He sat down in front of the young adult group one Sunday evening. An Australian whom our minister had got to know. Let’s say his name was Roger. “Hello”, he began, “my name is Roger, I am a Christian and I am alcoholic”. To the ears of a very naive young Christian in their early twenties (nowadays that would make me a Millennial) that seemed odd. It got my attention. But the combination of those two things – Christian and addict – didn’t seem to fit. But over the next hour or so, Roger unpacked with some honesty his journey into addiction and faith. It opened my eyes. That for Roger, each day was a battle to find freedom. The desire of the addict was never fully going away. But each day he stayed off the bottle was a victory, one that he asked Jesus to give him, one more step towards freedom.
I don’t know if you have been following each of the twelve steps as we have journeyed towards freedom. Freedom from our addiction to fossil fuels that are driving climate change and rubbishing our environment. Towards freedom for the natural world that God’s redemptive heart is to “liberate from its bondage to decay” (Rom 8v21). A journey recognising our powerlessness and seeking a deeper conversion to God’s purpose. Going deeper than “greenwash”, confessing our climate sins and being ready and willing to change. Listening to the voice of so many vulnerable people around the world facing both a COVID and climate emergency just as acute. Willing to take practical steps to mitigate the impact of our lives on theirs and the life of the natural world, whose myriad forms of life face extinction at one hundred times the natural rate. And not just for a moment, but to endure in a new way of living as disciples that shares God heart for his good creation. Goodness perhaps you have increasingly been aware of through lockdown and over the summer as we have enjoyed more time outdoors. I’ve taken to sitting in the garden over the summer for my daily prayer time reflecting upon what its plants and wildlife, and the wideness of the sky teach me about God, sensing the divine presence.
But this journey is not about ticking off the steps. Nor does it end here. Looking ahead, these steps need to inspire us to a new season of renewal in how we live as disciples. I guess this is one difference from the journey to being addicted to alcohol and being addicted to climate changing fossil fuels. With alcohol, the only solution is to stop using it and engaging in a daily battle for freedom. Our addition to fossil fuels is more difficult to deal with. Having shared this journey, have you stopped using fossil fuels? Not by a long shot! On the day I write this on September the 12th 2020, Carbon Dioxide makes up 411 parts per million of the atmosphere. A year ago, it was 408 parts per million. The global COVID lockdown has had little impact. We are all trapped in this addiction because our lives are embedded in a global economic structure reliant on fossil fuels that seems beyond our control. Already one degree warmer than 200 years ago, the Earth will warm by up to 4 degrees by the end of the century if nothing is done, when even the Gen Z’s will be old never mind the Millennials!
Perhaps you know all this. But has it brought spiritual awakening? The last of the twelve steps is “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” So, how are you going to do that? Is your spiritual wakening to climate change enough to make you think how to include the issue in your ministry as a leader? To encourage the church to take it up on their agenda. To let it reshape your sharing the gospel, and joining with God’s mission to your neighbourhood and the whole Earth?
Perhaps you are already doing this. A lone voice struggling to heard among all the other demands that face us as Christians and churches. Seeking growth to stem continual decline. Reaching out to Millennials. Pioneering. Speaking up for economic and racial justice. It can be hard to keep on alone. It can be hard to be released from addition and when you don’t have others to support you. That why the Twelve Step programme of AA and other groups is worked out in community.
At the start of September, to coincide with Climate Sunday, BUEN was launched. The Baptist Union Environment Network. Gathering people across the Baptist Together family who share a concern for God’s “buen” – good – creation, over climate change and the environment. Connecting within our Associations people who want to share their concern and passion to inspire others. To share in God’s mission to care for creation. Enabling Baptists Together to work for justice for creation and people impacted by environmental change. And releasing and listening to the voice of children, Gen Z and Millennials whose future world is being shaped by our lives today.
A community of people, seeking to be free from addiction. Supporting and encouraging one another, sharing the invitation to share in God’s mission to care and redeem creation with others. You can discover more and how people and churches are already responding on the BUEN Facebook page, on Twitter and in the Baptist Union website – http://www.baptist.org.uk/BUEN . Or you can read about in the latest Baptist Together magazine. To get involved, you can email BUEN at BUEnvNet@outlook.com .
This year is an important one for responding to climate change. In just over a years’ time, the UN Climate Conference will convene in Glasgow. It’s vital that the nations of the world accelerate their response. We need a 4-degree shift in the way our global society works if we are to counter a 4-degree shift in our climate. And if we are going to play our part, raise up a shared prophetic voice, we need a 4-degree shift in our discipleship too. It’s going to take a while, but we don’t have long. Finding freedom from this addiction is urgent. The world is already 1-degree warmer, and we and creation are feeling the impact of that. We need to begin a journey of 1 degree shifts in our discipleship to bring us towards loving creation as God does, will all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. A daily battle towards freedom.
And despite all the doom and gloom that we hear about climate change, there is hope. Remember the power of the butterfly. Something I learnt as a meteorologist. It’s the way the weather and climate works. A butterfly can flap its wings over South America, and 5 days later you can have a tornado in Texas. Small things matter. Didn’t Jesus say something similar. Yes, I think he did.
“‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.’” (Matt 13v31-32)
This blog is the final part of a series of 12 from Dave Gregory. To see previous blogs in the series, please click here.