5 Sep 2021
Climate Justice Sermon
5 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you,persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Climate change and it’s effects are here now.
Climate change is already having negative effects on people primarily due to extreme weather events. This disproportionately affects poorer people who have less resilience.
This year we have seen the effects of Climate Change in the news. Forest fires on every continent. Hurricanes. Flash floods in many countries including the UK.
- UN: https://unu.edu/news/news/loss-and-damage-from-climate-change-already-happening.html
- Visualisation of extreme weather caused by climate change: https://www.carbonbrief.org/mapped-how-climate-change-affects-extreme-weather-around-the-world
If there is not a rapid and widespread reduction fossil fuels and adoption of better land use practices, then further climate change will be more severe and there is a risk of runaway climate change. Again, the impact will be felt mostly by the poor and other marginalised groups (e.g. women, BAME)
- Carbon Brief: https://www.carbonbrief.org/in-depth-qa-the-ipccs-special-report-on-climate-change-and-land [see section 'What does the report say about sustainable development, gender and the role of indigenous communities?']
- International Institute for Environment and Development: https://www.iied.org/climate-justice-ipcc-special-report-land
At a Christian Aid event I went to they said that “Climate change is one of the biggest injustices that has a bigger impact on BAME that others notably Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. Black Christians want church leaders to speak up more about climate justice. Racial justice and climate justice and linked together.”
- If we don’t change there will be no earth for our children to inherit
In our reading Jesus said:
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
But if we don’t change there will be no earth for our children to inherit.
Things are only going to get worse unless we do something about it.
Recently in the news the IPCC reported:
- Humans are "unequivocally" to blame for the climate crisis, having emitted 2,400 billion tonnes of CO2 to date.
- The IPCC report predicts that 1.5ºC will be reached by 2040 in all predicted scenarios - and if emissions don’t come down, earlier than that.
- Extreme weather events like this summer’s floods and fires will get more and more likely, while the Arctic will be “practically ice-free” for at least one summer by 2050.
What does that look like?
- Well in London we would be having 40°C summers storms and flooding
- Globally - Uninhabitable countries, Unstable food supply, Economic disruption, Runaway Climate change.
- This will have an impact on us too leading to mass migration, social unrest, recession, and despair.
That all sounds really bad, and it is. But there is still hope. Cutting emissions now could still limit the warming process, keeping warming within 1.5ºC and halting further temperature rises.
- At the end of Mark’s Gospel Jesus said “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16
This is the first time I’ve noticed that Jesus said preach the Gospel to all creation not just the humans. Gospel means Good news. What does it mean to preach good news to all creation?
Jesus came to save the whole world, people, animals, plants and trees – all of creation.
Our sin has not only messed up our lives but the life of other humans and the environment around us. Deforestation and farming destroying natural habitats for many creatures causing extinction. Fossil fuels being burnt endlessly over farming of cattle so that the greenhouse gases emitted are making the world hotter.
Much of this is driven by the sin of greed. Peoples desire for more leads to overproduction of stuff we don’t really need. Decisions to by people and business and governments to choose to save money rather than save the planet is a big factor.
The Gospel is good news for all not just for the future but now. Jesus came to forgive us our sins, save us from death, and give life in all its fulness to all creation.
The Bible has a lot to say about creation:
The Earth belongs to God (Ps. 24.1) by his creation (Job 38.4; Ps. 19.1), sustaining (Matt. 6.26), redemption (Col. 1.15-30), and power to destroy (Gen. 6.7; Ps. 104.29); it is the theatre of his work (Gen. 9.12-17); Hos. 2.21-22; Matt. 5.45).
Creation is 'good' and intrinsically valuable (Gen. 2.20), connected to him by word (Gen. 1.3, 6, 9, etc; John 1.1-5; Heb.1.3) and saved from reification by the incarnation (Mark 4.41; Eph 1.22; Phil 2.10-11).
God has entrusted his creation to us as his managers (Gen. 1.26; Ps.8.6-8) or gardeners (Gen. 2.15).
We are answerable to him for his trust (Lev. 25.3-5, 14-17; Luke 12.42-48; 19:12-27; 20:9-18), not as preservations but as responsible stewards (Matt. 25.24-30).
Our relationship has been disrupted by the fall (Gen. 3.1-7; Rom. 8.19-22)
[Taken from Berry 2000, 177]
- Jesus said “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Matthew 5
What does it mean to be meek?
The word meek from the original language was used to describe reining in a stallion. It is the idea of a horse being controlled by a bit and bridle. The horse is choosing to submit to authority. That is meekness. It is power under constraint.
Meekness is not weakness; it is power under control. Gentleness always uses its resources appropriately, unlike the out-of-control emotions that so often are destructive.
We are not naturally inclined to meekness because of the fallen world we live in and the sinful nature we are born with. In Christ, a repentant life and all of the fruitful changes of heart that come along with it will abound. “Meek is not so much an attitude toward people, but rather a disposition before God, namely, humility” (NIV Study Bible). It’s not something we can earn by what we do but, rather, what happens when we let go and turn our lives over to God.
So what does Meekness look like in terms of Climate Justice?
- It’s admitting we’ve messed up personally and corporately
- It’s about humbly coming before God in repentance and seeking him about our personal responsibility to care for his creation rather than destroy it.
- It’s about acting now rather than waiting until it’s too late
This disaster can only be avoided if those people (and the governments who represent them) who cause the most climate change, make significant and urgent changes to reduce climate change and pay for mitigation for the poorest who are suffering the effects. If you had a line-up of 10 people from around the world, then a typical resident of Herne Hill would usually be the worst or second worst in terms of the climate change they cause. We are the people who need to fix this.
- Oxfam: https://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/carbon-emissions-richest-1-percent-more-double-emissions-poorest-half-humanity
- Map of climate caused by location within the UK: https://www.carbon.place/
There are three things people should do (broadly in order of importance): reduce their own impact; (if possible) donate some money to projects that speed up the low carbon transition; vote for parties with urgent and impactful climate policies, and lobby MPs to adopt these policies
- Grantham Institute: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/stories/climate-action/
My personal response
- Got rid of car use bike and public transport instead
- Switched renewable electric and gas
- Eating less meat and dairy
- Signup to oddbox to received fruit and vegetables that would go to waste otherwise because they are misshaped or the harvest was bigger than the demand from shops.
- Avoid long haul flights where possible
- Attended Environmental Masterclass with Rachel. Run on zoom by local expert Jeremy Brackpool. Visit https://www.environmentmasterclass.co.uk/ to sign up for a group or 1-2-1 session with Jeremy for free.
- We also plan to run some classes in person in the parish soon!
Each of us will have to think about pray about what is right for us and our household.
To explore more you might want to attend a Climate injustice event on zoom.
The Justice Conference and Tearfund are hosting 4 events on how climate change intersects with injustice. One per week starting this Thursday 8pm. You can sign up at
I have put a link to this and other resources on our green & fairtrade page on our website for links to other ways you can make a change.
Get out phone go to www.hernehillparish.org.uk
Our parish response
- MAP Goal: Be a green & Fairtrade parish & make a positive environmental impact
- (GET THE TEAM UP)
- Green & Fairtrade team led by Trevor Tayleur
- Ecochurch survey to review our environmental footprint https://ecochurch.arocha.org.uk/
- COP26 prayer and action: Vigil for COP which will take place at Southwark Cathedral on October 23rd 2021 beginning at 2.00pm https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/prayer-vigil-for-cop26-climate-conference-tickets-152732774841
- We would Love more people to join the Green and fairtrade team and want all ages to be involved. Do speak to Trevor.
- Earth and Heaven will be renewed : Revelation 21
To finish I want to read out the start of Revelation 21 as a source of hope for the future:
Rev 21 v1-5
21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.
The key to unlocking these verses, and having a better and more comprehensive understanding of what the text is really saying, lies with the word new.
As we look at the original Greek language we find something very interesting. There are two words that can be used to describe something as new.
The first word is neo and is used to describe something that is new in time. For example, a house that is newly restored to its original condition could never be neo because it is not new in time.
When the house was first built it was neo, but being that it is now something old (archaios) being renewed or restored, it can never be described as neo again. Neo is not the word used in Revelation 21.
The word that is used to describe the new heavens and the new earth is kainos. Kainos also means new, but it is describing something that is qualitatively new or renewed.
Interestingly enough, it is the word kainos that Paul uses to describe the Christian, as a new (kainos) creation. The individual Christian has not been vaporized into non-existence and newly created, rather the old (archaios) has passed away, and the new (kainos) has come (cf. 2 Corinthians 5: 17).
Therefore, these verses are not alluding to a heaven and earth that are destroyed and then replaced by a heaven and earth that is newly created. They are both speaking of the current heaven and earth passing from one condition to another (parachomai), being qualitatively renewed (kainos) to their full glory, which is beyond anything that we can comprehend.
The final destination for God’s people is not going up to God in heaven, while the earth and sky is destroyed. Rather, the final destination is a renewed world and cosmos in which God comes down to be among His people. Heaven and earth meet with Jesus in the Centre.
There is good news for all creation: We have hope for the future that God will make all things new. That there will be no more tears and destruction. That there will be Climate Justice. That the meek will inherit the earth.
Lord of life and giver of hope,
help us to care for creation,
to reduce our waste,
to live sustainably,
and to value the rich diversity of life.
May your wisdom guide us,
that life in all its forms may flourish,
and may be faithful in voicing creation’s praise.
May your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
More information on our Green and Fairtrade page.