From Chapter 2 of Preparing the Way: A Social Justice Study for Lent. We’re offering this free resource to you and your congregation as we walk through the season of Lent together. Download the full PDF here.
Scripture: Psalm 103: 8-14 (NAB)
Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger, abounding in kindness.
God does not always rebuke, nurses no lasting anger, has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our deeds deserve.
As the heavens tower over the earth, so God’s love towers over the faithful.
As far as the east is from the west, so far have our sins been removed from us,
As [parents have] compassion on [their] children, so the Lord has compassion on the faithful.
For [God] knows how we are formed, remembers that we are dust.
Social Justice Reflection
Lent is a time of self-evaluation, repentance, and renewal. Typical spiritual practices include prayer, almsgiving, and fasting with the purpose of preparing the believer for the celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death.
In our consumer-oriented, market-driven society, it is very difficult to grasp that we can and must do more, especially as stewards of God’s creation, as followers of Jesus’ gospel promise that he had come that all might have life and have it more abundantly.
This year, during the second week of Lent, we can demonstrate discipline in our lives, as Christ demonstrated discipline in resisting the temptations presented in the wilderness, by “fasting from carbon,” that is, to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere.
Why should we consider doing this? There are at least four reasons:
1. The carbon dioxide we are putting into the environment, in the form of greenhouse gases, is changing the climate of God’s creation. Scientists are no longer debating the basic facts of climate change.
2. The sources of these greenhouse gases are largely produced by human beings and the society we have created. The largest component of greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide which comes from the burning of fossil fuels, especially from the generation of electricity and from the modes of transportation that we use.
3. Unless we reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, the impact of these increases in greenhouse gases will be devastating for our planet, for its people—especially the poor and vulnerable—and for the plants and animals that have lived here for millions of years. Time is critical.
4. God created this earth, declared it to be good, and expects us to care for creation and to maintain its goodness for future generations.
It’s not as hard as you might think to “fast from carbon,” although we cannot give up carbon entirely as it is so intertwined with our existence. But we can use this Lenten season to reflect on the amount of carbon dioxide we each generate and to commit to reducing that amount.
And then, let us observe a holy Lent
By self-examination and penitence,
By prayer and fasting,
by works of love,
and by reading and meditating on the Word of God.
God of all, grant us humility that we may remember that we are formed by you—dust to dust, ashes to ashes. Help us to hear and understand the call to be good neighbors, to act with love and care for all that you call sacred.
God of all, grant us the ability to trust in your promises, the compassion to love and restore creation for future generations, and the insight to reject “false gospels” that encourage consumption patterns that are destructive to the web of life.
God of all, we give thanks for your trust in us as we strive to bear the fruit of justice for your creation. Give us the courage to cultivate our individual and congregational commitment to renewing your creation through our study, prayer and actions.
God of all, we confess our complicity in failing to be good stewards of your creation. We ask your forgiveness as we seek to walk gently on your earth, looking for ways to replenish what we have taken away, to heal what we have damaged.
God of all, you give us a vision of creation transformed. Grant us the will to let go of those behaviors that would keep us from imagining such a renewal. Give us the desire to work with others who understand that faith in you demands working for healing for your creation.
-Susannah Tuttle, Director, NC Interfaith Power & Light