Quietly, as he may have wanted, one of my hero’s passings was marked last week. As a student I read and studied Jean Vanier. I got so far as to apply to volunteer at L’Arche in France. In the midst of that process other life eexpectations caught up with me and I postponed. When I watch something like the video below I wish I hadn’t—the postponement is ongoing. If you have time watch the whole thing here.
"When the Scales Drop" (from the story of the conversion of Saul)
Imagine a person of influence you would choose to offer an unexpected but life-changing message. I’d prefer it was not a politician, but someone with enough of a presence that people would notice and listen. Focus on the word “unexpected” and you’ll have some idea of the power of Saul’s conversion to the way of Jesus.
He saw the light, and, confused, asked the Source “Who are you?” “Your chosen nemesis and your friend.”
What makes this moment difficult for Saul is that no one else clearly heard the voice. After seeing the light he retreats into himself. He is blind, has nothing to say and stops eating and drinking. His world has been turned upside down by being faced with the truth—the followers of the man he has gone after are right. He has to decide what to do.
Fortunately he gets help. He’s not on his own. One brave soul is asked to explain it to him. Ananias, a follower of Jesus, has a dream. One he didn’t want to have.
And he is told “Go, for Saul is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” Great, Ananias gets to go to meet with the man who has the power to arrest him and tell him his life is about to get worse. He does. He opens with “Brother Saul,” claiming and risking relationship, and the outcome would startle the ancient world.
This world needs to be startled. Whose mind will get turned to changing things?
Whose voice will be raised up to call for a radical change to our way of life that might preserve our planet? So far the best we can manage is a bright and articulate 16 year-old autistic kid (Greta Thunberg) from Sweden. Close behind her are the people of the Extinction Rebellion who are pulling the fire alarm on the planet. They say to us, “Brothers and sisters, demand change before it’s too late.”
We need someone to inspire us to take the risk that we can build a new economy based on renewable energy. We need someone to inspire us to stop a lifestyle based on easy consumption. We need someone to be convinced and convincing that the 10 years we have to reduce carbon emissions by 50% will go by very quickly. Most of us are doing something, and those somethings add up.
In our homes and here in our church. But even with responsible eating and travel and use of electricity Nancy and I have a carbon footprint of 8-10 K kg. of CO2. We produce or are responsible for the production of up to 20000 lbs. of Carbon Dioxide, aka greenhouse gas.
It’s going to take more than the efforts of those of us already convinced to cut back. It’s going to take more than the women who have announced they will not have children because children will increase the world’s production of CO2.
It’s going to take more than those who block the London Stock Exchange to make the point that humanity’s survival is more important than money. A rebellion against our ways is the only way to save us from extinction.
It’s going to take a change of heart of those who believe they are wealthy enough to survive whatever happens next, and therefore have little or no motivation to lessen their profits or change their lifestyles. It’s going to take a world of repudiation of that way.
That first conversion experience, that first person to have the scales fall from their eyes is you and I. The next person may be the head of a fossil fuel company, or a Warren Buffet or Bill Gates or Alice Walton who stops what they are doing and tells their peers there is a better way.
On Good Friday we spoke of how God’s Suffering Servant was both an individual and a people. That person of influence is us. Together, by personal persuasion or boycott or general strike we have to help the scales fall from the eyes of those who can influence their peers to change. We’re not at the “too late” point yet, but we’re close.
Allow me to recommend a video to enhance your thinking about our life together in community.
I just was really hoping we would be able to ride to ride our bikes to church …
We still will talk about Earth Day and our place in this planet.
In the meantime, let’s throwback for the last two weeks. Check our Instagram for our young musicians who drew our Good Friday Service to a close. Earlier in the week, on Passion Sunday, we retold the story of Peter with the music from “A Star is Born.” Here’s one of the pieces (thanks Renae).