Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the season in the church calendar leading up to Holy Week.
Lent is a time of reflection, repentance and reparation.
Our series of Lent Reflections this year at Christ Church and St Michael’s are on the theme of ‘Climate change & Creation’. What on earth has that got to with Lent and Lenten disciplines?
In Lent our reflection is about self-examination. As we examine ourselves both individually and collectively we find that we have failed in our responsibility towards the planet. To care for the earth as we should.
‘The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it’ (Psalm 24: 1). In a word, the earth is sacred. Creation is God’s (first) revelation to humankind: ‘Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.’ (Romans 1: 20). We understand God through what God has created.
To destroy the earth is an act of sacrilege – a violation or misuse of what is sacred. A ‘sin’ of the lowest order.
Author Francis Spufford defines ‘sin’ using the acronym THPTFTU – ‘The Human Propensity to F**k Things Up’. One Hebrew definition of sin (hattat) is simply to miss the target. When it comes to Planet Earth and the climate crisis, we most certainly have f**ked things up, missing the target (and targets) at every step.
To ‘repent’ is to turn around. To change direction. In the case of climate justice, to turn away from economic models of ‘growth’ which are destroying creation and to turn back towards a God-given model of sustainability, repairing the damage we have done.
As custodians of the planet it is incumbent upon us to make reparation for our ecological sins. True repentance is active. It is more than a prayer, requiring of action. For the Christian sin is something we are called to ‘rebel’ against.
As an eco-church Christ Church has sought to make active changes to the way we do things. Sourcing our utilities from energy efficient suppliers, planting trees to offset our carbon usage, buying eco-friendly cleaning materials & fair traded food products, and using our land sustainably, including a wildflower garden and ‘homes’ for wildlife.
Today (Ash Wednesday) we recall Jesus’ time in the ‘wild’ (Luke 4: 1-13), where He was tempted by material, spiritual and political power. These Jesus rejected before He went on to ‘proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Luke 4: 19), drawing on the notion of the Jubilee, itself a period of reparation and restoration, for the land as well as the people of the land.