COP26 - God will be attending. It's his earth.
“Why the COP26 climate summit will be both crucial and disappointing” reports this morning’s Economist. And yet despite everything it concludes that such global gatherings remain the best forum to force change. And of course, change is needed – a massive change in the way we live on our planet. For the strange dynamic at the heart of creation care is that it is in our own self-interest to act unselfishly. As Greta Thunburg, the most unlikeliest of climate activists, argues “The climate crisis is both the easiest and the hardest issue we have ever faced. The easiest because we know what we must do.” So in this respect COP26 will be crucial, seen by many as drinking at the last chance saloon. And it is an impressive gathering. Never, I understand, have so many world leaders come together for a meeting on our shores. The United Nations, as we all know, has many flaws and even more critics, but to stage this kind of global meeting is a major achievement without historical precedent. And much of the credit has to go to the grassroots pressure exerted on national leaders. But COP26 comes as a result of the ever-visible climate emergency, now pressing hard on the public consciousness through the various weather extremes which have caused such havoc and hurt. Certainly when it comes for the need to go green, we have reached a tipping point in our own country However, as the Economist sadly predicts COP26 will turn out to be a disappointment. It is not just the high expectations placed upon it – it is simply a result of our human nature. Alan Greenspan, who as chair of the Federal Reserve attended more of his fair share of international summits, concludes “Corruption, embezzlement, fraud, these are all characteristics which exist everywhere. It is regrettably the way human nature functions, whether we like it or not.” Sadly the political courage needed to change the weather will be asking too much of many of our world leaders. Too many short term costs for such a long term goal. And yet. And yet, we pray the prayer which Jesus taught us, for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. And that includes the weather system, which strangely has become our responsibility such is the scale of human activity. And it is our responsibility as we read in the opening book of the Bible, from Genesis 2:15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. good creation has been entrusted to us by God.” As it happens my Hebraist daughter is in residence and has just wandered in to see what I am upto, not unlike God himself when he turns up each evening to see how Adam and Eve are doing. She tells me that the Hebrew word for work is EBED, which in every other context when soil is not the object, means serve, not least in the suffering servant of Isaiah. And the word of take care is SHAMAR, which is a safeguarding word which can also be used for the watchman as they observe, as they keep watch. Simply under God as human beings we are called to serve his good earth and keep watch over its wellbeing. And this changes the dynamic of climate change completely for the simple reason is that God is involved. Hence creation care is one of our five marks of mission, those goals which define us as Christians. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth As ever as Christians we make the bold claim, as ever derided and dismissed by those who would marginalise us, that God is active in our world, our interventionist Creator. Our world is his world. So we boldly pray the prayer of Jesus for God’s will to be done on earth. And earth means soil, the ground on which we live. So how does God want us to serve his planet? We see the pattern above all in Isaiah’s suffering servant. He is anointed for much more than just comforting the exiled people of Judah. Far more – “for he will bring justice to the nations.”(Isaiah 42:1) His ministry is to encompass the entire world. And he will keep at it: “In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged.” (Isaiah 42:3) As Christians we are to handle discouragement. But the big surprise in this prophecy from Isaiah is who God is going to use to achieve his purpose “I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness. . . He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, says the Lord Almighty.” (Isaiah 45:13) That’s Cyrus the Great, the pagan king of the Achaemenid Empire, the emperor who was to bring freedom for the Babylonian exiles. And if God can use this Zoroastrianist zealot he can use any potentate to accomplish his will, even President Xi. Something worth remembering as we pray for the outcome of COP26, for no doubt God himself will be in attendance. It is his earth. #COP26 #creationcare