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September 12, 2020

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The world is on fire - how will we respond?
Photo credit: Noah Berger | AP
Think 2020′s disasters are wild? Experts see worse in future – via the Associated Press.
He called out with a mighty voice,
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
    It has become a dwelling place of demons,
a haunt of every foul spirit,
    a haunt of every foul bird,
    a haunt of every foul and hateful beast.
 For all the nations have drunk
    of the wine of the wrath of her fornication,
and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her,
    and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxury.”
 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,
“Come out of her, my people,
    so that you do not take part in her sins,
and so that you do not share in her plagues;
 for her sins are heaped high as heaven,
    and God has remembered her iniquities.
- Revelation 18:2-5
Yesterday, as we remembered the events of 9/11 and the people lost on that day 19 years ago, there was so much more on our minds and hearts. The entire West Coast is affected by wildfires and smoke from those fires. People across the U.S. are dealing with other consequences of climate change, from sudden cold snaps and the aftermath of deadly hurricanes to new flooding from rains this week. All of this while a pandemic continues to restrict our safety and the ability to respond to these disasters as we have in the past. The scenes are out of an apocalyptic movie, while apocalypse is most definitely on our minds. 
It is an important reminder, especially as we study apocalyptic and prophetic scriptures, to understand that apocalypse is a revelation born out of extreme circumstances. When all “normality” is stripped away by these disasters, we see what is true. We see that we are not adequately caring for each other – that poverty prevents people from being as healthy or flexible to change or able to recover from tragedy as those with resources. We see that our commitment to capitalism has caused that poverty and harmed the Earth. We see that what we have seen as “normal” is neither sustainable nor desirable for the abundant life promised by Jesus Christ.
In returning to the memories of 9/11: one of the things shared was Donald Trump’s response to a question about whether his building in downtown Manhattan was damaged. He didn’t offer any words of sympathy for the victims nor even talk about damage to downtown, but instead stated (untruthfully) that his building was now the tallest in downtown. We see clearly that he and so many in our current political leadership remain committed to these ways of death and destruction. They think life is about how much power and how many things you can collect, not seeing how they are missing out on what an abundant life truly is.
Each week, twice as many people die of COVID-19 as died on 9/11. This is not about comparing tragedies – for neither should have happened. This is about seeing clearly how the ways we have been living contributed to both of these tragedies. We didn’t learn the lessons from 9/11, even 20 years later, and that has led us to this exponentially worse place.
My prayer is that we will accept this revelation and make real changes with the understanding of what an abundant life really is, and that it cannot be good for me unless it is good for everyone. We have been shown and told what God wants for us again and again. Let us heed that call.
Voting in November’s presidential (and state and local!) elections are just important first steps. The Sunrise Movement has been leading the way in showing how to engage everyone in the work to reverse climate change. Climate change is truly an existential issue, and Sunrise takes it seriously, but also with a radiance, energy and hope that their name exemplifies. Their unique work has had a major influence over this election and the ways people in the United States are thinking about climate change. Find ways to support them here.
We are surrounded – by real fires and by all the news and events that burn us like fire and overwhelm us with their smoke. We are suffocating. We want to run. We want to escape. Show us the way forward when it seems like there is no escape. Help us see the world like you do, in the example of the Sunrise Movement, with hope and joy for today and the future, and keep moving forward with energy and love even when the world seems to be coming down around us. For you do not abandon us. Amen.
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