Thursday 15 September 2011

Moved to action

Sunday 25th September
Moved to action
Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32

We know we are supposed to take care of the environment (reduce, reuse, recycle) and we do our bit, but in our hearts all but the most ardent environmentalist knows that how we presently live is doing is more harm than good: too little, and a bit too late. Talk of the earth being God's creation, our responsibility to care for the environment, or how we are only looking after it for the next generation are more likely to produce guilt than motivation to change our habits.

So we carry on with a nod to environmental responsibilities when necessary, but with the same corporate inertia. If we're all so scared about what will happen to the planet – and what is already happening – then why don't we act? Why do we just talk about action? Our politicians are no better: international conferences like Kyoto and Copenhagen have sometimes done more harm than good and the recent promise that 'vote blue and go green' seems to have been unrealised as business continues as usual in the corridors and washrooms of power.

But what's causing this mismatch between what we know to be right and what we do? One of the problems is we receive mixed messages: even if we read newspapers with articles that urge us to act, the same paper will have far bigger more attractive adverts urging us to buy a big car and go skiing. Over £15bn pounds was spent in the UK last year telling us to buy more stuff – when was the last time your favourite TV programme was interrupted to remind you to knit your own hemp sweater? We can't rely on education to save the environment because the loudest voices have a vested interest in its degradation. And we can't rely on politicians to save the environment because every time they try vested interests trip them up.

What we can do is create virtuous circles of action and reflection instead of the inertia of feeling guilty because we said we would act but knew deep down that we wouldn't.

Jesus said, “A man had two sons.” It's a really simple parable that speaks to the heart of so many issues. Both children wanted to please the parent but only one actually did something. Only one of them put boots on, picked up a sickle, slapped on the factor twenty five, and went out into the vineyard to work. The only way to beat our complacency is to get outside and begin: a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And like any pilgrimage it's easier with company. We are stronger and more resilient if we walk this road together.