To what do I compare the truth? The truth is easy when it faces my way; very hard when it faces away, like for the woman who said, “My old aunts used to come up to me at weddings, poking me in the ribs and telling me, “You’re next.” They finally stopped when I started doing the same thing to them at funerals.”
Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Well I’m not sure I would say that about this message but I do want to have a try at talking about climate change. But there are some things to be said first, if you don’t mind.
One of the toughest things to accept about the truth is that there are many kinds of truth, or many ways of looking at the same thing. There are all kinds of truth.
Think about it this way. There is generational truth. There is no way the world looks the same to the people who grew up during the Depression and World War II from those who grew up during the 70’s. Think about the difference if your formative years were before 9/11 or if they were after and now during the outpouring of terrorist acts.
Things happen in our world; things change, and the truth looks different. We understand this when it comes to generational reality.
If this is true generationally or according to time, it’s also true that truth looks different according to different cultures, and because of different languages. Different cultures means different truth because of the different places people grow up in.
I grew up on German-American food. My mom cooked a mashed potato, meat and gravy type of diet. Sure we had spaghetti at times. Who didn’t? But we never had a salad for dinner or sushi; nor did we eat a hot green curry dish. These was almost inconceivable.
Perhaps you’d be surprised how things can be different from one place to another. Thirty years ago this spring, I went to study and live in Alicante, Spain. Many things were the same but a lot was different.
One thing very different was their milk. It wasn’t like ours. It tasted vastly different, and not good. You would think milk might taste the same or enough the same, but it doesn’t. I barely could drink Spanish milk after four months of living there. It must have been the cows or the grass they ate….
Things are different for different people also because of gender and race. An African-American woman doesn’t have the same experiences of America as does a white male. Wealth and poverty transform the truth impact what is true and not, what is real or not.
If you’re wondering whether or not this sounds extreme and makes things sound more difficult than they are or should be, just look around. Getting people to agree on what the truth is and what is important is extremely difficult.
It’s much closer to the reality of human life and cultures, of war and peace, to say the truth is extremely multiple than it is to say the truth is one and always the same. This at least explains why people have such difficulty coming to agreement.
Of course we would rather not have it this way. It would be much better in our mind if things were more like how they are at times in the bible. In scripture we read about how as a young man or teenage boy David was anointed to be the future king. The Lord told the prophet Samuel to go to David’s father’s house, bring along anointing oil, and there he would be told which son was to be the one.
Samuel did as he was told. Samuel went to Jesse’s house, asked to see the sons, and eventually David showed up, having to be called from the fields because he was the shepherd boy of the family, seen as unfit to be even considered, sort of a Cinderella story where the unfit one is a nobody of any account maiden. David was last but clearly not least.
David was to be king because the Lord said so, and Samuel blessed David because of this divinely sanctioned and pronounced, unerring, one and only, complete truth from on high.
It would be most welcome if all truth came down to us like this. But it doesn’t.
Truth is a battle ground. In John 18:38, Jesus says, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” And Pilate retorts, “What is truth?” Now we know Pilate was wrong to say that in front of Christ, but in so much of the rest of life, it’s a fair question.
Often we simply take as true what has been handed to us by those who came before us and those who surround us. Much of the rest of the time we have to go on instinct. We say and do what we believe at the moment is best and true. We hope it works out that way. This is often how we parent—don’t tell the kids that. They’ll figure it out when their time comes.
The thing is the world we live in is constantly changing, because of us. Humans keep causing the world to change, faster and faster as it turns out.
I’m reading Edmund Morris’ third installment of his Teddy Roosevelt biography. At the end he gives a snapshot of what happened to Colonel Roosevelt’s family after he died.
He points out something that is arresting. In 1865, when she was six years old, Edith Roosevelt, Teddy’s eventual wife, stood at a window in downtown New York City when President Lincoln’s funeral cortege made its way through the city. Just so you know, Teddy was standing next to her—that’s how long they knew each other. Edith herself lived until 1947, two years after World War II was over.
It’s almost impossible to comprehend the amount of change that occurred in our country in the lifetime of Edith Roosevelt, who lived through 17 different presidential administrations, from Lincoln to Truman.
It’s not easy to keep up with change. It’s not easy to wrap our mind around today’s truth that wasn’t even considered a possibility a lifetime ago, or even less. Sometimes we just want to put our foot down, draw a line in fresh cement (not sand), and say enough is enough.
One of the amazing things about God is that God is both rock solid and unalterable, and yet fluid and able to be present in any time and space. It seems the Lord is quite comfortable with the way things are.
Our scripture this morning says, “You rule the raging of the seas; when its waves rise, you still them.” God is Lord over what was, is and shall be. The greatness of God’s creation and providence is not that it doesn’t change but that it does and still the Lord is on high, and ruling yet.
I have always believed God claims all of earth as his. The psalmist wrote, “The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it—you have founded them.”
Never in my life did I ever believe we weren’t anything more than stewards of God’s creation. I have always considered our faith to be one that says we have a responsibility to see this wondrous creation remains as vibrant and alive as how God means it to be.
In fact, I have a scientist’s mind and a naturalist’s leaning. When I was growing up, the spring snow melt and rains meant the back end of our back yard would flood a bit, and with a clay soil the water didn’t drain quickly. Over a couple of weeks’ time, the water would become funkier and a little
smellier. Nothing bad, mind you, and for an eight-year-old with a curiosity about nature it proved to be a scientific laboratory of sorts.
I would take an eye dropper, extract water, preserve it, and then place it under a microscope. I would draw pictures of what I saw under the scope. As the water lingered longer in the backyard, more microscopic creatures would show up on the slide. The water had become very much alive.
One of the things I often thought of becoming when younger was a wildlife preserve manager. I guess being a pastor is a little similar, since I’m trying to preserve our church wildlife.
All of this leads me to talk for a moment about climate change. I have never talked about this because I’m aware of how politically sensitive this subject is.
I have not wanted to battle about the truth or falsity of anthropogenic climate change—human made climate change. But April 22nd was Earth Day and 171 countries including ours sat down Thursday to sign the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This is an incredibly important topic for all of humankind, no matter where we live.
Now I’m not without my perspective. This is why I told you about my scientific and naturalist bent from when I was young. I am predisposed to viewing scientific work and achievements positively.
Nor do I view this moment as a truth from on high moment. I may be standing in our pulpit but the Lord hasn’t spoken to me about this.
Having said all this, I feel I am free to tell you I take as unequivocally true that the earth is warming due mainly to human made activity, namely, carbon emissions. Anthropogenic climate change is occurring and has already begun and will continue.
If carbon emissions are not brought down significantly, we are talking about major upheavals across the entire earth on a scale that is barely imaginable. This upheaval will cost financially in amounts almost uunthinkable.
Nobody likes this. Nobody in their right mind could ever want this to be the truth. But it is.
The amount of disruption climate change is already bringing about has caused some of America’s largest multi-national corporations to support the Paris climate change agreement. In fact, eighty-one corporations with operations in all 50 states and across the globe, employing 9 million people, representing more than $3 trillion in annual revenue, and a combined market
capitalization of over $5 trillion signed a pledge to support strong action on climate change and a low carbon, sustainable future.
Some of these corporations are Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, Cargill, Coca-Cola, Facebook, GE, General Mills, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, IBM, McDonalds, Microsoft, Monsanto, Procter & Gamble, Siemens Corporation, SONY Corporation of America, Starbucks, Target, UPS, and Walmart.
The battle in the US over whether or not human caused climate change is really occurring has often centered on whether or not scientists agree on this. There have been several studies done looking at published research on global warming and climate change in order to find out exactly what percentage of scientists accept or reject it.
The scientific consensus is overwhelming. In fact, in a study on published, peer-reviewed research between 1991 and 2012, of the 13,950 articles only 24 rejected human made global warming. That’s 99.998% of scientists working in global warming and climate change who accept that humans are the main cause of climate change.
Another analysis of articles published between November 2012 and December 2013 revealed that only 1 of the 9,136 authors rejected anthropogenic global warming. That percentage is 99.9999% of scientists in these fields.
Scientists agree that global climate change is occurring.
If you want to see a precursor to our future, all you have to do is drive down to Miami. In the last nineteen years, sea levels around the Miami coast have already gone up 3.7 inches. But sea level rise isn’t just getting higher. The rate at which it is rising is accelerating.
I have always felt the most truthful way of living before the Lord our God was to live in the reality of the time we live, in the truth of our generation. Of course, none of us are very good at handling the truth all the time. It often demands from us more than we are willing to give or accept. We all have our limits.
But the more we can accept what is, then the more we are able to see things as God sees them. The more we see things as God sees them then the more we can be in line with the Lord our God, the one who was, and is, and shall always be, whether the seas rage or are calm.
It is true, the truth will set you free—free to think, say and do as the Lord our God would have us.