This week in our series, the theme of healing is on healing the environment. And while we have been looking at different healing stories along with each of these Sundays in Lent, this week our reading has a different focus. It does not have a healing story per se – it is about Jesus calming the storm – which I guess could be seen as healing environmental turmoil – but the reading is more about following a call. In these stories that we have shared the last few weeks, the crowds follow Jesus because they want something from him – they either were looking for healing or for some kind of miracle, but the disciples follow Jesus because Jesus invites them to follow. Jesus instead wants something from THEM.
Jesus invites the disciples to a new way, following him, which meant overcoming or setting aside obstacles.
In this story, in order for the disciples to join Jesus on the “other side” there are obstacles in the way that they have to navigate through. There are obstacles posed by the social world, which are the family obligations that are mentioned in this story. And there are obstacles presented by the natural world – the storm at sea. They are both significant obstacles coming in the way and attempting to prevent the disciples from following Jesus.
The disciples are afraid, and Jesus is in the boat sleeping. He wakes up, tells them they have nothing to be afraid of, and then calms the storm.
He reprimands the disciples for having little faith, for allowing their fear to prevent them from trusting in Jesus’ ability to provide protection for them, to provide them with a new way of living. Jesus invites them to look outside the box, see beyond the confines and obstacles of their current situation to a new way of seeing, a way that leads to abundant life for all.
There are many obstacles as we try to think outside the box in new ways to heal our environment. Our dependence on fossil fuels is a difficult obstacle to see beyond because of the many people and industries impacted by any changes. So many livelihoods depend on our fossil fuel intake. But as we take steps to find new and creative ways of reducing our impact on our earthly home, new jobs are created, and other benefits are revealed. It is scary to let go of the way we have done things in the past, especially if our livelihoods depend on that status quo.
My interest is always caught when I see stories of ways that people are making a difference in their communities and their world that has a positive impact on the environment.
Last week I saw a story about someone who got creative and looked outside the box and has started a new international movement in an attempt to reduce and reuse waste. Felix Blok is the founder of a Vancouver company called ChopValue. They saw how many pairs of single use chopsticks were being used in Vancouver, and they collect these used chopsticks – 300 pounds per day – from restaurants around the city, and they clean them, compress them into blocks and make furniture and other items like coasters and cutting boards. The process is really interesting, and they are committed to leaving a climate positive footprint throughout their entire process. So far they have redirected over 32 million pairs of chopsticks from the landfill, repurposing them into beautiful wood products. Now that they have developed their process, they are focusing on expanding the concept and process by presenting it to 10 different countries with media coverage in 35 countries. https://chopvalue.com/ https://youtu.be/pLL4PW4LZT8
One person’s idea became a reality, making an impact in our local community, and now their ability to look outside the box and creatively work around obstacles will make an impact globally.
Another creative solution that came to mind when I was thinking about this topic, is the non-profit ocean cleanup project. This was started as the idea of an 18-year-old from the Netherlands. There are five ocean garbage patches where waste accumulates, the largest being between Hawaii and California, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is 1.6 million square kilometres, which in context is approximately the size of BC and Alberta combined. This 18-year-old began designing a system to remove this garbage from the ocean. After much research and testing, the non-profit organization that he founded has created a system that captures ocean plastic ranging from just millimetres in size to large debris. It makes use of the power of the ocean, wind, waves and current, and also solar power when necessary. The project has expanded as such that it now employs 90 engineers, scientists and computer modelers. They are on track to reduce the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by 50 percent in the next five years. As they developed their system they realized that they needed to turn off the tap, to stop the waste at its source. They have determined that 80% of the ocean plastic comes from rivers – so they have also developed the interceptor, which removes the waste in the rivers before it enters the ocean. I noticed on their website that they also now have made their first product from the plastic that they have recovered and recycled from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a pair of sunglasses. And all the proceeds from the sales goes back to fund their clean up efforts. https://theoceancleanup.com/
One young person’s ability to look outside the box, see beyond all the obstacles and dream big, has become a global effort and is making a difference for the health of our oceans.
If you want to see more information or videos about these two projects, I have included the website links in the copy of the sermon that you will find on our church website.
I saw some statistics about the reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions since the pandemic began. There was a global drop in emissions by 7% in 2020, which was triggered by restrictions worldwide. The reduction was mainly due to decreased transportation. I noticed this in my small way as I would drive to the church in the morning from Burnaby. In pre-pandemic times, it would take me 40 or 45 minutes to make the 16km commute, but even now that traffic has picked up a little bit, it still only takes me 25 minutes on a normal day. The pandemic forced many of us to think outside the box and get creative about the ways that we work, the ways that we do church, the way that we communicate. In many ways, this year has made many companies and organizations realize that business travel is maybe not as crucial as it once was. A lot of hours of travel and commuting has been saved by people working from home and making use of video conferencing. I imagine that even once the pandemic is over, we may end up keeping some of these ways of doing things that have had a positive impact on our environment. Even in our own small way, I know for myself during the past year, I have made a greater effort to be more efficient in my trips away from home, realizing that I can plan ahead and go grocery shopping once a week, and while I’m out, do the other errands I need to do.
So what more can we do? Like the disciples who were called by Jesus to cross to the other side, to navigate through the obstacles and follow a new way – Jesus’ way to abundant life, we are also called to examine our own obstacles that get in the way of our ability to follow a way to abundant life for all and for our planet. We can do this by raising our awareness about the impact that our decisions make, we can support new initiatives – like the ones I mentioned earlier – that have a positive impact on the environment when we hear about them. We can prioritize our spending where we can, that lessen our impact on the environment, we can make sure we are doing all we can in our own households to conserve energy and water and reduce waste and we can continue to learn and grow as new information emerges.
When we answer that call of Jesus to the abundant life that he offers to those who follow, we join with others on that same path, clearing away the obstacles that lead to abundant life for all and for our world.
Thanks be to God for showing us a new way.