Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter April 28, 2024 Delivered by the Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas All Saints Episcopal Church, Worcester 1 John 4:7-21 John 15:1-8

Earth Day: Abide in love

My message today boils down to three words: Abide in love. I hope you’ll keep listening, but I will confess right up front that everything I have to say will be a riff on that. Years ago, when I was in seminary, someone told me that a preacher should never say the word “love” in a sermon unless the readings assigned for the day clearly justified it. It’s advice I’ve ignored in pretty much every sermon I’ve ever preached, but if any day called for preaching about love, today would be the day. By my count, the word “love” shows up in some form a full 29 times in today’s passage from the First Letter of John: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love…” (1 John 4:7-8). And so on.

And there’s another word that gets almost as brisk a workout in today’s readings: the word “abide.” That one shows up 14 times in our readings from the Letter of John and the Gospel of John. Put them together, and here’s what you get: “Abide in love,” and John himself will say it: “Those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them” (1 John 4:16b).
At All Saints Church, Worcester, with the Rev. Sam Smith (Rector) & the Rev. Meredyth Ward (Priest Associate)
Abide in love. There’s rich meaning in those words on every level. To start with the most interior level, what would it be like for our minds to abide in love? Our minds are often quite scattered and distracted, jumping from one thing to the next like drops of oil bouncing on a hot frying pan. Moment by moment our minds are looking ahead and making plans; now they’re looking back into the past; now they’re analyzing and judging, having opinions about this and that: I like it, I don’t like it. Abiding is different. Abiding in love means that our agitated, jumpy minds learn to become steady so that we can rest in the present moment, giving everything we do our full attention. Abiding in love can mean what’s sometimes called practicing the presence of God: we find ways throughout the day to keep bringing our awareness back to God’s loving presence, maybe by repeating the name of Jesus or by bringing awareness to our breath, consciously breathing in God’s love every time we inhale. Abiding in love can mean taking regular time to pray alone and in silence so that we can listen to the inner voice of love that is always sounding in our hearts. We tend to think that we have to reach out for God, as if God were far away, a distant destination we will eventually reach, maybe after we die. But in fact, as many spiritual teachers attest, through an attentive practice of quiet prayer we come to realize that God already abides within us, that God is our Source and is simultaneously within and beyond us. Abide in love! What an invitation that is to go through the day with an intimate sense of God’s presence! The invitation speaks at a wider level, too, in our relationships with other people. What would it look like if you were abiding in love in your contact with others? Abiding in love might mean renewing the intention to be honest and vulnerable and real; it might mean listening carefully to someone, offering encouragement and support, trying to “be there” for the other, even if it comes at a cost to ourselves; it might mean the hard work of admitting mistakes, of apologizing and making amends; it might mean reaching out in love to those who are different or forgotten, to the stranger, the marginalized, the lost. Abide in love – that’s about creating and cultivating relationships that flow from the love that God’s Spirit is always pouring into our hearts (Romans 5:5). But there’s an even larger level to think about: what might it mean to abide in love in relation to the living world around us? Jesus invites us in today’s Gospel to abide in him as he abides in us. To express that intimacy, he uses an image from nature: he is the vine, and we are the branches – that’s how close we are to him. Have you ever noticed how many of his parables and stories use natural images?  I think of him speaking about sheep and seeds, about sparrows, lilies, weeds, and wheat. Jesus lived close to the Earth. In the Gospels we see him walking along the seashore and up mountains, taking boats out on the lake, spending weeks alone in prayer in the wilderness. Jesus understood the inherent sacredness not only of human beings but also of the whole created world, all of it lit up with the presence of God. And his life, death, and resurrection was good news not only for human beings but also for the rest of the living world. The Bible tells us that God loved the whole world into being, sustains all things through the Holy Spirit, and through Christ redeemed and reconciled all things in heaven and on earth “by making peace through the blood of the cross” (Colossians 1:19). Protecting the Earth that God entrusted to our care is not just an “add-on,” a sideline or optional hobby for a few Christians who call themselves “environmentalists” – it is central to being Christian. So, when Jesus says, “Abide in love,” I hear a summons to take hold of the deep ecological meaning of what it means to follow him. We need to hear that call to abide in love, for we have broken faith with the living world. Our society’s relentless extraction and burning of coal, gas, and oil is pushing our planet wildly out of balance. Every living system is in decline and the web of life is unraveling before our eyes. The world keeps breaking records for heat, and last year was the warmest year on record, by far. We now live in a world where atmospheric rivers can fill the sky and a month of rain can fall in one day; where wildfires can be so intense that they create their own weather; where hurricanes can be so fierce that we need to create new categories for storms. It’s not surprising that many of us can lie awake at night, wondering what the future will hold for our children. So – now is the time to reclaim our God-given connection with the earth. Now is the time to renew our union with God and all God’s creation, which includes not just our human fellows but all living creatures and the larger eco-systems on which we all depend. I hope you’ll join me after the service to talk about what we can do. Now is the time, as theologian Sallie McFague would say, to recognize that the world is not a hotel, but our home.1 When we visit a hotel, we may feel entitled to use copious amount of hot water, to throw towels on the floor, to use and discard everything in sight and then to head to the next hotel – in short, to exercise what she calls the “Kleenex perspective” of the world.  But when we realize that in fact the earth is our home – that God created it and loves every inch of it and entrusts it to our care – then everything changes. We realize that we live here; we belong here; we can no longer tolerate a lifestyle that exhausts the planet’s resources and that treats land, sea, and sky alike as receptacles for waste. In a few moments we will share the bread and wine of the Eucharist, given to us by God in Christ with such tenderness and at such great cost. We will gather at that holy table, as we always do, so that everything within us and around us can be lifted up and blessed – not only the bread and the wine, but, also, we ourselves, and the whole creation, every leaf of it and every grain of sand. Sharing the Eucharist helps us to perceive at last not only our own belovedness, our own blessedness in God, but also the fact that everyone is beloved, all beings are blessed. Everyone and everything are part of a sacred whole, and all living things are kin. In the strength of the blessed and broken bread and of the blessed and poured-out wine, we dare to hope that human beings will respond with grateful hearts and come to treat the world not as an object to exploit, but as a gift to receive, as something perishable and precious. We dare to hope that we will become at last who we were made to be, a blessing on the earth, a people who abide in love.   1. Sallie McFague, A New Climate for Theology: God, the World, and Global Warming, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008, p. 53.
Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Easter April 20, 2024 Delivered by the Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Southborough, MA John 10:11-18

Following the Good Shepherd on Earth Day

Friends, it’s been a joy to spend the day together, to celebrate the pilot phase of An Episcopal Path to Creation Justice, to learn from each other, and to feast on the wisdom of some of our generation’s most visionary thinkers.1 And isn’t it fitting that we end the day in worship! Worship is at the heart of everything we do.

Saying that reminds me of an afternoon ten years ago when I had just started my job as Missioner for Creation Care in the Diocese of Western Mass. There was so much we needed to figure out, like: What kind of Creation care webpages do we need to build? What material should they include? Should we start a monthly newsletter? Creating a diocesan ministry around Creation care was all so new, and we were making it up as we went along. So, what did I do? I headed straight for Vicki Ix, our diocesan Canon for Communication, so that we could have a good long talk and do some brainstorming. That’s where we came up with the framework for Creation care that we’ve been using in our diocese ever since – Pray, Learn, Act, and Advocate. It’s the framework behind An Episcopal Path to Creation Justice, and it’s one that several other dioceses around the Church have begun to pick up, too. I like this framing because it’s so comprehensive, making it clear that a full-bodied, wholehearted, clear-eyed response to our Gospel calling to love God and neighbor commits us to keep learning, to keep acting, to keep advocating, and – yes – to keep praying.
With the Rev. Rachel Field, Project Manager of An Episcopal Path to Creation Justice
You’ll notice that in the sequence – Pray, Learn, Act, and Advocate – we put Pray first. We could have lined the words up alphabetically, so they begin with Act, but to me it was important to begin with Pray. Prayer is at the heart of everything we do. I think of that wonderful prayer for guidance in our prayerbook, the one where we ask God to direct us in all our doings so that “in all our works begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy Name” (For Guidance, 832). Prayer comes first, before we do a thing. Prayer comes in the middle, in the very midst and heat of action. Prayer comes at the end, as we let go and put the results in God’s hands. Today our prayers take place on the weekend before Earth Day and the weekend in Easter when we celebrate Jesus as our Good Shepherd. Scripture gives us many ways to imagine Jesus. In the Gospel of John, for instance, Jesus names himself as “the bread of life” (6:35), “the light of the world” (8:12), “the door” (10:7), “the true vine” (15:1).  Each image has its own resonance and meaning, but Jesus as “the good shepherd” is the image that many of us treasure most. I am grateful that this year Earth Sunday coincides with Good Shepherd Sunday, for I need to be drawn again into Jesus’ consoling and empowering presence. Maybe you do, too. As we take stock of the living world around us and consider the faltering health of our planet, we recognize that the path our society has traveled for the last two centuries has led to an unprecedented human emergency: we are hurtling toward climate catastrophe and watching the web of life unravel before our eyes. Great populations of creatures – even entire species – have vanished in less than 50 years. In what scientists call a “biological annihilation,” human beings have wiped out more than half the world’s creatures since 1970. Meanwhile, the relentless burning of fossil fuels and the logging of forests are accelerating climate change, pushing our planet to break records of all kinds. Last year was the world’s warmest year on record, by far. Linked to these ecological challenges are the social justice challenges of economic inequity and white racism. Racial justice is so closely tied to climate justice that I’ve heard it said that we wouldn’t have climate change without white supremacy. Where would we put our urban oilfields, our dumping grounds and trash, our biomass plants and toxic incinerators – if we weren’t willing to sacrifice Black, indigenous, and people-of-color communities? The Sierra Club’s Director of Organizational Transformation, Hop Hopkins, has pointed out that, “You can’t have climate change without sacrifice zones, and you can’t have sacrifice zones without disposable people, and you can’t have disposable people without racism.”2 In a world of so much injustice, violence, and uncertainty, where do we turn for guidance, solace, and strength? We turn to the Good Shepherd of our souls. How does his presence speak to you today? One thing I notice is that, as our good shepherd, Jesus holds everyone and everything together. A shepherd is the person charged with keeping the flock intact, united, and heading in the right direction. I find it reassuring to contemplate the image of God in Christ drawing us into something unified and whole, because right now so much seem to be splintering and breaking apart. The tapestry of life that was once intact is being torn apart as greenhouse gas emissions disrupt the planet’s atmosphere. Our human communities are likewise being torn apart by political division, economic division, racial division. But when we turn to the Good Shepherd, we touch the sacred unity within and beyond all things. We touch the Ground of our being. We meet the One through whom all things were made, in whom all things hold together, and toward whom all things converge (Colossians 1:16-17). At a time when so much seems to be divided and falling apart, we’re invited to sense the underlying wholeness and unity of all things and to sense the love that embraces all things, connects all things, sustains all things. On the surface, in the realm of our five senses, we may notice only differences, only what separates us from each other, but in the deep center of reality we meet the good shepherd who is holding everything together and luring us into communion with each other and with God. We hear the shepherd’s voice when we take time to quiet ourselves in prayer, to sit in solitude and silence and listen to the inner voice of love that is always sounding in our hearts. The good shepherd is the one who knows us through and through and who calls us each by name. Held in the embrace of that intimate love, we don’t have to keep trying to hold ourselves together – we are free to let go, free to fall apart, free to let ourselves feel our grief, feel our anger and fear as we respond to the climate crisis and to all the challenges of our lives. The good shepherd is there to hold what we cannot hold by ourselves, there to listen, there to protect and keep company, there to help us understand how deeply we are loved – and not just we ourselves, but all people – and not just all people, but all beings, the whole of God’s creation. That very personal experience of being loved keeps getting larger! The circle of love keeps expanding! As Jesus says, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16-17). It’s as if, beneath all the ways that human beings try to separate ourselves from each other and from the rest of the natural world, presuming that we can dominate and destroy with impunity – Jesus keeps calling us forward into one living, sacred whole.
One of our three speakers, Robin Wall Kimmerer, gave a moving presentation about what it means to live in harmony with and to restore the land.
We belong together for we are all kin. Our Good Shepherd created, redeems, and sustains the whole Creation, and that’s why we’re using such expansive prayers today – prayers that seek to honor the sacredness of the whole living world that is so lit up with the presence of God. We may be praying inside a building today, but our prayers are joining the prayers that are already going on outside, uttered in the wind and sunshine and by the birds and trees! Our voices are joining the voices of all Creation as we give thanks to God for loving us into being. When we tap into that deep-down truth of our basic belovedness, we discover fresh energy for life. We experience the same wave of Easter hope that filled the first followers of Jesus. When they saw that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, when they met the Risen Christ in their midst and in their hearts, when they realized that life and not death would have the last word and that nothing could separate them from the love of God, their lives were charged with fresh meaning and purpose. They realized that they belonged to a sacred mystery that was larger than themselves, to a love that would never let them go. Sure – they were still mortal and frail, still vulnerable and imperfect people in a big, chaotic world, but they knew that they participated in a long story of salvation to which they could contribute, every moment of their lives, by choosing compassion over indifference, kindness over cruelty, love over fear. Their inner liberation gave them courage to resist the forces of death and destruction, and to obey God rather than any human authority (Acts 5:29). Indeed, the first Christians got into all kinds of trouble. Peter and the other early Christians were accused of “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6), for their devotion to the Good Shepherd apparently led many of them to spend as much time inside as outside the walls of a jail. Their witness to a transcendent, all-embracing Love shook the foundations of their society. That same wave of Easter hope fills Christians today and carries us now, every one of us who feels impelled to join our Creator in re-weaving the web of life, in building a gentler and more just society, and in getting us into what Representative John Lewis called “good trouble” as we fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground and to dismantle white supremacy. In a moment we will be nourished at this table as we share in Christ’s body and blood, and then we’ll hold a simple ceremony of commissioning as we bless each other on our way. On this Easter-Earth-Day weekend, we give thanks for the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for us, and we renew our resolve to be a blessing to the Earth that God entrusted to our care.   _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 1. At our Earth Day conference we heard from Robin Wall Kimmerer, Bill McKibben, and Mary Evelyn Tucker. 2. Hop Hopkins, “Racism Is Killing the Planet” The ideology of white supremacy leads the way toward disposable people and a disposable natural world, June 8, 2020,  

This is a slightly adapted text for a video I created at the request of the Episcopal Church in Colorado as part of its Lenten series, “Journey through Lament: Leaning into the Brokenness of Our Communities and World.” The YouTube video is available here.

At the end of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, the officiant sometimes concludes the service with this line from Paul’s Letter to the Romans: “May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Our God of hope wants us to abound in hope! Hope is one of the great Christian virtues, but honestly, given the social and ecological breakdown going on all around us, where do we find hope? How do we maintain it? Take climate change, for instance. The relentless extraction and burning of coal, gas, and oil is pushing our planet wildly out of balance. Every living system is in decline and the web of life is unraveling before our eyes. We now live in a world where atmospheric rivers can fill the sky and a month of rain can fall in one day; where wildfires can be so intense that they create their own weather; where hurricanes can be so fierce that we need to create new categories for storms.

What shall we say about hope? Hope is forward-facing – it’s the capacity to look toward the future with confidence that something good is ahead – but then we learn that by 2050, over a billion people could be displaced due to natural disasters and climate change.1 Or we learn that current global climate policies set the world on a path to heat by about 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100, which would threaten modern human civilization within the lifespan of children born today.2 Hear things like that and it’s easy to be overcome by helplessness and by what theologian Sallie McFague calls a “crushing state of futility.”3 Say the word “hope” too glibly and it reeks of escapism and wishful thinking.

But I’m here to tell you that it’s precisely in a time like this, when the stakes are so high, that we need to recover the power of Christian hope.

What happens in your body when you don’t feel hope? If you’re like me, you contract. When I go into a hopeless place about the climate crisis, I feel small, helpless, alone. There’s nothing I can do, nothing to be done, it’s all going to hell, and I might as well quit trying to change that – might as well curl up in a ball of anxiety and despair, or distract and numb myself – maybe with entertainment, a drink, shopping, something.

Hope feels different in the body. Hope expands us, it connects us, it moves us out of withdrawal into engagement, out of isolation into relationship. When we’re in a hopeful place, we find energy and courage to act. We know that what we do matters and that even if we can’t do everything, we won’t refuse to do the something that we can do.

How do we nourish hope? It helps to remember that hope does not exist on its own. St. Paul repeatedly links hope with other virtues, other powers of the soul, such as faith and love. In his First Letter to the Corinthians, he writes: “Faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). I imagine hope standing in the middle, holding hands with her two sisters – faith and love.

So, when we find ourselves in a hopeless place, it’s good to remember faith. Take hold of faith! Faith is confidence in things not seen (Hebrews 11:1), in the hidden God who sent us into this world, who is with us now, and who will welcome us home at our journey’s end. Hope arises from faith, because with the Unseen One who loves me, I can step into the future, asking: What shall we do together? I love You and I want to live and act in alignment with You. Even if I see no outward hope, my hope is in You. And I know that whatever happens, whether I live or die, I am yours (c.f. Romans 14:8).

Again, when we find ourselves in a hopeless place, it’s good to remember love. There is so much to love in this beautiful world of ours, so much that we want to save. We can’t save it all, but we can commit ourselves to saving everything we can. Likewise, we can hold in mind the young people in our lives with whom we have a heartfelt connection to the future. Our love for those young people strengthens our resolve to live and act in hope. We don’t want to fail them. We want to protect, as best we can, the conditions that will make their lives safe and peaceful and possible in the decades ahead. What do you love so much that you would give everything, perhaps your very life, to protect it?

And maybe we haven’t even met the ones who most count on us to be living signs of hope. Terry Tempest Williams writes, “The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come.”4

Christian hope, fortified by faith and love, can keep us steady in a turbulent time. Jesus sets before us a great hope that the reign of God will come on Earth. As long as we live, we intend to pray and work for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in heaven. That’s our big mission, our constant hope, the hope that will never fade away. In the near term, our hopes must be flexible and multiple, like strategic plans that we change as needed while we carry out the larger mission. In the near term, hope is a shapeshifter: depending on outer circumstances, our hopes change; we hope for this, we hope for that, and our hopes ebb and flow, rise and fall, depending on how things are going and how things turn out. Of course, that’s life, that’s normal, that’s how it works, but if that kind of hope – hope in the things of this world – is all we’ve got, we are vulnerable to despair: if my candidate wins, if that policy passes, if my biopsy comes back clean – hurray! my hope is fulfilled! And if I don’t get the outcome I want, then my hope drains away. Unless I have some other, deeper source of hope, I bounce around like a little boat on the surface of the ocean.

Christian hope gives us the deep grounding we need: it springs from deep within us and is replenished day by day from our ongoing relationship with a God who loves us and all creation and who will never let us go. Christian hope sets us free to release the false hopes to which we’ve probably been clinging – hopes like: “When it comes to climate change, everything will turn out fine. Progress will continue. Experts will figure this out. Someone else will fix this.” Such idle hopes are fantasies that give hope a bad name – no wonder “hope” in climate circles is sometimes denounced as a sop and a drug, as nothing more than “Hope-ium” to soothe us, to keep us passive, quiet, and feeling good.

But that’s not the same as Christian hope. Christian hope is not some vague “pie in the sky when you die” – no, it looks squarely at the truth and accepts with bracing clarity the reality and tragedy of sin and suffering. Let’s not kid ourselves. Modern society has overshot the planet’s limits. We’re living as if the Earth had no limits, as if we can extract, burn, consume, and waste to our heart’s content, without harmful consequence. No wonder the living world is being crucified and our complex society is reeling and might collapse. We do well to stand at the foot of the cross, to acknowledge our sorrow, guilt, and shame, and to pray for guidance and forgiveness. Our faith gives us space to lament and grieve – to love what God loves and to weep with a broken heart with Jesus.

Christian hope accepts reality, but acceptance is not the same as resignation. Christian hope rejects defeatism and spurs us into action. And it gives direction and purpose to our lives. God has planted in our hearts a deep desire, an unquenchable hope for justice, for kindness, for the Earth to be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. This is the world that I hope for, and when that hope is held before my eyes, I know what I should do.

The cross is sometimes held before a Christian’s eyes when they are on the point of death. Why? Because in the cross is our hope: amidst agony, violence, and death, amidst humiliation and shame, amidst the worst that human beings can do to each other and to the suffering Earth, God’s loving power and presence endure. Through the power of God revealed on the cross, life will rise again from the dead, though we don’t know how.

That’s the fierce and holy hope that sends us out to plant gardens and save forests, to install solar panels and build resilient communities, to listen to the voice of indigenous people and racial minorities, to push banks to quit funding fossil fuels, to lobby for smart regulations, to vote for climate champions, to change our lifestyle – what we buy, what we eat, how we build and heat our homes. It pushes us out, it drives us to connect with groups like Greenfaith, Third Act, and One Home One Future, and even to carry out acts of civil disobedience and spend time in jail.

The historian and activist Rebecca Solnit describes hope well when she says: “Hope is not like a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky… Hope is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency…Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal… Hope,” she says, “calls for action; action is impossible without hope…To hope is to give yourself to the future, and that commitment to the future makes the present inhabitable.”5

So, here we are, breathing in God’s Spirit with every breath, standing in hope with faith and love beside us, renewing our resolve to do everything we can to save life as it has evolved on Earth, even as we let go the outcome and entrust the results to God.

I’ll end with this. Years ago, I tried to name my ultimate hope and what I wanted to embody in my life. I came up with this statement: I am the possibility of the love of God being fully expressed in the world. That’s my North Star – in a sense that’s my identity, who I truly am, the purpose for which I was born. Until the day I die I want to be the possibility of the love of God being fully expressed, fully known, fully embodied in the world, no matter what happens. That’s my deepest hope. How would you name yours?

Here’s what I want to say: Decide what you hope for and then live inside that hope.


Questions for reflection and discussion:

1. What happens in your body when you don’t feel hope?
2. Have you ever thought of hope as having power?
3. The Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas says that hope is forward facing. What do you think she means by this?
4. Hope moves us out of withdrawal and into engagement. What is something you can do personally when it comes to the changing climate and ecological devastation? What is something we can do together?
5. What is the difference between hope and Christian hope?
6. The Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas says that Christian hope holds hands with faith and love. How do you nourish your hope with faith and love, so it doesn’t fade away?
7. What does it look like to take hold of faith when we’re in a hopeless place?
8. What do you love so much that you would give everything, perhaps your very life, to protect it?
9. How do we share our deep Christian hope with people outside our congregations?
10. The video mentions Rebecca Solnit’s quote that “Action is impossible without hope,” and “Hope should shove you out the door.” How can you commit to the future so that the present is inhabitable?
11. The Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas says that her ultimate hope is to be “the possibility of the presence and love of God being fully expressed in the world.” She invites us to name our ultimate hope and to live inside it. What is your ultimate hope?

The video can be viewed on YouTube here.



3. Sallie McFague, A New Climate for Theology: God, the World, and Global Warming (Minneapolis: Fortress Press: 2008), p. 157.

4. Terry Tempest Williams, Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert

5. Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities (Chicago, IL: 2004, 2006, 3rd ed.), p. 4


Rev. Margaret created a short video for the Episcopal Church in Colorado,“Climate Crisis & Reorienting Ourselves to Hope.” It’s the final video in a five-week Lenten series for the diocese, entitled Journey through Lament: Leaning into the Brokenness of Our Communities and World.

You can view the video here.

Questions for reflection and discussion:

1. What happens in your body when you don’t feel hope?
2. Have you ever thought of hope as having power?
3. The Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas says that hope is forward facing. What do you think she means by this?
4. Hope moves us out of withdrawal and into engagement. What is something you can do personally when it comes to the changing climate and ecological devastation? What is something we can do together?
5. What is the difference between hope and Christian hope?
6. The Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas says that Christian hope holds hands with faith and love. How do you nourish your hope with faith and love, so it doesn’t fade away?
7. What does it look like to take hold of faith when we’re in a hopeless place?
8. What do you love so much that you would give everything, perhaps your very life, to protect it?
9. How do we share our deep Christian hope with people outside our congregations?
10. The video mentions Rebecca Solnit’s quote that “Action is impossible without hope,” and “Hope should shove you out the door.” How can you commit to the future so that the present is inhabitable?
11. The Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas says that her ultimate hope is to be “the possibility of the presence and love of God being fully expressed in the world.” She invites us to name our ultimate hope and to live inside it. What is your ultimate hope?

I want to tell a story about what it was like to be arrested for the first time. Why tell this story now? Because climate change is accelerating. Because we need to consider every possible tool at our disposal to preserve a habitable world. Because deep social change requires a movement of disciplined, peaceful warriors for life. Because we hear the call to serve something larger than ourselves. Because sometimes that call drags us out of our comfort zone.

Before I tell the story, here come three clusters of reflection questions.

  • Under what conditions would you consider being trained in the principles and practices of peaceful civil disobedience? Under what conditions would you consider supporting people who were risking arrest? Under what conditions would you risk arrest yourself?
  • Who are the people who inspire you to do more than you thought possible? With whom do you hold hands, literally or figuratively, when you step out to make a difference in the world?
  • Gandhi said, “My life is my message.” What is your message?

The background: After years of combining parish ministry and climate activism, in 2001 I decided to head to Washington, DC, to join a brand-new (now defunct) interfaith group, Religious Witness for the Earth, in protesting the Administration’s energy policy and its intention to expand oil production in the Arctic.

On the first day we learned about oil drilling and the Arctic, about climate change and fossil fuels. On the second we lobbied our members of Congress and studied the disciplines of non-violent civil disobedience. On the third, about a hundred of us marched down Independence Avenue in religious vestments, carrying banners and singing. When we reached the Department of Energy, an enormous stone structure surrounded by police, we held a brief worship service. So far, everything was legal. Then came the part that wasn’t.

What follows is an excerpt from an essay1 I wrote about the decision to carry out civil disobedience and the experience of being arrested and spending time in jail.


The worship service was coming to an end. We sang “Amazing Grace,” and then the twenty-two of us who had decided to risk arrest joined hands and walked slowly to the doors of the Department of Energy.

I felt us cross an invisible boundary. With the others, I stepped over a threshold I could not see. I walked out of my ordinary life.

I am neither a lawbreaker nor a thrill-seeker. More often than not, I follow the rules – even enforce them. I fasten my seat belt, don’t cheat on taxes, write thank you notes, and stand up when the band plays our national anthem. But here I was, intentionally and publicly breaking the law. As if some inner revolution had quietly taken place, the old “me” was no longer in charge. Whatever security I’d felt in operating within the rules was gone. That’s partly why I felt so frightened as I left the safety of the circle and moved toward the door: I hardly recognized myself.  I hardly knew who I was.

Among the protesters were (in back) Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb & Rev. Robert K. Massie, and (in front) Rev. Rich Fournier, Rev. Andrea Ayvazian, Rev. Kate Stevens, Rev. Fred Small, Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas

We stand or kneel in prayer, our backs to the building.

The pavement under my knees is hard.  At home, I often sit on a meditation cushion to pray. Today there is no cushion, just the weight of my body against stone.  I lift up my hands. I’m dressed for Holy Communion. I might as well hold out my arms as I do at Communion.

Instead of pews filled with parishioners, I see ranks of police and a cluster of supporters. I am afraid.  I’ve never been arrested before. Years ago, as a VISTA volunteer in Mayor Rizzo’s Philadelphia I heard countless stories of police brutality. It’s not that I really expect the same thing to happen to me – the punch in the gut, the assault behind closed doors. Still, my body tenses as I place myself against the cops, the Feds, the law.

I close my eyes. One by one we pray aloud, words thrown into space, words hurled against stone.

Is this whole thing ridiculous? I briefly open my eyes and notice a well-dressed man watching us. He strokes his tie, leans over, and says something to a fellow nearby. The two of them chuckle. I have no idea what they’re talking about, but I wonder if they think we look absurd. I suppose we do. Here we are with our jerry-rigged signs, our predictably earnest songs and prayers of protest, a foolhardy band straight out of the ‘60’s.

Defensively, I imagine confronting that mocking man with the arsenal of our credentials. “We’re no rag-tag bunch,” I want to tell him. “We’re people with doctorates and master’s degrees – nurses and ministers, writers, and accountants. Thoughtful people, educated people, professionals.”

I am distracted from prayer by this indignant outburst. “Let it go,” wisdom tells me.  “None of that matters – your degrees, your skills, your status in the world. The privileges of race and class mean nothing now. You’re a woman on your knees, that’s who you are – one human being pleading with God.”

I turn my attention back to prayer and continue to stretch out my arms. Suddenly I realize that beneath the tension, beneath the fear and self-consciousness, something else is welling up. I am jubilant.

“Lift up your hearts,” I might as well be saying to the people before me, beaming as broadly as I do at Communion.

“We lift them to the Lord,” would come the response.

How did I miss it? After years of going to church, after years of celebrating Communion, only now, as I kneel on pavement and face a phalanx of cops, do I understand so clearly that praising God can be an act of political resistance. That worship is an act of human liberation. The twenty-two of us come from different faith traditions, but each of us is rooted in a reality that transcends the rules and structures of this world. Tap into that transcendent truth, let the divine longing for a community of justice and mercy become your own deepest longing, and who knows what energy for life will be released?

I feel as defiant as a maple seedling that pushes up through asphalt.  It is God I love, and God’s green earth.  I want to bear witness to that love even in the face of hatred or indifference, even if the cost is great.

So what if our numbers are small? So what if, in the eyes of the police, in the eyes of the world, we have no power?  I’m beginning to sense the power that is ours to wield, the power of self-offering. We may have nothing else, but we do have this, the power to say, “This is where I stand.  This is what I love.  Here is something for which I’m willing to put my body on the line.”

I never knew that stepping beyond the borders of what I find comfortable could make me so happy. That shifting from self-preservation to self-offering could awaken so much joy.


  1. Adapted from “When Heaven Happens” by Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, in Heaven, ed. Roger Ferlo (NY: Seabury Books, 2007), 74-85.

This article was published on November 2, 2023, in “Going Deep,” one of two newsletters published by Third Act Faith. (You can find the article here.) The other newsletter, Third Acts of Faith, provides members and subscribers with all the latest “News & Views” for the month. To learn more and to join Third Act Faith, visit here.

I was discouraged when I boarded the bus to Manhattan. Over the years, I’ve marched, rallied, lobbied, and protested countless times to advocate for climate action, and I was ready to do it again: to join with friends and strangers to demand that President Biden take swift action to quit our suicidal dependence on fossil fuels. I knew that The March to End Fossil Fuels on September 17 would surely be the biggest march since the pandemic. It was scheduled to take place right before the first-ever U.N. climate ambition summit, and I felt honor-bound to go. But frankly I didn’t feel the high excitement that activists often enjoy before a big public march. Devotion to the cause may run deep, but activists who’ve been at it for a while can get tired. Fatigue sets in when repeated efforts yield only limited success. Why keep speaking up when it seems that few are listening?

Hawk. Photo: Robert A. Jonas

That was my weary mood as I set out on the bus-ride from Northampton to New York City. The bus was filled with fellow activists, and it was a pleasure to sit beside my friend, UCC climate champion Jim Antal. As we sped down the highway, our bus captain reviewed the logistics of the march and taught us the chants we’d use, among them: “Biden, where’s your urgency? This is a climate emergency.” “From Willow to MVP,1 keep our rivers fossil free.”

I quietly repeated the chants, but my heart wasn’t in it. I confessed as much to Jim. Where do we find the energy to keep fighting the good fight? Just then something outside the window caught my eye. I turned to look. A red-tailed hawk was soaring over the traffic. Wings outspread, it cruised to a bluff beside the highway and perched on a tree.

The glimpse of that wild bird passed in a flash but stunned me into silence. It felt like a visitation, an encounter.

Hawks are meaningful to me. I love their wild freedom and their capacity to see across vast distances. They are adaptable, resilient, and fierce. The Holy Spirit is often portrayed in Christian imagination as being like a dove – gentle and tender – but She also has qualities that remind me of a hawk. She is insistent and strong, “driving” Jesus into the wilderness (Mark 1:12). She is free (“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” 2 Corinthians:17). As we hear in the story of Pentecost, She comes with the power of a violent wind and sets our souls on fire (Acts 2:1-13). And She is like the word of God, “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow,” with a gaze that sees clearly into our depths, into “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Fierce, free, and clear-seeing – that sounds like a hawk to me.

With Fletcher Harper (Executive Director, Greenfaith, one of the organizers of the march) and Jim Antal (Special Advisor on Climate Justice, United Church of Christ)

Hours later, we were marching, thousands of us, pouring through the streets with our banners and chants and signs. The skies were blue, the air was clear, and there wasn’t a hawk in sight. But as I walked, I wondered: what would a red-tailed hawk see if she were circling overhead?

She might see this: a sprawling metropolis that seems at first glance only to suppress the natural world. Except for the green glow of Central Park, living trees are few and far between. Just about everything is built up and paved over. Vehicles move on a grid of straight lines. Canyons are formed of steel, not limestone, and filled not with birdsong but with the clamor of human voices, music, and machines – sirens, motors, horns.

Yet that clear-eyed hawk would see through the illusion that humans care only about themselves. She would have considered the 75,000 people now pouring through the city streets who had set aside the demands and routines of daily life to proclaim their concern for each other, for future generations, and for the wild world on which all life depends.

Many of the people marching wore or carried images of their brother-sister beings. Over here was a woman dressed in a polar bear suit, carrying a sign that said HELP!  Over there was someone lumbering about in a rather hilarious inflatable dinosaur suit, carrying a sign that said “Dinos thought they had time, too.” Meanwhile, a tall person was wandering through the crowd in a gauzy, cancerous, pinkish garment that erupted in bulbous shapes; this alarming creature carried a hand-lettered sign reporting (accurately) that 70% of the world’s wildlife population had vanished since 1970.2 Someone else pulled a wagon that contained a large inflatable Earth, its surface marred by a tangle of orange and yellow slips of paper to show the locations of wildfires, droughts, storms, and floods around the world.

Some symbols of nature proclaimed hope. Several men held aloft a river of thin metal hoops draped in blue paper and dangling rivulets of blue, as if a clear stream were flowing through the crowd. Other people carried trees of brown cardboard, decorated with puffs of green, symbols to remind us that even in this paved-over, built-up cityscape, we were walking in union with the river and the trees.

And how diverse we were! No doubt the hawk would see that.

Young people were marching, fired by anger and grief and the desperate longing for a livable future.

Frontline people were marching, the people whose land, water, and air are being poisoned by the extraction industries that are dismantling the web of life.

Indigenous people were marching, modern warriors in the long battle against an economic system fueled by white supremacy, greed, and the fantasy of endless expansion.

Scientists were marching, representing the inconvenient truths of physics, chemistry, and biology which humanity ignores at its peril.

People of faith were marching, proclaiming the sacredness of God’s green Earth and the dignity of every living being.

Stalwart elders were marching, some of them shuffling or wielding canes and all of them determined to make a meaningful stand for justice while they still had time.

Workers and labor organizers were marching, insisting that the transition to a new energy economy must be carried out fairly and with equity. As U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D.-NY) put it in her rousing speech at the rally, climate action requires a democratic restructuring of the economy. “What we’re not gonna do is go from oil barons to solar barons.”

I wondered if the hawk would recognize herself in us.  At our best, we, too, are like hawks: brave, fierce, and inwardly free. I wondered if the hawk’s clear eyes would look into our hearts and see the deep truth that, despite our manifest selfishness and confusion, in fact we humans truly care for each other, for those who come after us, and for our beautiful, threatened world. I wondered if maybe the hawk would glimpse in our march one small moment in the great awakening of humankind – our slow, collective discovery that we are kin to each other and to our brother-sister beings. We belong to each other, and we will rise or fall together.

I know there will again be times when my energy begins to flag. But the March to End Fossil Fuels re-connected me with the love that never ends. When we show up and do the next right thing – when we join hands with other people and with the elements and creatures of the living Earth – I know we will be surprised again by the sacred energy for life that pours through us anew.

I imagine that hawk wheeling over the city, seeing our love and determination, and blessing us with her fierce cry.


Selected articles about the March to End Fossil Fuels:

Tens of thousands in NYC march against fossil fuels as AOC hails powerful message (The Guardian, Sept. 17, 2023)

Episcopalians march to ‘End Fossil Fuels’ ahead of UN climate summit (Episcopal News Service, Sept. 17, 2023)

Bill McKibben, “Back on the march: A superlative Manhattan day in pictures” (Substack, Sept. 17, 2023)

Tens of thousands of climate activists march in NYC (United Church of Christ, Sept. 19, 2023)

1. In March 2023, the Biden administration approved the Willow Project, a massive operation by ConocoPhillips to drill for oil on the plain of the North Slope of Alaska in the National Petroleum Reserve. Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is a fracked-gas pipeline through Virginia and West Virginia that was fast-tracked in June 2023 through a debt-ceiling agreement. Rose Abramoff, a climate scientist who attended the March to End Fossil Fuels, recently chained herself to a massive drill and helped to temporarily stop construction of the MVP pipeline. She is believed to be the first American climate scientist to risk a felony in an act of climate protest against fossil fuel projects.  #StopWillow, #StopMVP

2. The Living Planet Report issued in 2022 by the World Wildlife Fund reports on what scientists describe as the sixth mass extinction, a biological annihilation.

Why do we need to preach on Creation care?

In April 2023, Rev. Margaret gave the opening presentation for a webinar hosted by Church of England Environment Programme. The webinar, “Preaching for God’s World,” featured an international panel of speakers. Her presentation, “Why do we need to preach on Creation care?” is posted on the Church of England’s YouTube channel and at the top of this webpage: Environment in prayer, worship and teaching | The Church of England. The entire webinar is here: Preaching for God’s World Including the environment in your preaching – YouTube.

*UPDATE (10/19/23) Three additional dioceses have authorized these prayers, for a total of 28 dioceses:
The Rt. Rev. Patrick W. Bell
Diocese of Eastern Oregon

The Rt. Rev. Lucinda Beth Ashby
Diocese of El Camino Real

The Rt. Rev. Susan Haynes
Diocese of Southern Virginia

After a summer of alarming evidence that the global climate is increasingly unstable, with billions of people around the world experiencing heat domes, fires, floods, storms, and deadly drought, many of us feel a deep need to pray. With sober joy we welcome Creation Season this year, the season from September 1 (“Creation Day” or “Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation”) through October 4 (the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi) when Christians worldwide are invited to dedicate special prayers, study, and action to honoring and protecting the web of life that God entrusted to our care.


Earth Icon, watercolor and gold leaf, copyright 2022 Edith Adams Allison

During Creation Season this year, congregations in at least twenty-five dioceses across The Episcopal Church will be trying out fresh ways of praying with and for the natural world. A few weeks ago, my colleague, the Rev. John Lein (rector of St. Aidan’s and Christ Episcopal Churches, Downeast Maine) and I released Creation Season 2023: A Celebration Guide for Episcopal Parishes. This anthology of liturgical material, drawn from a variety of Anglican and ecumenical sources, is an updated version of a Creation Season guide that we produced last year and that was authorized by the two Episcopal dioceses of Massachusetts.

Before putting final touches on the newly updated resource, which is packed with prayers, hymns, readings, preaching ideas, and reflections on eco-theology, we decided to reach out to several other dioceses to see whether they, too, might like to authorize its use during Creation Season. By the time we published the worship guide on August 9, sixteen bishops representing seventeen dioceses had authorized the material. The list of early adopters is below. Little did I know that this was just the start.



The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Anne Reddall,
Diocese of Arizona

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Marc Handley Andrus,
Diocese of California

The Rt. Rev. Russell Kendrick,
Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast

The Rt. Rev. Kymberly Lucas,
Diocese of Colorado

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey W. Mello,
Diocese of Connecticut

The Rt. Rev. Robert Skirving,
Diocese of East Carolina

The Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh, Provisional,
Dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan

The Rt. Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano,
Diocese of Long Island

The Rt. Rev. Thomas J. Brown,
Diocese of Maine

The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates,
Diocese of Massachusetts

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, Provisional,
Diocese of Milwaukee

The Rt. Rev. Brian R. Seage,
Diocese of Mississippi

The Rt. Rev. Deon K. Johnson,
Diocese of Missouri

The Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld,
Diocese of New Hampshire

The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde,
Diocese of Washington

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Douglas John Fisher,
Diocese of Western Massachusetts

Frankly, it was thrilling to move in one year from two authorizing dioceses to seventeen. But that wasn’t the end of the story. As of this morning, eight additional dioceses have authorized Creation Season 2023: A Celebration Guide for Episcopal Parishes.

The Rt. Rev. Mark D.W. Edington
Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe

The Rt. Rev. Cathleen Chittenden Bascom
Diocese of Kansas

The Rev. Carrie Schofield-Broadbent, Bishop Coadjutor-elect
Diocese of Maryland

The Rt. Rev. Samuel S. Rodman
Diocese of North Carolina

The Most Rev. Melissa Skelton, Bishop Provisional
Diocese of Olympia

The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Diocese of Rochester

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Shannon MacVean-Brown
Diocese of Vermont

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Diana D. Akiyama
Diocese of Western Oregon

I find it deeply heartening to know that this worship resource will be used in so many dioceses across the Episcopal Church. If your bishop hasn’t yet authorized these prayers for use in your diocese during Creation Season, please urge your bishop to do so.

The unfolding tragedy (and sin) of human-caused climate change gives us a precious opportunity to re-claim the biblical vision that all of God’s creation – not only human beings – is embraced in the story of salvation. Like so many other faithful Christians, I am eager to ditch the days of praying for just one species and of imagining that the rest of God’s creation is simply “resources” put here for our (literal) disposal. Instead, we want to pray with and for God’s good earth and for all who live here, human and more-than-human, thereby being faithful to the God who creates, redeems, and sustains the whole Creation.

I trust that these prayers will help Episcopalians and all people of conscience and good will to experience the divine love that sustains all things. And, stirred by that love, to take bold action. I will give the last word to the Bishop of Maine, the Rt. Rev. Thomas J. Brown, who expressed hope that this worship guide would “ignite our prayer life (first step) so that we can act for justice (second step).”




Sermon for the Feast of the Transfiguration, August 6, 2023 Delivered by the Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas at the Chapel of St. James the Fisherman, Wellfleet, MA Exodus 34:29-35 Psalm 99 2 Peter 1:13-21 Luke 9:28-36

Transfiguration: When we see Earth shining

We couldn’t ask for more powerful readings than the ones we consider today on the feast day of the Transfiguration. Today we are summoned to the mountaintop to celebrate the transforming power of God. In our first reading, Moses is coming down from Mount Sinai, carrying the Ten Commandments that establish the covenant between God and God’s people. He has been praying on the mountain, listening to God with the love and attentiveness with which one listens to a friend (Ex. 33:11), and the skin of his face is shining (Ex. 34:29). He is radiant with God’s glory.

Today’s Gospel passage from Luke is also set on a mountain. Soon after Jesus tells his disciples that he will die and rise again, he takes with him Peter, John, and James and goes up on the mountain to pray. In the solitude of that holy mountain, with its long, sweeping vistas and its cold, clean air, Jesus’ prayer grows into an intense religious experience that recalls the experience of Moses. “While (Jesus) was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white” (Luke 9:29). To describe this change, Greek manuscripts use the word “metamorphosis” (metemorphothe); Latin manuscripts use the word “transfiguration” (transfiguratus est). Whatever you call it, it’s the same thing: at the top of the mountain, Jesus is swept up by the love that sustains the universe.  What Dante calls “the love that moves the sun and other stars”1 so completely embraces Jesus that who he really is, who he has always been, is briefly revealed.  A dazzling brightness emanates from his face, his body, even his clothes.  The sacred radiance at the center of reality is shining through him, bursting through his seams, streaming from his pores, and even the three sleepy disciples can see it. What just happened? The holy presence that secretly abides within every person and every part of the created world has suddenly, briefly become visible to the human eye. The vivid image of Jesus lit up from within aligns with the experience of mystics from every religion who speak of a vibrant, shimmering energy or light that flows through everything, although usually we don’t see it. In Asia, the cosmic life force is called chi in Chinese and prana in Sanskrit, and in many Eastern traditions, enlightenment is associated with a flow of energy throughout the body.2 Christian mystics speak of the Holy Spirit as a Presence or energy that moves through our bodies and the whole body of Creation.  For Christians, there is something deeply personal in this energy: it is the dynamic, creative Presence of the Holy Spirit. When we sense its presence in ourselves or in the outside world, God seems to light up the edges of things or to shine out from within them. We see the hidden depth behind the surface of ordinary reality.  The eternal makes itself known to us, and we may experience it as light, although it is beyond the reach of ordinary sight. That’s where the language of paradox and poetry comes in, where mystics speak of a “dazzling darkness” or a “dark radiance,” just as in this passage Luke uses the language of paradox when he describes Jesus’ experience in terms of both a dazzling light and an overshadowing cloud (Luke 9:29,34). Something about perceiving that radiant darkness awakens our love.
Breezes flow through the Chapel of St. James the Fisherman in Wellfleet, as we join the rest of the natural world in praising God.
We may not consider ourselves mystics, but anyone who has ever been overcome by the beauty of the world – anyone who, in contemplating the world, has ever experienced a wave of wonder and gratefulness and awe – anyone who has ever spent time looking into the eyes of a baby or studying the details of a leaf – anyone who has ever gazed for a while at a mountain range or watched the sparkling waters of the ocean knows what it’s like to see the hidden radiance of Christ, whose living presence fills the whole creation. Whenever we look at the world – whenever we look at each other – with eyes of love, we see the hidden radiance, the light that is shining within each person and each thing, although they may know nothing about it. Seeing the world with eyes of love is to see the world shining – to see its suffering, yes; to see its brokenness and imperfection, yes; but, also, to see it as cherished by God, as precious in God’s sight, as shining with God’s light. To see the world with eyes of love is to see it with God’s eyes. As we gaze at Jesus transfigured on the mountaintop, shining with the radiance of God, we see what Moses saw, what Jesus saw, and what poet Gerard Manley Hopkins saw: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” I believe this is one of the great gifts that people of faith can offer the world in this perilous time: the perception of creation as a sacred, living whole, lit up with the glory of God. For let’s be clear: we were born into a society that does not see the Earth like that. Most of us were not taught to see the natural world as sacred and lit up with God’s glory. It’s as if a veil were placed over our minds, just as Moses placed a veil over his face (Ex. 34:33). When our minds are veiled, we no longer see God’s glory. We see the natural world as nothing more than the backdrop to what really matters: the human drama. Nature becomes something to be ignored, used up, exploited at will, dominated, assaulted without a second thought. We experience ourselves and other human beings as essentially separate from and even “above” the rest of creation, entitled to do anything we want to it, with no regard for its integrity or value or needs or rights. By now we know where that perception of the world has taken us: scientists are reporting with alarm that the web of life is unraveling before our eyes and that human civilization is at risk of collapse. Gazing at Jesus shining on the mountain is like medicine for our troubled spirits. It removes the veil from our eyes and restores our inward sight. We are gazing on the one who loved us into being, the one who tells us that life and not death will have the last word, the one in whom all things hold together (Col. 1:17) and whose presence fills the whole creation (Eph. 4:10). We are gazing at the one who, at the end of Mark’s Gospel, commissions his disciples to go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel good news to the whole creation (Mark 16:15). That’s our mission, as disciples of Jesus: to bring good news in word and deed to the whole creation, for the whole world is shining with the love and presence of God. So, when we see God’s creation being desecrated and destroyed – when we see God’s good Earth being poisoned by toxins and pollutants, and laid waste by corporate greed – when we learn from scientists that a mass extinction event is now underway, a “biological annihilation”– when we recognize that burning coal, gas, and oil is pushing the planet to break stunning new records for heat, causing droughts, floods, and monster hurricanes, drowning cities, and accelerating wildfires – when we understand that the people hurt first and hardest by the effects of a changing climate are the poor – when we realize that, unless we change course fast, we will not leave our children and our children’s children a habitable world – then we are moved to take action. For we want to bear witness to the love of Jesus that is shining on the mountain and shining in our hearts. We want to honor the sacredness of God’s creation and to protect it from further harm. When it comes to tackling climate change, there is so much that individuals can do – maybe we can fly less, drive less, drive electric, install solar panels, avoid the clothes dryer and hang our laundry out to dry, eat less meat and move to a plant-based diet – and so on. You know the drill. Making personal changes is important, but because of the scope and speed of the climate crisis, we need more than individual action – we also need systemic change. The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states very clearly that we must transform our society and economy at a rate and scope that are historically unprecedented. To do that, we must join hands and work together for collective action. What are some possibilities?  Here on Cape Cod, we can join Faith Communities Environmental Network, which inspires eco-justice on Cape Cod and the Islands and is part of the Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative. Or we can join 350Mass, the grassroots, climate action group in Massachusetts that has a node right here on Cape Cod. If we have money or credit cards in one of the four biggest banks that fund fossil fuels – Citibank, Chase, Bank of America, or Wells Fargo – we can move our money out and join the campaign to pressure banks to stop financing fossil fuel expansion.3 If we’re over 60, we can join, the new group started by Bill McKibben just a year or two ago that has already attracted thousands of old people like me who want to do everything we can to slow climate change and protect democracy. Last but not least, in September the U.N. Secretary General will host a first-of-its-kind Climate Ambition Summit to demand that world leaders commit to stopping the expansion of fossil fuels that drive the climate emergency. I hope that you will join me and thousands of other people who will take to the streets of New York City on September 17 in the March to End Fossil Fuels, the largest climate march since the pandemic. There is so much we can do! Together we intend to build a world in which everyone can thrive. I’ve made a one-page handout of resources that you can pick up at the door to the church. Today we stand on the mountaintop, soaking up the light of Christ and letting ourselves be filled with his love. Even now, the glory that shone through Jesus Christ is shining in our hearts, longing to blaze up like fire and to melt away everything in us that is less than love. As we give ourselves to the great work of healing God’s creation, I trust that we, too, are shining. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________- 1.William Johnston, “Arise, My Love…”: Mysticism for a New Era, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2000, 115. 2. Johnston, “Arise,” 115. 3. For more information about this campaign, visit For suggestions regarding climate-friendly credit cards, check this pdf produced by 350Mass:  

A fresh breeze blew on Tuesday as almost three hundred people gathered for a climate rally in Northampton, MA. We heard from several speakers, including elders, teenagers, and faith leaders, and we chanted and sang. Then we marched down both sides of Main Street, led by an exuberant marching brass band, pausing to chant at Bank of America and TD Bank. The crowd assembled at the intersection beside the new Chase Bank office that will open at 1 King Street. Holding signs, we lined the sidewalks and cheered as about a dozen customers took turns cutting up their credit cards. Accompanied by the band’s high-spirited music, we carried out a ceremonial cutting-up of an oversized Chase Bank credit card by an oversized pair of scissors. We pledged to picket Chase Bank regularly and to make it clear that no one should bank there until it stops funding fossil fuel expansion.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette covered the story here.  Below is the statement I made as the rally began.


Photo credit: Robert A. Jonas

I am happy to say that this rally is one of about a hundred events taking place today across the U.S. as thousands of people gather inside and outside big banks to demand climate action.

Let’s begin by taking a moment to appreciate the living world around us, to notice the gift of blue sky overheard, to notice the trees and green-growing things that give us the oxygen that fills our lungs and with whom we exchange the elements of life as we breathe in and out, to notice the good Earth beneath our feet, supporting our every step.

We are here to stand up for life and we are not alone. We will speak and sing and march in the company – and with the support – of all the creatures and elements with whom we share this planet. We affirm our kinship with them, our interdependence. As we mark the vernal equinox, a day of balance between light and dark, we renew our commitment to bring life back into balance.

With every religious tradition and with people of faith and goodwill everywhere, we renew our insistence that the Earth is holy and that it was given to us to cherish and protect, not to destroy.

Some of us are here because we’re frightened. Big banks like Chase that fund fossil fuels expansion are pushing the planet to record levels of heat, causing massive droughts, floods, monster hurricanes, and fires. Yesterday’s report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes it frighteningly clear that unless we change course fast, we won’t be able to leave our children and our children’s children a habitable world.

Photo credit: Robert A. Jonas

Some of us are here because we’re sad. Big banks like Chase that fund fossil fuel expansion are unraveling the web of life before our eyes, and we weep to acknowledge what we have lost and may soon lose, from coral reefs and glaciers to predictable seasons and moderate weather.

Some of us are here because we’re angry. We’re morally outraged when big banks like Chase continue to pour money into building new pipelines and new fracking wells, although climate scientists around the world and organizations like the International Energy Agency and the United Nations have called for an end to any fossil fuel expansion.1

Fear, sorrow, anger may have brought us here. But above all, we’re here because we love. We love this beautiful Earth. We love its creatures. We love each other. The spirit of love that connects us to each other and to the land compels us to call upon big banks: Quit propping up fossil fuels! Quit funding climate chaos! Invest instead in clean energy and climate resilience and healthy communities!

People of faith and goodwill cry out: Let it be known. Let it be known. The Earth is sacred and we won’t stand idly by and let it be destroyed.

1. Vanessa Arcara, “Now more than ever: Banks must act on climate

#StopDirtyBanks #32123