Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Meeting with Senator Warner re: EPA Clean Power Plan


On Tues, July 15, 20+ Virginian faith leaders from 5 faith traditions and 7 different denominations of Christianity met with Senator Mark Warner to ask him to oppose any congressional efforts to interfere with the EPA's clean power plan.  Below is my part of the presentation, a brief speech about why my faith calls me to care about the issue.   

July 15, 2014

Thank you Senator Warner for your leadership on environmental issues and for meeting with us today.  I’ve been designated to speak about the theological underpinnings that bring this diverse group of people before you.  I speak from a Lutheran perspective knowing that each person here could give a passionate, wise reflection rooted in their particular tradition.  I’ll begin with scripture – where all good Lutheran reflection begins! 

In the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2, (you no doubt know them well), God made a whole world and called it good.  Then God put people in a very particular relationship with the rest of this world.  Unfortunately, the term used for this relationship has been misunderstood as “to dominate.” Its meaning is closer to “take-care of” or “steward.”  It’s to have “dominion over” in the same way that you have “dominion” over the commonwealth of Virginia.  You’re in your position not to control us or use us, but to care for us. Caring for this world is our first God-given responsibility.  

God told Adam and Eve that they could enjoy most of creation, but they had to live within limits.  They didn’t respect those limits and you know what happened.  They ate that fruit.  This is the first recorded over-consumption of the earth’s resources. The problem wasn’t just over-consumption, it was also its polluting effects. The result of their sin spread. The balance was thrown; the ideal ecology was no more; life got very hard.

Every time we consume without accounting for the consequences, we follow in the pathway of those first humans. It doesn’t lead anywhere good.

With an estimated 25% of CO2 output, the United States uses up far more than our share of the earth’s resources and throws more pollution into the air than the world can handle. The consequences are devastating.  

My husband and I just returned from Acadia National Park.  I’m grateful for the National Park System, one of the jewels of the Federal Government because they help me connect with God - giving inner peace, a renewed spirit, and a sense of belonging to a wider web of creation. Our lands and creatures are precious and they are threatened by rising sea levels and changes in habitat. 

It’s alarming to think of these pristine places being damaged by climate change, yet care for our marvelous landscapes and animals isn’t my primary concern.  Care for people in our neighborhoods; country, and around the world motivates me.  Increased asthma, respiratory diseases and cancers are caused by fossil fuel pollution - including mining and power production processes.  Changes in weather patterns, landscapes and economies threaten people’s homes and livelihoods.  These affect our faith communities – our people - here in Virginia.  

But the effects aren’t just here.   I have a sense of global citizenship that's rooted in my faith and confirmed by my time in Malawi, East Africa, serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer. All trustworthy indications – including the government’s own scientists and development agencies – agree that climate change caused by CO2 emissions threatens the global poor in unjust measure. Our denominations all work to alleviate global poverty, food scarcity, societal insecurity, conflicts, and preventable diseases like Malaria.  As people of faith we take great responsibility to do all we can for our brothers and sisters around the world but with the added crises created by climate change, the load is growing even harder to bear. This year, local Lutheran churches combined “Creation Care Sunday” and “Malaria Awareness Sunday,” acknowledging that all the mosquito nets we can send won’t keep pace with increasing spread of global malarial zones caused by climate change.  

I started with Genesis, I’ll end somewhere else familiar to you: the Lord’s Prayer. We’re in a sermon series on it at my church. Last week, preaching on the section “thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” I let my congregation know I would be here today. When we pray “thy kingdom come” an unspoken response echoes in our hearts “and let me be part of it.” That’s why I’m here – with the prayer that our actions today are part of God's kingdom coming.

This week we’ll focus on the next line: “give us today our daily bread.”  You’re welcome to come.  :)  We’ll focus on the word daily. God promises if we take only our share for today there will be enough for all again tomorrow.  Limits help us live in good relationships with one another and the rest of creation. It’s a lesson Adam and Eve didn't learn but we’re trying to.

We trust that you can influence major national policy changes, including the carbon limits in the EPA's Clean Power Plan, ensuring responsible use of energy today in order to secure a peaceful, just and beautiful future for all God’s creatures tomorrow.  God made this world good.  You’re in a unique position to help keep it that way.

Thank you,

The Reverend Sarah S. Scherschligt.

Senior Pastor, Peace Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
Leader, Creation Care Team of the Metropolitan Washington DC Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Welcome Back Potter

For the first four years of my life as a pastor, pottery was part of my weekly rhythm. I spent every Monday night Glen Echo Park. Like the best of habits, it gave me balance, creativity, and dependable joy.   Two years ago, when I bought a fixer-upper house, got a new job, and met my husband, something needed to give.  I stopped doing pottery and turned my energy toward the multitude of other projects demanding my attention.

Last Wednesday, I went back.  Why the change?  It's not that the evenings suddenly got free-er or that the house projects are complete (hah!).  Certainly no one in the world needs another off-centered vase made by my amateur hands.

I went back because I missed it.  I missed it the way a dancer misses the barre or a church-goer misses the liturgy.  Even when I didn't produce anything, the weekly practice of wedging and centering and throwing and rewedging the clay was like a re-set for my whole life.  It made all the rest more calm and doable.

I'd been missing it for a while, but when I got to browsing the pottery studio website every other day, I knew it was time.  By some fluke, there was actually a Wednesday night class that fit my schedule.  I paid my money and signed up.

I spent the week before my return not totally sure I'd actually go.  If I hadn't had money on the line, I'd probably found a way out because I was nervous about my return. 

Would anyone remember me?  Would my hands know what to do?   Should I wear my pottery apron or would that make me seem like an expert and invite judgement?  Where to sit? (Like seats in church, the wheels in the studio become the squatter's property of the regulars and I didn't want to start out by embarrassing myself by sitting in someone else's place.   I showed up intentionally late so I wouldn't make that mistake.)

This must be what it's like to come back to church after a long time away.  The longing to reconnect with God, self and community compels people to seek it our but there's a big difference between wanting to get back to church and actually arriving, turning off the car, and entering a community of people without knowing how you will be received.

It's helpful for me to remember that each new person who is returning to church after an absence carries some of that internal nervousness.  What to wear?  Who will greet you?  Will you remember what to do?  Will you sit in someone else's seat? 

Will this work?

I hope that anyone who decides to go back to church receives the same kind of welcome I got.  A few people mildly recognized me, though most were new (no surprise - communities change).  The instructor - though he never taught me - remembered me vaguely from the Monday night class.  He made sure I knew the new rules and took time to get me situated and explain procedures.  One by one, people introduced themselves without fanfare and we all settled into our projects quickly.  I felt comfortable fast.  When my former teacher walked in, he gave a big smile and hug and said:

"It's so so good to see you.  You're still alive! I've missed you.  Welcome back."