The day of Michael – the day of the angels.
This is the day of the angels.
The text we have heard do all have different kind of angel stories.
But this could also read as texts of hope. The role of the angels is often to bring messages and on this day I would like to bring up the aspect of hope that could be found in these texts
The old testament text about Daniel and the lion reflects in some way the hope without reason from the king who worries for the man he sent into the lions. Why does he have worries? Maybe because he has a hope but he can't stick to his hope. The prognosis to survive a night with lions is not to good, but against the prognosis he hopes.
Revelations is a way of describing the times at hand for the writer of the book. These are hard times for a persecuted people. The prognosis for the future was bad but there is a hope for something different.
The Gospel of St Luke is about apostles that are coming back glad of what they can do. But Jesus says that that is not the main point. The important thing is that they are grounded in something else. He warns them to pay less attention to the prognosis and be grounded in hope and faith.
Today, on the day of St Michael, I want these texts to be thought of as texts of hope:
- The angels are often messengers in the bible. Messengers of change and of something new.
- The story of Daniel could in some way be a story of hope of change, a hope against prognosis.
- The story in the revelation could serve as a story of hope in a change, a change of the structures.
- The story of the apostles coming back from successful work, a sort of hope that comes true, is a story of the importance of being grounded in justice, in love in what we call God.
I think that this says something to us and our way of being church today.
But hope is not just dreams. A hope does in someway relate to what is at hand. And a true hope is reflected in a true description of what is at hand.
We must describe the situation today as it is.
Because there are serious threats to the earth today. For the first time in history human activity can disturb the balance of the global ecosystem.
Most obvious is the change in climate and what comes with that.
Sometimes people say to me; I know why you are so involved with Climate change issues, It is because you like to be a doomsday preacher, you like to scare people so they will come back to your church!
Nothing could be more wrong!
First; You can not scare anyone to solidarity and to change for a more just world. Because the question of climate change is about solidarity and compassion with the earth and those who live on the earth and life which so abundantly grows from the earth. But we have to be honest, we have to be true and not stick to a truth that is most convenient for our lifestyle.
The change of the climate is not a prophecy sprung from my own imagination, this are facts from scientific researchers working for IPCC, the UN climate research panel. Human induced climate change is a fact: we just don’t know the real consequences because no one seen anything like this before.
Why is this such a problem? A little warmer could be nice here in the Nordic countries at least. That may be true. But like many environmental problems the one who pollutes is not the one who will suffer from the pollution. That is the trail of the environmental agenda since the start of the industrial era. When the problem comes closer to them who creates the pollution they seem more willing to act.
This is true about climate change. Those who create most of green house gases are the one that will not suffer in the first place from it.
The problem is that way we have constructed our societies in the industrialised world is based on use of energy that contribute to emission of greenhouse gases. Our way of living is based on CO2 emissions. You are born into it. Every day we contribute to CO2 emissions.
This is a part of taking this seriously.
To confess and to act
To confess that we are a part of this evil destruction of the earth. In our Swedish tradition we sometimes say in our confession that “We have a part in the world's turning away from you”. Our way of living, whether we will or not, contributes to green house gas emissions.
But confession is close to absolution. If we use St Pauls word there is a freedom in Christ. A freedom in Christ to act, even if we are a part of the destruction. Maybe it is my Lutheran background, but this is at least for me a strategy for how we shall relate to environmental problems and structural injustice.
Yes, we are a part of it but we won't let this keep us from acting for a better world. And the fact that we are gathering together here in the Cathedral of Skara from not just Europe, nearly all over the world to close our days of sharing debating and writing new documents around environmental issues relating to our faith, is a sign of hope. That is a sign of hope. It is an act of compassion with the earth and a step for a more just world.
Living in an interconnected world.
In the last decades our view of the world is of interconnectedness. My way of living has an impact on people on the other side of the world. When I go shopping for my dinner table I bring home more or less the whole world and unfortunately many of the products are based on unjust trade.
There is a report from the Swedish University on agricultural science that measured the impact of the Swedish food production on the earth. They counted in transports and fertilizer and other things related to the production and transport of the Swedish part of food production. The result was that to, so to say, fill the Swedish dinner-table, an area was used that was 44 times the area of agriculture production in Sweden or 3.6 the whole area of this country. This is a clear picture that we use more of the earth the what is just or fair. And I guess that this is not a unique fact for Sweden.
So my shopping bag is not my private thing, it contains the entire world.
It is the same with the climate. 4 tons CO2 per person on the earth is a level that the climate system can cope with. In Europe most of us emit more than that. We travel, we heat up our houses, we transport goods around the world and that is connected to CO2 emissions.
In the "Ethic and Energy" project in Sweden they measured the CO2 emissions from heating up churches with, for example, oil.
I do not think that it is ethical to gather to a service in the church and at the same time have an emission of CO2 far over the 4 tons per person. Or to have the vicars house emitting 50 tons per year for heating up his or her house with oil. We need to realise this and to admit the fact and out of this act for a change, because the green house gas emissions create suffering especially for the most vulnerable in the world especially in the south.
And that is why we gather in The European Christian Environmental Network. To find methods for change, to inspire each other, to act to make a difference.
Sometimes I think of the world as a global bread. This is the place were we have to live and share with each other. In the Eucharist we break the bread and share it with each other. In some way the creation is also a bread that we share. This earthly life binds us all together. To interfere with the creation by grabbing more resources than you need or to disturb the ecological system is somehow to interfere with God.
To share the bread is to live in communion. And to share the world is somehow to live in communion.
Is there any hope then? Yes there is hope! Our faith is a faith of hope. Not a faith of prognosis.
I often return to the former Czechoslovakian (he was that at the time) president Vaclav Havels words on the difference of prognosis and hope. He says "Hope is something that we simply just have inside us or something we miss, it is a dimension in our soul and is not dependent on of any observations of the world or estimations of the situation. Hope is not prognosis. It is the mind's orientation, the hearts orientation, it goes beyond the immediate everyday world and is grounded somewhere further away, beyond its borders... Hope has its deepest roots somewhere in the transcendent."
Prognosis is when you have good reason to believe that this or that will happen. But hope is something you have on something that you don't necessarily believe will happen. It is like when St Paul says that Abraham hopes against hope. Maybe we could say he hopes against prognosis.
Or like the story that also appears in the many traditions of our chursches of the man that kept on watering the dead tree pole even if all people said to him it was useless until one day the green leafs showed at the pole (Or the stick of Aaron)
This is way to live hope in our time.
To keep on working for a more just and sustainable life for everyone even if the prognosis says something else.
I might say that hope is in some way writing the future. We hope for a world where we overcome the environmental threats, we hope for a more just world.
And to hope and pray is also the starting point for change.
But as Jesus says to his disciples, "be glad that that your name is written in the book of life." Not glad because of what they gained.
This maybe means that we should have our heart and our ground for action in the source of life of justice and the source of everything there is, in God's love.
Therefore dear friends, we have to admit the urgent situation of the world, to confess the reality of the situation, but also in the freedom of Christ act for another world to take place.
So may we all with the urgency of the situation with hope and courageous work together for a more just and sustainable world, for all living on the most precious and beautiful blue planet that we know about.