Friday 12 November 2021

Reflecting on COP26

 A reflection at morning worship for the Community of Brendan the Navigator on Tuesday 9th November 2021

We’ve been hearing a cacophony of voices in the media about the UN COP26 climate negotiations in Glasgow, which continue this week. More or less vague promises of action in the future, often made by leaders whose word we do not trust. Diplomatic manoeuvres by states and multinationals determined not to be stuck with stranded assets. Competing commentaries, some spinning the success of the negotiations, others bewailing their failure. ‘Blah, blah, blah’, to quote Greta Thunberg. But what we all surely understand by now is that urgent, coordinated, global action is imperative to protect life on this beautiful living planet God has placed us on.

I suggest that the reading we have just heard from the Gospel of Mark (12:38-44) has much to teach us about how as Christians we should navigate our way through the verbiage.

Jesus warns his followers to ‘Beware of the scribes’. The scribes were lawyers, highly educated professionals, who enjoyed great privilege and status in Jewish society, as lawyers still do in ours. Yet many had a reputation for greed, for charging exorbitant fees for their services. For instance, as an executor of a will, their charges could sometimes consume the bulk of the estate. ‘They devour widows’ houses’, is the way Jesus puts it. But, he says, ‘They will receive the greater condemnation’. They will be damned.

The national and business leaders meeting at COP26 enjoy great privilege and status in our globalised world. Those who do not take effective action against climate change and the environmental crisis are the greedy scribes of today. We must beware of them. God will hold to account those who continue to exploit fossil fuels, who destroy forests and other natural habitats. They may seem invincible to us now, but their greed and false promises will be exposed. Future generations will damn their names.

If the results of COP26 prove to be weak, we may be tempted to despair. We may feel that there is nothing we can do in the face of massive carbon emissions and environmental damage. But we should learn from the action of the poor but generous widow. Jesus says to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on’. She is a model of faithful action by ordinary, modest, little people of the world.

If we allow despair to prevent us from taking even small actions, the catastrophic future we fear is what we, our children, and our children’s children will have to endure. We must ask ourselves what things, however small, each one of us can do to help avert disaster, or to support those already suffering from the environmental crisis. And we must act on the answers we find in our hearts.

We cannot know the results of our efforts, but as Christians we must strive to respond faithfully to the call to protect God’s planet. Our faithful God will respond to our faith. By his grace, others will be inspired to join with us, and that will inspire yet more to act. Positive change will begin to happen. It will grow and it will spread in a great wave of hope for a better future.

In the midst of COP26, and beyond it, we must be faithful, we need to be hopeful. We must pray for the success of COP26, and for leaders making difficult decisions in response to the climate emergency. And we must pray that the Holy Spirit will show each one of us what actions to take personally to care for God’s planet as we should.