By Archdeacon John Clarke
Rector of St. Paul’s Church
It’s easy to feel despair in the face of so much bad news. From mass shootings to climate change, there’s no shortage of bad news. Which makes it all the more challenging for people of faith to proclaim any kind of good news. Yet, good news is desperately needed.
I saw a cartoon recently featuring a person talking with God and in the background was a crumbling Earth. The person was angrily saying to God, “I thought you’d do something!” And God responded, “I did, I sent you scientists.”
Climate change resulting from human activity is well documented and undisputable. It is simply a fact we have known for decades. I remember talking about it in my junior high school back in the 70’s. Perhaps that cartoon could have God continue, saying, “and I sent you Greta Thunberg and Autumn Peltier and…”
Thunberg is the uncompromising Swedish environmental activist who has accurately pointed out our failure to do something (anything) substantial to curb climate change. Autumn Peltier is an Indigenous water activist from Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ont., who recently spoke to at a forum at the UN and is a nominee for the International Children’s Peace Prize. These two people fill me with hope. Their ability to speak honestly and with credibility, in a tone that breaks through the noise of profit mongers and climate change deniers helps, I hope helps, propel us to action.
I am reminded of a quote, sometimes attributed to Saint Ignatius, and sometimes to Saint Augustine, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”
It’s a quote that’s useful for people of faith today. Prayer is always a good and beneficial response to the challenges of life, but faith is about what we do. Faith is not really a set of beliefs, or even a set of deeds, or what we do in our head. In the Christian tradition faith is a relationship with Jesus Christ. Our relationship with him means following him wherever he leads us.
Faith is about what we do with our hands and feet, our wallets, our privilege and our time. Faith in Jesus is not shown by saying or thinking the correct things about him, but by following him. Every time we decide to follow Jesus we grow and stretch and our capacity to love and to serve increases.
I want to be on the side of people like Greta Thunberg and Autumn Peltier, not because I don’t want them to be angry with me, but because they are acting with such courage and fortitude that the world cannot help but take notice and, I hope, take action.
I have no idea if any kind of faith motivates either one of them; and that’s not really the issue. What matter is that they are clearly motivated by a selfless desire to make this world a better place. And that is at the heart of our Christian faith. Jesus did what he did to save the world, a selfless act to bring redemption and healing to this world.
I thank God for Greta Thunberg and Autumn Peltier because of the hope they instill in people of every faith, or no faith. The hope at the core of our Christian faith is made real in anyone that speaks truth to the powers of this world.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Archdeacon John Clarke was incorrectly identified as the author of the Oct. 12 guest sermon. The article above is the one he submitted on the topic of climate change. Clarke is the rector of St. Paul’s Church in Charlottetown. A guest sermon runs regularly in Saturday’s Guardian and is provided through Christian Communications.