The following Sermons are suggestions for your use, please feel free to adapt and change to suit the service. Both are also available as Word documents to download, amend and print out.
The following Sermon was written and delivered by the Rev. Canon N P A Jowett at a number of Climate Change Services across South Yorkshire.
You can download the word version here (to follow).
Designed for a general climate change themed sermon
For at least forty years now scientists have been warning us that humanity has to stop emitting so much CO2 gas, especially from burning coal and oil, the fossil fuels.
But it is not just he scientists who have been warning us; the earth itself has also been warning us. There have been devastating droughts in places like Kenya, Australia and the United States. There have also been devastating floods in Australia and India. The low-lying delta region of Bangladsh is flooded regularly. The number of cyclones or hurricanes have increased and they have been more powerful and more devastating: there was Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and last November the most powerful hurricane ever, Hurricane Haiyan in the Philippines.
This past winter we have been powerfully reminded that we in this country are not exempt, with unparalleled storms and serious flooding in the South-West and the Thames Valley.
Do you remember that bit in Luke's Gospel (12.54-56) where Jesus says, 'When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, "It is going to rain"; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, "There will be scorching heat"; and it happens?' Well, the world has seen the signs of global warming, and the United Nations Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (to which about 2500 scientists contributed and which is supported by over 180 countries, warned us yet again this year that decisive action is essential to curb emissions, if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.
Jesus went on, addressing the crowds: 'You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?' So I think he would say to the world's governments today; 'You know about the evidence for global warming, you know what disaster could come upon the earth, and you know the time for critical decisions is now, yet you behave as though you have all the time in the world. And if you claim to care for your populations and for the future of the earth, you are hypocrites!'
Well, I think we are all hypocrites on this subject to some extent - maybe doing things like recycling, using green energy, using public transport, insulating our homes or buying or growing local vegetables, but often a bit haphazardly or half-heartedly and somehow sharing in our government's apathy on climate change, letting it go off the boil, imagining we'll muddle through and adapt to global warming somehow.
But let me remind you of just one aspect of the IPCC's recent report. The scientists say that there is evidence to say for certain that climate change is affecting food production on land and sea. The rate of increase in crop yields is slowing - especially in wheat - raising doubts as to whether food production will keep up with demand of a growing world population. And fish catches in some areas of the tropics are projected to fall by between 40% and 60%. One of the authors of the report said, 'The impacts are directly affecting people now - not just butterflies and sea ice'.
But why should we be bothered about all of this? The desire to save our terrestrial home for the future is in one sense surely enough, but I think there are three fundamental principles for us Christians:
- We accept the mandate of stewardship and care of the earth expressed in Genesis 1 in God's command to Adam.
- We affirm the resurrection and ascension of the Christ with a glorious spiritual body and the promise of a new heaven and a new earth joined together in which we shall be raised with bodies like that of Christ. In other words we affirm the material of a good creation made by God and do not think that the physical is merely expendable, so that we can fly off into a pure spiritual realm. So we must care for the physical earth, as we care for our own bodies.
- The Biblical command to love our neighbour impels us not to accept current policies and practices which will inevitably impact disproportionally on the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, and on our own grandchildren.
So what are we going to do? Obviously praying about it is important - this will release fresh spiritual energy for change - and personal lifestyle changes are also important. But what is also vitally necessary is a change in government policies, for on present policies we are inevitably drifting, sooner or later, towards catastrophe.
The General Election next year provides an opportunity for all the parties to decide what their policy on climate change will be, and that gives us an opportunity to tell them that this is for us THE issue for today.
So my role here today as part of the Hope for the Future campaign, is simply to urge you, if possible, to stay behind after the service today, and to write a personal letter to our MP (and if you know any candidates from other parties, to them as well) and say that you want their party to show clearly in their 2015 manifesto how they are going to achieve the 80% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 which are actually required by the Climate Change Act of 2008.
With new technologies, the required cuts can be achieved, but it needs a massive change of political will now. If we and lots of other people raise our voices, it can be done.
Obviously if you can't stay behind today, I understand, but please take a flyer and send off your own letter to the MP. As you'll see, there is a model letter, and you can copy the heart of it into your own letter, but letters to MPs are most effective if there's something personal in them, and, for instance, as you'll see, there's an opportunity to mention the names of someone in the younger generation whom you're concerned about. And it's very important, when you get a reply from an MP, to follow it up with another.
The Bishop of Sheffield supports this campaign. At Diocesan Synod he said: 'We need to be very clear. Left unchecked, global warming will wreak havoc in the earth. If we take action together, climate change can be reduced and, God willing, reversed for the sake of future generations. Hope for the Future is part of that desire to transform God's world so that it remains good and safe and beautiful for future generations.'
The simple act of just writing a letter could be a vital Christian prophetic act to ensure that our children and grandchildren do have hope for the future.
The Bishop ended his address like this: 'All real change in this world begins with just a handful of like-minded people taking action together. Will you join us, will you work with us, will you raise this issue and fight this giant (of global warming) together?'
The following Sermon was written and delivered by the Revd. Dr. Michael Bayley at a number of Climate Change Services.
You can download a word version here.
Hope for the Future: The Kairos Time
(Designed for where the congregation may need a basic introduction to the issue and a simple biblical and theological explanation for why Christians should be concerned.)
Readings: Deuteronomy 30:15-end; Mark 1:14-20 (If three readings are required: Romans 8v 18-25)
The Gospel we have just heard tells us of Jesus coming into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God and saying: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15)
The Greek word Mark uses for time is carefully chosen. It is ‘kairos’. It means not clock time but a critical time of special significance, a time of danger or when an opportunity has to be grasped, a time to be awake and alert and prepared to act.
This sense of urgency and the need to open our eyes and ears to the significance of what is happening runs through the gospel, for instance Luke records Jesus approaching Jerusalem and, as he “saw the city he wept over it, saying, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you,… and they will not leave one stone upon another… because you did not know the time of your visitation." (Luke 19:41–44). The word for “time" is the same word again, “kairos".
That sense of urgency is also evident in the Old Testament lesson where Moses faces the people of Israel with a challenge. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse: therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19)
Through Moses, through the prophets, through Christ himself there is this constant theme – the call to open our eyes and ears. To see and hear what God is telling us. Wake up and act.
We are at a kairos time for this precious planet. We, humankind, have been given a clear responsibility to care for God's. earth. At the end of the story of the creation in Genesis 1, it says: “and God saw everything he had made, and behold, it was very good.” In the following chapter we read: “the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it." We have a duty to care for God’s earth.
Sadly we have fallen short in that responsibility. We have done so in many ways but, in particular, since 1974 scientists have been warning us that we have to stop emitting so much CO2 gas especially from burning coal and oil, the fossil fuels. It is not just the scientists who have been warning us; the Earth itself has also been warning us. There have been devastating droughts in, for instance, Kenya, Australia and the United States. They have also been devastating floods in, for example Australia and India. The low-lying delta region of Bangladesh is flooded regularly. The number of cyclones or hurricanes have increased and they have been more powerful and more devastating, for example Hurricane Katrina in St Orleans and last November the most powerful hurricane ever, Hurricane Haiyan in the Philippines. This winter we were reminded that we in this country are not exempt with unparalleled storms and serious floods in the south-west and the Thames Valley.
The scientists are warning us that we only have a short time to cut our emissions. What is probably the most authoritative scientific body ever, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to which about 2500 scientists contributed and is supported by 194 countries warned us yet again this year, that decisive action is essential to curb emissions if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.
It is indeed a kairos time. That is the bad news. The good news is that there is still time to check climate change if we summon up the moral and political will.
I believe Christians have a decisive prophetic role to play, grounded in our trust in a loving God who cares for all his children and this marvelous and precious Earth. I believe the church has a prophetic role to play to ensure that our children and grandchildren inherit a world in which they can flourish.
Through prayer. To say that any campaign must be rooted in prayer is not just a formality, but a recognition that we need to allow ourselves to be filled with a passionate love, not only of God but also for God’s world . I have a suggestion to make for how we do this. When we pray the Lord's prayer and when we come to “your kingdom come on earth", pause and, into that pause, pour our hopes and longings for this precious planet that we may have the courage to do what is needed. (I suggest that it would be a good idea at this point to practice this by getting people to say the Lord's prayer up to ‘earth’ and then stopping, so that when it comes to saying the Lord's prayer later in the service people are prepared to pause after ‘earth’.) What might be the impact of thousands of Christians doing that every time we say the Lord's prayer?
Through practice, by the way we live. There are many practical things we can do: recycling, insulating our homes, using public transport when we can, being careful about what we buy. You will be doing many of these things already. They will not of themselves solve the problem but they are like acted prayers, sacraments showing our concern and determination. They are important but they are not enough which brings me to the third P.
Through politics. Combating climate change is such a huge issue that the key decisions have to be made at national government level and indeed at the international level. That means that we have to engage with politics. In a democracy politicians can only do what they know people, or a reasonable number of people, want them to do. I have been told repeatedly that MPs have simply not been getting letters saying that people are concerned about climate change. The result is the politicians think that they will not have the support that they need to take the decisive action that is so urgent.
The Hope for the Future campaign intends to change that. We are asking people throughout the country to write to their MPs to say ‘please do what is needed.’ We have the technical ability and means to do what is needed. What is lacking is the will. We need to give our politicians the support, the courage and the will to do what is needed to preserve this wonderful, fragile, miraculous earth for our children and grandchildren.
So I invite you to engage with politics.
( Insert here the practical details about how the letter signing will be organized.)
There is a positive precedent, showing how we can act for good. Like me, many of you will remember the great concern in the 1980s about the Ozone layer. We were told then that the Ozone Layer at any given time reflects human activity 30 years ago. This week, 30 years on, scientists have said that the Ozone Layer is starting to recover – that’s because human beings took the threat seriously in the 80s, and acted accordingly. So, can we have a similar impact now?
The Bishop of Sheffield, Steven Croft, has said in commending the campaign: “If the churches don't try to get the climate into the manifestos of the political parties, I don't know who will." The simple act of just signing a letter could be a vital Christian prophetic act to ensure that our children and grandchildren do have hope for the future. Pray God we do not let them down.