Celtic Midweek Evening Prayer for November 10th


Scripture: Joel 1: 14-20


The prophet Joel’s lament about an agricultural disaster has modern-day echoes in this summer’s fire season British Columbia. It highlights the need for concerted action as COP26 nears its conclusion. Image: Karsten Winegeart, www.unsplash.com

The Scripture passage

The Book of Joel (one of the so-called Minor Prophets) begins with reference to an agricultural famine. Most likely the cause was a prolonged drought, because of the references to fire destroying the pastures and the forests.

At any event, our reading this evening tells of a time of no food. The grains had shrivelled. Nothing remained in the granaries. Neither the domestic nor the wild animals could find pasture to eat.

COP26 and the fires in British Columbia

Today’s Scripture passage is part of the daily readings for this week. I am amazed at how often the appointed Scripture seems to speak to issues that speak to us today. Almost as if intended for us.

Because, this week coincides with the final days of the UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP26. A week ago Monday, Prime Minister Trudeau spoke of the devastation this past summer due to extreme heat and wild fires out in B.C. He spoke of the destruction of the town of Lytton and the 49 °C record breaking temperature there. He could as easily used the words we just heard from the prophet Joel:

“For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and flames have burned all the trees of the field. Even the wild animals cry to you because the watercourses are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.”

Parallels and contrasts

As we compare the fate of those long-ago Israelites with our looming fate today, I see parallels and contrasts. The parallel, for the individuals concerned, is that they lost everything, through no fault of their own.

But there are stark contrasts. Those ancient people had no idea what had caused their drought and the resulting fire. They could only, as we read:

“Put on sackcloth and lament, you priests; wail, you ministers of the altar.  Call a solemn assembly of the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of God, and cry out to the Lord.”

But we have more knowledge than they did. We know that God did not bring about our disaster. We have heard the modern prophets. The scientists of the International Panel on Climate Change. And we have chosen to ignore them.

Unlike those ancient Israelites, our future is in our hands

It’s both in the hands of the leaders in the solemn assembly in Glasgow and individually. Will they have the courage to act? And even if they do, will we, individually and collectively, be prepared to bite the necessary bullets? Will we recognize that mitigating climate change will be tough on every last one of us?

For those of us who are Christians, the role of God is not to save us from our folly. It is for us to see that we and the planet on which we live are all part of God’s wonderful Creation. We don’t own Creation. We are merely its stewards. Our responsibility is to hand it down to the coming generations in a state similar to that in which we inherited it. Amen.