Testing the Lord

Rev. Cheryl Pyrch of (PA IPL member) Summit Presbyterian Church graciously shared her sermon from the 2013 National Preach-In on Climate Change.  For the non-Presbyterians out there wondering how she chose this reading from the many, many possibilities: many liturgically-based Protestant Christian denominations use the Revised Common Lectionary, a three-year schedule of Bible readings that specifies the texts that will be preached on a particular Sunday.  If your time is short today, skip to the last 3 paragraphs.  I have no doubt that you’ll come back for the rest.

Testing the Lord
Luke 4: 1-12

         I wonder what the devil thought, as he watched Jesus being baptized.  Now, we don’t know that he was there  – none of the gospel writers mention him  – but if he wasn’t, surely he had an informant. An informant who told him about this man from Nazareth who had the Holy Spirit descend on him like a dove.  About the voice from heaven that said, “You are my son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”  Was the devil jealous, or did he just realize Jesus would be a really big catch?  Either way, during those forty days in the wilderness  the devil did his best to tempt Jesus into disobedience.  To undermine that father/son relationship.   To perhaps make Jesus a little less beloved.  We aren’t told about all the tricks he used in those forty days, but at the end of them he made three final offers.

         “Since you are the Son of God, turn this stone into bread.”  It must have been tempting.  Jesus was famished.  But he remembered  scripture, and he knew that he didn’t receive the  power of the Holy Spirit to satisfy his own needs.  So he replied, “it is written, one does not live by bread alone.”

         Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.  “To you I will give their glory and authority; it will all be yours, if you worship me.”  It must have been tempting.  Jesus could do a lot of good as ruler of the world’s kingdoms.  But he knew that to worship the devil he’d need to disown his true parent.  So he replied, “It is written, worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”

         Finally, the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,” and “on their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”  Jesus must have been tempted.  He wouldn’t get hurt — the scriptures said so. That  would shut the devil up.  But Jesus knew that putting God to the test, making God “prove” his love, was no way to treat his father. So he replied, “it is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”  And then the devil departed from him until an opportune time.

         In climate change activist circles over the past few years there’s been a lot of discussion about how to “message” climate change.  The message that scientists are giving us is straightforward:  if we continue with business as usual, if we don’t turn from fossil fuels, we’re toast.  The rising seas will wipe out the world’s major port cities.  Droughts and floods will kill crops.  We can expect large-scale famine, especially in Africa.   One third of all plant and animal species could be wiped out as eco-systems collapse, our oceans acid wastelands.  Studies and predictions differ on the details.  There’s uncertainty about the future, and a lot depends on what we do or don’t do.  But most agree:  climate change could wipe out the human race completely.    It probably won’t come to that — glaciologist Edward Alley calls human beings the greatest weed on the planet — but it could.  More likely, our civilizations –  – organized communal life on a large scale – will come crashing down.   And we have very little time to prevent catastrophe.  We’ve already put into motion change that we can’t yet see.  When disaster is clearly upon us it may be too late.  And those are cautious, sober scientists speaking.

         But that message hasn’t gotten a lot of traction.  (Much like the nuclear threat).   Although things are beginning to change, Obama is talking about it, our national leaders act like there’s no danger.  The candidates were never asked about it during the election.  Everyone “agrees” there’s no way a climate bill will be passed by this congress.  But it’s not just politicians.   Even those of us who believe the climate is changing don’t talk about it much, or go beyond changing lightbulbs.  There are exceptions, of course, including the thousands marching on Washington today.  But still, especially in the United States, we aren’t acting in a way commensurate to the threat.  Stephen Colbert had a very funny spot this past week.  He noted that certain pundits who’ve been denying the reality of climate change were beginning to acknowledge it, but in the same breath  saying there’s nothing we can do about it — blaming China, everyone’s favorite scapegoat.   As Colbert put it, they went through the 5 stages of climate change grief:  Denial, denial, denial, denial, acceptance.  I think that’s hilarious, but we have to admit it doesn’t just apply to conservatives.  Most of us, in actions if not words, seesaw between denial and acceptance. 
         There are many reasons for our passivity.  A well funded disinformation campaign that says there’s no danger.  Paralyzing fear.  Other ministries, causes and responsibilities.   Well-founded suspicion of change.   Scientific illiteracy and the still rather abstract and future nature of the threat. .  .   But I also believe we’re listening to the devil quoting scripture in our ear; the wily serpent who says, “God will command his angels concerning you.  God won’t let humankind destroy itself. God will deliver mankind from the snare of the fowler, the deadly pestilence.  God will protect you and your descendants, and show God’s salvation.  God  promised never to send a flood upon the earth again.  Christ will come in clouds of glory.  Have faith.  Those prophets of doom are alarmists.”   

         In other words, we’re putting the Lord our God to the test.  We’re putting the Lord our God to the test with every thoughtless turning of the key in the ignition, and with every shrug of our shoulders when we hear about the melting arctic ice or drought in the Sahel.   It may be that God will protect us from extinction, and I believe we can trust in God’s love and a future with hope.  But stepping to the edge of the parapet and leaning over isn’t faith.  It’s no way to treat our heavenly father.  It’s no way to treat our divine mother, the giver of life and creator of the earth and the stars.  We’re called to love God, not to test him.  
         Our first scripture today, although dated in  specifics, tells us how to love.   By taking care of the land, this earth that God has given us to live on, and by caring for all God’s people upon it.   By giving thanks.  By standing with the alien among us.  By remembering the poor, the oppressed, the refugee — as God remembered our ancestors in Egypt.  So let’s follow the example of Jesus.  Let’s take ourselves off the pinnacle.  Let’s  repent from our self-destructive ways and raise our voices together.   Let’s renounce evil and its power in the world, and love God with all our heart, and mind and strength, loving our neighbors as ourselves.  Let’s fight climate change.
Rev. Cheryl Pyrch
Summit Presbyterian Church
Luke 4: 1-12
February 17, 2012

Working in unison

Become a Better Steward and Trustee of the Earth
The members of the Baha’i Faith in Harrisburg, PA held a very inspiring and educational event on February 9, 2013 as part of their “Devotionals and Firesides” series. The goal of this event was to study and reflect on the Holy Scripture of the Baha’i Faith which teaches how the universe and the earth were created. The earth was formed very similarly to the human body in that every organ and segment of it has a critically important role for the life of that creation. We also have to understand the importance of the ecological balance of nature which sustains all lives that depend on it.
Also, there were displays with pictures, graphs, and statistics showing the effects of the climate change on the earth. Another display showed examples of how we all can reuse, recycle, and make useful things with those items.
We will have another gathering to see The Hungry Tide DVD sent by Interfaith Power & Light, followed by discussion and planning for future actions and programs. 
Submitted by
Behzad Zandieh

Positively Green: A Service Day Alternative to State Patty’s Day

On February 23, 2013 Penn State students hold the third annual Positively Green day of service.  Last year, 30 students, faculty and staff undertook a two-hour training session, and then went out into the community, helping State College neighbors make their houses more energy efficient.

We began at 10:30 am, with a full day of activities:

10:30 AM  Training in the Frizzell Room of the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center (corner of Curtain and Allen on campus, right across from the libraries)

12:00 PM  lunch!

12:30 PM  move to local worksites to begin energy efficiency work in low-income homes

3:00 PM   regroup at Pasquerilla (with cookies!)

4:00 PM   adjourn

image10911ith financial support from the Rock Ethics Institute and generous donations from our corporate sponsors (Lowe’s and Wal-Mart),our students changed light bulbs, installed weather-stripping, and upgraded homes with low-flow shower heads and hot water pipe insulation (see more pictures here). Students also learned how to discuss energy usage and encourage folks to make lifestyle choices that save energy and protect our planet.




Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light is proud to sponsor the first student IPL in the nation—thanks, Penn State students, for being part of the climate change solution!


A Simple Wish

This letter from PA IPL member and former intern Barb Donnini was published in the Good Steward Campaign newsletter, as well as in the Centre Daily Times here.

A Simple Wish
I wish for an excellent quality of life for every human being, for biodiversity and for a great outdoors to exist for my children.

It is for these reasons, and my desire to follow moral guidelines, that I am deeply disturbed to learn of people who think climate change is not real, but is instead an elaborate scam to raise taxes.

The World Health Organization estimates that 150,000 deaths are directly attributable to climate change.

In a sick ironic twist, the people hurt the most by climate change aren’t emitting the most (or even a lot). The most affected nations are the poorest. Their citizens are barely able to subsist day to day, let alone pay to cope with the new effects of climate change on their communities (extreme drought in Africa, for example).

What’s being asked of all of us is small: Conserve energy in your home and encourage clean energy projects. This doesn’t mean changing your political party. It means signing an online petition, helping a nonprofit or supporting national policy that increases renewable energy usage.

Even if you still aren’t convinced, we can all agree that conserving energy is a good thing, if just for financial reasons.

I’d like to believe that most can identify with right versus wrong, fair versus unfair. It isn’t fair that we use much more energy than needed while so many others feel the consequences.

We have one chance at preserving the planet – the risk is too great to do nothing.

Climate Cliff

This letter from PA IPL board president Rev. Bill Thwing was published on 12/10/2012 in the Johnstown Tribune Democrat

Nation facing more ‘cliffs’ than fiscal

Three recent news stories have caught my attention.

While headlines scream that a “fiscal cliff” looms and that Republicans and Democrats can’t reach agreement, another, smaller story whispers that China and the United States have traded places as world economic powers.

Apparently, as recently as 2006, the United States was the largest trading partner around the world, with 127 countries versus China’s 70.

By 2011, that ratio had reversed, with China now serving as the largest trading partner for 124 countries and the United States serving 76.

Wow! That’s a really big “fiscal cliff.”

A second article catching my attention was “Study: CO2 emissions increase by 3 percent.”

Apparently, China and the United States have now also switched places as the world’s biggest polluter. The amount of heat-trapping pollution the world spewed rose last year by 3 percent with China being the world’s biggest carbon dioxide polluter. The United States and Germany reduced their emissions.

Worldwide, we’ve added nearly 9 ppm of CO2 emissions in only one year! That’s a huge change.

In 2006, CO2 was advancing by only 1 ppm per year. It looks to me like we humans are heading for a “carbon cliff.”

Which cliff is worse: The domestic fiscal cliff that leads to another recession, the balance of trade cliff that leads to the loss of world economic dominance for the United States, or the carbon cliff that leads to climate chaos, failing nations, mass extinctions and the potential collapse of human civilization?

All these cliffs can be avoided simply by agreeing to work together on solutions for the common good.

Rev. William C. Thwing


The link to the letter online is here: http://tribune-democrat.com/editorials?start=10 Rev. Thwing’s is the second letter.

Congratulations to Cool Congregations 2012 Pennsylvania Honoree

For immediate release December 12, 2012                           
Also posted online right here!

For more information: (contact Cricket Eccleston Hunter at chunter@paipl.org/814.876.2597)
Pennsylvania congregation wins national honors
Faith communities lead the way on saving energy, addressing climate impacts
In a year marked by increasing climate disruption, a Johnstown congregation has been honored for its participation in the 2012 Cool Congregations Challenge.  St. Paul’s United Church of Christ has received an Honorable Mention for its efforts in Engaging Congregants and Communities, and is among more than three dozen congregations honored this year by Interfaith Power & Light, a national organization mobilizing a religious response to global warming.
 “This year, we have witnessed the catastrophic impacts of global warming, from Superstorm Sandy to widespread drought, floods and wildfires,” said The Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, founder and president of Interfaith Power & Light. “As people of faith, we know that it’s not enough to talk about climate impacts. We need to take action now, and these congregations are leading the way with their creative and meaningful projects.”
St. Paul’s UCC’s interim pastor, Rev. Bill Thwing notes that as a result of their outreach work, St. Paul’s decided to became a “Creation Care Church.” In the process, they have gained new regular worship attenders.  Members of the congregation have stepped forward and taken initiative to share the congregation’s work; many congregants see their creation care work as part of the congregation’s effort to become a “mission-based church rather than a membership-based church.”
Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light helps Pennsylvania faith communities save energy and advocate for clean energy policies. Learn more at www.paipl.org.
For more information on the Cool Congregations Challenge, including success stories and congregational and individual carbon calculators, see www.coolcongregations.org.