Monday, November 4, 2019

Want to "Save the Planet"? What Might We Learn from the Way of Jesus?

When I was a teenager in New Jersey in the '70s, I played in a rock band. Among the artists we loved and emulated were Edgar Winter and his brother, Johnny. Edgar and his band performed a song called "Save the Planet":

(... and check out the live version of "Save the Planet" here.)

The lyrics go like this:

Save the planet!
Who will save our planet?
Who will volunteer?
Save the planet - don't you know we love our planet?
Judgement time is here.

Who will it be? Will it be Mr. Black?
Who will it be? Will it be Mr. White?
Who will it be?  Will it be Mr. Wrong?
Who will it be?  Will it be Mr. Right?
Will it be you? Or will it be me?
Lord knows who will be . . . .

Every time I've listened to this joyful gospel hymn over the course of the past forty years or so, I've been filled with a sense of tremendous hope. Until relatively recently, that was a hope that stood in the face of a vague sense of the possible threats to our environment. I still get hope from this song, but I now realize the challenge is right in front of us, and urgent.

And as I listen to these words with a new sense of urgency, I'm hearing an important message. I have tended to think a great deal in terms of physics and chemistry -- how to offset the dangers posed by carbon dioxide and nuclear radiation -- but perhaps what Edgar Winter is telling me is that there is a more fundamental question: "Who will volunteer?" Hmmm ... what does it look like to be a "volunteer"?

The more I think about it, the more I think that being a "volunteer" -- that is, someone who has decided for themselves what is important and has set out on a chosen path -- is central to addressing the crisis the planet is facing. And that makes me, as a Christian, wonder what I might learn about this from reflecting on how Jesus lived. After all, Jesus was the ultimate "volunteer."

I was recently challenged to take a look at some scripture passages that are used during the Lenten season -- the six weeks leading up to Easter -- and think about them in light of this question. In 2020, people in churches around the country (and around the world) will reflect in common on six stories:

* How to pray ... how to fast ... what to treasure (Matt 6:1-6, 16-21)
* Tested in Wilderness (Matt 4:1-11)
* Transfiguration (Matt 17:1-9)
* Samaritan Woman (John 4:5-42) - see: The Woman at the Well: Important Conversations to Save the Planet
* Healing a Blind Man (John 9:1-41)
* Lazarus (John 11:1-45)
* Easter Vigil - see: What Will Our "Salvation Story" Look Like?

(See: Revised Common Lectionary - Lent 2020)

In the weeks ahead, I plan to delve into these stories and offer reflections. I'm not sure where it will lead me. But I'm remembering some of my past reflections on Lent, Holy Week, and East (see "Thoughts Before Holy Week: Talk About the Passion" and reflections on the R.E.M. lyric "not everyone can carry the weight of the world") and feeling that it may lead me toward some basics that will help me on my journey.

Related post

Searching the story of Noah for insight about the situation we face, what we might do about it, and where God is in all this. (See BFtB-WWND: "Back From The Brink": What Would Noah Do? )

How a confession of faith may help us think through our response to problems like drone killing and drone surveillance. (See Awake to Drones: Confessions of Faith)

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