This morning, the Woodland Park Presbyterian Church in Seattle observed Climate Justice Sunday, celebrating the Delta 5 oil train blockaders offering them a blessing on the final day before their historic trial begins in Lynnwood, Washington. This extraordinary congregation welcomed television cameras, radio reporters, and a documentary crew along with over 60 guests from other faith communities and people of no particular faith to gather and explore our shared commitments to climate justice and to supporting those who take bold action.
I was honored to join the worship team, serving as a liturgist and offering a brief reflection on what this moment in the Christian liturgical year has to teach us about power, civil disobedience, and climate justice.
The text of my reflection is pasted below. You can listen to it here (look for Jan 10 Moment for Mission – Marla Marcum...).
Will you pray with me?
Loving God who gave us life and breath, who walked among us at once both vulnerable and powerful, who speaks to our hearts without ceasing, may the words of my mouth, meditations of all of our hearts, and the work of all of our hands help to bring into Be-ing your vision of peace and justice. Amen
Friends, thank you for welcoming me into your worship today. I love the circle of the liturgical year because it is an embodied practice that reminds us that rebirth, renewal, and second chances are always available to us by the grace of God.
We have just come through the seasons of Advent and Christmas. Advent is a time of spiritual preparation for the coming of the Promised One, and at Christmas, we celebrate the birth of that One who teaches us that love is more powerful than fear, more powerful than death. January 6th was Epiphany (the commemoration of the arrival of the Magi – wealthy, powerful rulers who offered expensive gifts to a newborn whose family was sheltering in a stable). The Greek word Epiphany means “manifestation.” It suggests an experience that opens to us some meaning and power that were previously invisible and unavailable to us.
God is revealing to us many new things in the Epiphany story, but on this climate justice Sunday, I’d like to focus on a message that isn’t always comfortable to hear: God reminds us that the power that comes from the Source – which we often call the Holy Spirit – is present within even the most unlikely person (in the story, it’s a newborn whose family will be forced to flee to another country to avoid the violence of their own). A refugee.
This child – the one who teaches us to wield a different kind of power in the world – remember that every year, we follow this child’s story. Every year, this child (who our tradition teaches us is without sin) matures and becomes keenly aware of the injustices of business as usual. This baby, meek and mild, is the same Jesus who will grow to understand that the moneychangers in the Temple are profiting from the faith of the poor in the guise of providing a public service. But Jesus recognizes their avarice and takes action to disrupt business as usual. The one who is without sin is that same one who upends the workflow of business-as-usual.
Let us be clear – Jesus was thrown out of the Temple for this act, and it’s clear that the moneychangers picked up the tables and go right back to what they were doing. I imagine that some of the people Jesus was standing up for helped them to tidy up the place because they didn’t want to be associated with his anger or his action. Jesus’ one action did NOT stop the economic violence of that system. Just as the action Abby will tell you about did not halt the violence of oil trains rolling through your communities.
But on Epiphany, let’s recognize that the power of the Holy Spirit is a different kind of power. It is not coercive. It does not force change. It invites us to exercise our moral imaginations and to act in ways that might inspire others to join us. Jesus did not transform business as usual in a single moment, but two thousand years later, we are still telling this story and drawing strength and power to transform our own broken world into an embodiment of the kin-dom of God through that story.
As a disciple, I strive to embody a radical obedience to the Gospel of Jesus. And so, with three of my friends, I’m part of what we’re calling the Climate Disobedience Center. It sounds perhaps more official than it is. But our work is precisely to nurture the strength of that Spirit that moves powerfully into the world, and support folks like Abby and the rest of Delta 5 who allow that Spirit to move powerfully through them.
So today, on Epiphany, I hope you will open your hearts and your minds and your ears. And I hope that you will ask yourself, "What is God showing me about the power that I have to disrupt injustice in the world?" I hope one of the answers that you find is that maybe one day this week, you will commit to come to the Delta 5 trial in Lynnwood, Washington to be with Abby and her friends – simply to support them and to show that you believe that this kind of power in the world is the kind that God is calling some of us to embody, and perhaps you are called to support that ministry and discipleship.
I am so glad to be here with you. Thank you for supporting your friends in this work. That's one of the things disciples do.