: “How dare you” [Greta’s opening phrase in a recent speech to the United Nations ]  keep ignoring this problem and making it worse?  What’s the point of sending us to school and encouraging us to train for jobs if our planet becomes uninhabitable?  Those of my age remember wondering this in the 1970s ,amid the buildup of nuclear weapons. 

And the false prophets find fault.  Greta’s too angry, too emotional, maybe not even sane.  Why aren’t these kids in school? And they are just kids- they don’t know anything. 

Jeremiah was just a kid too.  He asks God, “ How can I go out and prophesy when I’m just a child?”  God says, No problem.  You’ll know what to say. You’ll be fine.

 Jeremiah wasn’t exactly just fine- If you want  an easy life, don’t be a prophet.  People thought he was out to lunch. Surely they thought- he’s just a kid.   Some thought the same of Jesus , the country boy, the carpenter’s son, just a kid.  

Plus Jeremiah was angry – how dare you? It’s all over his writings!  As Jesus got angry by times. As , yes ,Greta and her peers are angry,    r.

But prophets do not make nice.  Anger is part of the job description. I don’t mean  violence, rioting or the like.   I mean anger at things we should be angry about, we should no longer put up with.  The ethicist Beverly Harrison calls “ the power of anger  the work of love.” [see her essay of that title in her collection Making the Connections, 1985]. If we love enough,  it bugs us if something’s wrong  and no one does anything about it. 

So yes, we should listen to our young prophets.  And we all  have reason to be angry,  to say “enough already!”   John O’Donohue [in his poem ” On Citizenship] says- to be a citizen you need to “change anxiety back into anger,”   you need to” listen to the poor”, the poor who get the worst of climate change and everything else that’s wrong.  And yes, be angry, go on the strikes and marches, speak. Ask your electoral candidates what they will do about climate change,  Ask your[New Brunswick]  premier why he left climate change out of his 6 priorities,  Say: “ We’re done with false prophets.  We want the truth even if it hurts,   Even if it “changes everything”. “  [“changes everything” refers to Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything,  2014,  another book we should all read if we are concerned, or need help becoming concerned, about the climate crisis] 

The time was 30 years ago.  The time was 20 years ago. The time was 10 years ago. And the time is now.

When I say time I don’t mean clock time .It’s the time in today’s verses from Paul – Kairos time.   

The  way things have been is passing away- things are changing- It’s not the end of everything- It’s the time remaining- the right time, the time in which something can be done- [ Paul Tillich}Another way to put it , it’s a “passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved” . This is like the weaving looms shuttle- when it comes around you’ve got to be ready.  Now.   [ for all this paragraph: Catherine Keller, Political Theology of the Earth, p. 3-4] 

When we have to do something at a specific time, what do we do?  Set an alarm or a timer- but then we’ve got to listen.  

A common dream I have- there’s an alarm ,  I try to switch off the clock radio, the smartphone, the portable alarm clock- but I can’t- It won’t stop- it’s driving me up the wall- I start looking for windows I can throw things out of,  And  then I wake up- and find  I was sleeping  through my radio or phone alarm .

Catherine Keller suggests this is how we often cope with climate change – We  sleep because we don’t want to hear the alarm.  {I can’t find where she says it- in a book or in a talk-but I know I saw this somewhere] 

But the climate change alarm is more like a kitchen timer than an alarm clock.  If you sleep through your kitchen timer, your dinner burns.  If you sleep through climate crisis time, your world burns up.  And waters rise, and, well, I don’t have to go on. 

If an emergency happened in this building, flood or fire, we wouldn’t wait for me to finish this sermon- I wouldn’t even wait!   We would wake up-  we’d get out and we would get help. . 

Climate emergency is more complicated.  We can’t get out.   This is  the only home we’ve got,.We all need to get help and give help. We need to hear the alarm.  And we need to sound the alarm as we were doing with our young prophets on Friday. Until we all get angry enough to care, to do something, to save this earth and with it ourselves,   While there is still a little time. The time that is now.   May it be so!

Author: janedoull

I’m an eclectic writer and thinker . In the past I’ve been an adult educator and a United Church of Canada minister . Now I’m a freelance retiree.

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