God’s Spirit blows through most of the lectionary passages during this Pentecost month, from Psalm 104:30 (“When you send forth your spirit, they are created”) to the end of Revelation, in which the Spirit says “come.”
This Spirit, the wind (ruah) which swept over the waters of the formless earth before it creation (Genesis 1:2), is the same wind that now powers the mighty turbines sprouting up in landscapes throughout the world. In fact, all the most important elements driving renewable energy — wind, light, water, and geothermal ground — already stand out in the creation story. For millennia before fossil fuels were mined, our ancient ancestors tapped into these primary power sources.
Does the Spirit still have power to renew us today? Can God powerfully change minds, hearts, and habits? Scientists are not optimistic about human change, but many are hopeful. If we are willing, if we act, we can heal our future.
In a recent Bill Moyers interview, Anthony Leiserowitz, who directs the Yale “Project on Climate Change Communication,” cited survey results showing Americans responding to climate change in six different ways:
- 16% see the problem as serious enough to change their actions and spread the word.
- 29% believe climate change is serious but distant in time and place.
- 25% are waiting to make up their minds.
- 8% are disengaged. They’ve heard about it, but know nothing.
- 13% are doubtful. They don’t believe humans are causing it.
- 8% are dismissive. They actively promote the belief that it is a hoax.
Leiserowitz said these ‘six different Americas’ need to be approached six different ways. The bad news is that only 16% are doing anything. But the good news is that a solid 70% are engaged in some way and need encouragement. Though the “dismissives” have ruled the airwaves, they are small in number.
Do you know where your parishioners stand, what they need to know, and what leadership they are waiting for? On the day of Pentecost, according to Acts, three thousand people were added to the tiny band of disciples. This was not something the disciples woke up that morning expecting to see. But they were together in one place, open to God, and willing to spread the news. May we, like them, stand ready for the Spirit’s moving among us.
As usual, the Psalms provide much imagery for ecologically themed preaching:
- Psalm 67 (May 5) speaks of the earth yielding its increase, God’s blessing.
- Psalm 97 (May 12) describes God’s power in imagery of clouds, fire, lightning, earthquakes, and the light of dawn.
- Psalm 104:24-34, 35b (May 19) marvels at the earth, filled with God’s creatures, and extols the dependence of every living creature on God’s loving bounty.
- Psalm 8 (May 26) asks what are humans in the midst of God’s majestic works of moon, stars, and heavens.
Acts continues to relate the challenge and opportunity of dramatic change. With Pentecost, Old Testament readings return:
- Acts 16:9-15 (May 5) and Acts 16:16-34 (May 12) continue the story of the world-altering spread of the gospel in its early days.
- Acts 2:1-21 (May 19) tells of the Spirit’s power at Pentecost (see above).
- Genesis 11:1-9 (May 19, alt.) relates God’s move against the “new name” humans want to make for themselves, raising themselves heavenward from the land (adamah). Rather, scattered across the earth, they remain adam, retaining their vital relationship to the world God made.
- Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 (May 26) tells the creation story from the perspective of Woman Wisdom, who witnessed the origination of the earth’s depths, springs, mountains, fields, heavens, and sea, “rejoicing in God’s inhabited world and delighting in the human race.”
May’s second readings begin with Revelation and continue into Romans:
- Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5 (May 5) envisions the renewed city of Jerusalem, powered by God’s own glory, with a river clean as crystal, and the tree of life with fruit for every season and leaves that heal the nations.
- Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21 (May 12) invites all who are thirsty to take from the water of life.
- Romans 8:14-17 (May 19) leads up to the dramatic verses 19-21 in which all creation, subjected to futility, “waits with eager longing.”
- Romans 5:1-5 (May 26) reassures with hope in the midst of character-building endurance.
The Gospel readings from John:
- John 14:23-29 (May 5) reassures disciples of the Spirit’s presence and peace as they set out to do what has never been done before.
- John 5:1-9 (May 5, alt.) describes Jesus’ healing of a man who had been ill for 38 years, showing that no healing is impossible.
- John 17:20-26 (May 12) offers Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in future generations, modeling care not only for present friends but for those to come.
- John 14:8-17, (25-27) (May 19) reassures the disciples that they will do even greater works and offers peace for anxious times.
- John 16:12-15 (May 26) says the Spirit of truth will guide disciples into all truth, glorifying God.
Patricia Tull’s monthly column suggests ways to bring God’s creation into your preaching, drawing on the coming month’s lectionary texts. Her hope is that creation in all its splendor — “the great community” — will be remembered in preaching and worship not just occasionally, but throughout the year.