Weekly Reflection • 19 July

Flowers in low light
Listen to the the audio version of the reflection here or read below.

Dean Andreas begins our new series of weekly reflection as part of our #ClimateEmergency Campaign. Over the next weeks, Cathedral clergy and staff will be sharing reflections on how we can become better stewards of the world that has been entrusted to us.

‘Umweltengel’ (Environment Angels)

My name is Dean Andreas, and I lead the ministry and mission of St Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne. Many of you know that I grew up in Germany. And in German, they say, there’s a word for everything. Some of words have even made it into English.

Undoubtedly, you’ll be familiar with some of them:

  • Kindergarten literally means a ‘garden for kids’, a place where kids may grow and flourish.
  • Zeitgeist literally means ‘the spirit of the times’, the ideas and concerns of a particular period in time or history.
  • Schadenfreude literally means the joy at another’s misfortune, laughing at when something goes wrong for others.

I suspect that you may not be familiar with the word Umweltschwein. It literally means, an ‘environment pig’. In the same way in which pigs will make short shift of our backyards by messing and rooting them up, an Umweltschwein is someone who has no regard for the environment, who treats the creation with disrespect. ‘Don’t be an Umweltschwein who does not separate the recycling from the landfill’, I was told as a kid when I put recycling in the landfill bin. It’s not good to be an Umweltschwein.

In the first book of the Bible, the book Genesis, we read the story of how God created heaven and earth. We read how God made the world and blessed the world. How God saw everything he had made, and how God knew all that he had made to be very good.

At the end of the story of the creation we read how God entrusts the world to humankind: ‘be fruitful and multiply’, God blesses the first humans, ‘fill the earth and care for it; look after the fish in the sea, and the birds in the sky and after every living creature that moves on the ground’.

God made the world to be very good, and all creatures to be very good. And he entrusts them to humankind to care for and look after. The care of creation is built into the fabric of our faith. We call that care ‘stewardship’, because we are to be stewards – caretakers – of the world that has been entrusted to us.

Stewardship implies accountability. A good steward is one who looks after what has been entrusted to them, and returns it not only in good shape, but with value added, we read in the gospels. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells a story about stewardship. A businessman has to go on a journey, and distributes his financial assets among three of his staff.

The first two staff members use the funds wisely, and add to the capital. The last buries the funds and returns exactly what he had been given. Rather than receive praise, like the first two, he is told off for his carelessness. Simply returning what has been entrusted to them is not good stewardship, Jesus’ story tells. We are good stewards, when we take a care of what has been entrusted to us, and make it flourish and grow.

At a recent series of congregational consultations at St Paul’s we launched an awareness campaign in response to the climate emergency we are facing. We resolved to act, and act decisively, to save our planet. We have not been good stewards of our planet. We have been given God’s good creation, and not taken good care of it, let alone ensure that it flourishes.

Our campaign is called Act now to save our planet. We each can play a part in helping to prevent a climate disaster. On our website we give some simple suggestions that everyone can share in to reduce waste, reduce energy consumption, and thereby reduce emissions. As a Cathedral we have been steadily cutting our carbon emissions – by almost ten tonnes of CO2 a year. We continue to identify new ways in which we can further reduce our carbon footprint.

Reducing our carbon emissions is good. But it’s even better not to create carbon emissions. Most of the energy we use at St Paul’s is electricity. As consumers we are able to choose a green energy supplier, who sources their electricity from renewables. But unless the majority of the energy that is available in Australia is derived from renewables, we will continue to burn carbon to create power; will continue to create emissions that are harmful to the planet.

We not only need to act personally by cutting our own emissions, but also need to advocate for climate action. We need to make sure that our government acts as well. By stopping to rely on coal and gas for our energy, and instead harvesting solar, hydro and wind energy. Each one of us has a voice to call our leaders to account. And many of us have a vote as well. So, please contact your local member of parliament and tell them to act now to cut carbon emissions and to stop relying on carbon.

As a Christian, I believe that this is not a political issue. It’s an issue of gospel justice. God has entrusted his creation to us, commanded us to be fruitful and responsible stewards. Let’s not be Umweltschweine — environment pigs — who disregard the environment and mess up what has been handed to us. Rather, let’s commit now to be Umweltengel – environment angels – who promote better alternatives and actions, and invite others to join us.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, you made this world to be very good and entrusted it to our care; help us to act now to safeguard all your creatures and preserve what you have made; strengthen our resolve in working urgently to save this earth for generations yet unborn; let each one of us be an instrument of your new creation, for the sake of Jesus Christ, your living Word, through whom, in the power of the Holy Spirit, you called all things into being. Amen.