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Second Sunday of Advent (December 8, 2019) in Year A

Granting Time, Rupturing Time: Robert Saler reflects on Isaiah 11 and Matthew 3

Care for Creation Commentary on the Common Lectionary 
(originally written by Robert Saler in 2013)

Readings for the Second Sunday in Advent, Year A (2013, 2016, 2019, 2022)

Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72:1-7, 8-19
Romans 15:4-13
Matthew 3:1-12

In his deeply insightful book Capitalism and Religion The Price of Piety (Oxford: Routledge, 2002), the philosopher Philip Goodchild investigates how the structures of late capitalism mimic those of religion, particularly Christianity. At one point, in a discussion on how we “spend” the resources given to us and how such spending choices reflect our “piety,” he offers the following observation on time:

One significant example of the way in which honor is shown is the gift of spending time. One shows value, respect, concern, or interest in something or someone by spending time on it or with them. Unlike other resources, however, we have no freedom to preserve the expenditure of time. Time may be saved only by intensifying expenditure elsewhere. The flow of time forces us to pay our respects—it is a currency that cannot be hoarded but only traded. If we do not choose how we will spend our time, then its expenditure will be determined for us by duty, custom, habit, or distraction. A renunciation of all honoring, all choice of where one spends one’s time, is an acceptance of the values imposed by external powers. It is acquiescence in the existing distribution of values, and an honoring of such values. To the extent that the future encloses possibilities, and thought is able to select among these possibilities, then honor is shown. The question of transcendence is laid upon all free creatures constrained by the flow of time. To be temporal and free is to be pious.

Goodchild’s insight recalls that of Luther, who argued that our real “gods” are the ones that we honor with our trust when the temporal flow of our lives becomes disrupted. It is when the normal flow of time, the quotidian rhythm of our days, becomes disrupted that we come face to face with the real objects of our piety.

John the Baptist was, of course, the great disruptor of time—this eschatological prophet, whom both Jesus and the Gospel writers honored by spending time on his narrative. Similarly, although the Isaiah passage for this week is often understood in somewhat “fluffy” terms as a charming vision of paradise, in its contxt it too should be understood with its full disruptive significance: the coming of peace is the in-breaking of God’s kingdom into a world in which, as Chris Hedges has said, “war is a force that gives us meaning.” Just as in the book of Revelation, the figure of “the lamb” here is fraught with prophetic force, for nothing damns the horrors of war (including war on our very surroundings) so profoundly as a vision of the blessings of peace.

As we think about how we live as citizens of creation, Advent forces us to acknowledge that both personally and systemically we so often choose to honor (with our time) activities of war, exploitation, and practices that are killing us and our planet. As Goodchild’s quote points out, we do this not only by our active choices, but also by our “acquiescence in the existing distribution of values”—our refusal to be disruptive of the customs and habits that are unsustainably exploitative (hence our liturgical confession of things “done and left undone,” sins of commission and omission).

It is helpful, then, to think of the eschatological in-breaking of God’s kingdom for which the church prepares in Advent in terms of the disruption of our piety—our pieties towards what it is that we honor with our time, the piety that causes us to go along unquestioningly with what Goodchild elsewhere calls the “liturgy of common sense” (even, and especially, when that quotidian “liturgy” is destroying our planet and ourselves), the piety that causes us to look at creation as a stockpile of resources for our consumption rather than a fragile web that sustains that which God loves.

In our daily pieties, we are no better than the hypocrites against whom John the Baptist rails—we, as much as they, need disruptive grace to reform our ways of spending the honor of time, and living as God’s people in God’s creation. The gospel promise of Advent, then, is that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus retains the power to break our way of honoring that which kills us, and frees us to live out our time on this planet as partakers of God’s new way of being.

For additional care for creation reflections on the overall themes of the lectionary lessons for the month by Trisha K Tull, Professor Emerita of Old Testament, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and columnist for The Working Preacher, visit: http://www.workingpreacher.org/columnist_home.aspx?author_id=288

Sunday September 25 – October 1 in Year C

What hope is there unless we address our consumption? – Tom Mundah reflects on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

Care for Creation Commentary on the Common Lectionary

Readings for September 25 – October 1, Year C (2013, 2016, 2019, 2022)

Amos 6:1a, 4-7
Psalm 146
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31 

This week’s texts all wrestle with the simple question: how is the generosity of creation to be responded to? Or, as Joseph Sittler asks the question: how is creation to be both “used” and “enjoyed?” (Sittler, “The Care of the Earth,” in Steven Bouma-Prediger and Peter Bakken, eds., Evocations of Grace: Writings on Ecology, Theology, and Ethics, Eerdmans, 2000, p. 58.) This becomes even more crucial when we see the effects of inequality of wealth on our common call to care for the earth. 

As the Psalter reaches its conclusion with a quartet of doxologies, we are drenched in language praising and celebrating the God who is both creator and savior, who calls creatures both to enjoyment and just use of all that is. We see that theme especially in Psalm 146, where the psalmist connects the God who made heaven and earth to the one who “executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry” (Psalm 146:6-7). In just a very few words, we see a creator who, in order to achieve the purpose of creation, is hard at work to overturn oppression, the unfair distribution of power, wealth, and resources.

A good share of the heavy-lifting in this ‘saving process’ is done by the prophets, especially Amos. He spares no one among the powerful elite. Whether they rule and administer in the north (Mount Samaria) or the south (Zion), they cannot escape (Amos 6:1). The irony seems to be the total obliviousness to coming catastrophe shown by those who benefit from a system soon to be destroyed by Assyria. Amos’ indictment comes as an ironic public lament: “Alas for those who are at ease . . . , who lie on beds of ivory, lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the stall . . . .” (Amos 6:1a, 40). In their privilege, not only do they take more than their share of resources, but they provide none of the leadership they are called to, especially in the face of impending doom. As Amos puts it, they “are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!” (Amos 6:6)

Therefore, the elite will share the experience of Joseph—exile! In fact, says Amos, they will be the very first to be taken, “and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away” (Amos 6:7b). It makes one wonder how the possession of power and wealth seem to insulate from reality. Is it being surrounded by “toadies” who continually spout what the powerful want to hear and create a “cocoon” of unreality for the powerful whether in Zion, inside the DC Beltway, or in the halls of Microsoft? 

A similar process seems to operate among broader populations in so-called “developed societies” where political and business leaders urge ‘consumers’ (the new identity that has replaced ‘citizenship’) to continue to ride the ‘luxury loungers’ of consumption, because things will continue to go on just as they have been, unless we stop shopping! Is this mania for over-consumption a kind of ‘lotus eating’ addiction that requires treatment? Is it a learned “psychology of previous investment?” (James Howard Kunstler, “Are We Trapped in a Psychology of Previous Investment?” April 16, 2012, biostruct.ca). That is, are we by mental dispositions formed by the massive advertising industry and economic structure so tied to our current “reality” that the thought of change is frightening? In the face of the possibility of change, do we hold on all the more to a ‘lifestyle’ that stresses the planet and gives us little real satisfaction? Or, is it a combination of all of these fired by the old anxiety that moves us to embrace the notion that ‘we are as gods’ and not subject to the limits of creation? In any case, these lead us to the folly of trying to sustain the unsustainable.

These questions become especially acute as we read and consider interpreting the “Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.” Here, Luke’s recounting of Jesus’ parable demonstrates what it means for the mighty to be brought down from the thrones and the lowly lifted up (Luke 1:52). In the figure of the rich man, the warning from the Sermon on the Plain, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation, “ is confirmed (Luke 6:24). Not only do we see the continuing theme of the dangers of wealth explored, suddenly the “arrogance of wealth” emerges like ‘the great white whale’ vaulting out of the sea.

It would be almost impossible to draw a sharper contrast than that between the lives of the anonymous rich man and Lazarus. We meet a man so wealthy that he feasts every day dressed in the very best, while poor Lazarus, suffering from impaired mobility, lies at his gate hoping for anything that fell from the rich man’s table. Not only does his disability with its open sores make him unclean, this ritual impurity is compounded by dogs that lick the wounds. And then they both die.

Lazarus lands in “the bosom of Abraham,” the goal of all the pious, while the rich man is not so fortunate. Yet, the rich man continues his sense of social privilege by asking Father Abraham to have mercy on him and “send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames” (Luke 16:24). Father Abraham’s answer suggests that the rich man might have responded to Lazarus’ cries for help and mercy during their lifetimes. 

But still the rich man has the “cheek” to at least send Lazarus, again seen as a ‘no-count lackey,’ to his brothers’ house where they can be warned. Sending someone from the dead might just have the impact needed to bring change. Father Abraham simply replies, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even is someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). This is nothing but a scathing critique of a religion that countenances a wealthy elite pretending to righteousness and ceremonial cleanness while the very basic needs of the ‘Lazaruses’ around are ignored? By telling this story, Luke’s Jesus also puts the Pharisees, characterized as “money lovers” (Luke 16:14), in their places (Luke Timothy Johnson, Luke (Collegeville, 1991, p. 256).

This arrogance should sound familiar. F. Scott Fitzgerald defined this for “the Jazz Age” of 1920’s affluence in his fantasy, “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz.” (F. Scott Fitzgerald: Novels and Stories, 1920-1922, The Library of America, 2000, pp. 913–953). College student John T. Unger, from Hades, Missouri, is invited to visit fellow college student, Percy Washington, at his Montana home for the summer. While there, Unger finds that the Washington family is the richest in the world: their opulent family mansion is built on a diamond bigger than New York’s Ritz Hotel! But the Washington family’s wealth is safe only if they remain totally hidden from public view.

Vast wealth has bought this secrecy until the invention of the airplane. Now, the Washingtons are in danger of losing this protection. As the family compound is being bombed, Braddock Washington makes one more try to preserve wealth and status. After having slaves drag the largest diamond anyone has ever seen to the highest point on the family property, Washington cries, “You out there” . . . . ”Oh, you above there.” With horror, it dawns on young John T. Unger what the elder Washington is trying to do. “Braddock Washington was offering a bribe to God” (Fitzgerald, p. 948). As the distribution of wealth in North America becomes more skewed toward the wealthy, more stories like this will emerge.

So, what is a fitting attitude of God’s people toward wealth and resources?  We can learn much from 1 Timothy 6. Riffing off of the familiar assumption that “godliness is a means of gain” (1 Timothy 6:5b), the author confronts the cleavages in wealth that likely existed among the faith community. This discourse hinges on the contrast between “contentment”(v. 6) and “love of money” (v. 10), a love that has great power to send people ‘wandering away’ from the life of faith.

How might this work? Arthur McGill suggests that seeking wealth or, “life by possession” accomplishes this by leading the one with wealth, the possessor, to imagine that she/he is “Lord of myself” (Life and Death: An American Theology, Fortress, 1988, p. 55.). What might motivate people to this endless seeking of wealth and things to possess? McGill suggests that “Their fear of death, their fear that their identity will be taken away from them” (McGill, p. 55). This is precisely what this pastoral epistle seeks to counter.

Because the Risen One, Christ Jesus has already made the “good confession” (v. 13) before the Caesar’s representative, Pontius Pilate, he is “the only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords…to him be honor and dominion. Amen.” (vv. 15 -16)  Living in faith, then, means to live by means of the rulership of Jesus, who frees the community to enjoy contentment, literally “self rule.”  This delivers us from the merry-go-round of seeking wealth and things “to possess” and helps us to see that all creation is “gift,” where  all is intended “to do good,” so that the community can be “rich in good works, generous, and ready to share…so that they make take hold of the life that really is life.” (1 Timothy 6:18-19)

This life becomes clearer for us in a conversation between Andrew Blechman of Orion magazine and author, Alan Weisman, whose new book on population, Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? will be released later in September. Weisman is very clear that when we discuss population in the U.S. we need always to factor per capita consumption into the equation. As he says, “there is no condom for consumption.” (Orion, September-October 2013, p. 55.)

 For that reason, like Paul, Weisman recommends “contentment,” “self-rule:” “There is no question that the most overpopulated country on earth is actually the United States, because we consume at such a ferocious rate.” (Orion, p. 55)  Obviously, there are better reasons to get off our couches than adding to our collection of that which is unneeded. 

Tom Mundahl, St. Paul, MN                                     tmundahl@gmail.com

 

For additional care for creation reflections on the overall themes of the lectionary lessons for the month by Trisha K Tull, Professor Emerita of Old Testament, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and columnist for The Working Preacher, visit: http://www.workingpreacher.org/columnist_home.aspx?author_id=288

 

Sunday June 26 – July 2 in Year C (Ormseth)

Love the neighborhood as yourself!

Care for Creation Commentary on the Common Lectionary—Year C by Dennis Ormseth

Reading for Series C (2013, 2016, 2019, 2022)

1 Kings 19:15–16, 19–21
Psalm 16 (8)
Galatians 5:1, 13–25
Luke 9:51–62

The learnings for care of creation to be drawn from this Sunday’s readings hinge on an interpretation of the concept of the “kingdom of God” from the Gospel and second reading. Would-be followers of Jesus, we are told, should “let the dead bury their own dead” and “go and proclaim the kingdom of God. . . . No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (9:60-61). Luke Timothy Johnson suggests that “the meaning here depends on the understanding of conversion as a ‘new life,’ with those not sharing the new life being in effect ‘dead.’” We are to understand that the preaching of the kingdom of God requires “a sense of direction and concentration” infused with prophetic urgency like that imaged by our first reading (The Gospel of Luke. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 163).

The apparent tension in the text between valid concerns of everyday life—the obligation to bury one’s father, the slaughter of precious oxen to provide meat for a farewell feast, for example—and following the prophet whose face is set toward Jerusalem, might suggest that preaching the Kingdom has little if nothing to do with practical, economic considerations, however much it might have to do with “new life.” We propose here, on the contrary, to adopt Wendell Berry’s insistence, in his essay on “Two Economies” (Home Economics. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1987), that “the first principle of the Kingdom of God is that it includes everything; in it, the fall of every sparrow is a significant event. We are in it whether we know it or not and whether we wish to be or not.” Furthermore, although we “do not and can never know either all the creatures that the Kingdom of God contains or the whole pattern or order by which it contains them,” nonetheless in principle everything in the Kingdom of God is “joined both to it and to everything else that is in it” (Berry, p. 55). Berry makes this argument in order to assert the appropriateness of calling the Kingdom an “economy”—indeed the “Great Economy”—which “includes principles and patterns by which values or powers or necessities are parceled out and exchanged.” In this view, the Kingdom of God and the preaching of it can hardly be disconnected from the “concerns of everyday life.” There is urgency here, to be sure, but the Kingdom has everything to do with such concerns, which we might in fact properly characterize as at least implicitly “ecological.”

This follows from Berry’s understanding of the “Great Economy.” We find ourselves in the precarious condition of living “within order and that this order is both greater and more intricate than we can know.” And while we “cannot produce a complete or even an adequate description of this order, severe penalties are in store for us if we presume upon it or violate it.” The special situation of humans is that while “fowls of the air and the lilies of the field live within the Great Economy entirely by nature . . . humans, though entirely dependent upon it, must live in it partly by artifice. The birds can live in the Great Economy only as birds, the flowers only as flowers, the humans only as humans. The humans, unlike the wild creatures, may choose not to live in it—or, rather, since no creature can escape it, they may choose to act as if they do not, or they may choose to try to live in it on their own terms. If humans choose to live in the Great Economy on its terms, then they must live in harmony with it.”

(While Berry develops his argument with reference to Matthew 6, we see no reason not to apply his understanding to the concept in these readings as well). A good human economy will define and value human goods so as to conserve and protect them, as does the Great Economy.  Nevertheless, certain differences pertain: the dependence of a human economy on the Great economy means that humans can only add value to things in nature, not originate value. A human economy must “also manage in such a way as to make continuously available those values that are primary or given, the secondary values having mainly to do with husbandry and trusteeship” (Berry, p. 61). “The Great Economy,” Berry insists, is “both known and unknown, visible and invisible, comprehensible and mysterious. It is, thus, the ultimate condition of our experience and of the practical questions rising from our experience, and it imposes on our consideration of those questions an extremity of seriousness and an extremity of humility” (Berry, p. 57).

Given this understanding of the Kingdom of God as Great Economy, what can we draw from this Sunday’s readings concerning Jesus’ possible orientation to ecological concerns? The narrative, Luke Timothy Johnson observes, begins the “great middle section” of Luke’s Gospel.  With his face set to go to Jerusalem, he immediately encounters resistance from a Samaritan village and has to respond to his disciples suggestion that they bring down fire to “consume” them. The conflict relates to the ‘ancestral antipathy between Judeans and Samaritans based in the rivalry between the shrines of Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Zion, and on a whole cluster of disputes concerning the right way to read the sacred books, messianism and above all, who was a real Israelite” (Johnson, p. 163). That he was headed toward Jerusalem would have been interpreted in the village as a choice for the competing shrine, a competition in which the disciples were only too happy to engage. Jesus’ rebuke was meant to dissuade the disciples from engaging in such competition; instead, as the following exchange reveals, they should “go and proclaim the Kingdom of God,” which would entail transcendence of that conflict in an embrace of and advocacy for the inclusive reality of the Kingdom. As the disciples will soon understand, that his face is set to go to Jerusalem with prophetic urgency shows that he is equally against the choice of Jerusalem  and its authorities over Samaria.

The significance of this narrative is further illumined by our second reading. The Apostle Paul is also concerned about the “kingdom of God,” for which he proscribes an ethic of life in the Spirit. He insists that the freedom to which Christians are called cannot be used as “an opportunity for self-indulgence” (Galatians 5:13) because it leads to those “works of the flesh” that preclude one from participation in the “kingdom of God.” His long and dreadful list of such behaviors is notable for their inherently selfish orientation within basically social or even economic relationships. “If you bite and devour one another,” he warns with graphic metaphor, “take care that you are not consumed by one another;” “let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:15; 26). Paul in fact generalizes here on the ethical principles of the Kingdom Jesus proclaimed. The freedom to which we are called, he insists,  instead requires, paradoxically, that we “become slaves to one another” in a life in the Spirit characterized by “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” all virtues that are inherently and positively social, in accordance with the commandment to “love one’s neighbor as oneself” (5:14, 22).

While neither Luke nor Paul has in view anything specifically related to the ecological crisis of our age, there emerges here an ethos that brings the human economy into consonance with the Great Economy.  Again, Wendell Berry sees the connection. When the existence of the Great Economy is acknowledged, he notes, “we are astonished and frightened to see how much modern enterprise is the work of hubris . . . based on invasion and pillage of the Great Economy (Berry, p. 65). While Jesus forbids competition in favor of the transcendent Kingdom, and Paul warns against its reciprocal “consumption,” it is Berry’s observation that as the “ruling principle in our explanation of reality and in our understanding of economy,” competitiveness “imposes a logic that is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to control.” That logic explains why our cars and our clothes are shoddily made, why our “wastes” are toxic, and why our “defensive” weapons are suicidal; it explains why it is so difficult for us to draw a line between “free enterprise” and crime. If our economic ideal is maximum profit with minimum responsibility, why should we be surprised to find our corporations so frequently in court and robbery on the increase? (Berry, p. 762).

In the Great Economy, on the contrary, “all transactions count and the account is never ‘closed,’ so “the ideal changes:”

We see that we cannot afford maximum profit or power with minimum responsibility because in the Great Economy, the loser’s losses finally afflict the winner. Now the ideal must be “the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption,” which both defines and requires neighborly love. Competitiveness cannot be the ruling principle, for the Great Economy is not a “side” that we can join nor are there such “sides” within it. Thus, it is not the “sum of its parts” but a membership of parts inextricably joined to each other, indebted to each other, receiving significance and worth from each other and from the whole. One is obliged to “consider the lilies of the field,” not because they are lilies or because they are exemplary, but because they are fellow members and because, as fellow members, we and the lilies are in certain critical ways alike (Berry, p. 72-73).

Loving one’s neighbor as oneself, we might say, necessarily requires a community of neighbors, or a neighborhood. And within the context of the “kingdom of God” as a Great Economy, that neighborhood would be comprised of all relationships between existing creatures, however known or unknown, visible or invisible, comprehensible or mysterious. For a human, Berry concludes, “the good choice in the Great Economy is to see its membership as a neighborhood and oneself as a neighbor within it,” as indeed, a neighbor who loves the neighborhood as oneself.

For additional care for creation reflections on the overall themes of the lectionary lessons for the month by Trisha K Tull, Professor Emerita of Old Testament, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and columnist for The Working Preacher, visit: http://www.workingpreacher.org/columnist_home.aspx?author_id=288

So We Can Restore Creation

While caring for the environment can feel overwhelming, it’s when we stand together, each doing our part, that we find hope, gain strength, and make a difference. Find a tool below to help celebrate God’s gifts to us!

Download (Click Here) the information shared from Portico and Lutherans Restoring Creation at Churchwide Assembly 2019 to celebrate our progress and map the long way we still need to go to restore creation.

Join Up

Adults, start by taking the LRC Personal Covenant.  In 5 – 10 minutes, complete your covenant with creation. You’ll start to receive LRC’s monthly Good Green e-News linking you to other Lutheran earth-keepers and helpful resources.

ELCA Retirement Plan members, invest consciously using Portico’s ELCA social purpose funds. Call a Portico Financial Planner at 800.922.4896 to learn whether you’re in the social purpose funds and how to make that choice.

Children, take the Child’s Pledge With Creation.  Print out this out and discuss with your family. Tip: Frame your completed pledge using a larger piece of cardboard like a cereal box and decorate it with magazine photos that are important to you.

Teens, take the Youth Pledge. Then, walk through the Your Day experience, reflecting on how your daily decisions can impact others with whom we share this planet.

Inspire Others

Rally your congregation to take the Congregational Covenant with CreationThen, use LRC resources to create an action plan with support from LRC mentors.

Active Earth-keepers, become a Green Shepherd in your synodAs your synod’s point person for LRC and ELCA Advocacy and Stewardship outreach, learn to identify, connect and motivate other “green sheep” in your synod.

 

Planning and Carrying Out Green Events

Guidelines for Ecologically Responsible Events

Prepared by Pilgrims Caring for Creation Pilgrim Lutheran Church, St. Paul, MN in response to a request from Mary Beth Nowak, ELCA Churchwide Assembly Coordinator, January 22, 2009.*

Adapted for events in observance of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation by David Rhoads, Founder Lutherans Restoring Creation.

*please note some resources may need updating – if you find anything we should alter please let us know!

Publicity about sustainability efforts; through planning, implementation, and beyond:

• Use your website, event program, press releases, opening, signage and post-event publications to tell the story of the green event.

• Put together a brochure with actions taken by your organization to make the event green. Print a limited number for attendees and the public and make it available electronically. Include green actions that individuals can adopt at the event, in their congregations, and beyond. For example:

• Adjust the thermostat in the hotel rooms (and at home) when not there so the heat or air conditioning is not running unnecessarily. Take advantage of hotel policies for less frequent washing of linens.

• List other relevant information related to getting around in the location of the event.

• Set up an onsite sustainability booth to provide information about the event’s greening initiatives. Items at this table could include: transit passes; transit information/maps; bike rental/bike trail information; tips included in the above brochure.

• Invite the local and national Lutheran creation care organizations to have booths and provide consultation to congregations regarding their greening goals.

Procurement of services and products

• Purchasing staff can keep in mind the environmental, social, and economic impacts of purchased goods or services—throughout its lifecycle. Favor goods and services that result in minimal environmental impacts and create good social and economic development. Use environmental criteria as well as quality and price.

• For example, if speaker platforms are created by staff, the wood could be sustainably grown and harvested. If rugs or fabrics are used to soften the areas, they could have minimal adhesives and be reusable or recyclable.

• Develop contract riders to hold suppliers accountable to sustainability commitments.

• For example, ask subcontractors and vendors to consider the lifecycle of the products they use and create.

• There is a precedent for event sponsors to calculate the energy used by the whole event—services, transportation, venues and so forth—and then purchase carbon offsets to cover their energy use. They can choose to ask participants to help bear the costs. There are several calculators to use for this. Consider http://www.nativeenergy.com, but browsing “carbon calculator” on the internet yields comparisons among several. For carbon offset groups, try http://www.co2offsetresearch.org/consumer/OffsetRatings.html .

Communications to participants prior to the event

• Provide opportunities for sending conference information electronically.

• Reduce the use of paper and the need to mail that paper by providing as much pre-event information electronically.

• Allow for and encourage electronic registration.

• Whenever paper is used: Decrease the margins around printing to one-half inch,  copy on both sides of the paper, use 100% post-consumer recycled paper, print using soy/vegetable ink, avoid bright colored paper.

Travel to the Event

• Ask attendees to think about others living in nearby communities who will also attend the event and encourage them to consider renting a van or bus and traveling to the event together.

• Encourage each attendee/vendor/presenter/staff person flying or driving to the site of the event to consider purchasing carbon offsets to help mitigate the environmental impact of their travel.

• Visit http://www.nativeenergy.com or http://www.co2offsetresearch.org/consumer/OffsetRatings.html .

• Encourage people to bring their own water containers or mugs that they will rinse themselves. No Styrofoam or plastic bottles, please.

• Encourage delegates and others coming to the event to consider bringing their families and making the location of the event a vacation destination rather than taking a second trip and thereby emitting additional greenhouse gas emissions. Come early or stay later.

• Consider providing videoconferencing options to individuals who do not need to be physically present at the event.

Lodging for Attendees

• Inquire about the environmental practices of hotels, including their waste and resource management.

• Are bulk dispensers for shampoos and soaps used in hotel rooms?

• Are low-flow water-conserving fixtures used in sinks, toilets, and showers?

• Are paperless check-in and check-out available?

• Are post-consumer recycled paper products used?

• Negotiate room blocks with hotels that are within walking distance, are on the transit line, and/or have green policies.

• Ask guests to participate in linen re-use programs at their hotels. Ask them to shut off lights, TVs, and heat/ A/C when they leave their rooms.

• Ask that the hotel staff to put the thermostat up/down when the room is empty. This is already the standard practice in some hotels.

Transportation around the Event Site

• Discourage the use of single rider rental cars, and encourage carpooling.

• Encourage the use of local transit.

• Inform attendees that bike rental is an option for local transportation.

• Inform attendees that idling is prohibited in many areas, unless the car is in traffic. Avoid idling for more than three minutes.

Event Site Amenities

• Inquire about the environmental practices of the site where the event is being held, including their waste and resource management:   Do they employ energy- and water-efficient equipment and practices?  Do they minimize the use of harmful chemicals when cleaning? Is recycling available in all common areas Are recycling receptacles readily available and clearly marked?  Is staff trained to ensure that recycling and garbage are not co-mingled?  Are food-rescue, food-to-animals, or food composting practices followed? Ask if they could schedule heat/ A/C resources around meeting requirements. Can the temperature be changed a little, keeping the halls comfortable but conserving energy?

• Encourage the event site to purchase wind energy during the period of the event. If not, consider purchasing carbon offsets for the event itself.

• Do not distribute plastic water bottles. Instead each table should have a pitcher of water and glasses.

• If you choose to use disposable products such as cups, and cutlery, consider purchasing compostable products made from cornstarch or similar materials. If this option is chosen, then provide for composting services and education to attendees to ensure success.

• Be sure not to put compostable waste inside large non-compostable plastic bags for disposal.

• Encourage attendees to bring their laptop computers and then provide wireless internet service to them. Make all printed materials available electronically so participants can choose to read the materials from their laptops rather than receiving handouts. Individuals may also choose to take notes on their computers rather than on paper.

Meals/Refreshments/Breaks

• Compost food waste.

• Request that food providers use organic, locally produced food and beverages (contract with the site to use local food as much as possible). If it is not possible for all meals to be from local sources, have one or two meals designated as locally grown and publicize them that way.

• Provide only Fair Trade organic coffee and tea throughout the event.

• Direct event staff NOT to pre-fill water glasses at meals. Allow guests to fill their own glasses with pitchers at the tables.

• Do not use disposable water bottles. Provide for glasses and pitchers of water.

• Eliminate disposable items, including containers, plates, bowls, cups, cutlery, napkins, and tablecloths. Earth-Centric has cups that are compostable: http://www.Earth-Centric.com

• Arrange to donate leftover food to local charities. Local charity organizations may be able to assist with this effort. Individuals or groups can volunteer to assist.

• Ensure that any seafood served is harvested responsibly.

• Provide vegetarian and vegan meals or options.

• Choose reusable centerpieces and decorations.

Registration

• Make on-line registration an option and encourage attendees to use it.

• Encourage attendees to bring their own name-tags if they have them. Encourage them to be reusable.

• Provide lanyards that are made from recycled materials. Ask participants to return them after the event to be used again later, and provide an incentive for them to do so. For example, if there is a drawing at the end of the event, let people know that their name will be entered only upon the return of the lanyard.

• Give everyone a reusable event bag. The bag can be made of organically grown cotton or canvas, or recycled plastic. Put a logo on it that people will be happy to reuse. This reduces waste and is good advertising.

• Consider the environment when determining giveaways. Provide giveaways that are useful and sustainable, like a bicycle (LED) flasher, keychain with light on end, 3” x 3” recycled leather paper pad.

Exhibits

• Encourage vendors and exhibitors to consider the environment when making choices about giveaways, banners, displays, paper, post-conference waste, etc.

• Encourage them to provide giveaways that are made from recycled materials, or will biodegrade, or are reusable, or are consumable (e.g. note pads made from recycled paper, coffee mugs, Fair Trade chocolate).

• Request/require exhibitors to use recycled and recyclable paper.

• Invite people/companies to exhibit who can sell potentially green things to congregations (eco-friendly Good Friday palms branches, organic communion wine, etc.).

• Encourage exhibitors to reduce waste (and cost) by reusing or recycling displays and other materials, rather than disposing of them after the event.

• Request that exhibitors use sustainable design and construction of their exhibit booths, if possible.

Plenary Events

• Attempt to hire “green” display/decoration/production companies for décor (banners, cutouts, platform decorations, posters). Can you reduce? Do you really need everything you think you need? Using less is good for the environment and good for the budget. What are displays and decorations made of? Do they emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s)? Can they be reused?

• Use organic communion wine and locally produced communion bread made from organic ingredients, at large group meetings. Practice intinction to avoid plastic communion cups or washing glass ones.

Consider who helped create the meal from field to table – and where the waste will end up, in whose neighborhood?

Breakout Sessions/Presenters

• Encourage presenters to provide their presentations in advance on discs or on the Assembly web site. Remind attendees that materials will be available on a designated website after the event.

 

This is Church and You Are Needed Inside & Out

Watch this message from our churchwide leaders and fellow members across the country who recognize the tough, uncomfortable work of being “called out” into the world.  It is an empowering 7 minutes – worth the watch for all of us, not just the voting members who will be sitting in the conference rooms.

For those wanting to embolden their sense of calling to Creation Care for All as ministry inside and outside the church – you don’t need to have a resolution ready,  join a march, or preach on climate (yet). Start here:

 

Church Bulletin and Newsletter Input

There is plenty of information “out there” on how we can make steps to live a life with less of a negative impact on our neighbors and bring the Outside in… but that’s only if you happen to go looking for it. Perhaps adding a few simple pieces of inspiration that can work for your fellow worshipers in the material the read periodically can start new habits and open closed minds.  Below are some links that you can copy and paste shared by folks throughout the Lutherans Restoring Creation community. (Please acknowledge source when sharing!)

E – news “blurbs” for Winter 2020: 

Lutherans Restoring Creation

Never heard of us? Find out more below!

Our Mission

Lutherans Restoring Creation exists to inform, encourage, and uplift the discipleship practice of caring for the environment throughout the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.This is accomplished by cultivating a network of dedicated stewards of earth and neighbor who proclaim God’s promise of hope and healing for all.

Who We Are

Lutherans Restoring Creation is a grassroots movement of Lutherans, driven by laity, pastors, lay professionals, synodical leadership, and others who hold positions in the ELCA and its institutions. This movement grows out of a long history of Lutheran concern (the 1993 social statement Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice).

Search “Congregations” for more resources at www.LutheransRestoringCreation.org.

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Looking for a Lenten Discipline?

Every little thing can make a big difference when it comes to care for creation! If you are looking for ways to conserve energy and be a good steward to our earth, Lutherans Restoring Creation can help! They have developed a whole checklist for energy savings in your home and congregation! Visit www.LutheransRestoringCreation.org to discover what you may need for Personal Discipleship. Maybe each day of Lent, we can take some time to better care for God’s creation!

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Lutherans Restoring Creation Devotionals

We are facing a critical time in our world when we need to put extra focus on the environment and God’s creation. If you’d like to focus on care for creation during this season of reflection, you can find great devotional materials on www.LutheransRestoringCreation.org.

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Lutherans Restoring Creation Commentaries

Preachers: Are you looking for resources and commentaries about care-for-creation during this season? Lutherans Restoring creation has created a wonderful database of commentaries for the entire lectionary cycle. You can find them all by season and narrative sermons at http://www.LutheransRestoringCreation.org

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Care for Creation Congregational Covenant

Interested in taking the next step with Lutherans Restoring Creation in your congregation? Our congregational self-organizing kit — available for download at: LutheransRestoringCreation.org.   This is a step-by-step guide to help you function as a creation-care congregation as well as how to access to the resources needed to carry out this program on an ongoing basis. Whether or not you are already active in greening your congregation, this kit will enable you to identify yourself with Lutherans Restoring Creation, provide an overall plan for your efforts, and help you to further your congregational commitment to ecology and justice.

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Lutherans Restoring Creation: Going a step further

We care for creation on more than just the individual or congregational level! ELCA members have the opportunity to be public witnesses through the process of submitting, educating fellow members, and eventually passing synod resolutions. Some of these public statements and declarations of change also move along to be a Memorial to be passed by the entire Church-wide body which meets every three years. For details about your local submission requirements contact your synod office. You can see examples of synod resolutions on the Lutherans Restoring Creation website.

 

 

 

Living the Change: A Tool Connected to Many Faiths

GreenFaith has helped pull together leaders from various religions across the globe to recognize our common concern for the planet and life on it. In doing this they have created a tool that can be customized to each tradition and helps us focus on the major activities which we can alter to mitigate a changing climate. Please use this link to sign up (either solo or as a whole team… youth group, Bible Study Class, family, etc.) we want to know of your efforts and celebrate together!

Living the Change as Lutherans Restoring Creation 

What does church have to do with it?

As many faith-based organizations are struggling with their place in relation to people’s daily lives, so does the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America look for ways the world can use what we offer.  As part of an appeal for our churches to take on the uncomfortable challenge of being engaged in the public sphere, let’s take stock of how other sectors of our society ask the church for help.  If you have articles or stories to share please submit them to info at lutheransrestoringcreation dot org.

Comments from BBC’s NewsHour Jan 22, 2019 Davos, Switzerland as Global Business leaders meet at World Economic  Forum:

Listen in to this conversation from global leaders and their call to us all to act as leaders.

What does a “moral and empathic revolution” look like?

When are you tempted to make villains out of your neighbors?

How can prayer offer a way out of habits that take us further away from our goals?

Transportation: “On the Way” Bible Study

Opening Prayer: Gracious God, we have gathered here from many places. Thank you for safe travels. Bless this time together. Amen.

Introductory discussion: Much of Jesus’ ministry took place on the way from one place to another. Thus, transportation is an important aspect of the Gospel stories.

What might inhibit us from thinking about transportation as an opportunity for living out our faith? (Isolation in cars? Transportation as simply a means of getting from here to there? Competition for road space? Stresses of traffic? “Road rage”? Etc.)

Reading and discussion: Read Luke 24:13-32 (The Road to Emmaus).

Why do you think the disciples fail to recognize Jesus?

What does it mean to meet Jesus on the way from place to place?

How can we understand the meaning of this story in light of car culture?

Reading and discussion: Read Luke 10:29-37 (The Good Samaritan). Jesus regularly taught with parables like this one.

Why do you think the priest and the Levite neglected to help the suffering man? (On the way to an important engagement? No time to spare? Social expectations?)

How can we understand the meaning of this story in light of car culture? How might we identify the neighbor given current transportation habits?

Reflection: What would it take to be faithful on the way from place to place?

How might we reconsider our transportation habits to provide for more opportunities to encounter Christ, to encounter the neighbor?

Do we have nonhuman neighbors? How does our mode of transportation affect how we encounter them?

Closing Prayer: Gracious God, we thank you for your vast creation, of which we are a part. Hold your creation in mercy and love. Amen.

 

 

Wartburg College Offers A New Twist to the Common 3R’s of Sustainable Living

The majority of people have probably heard of the 3R’s of Sustainable Living:  Reduce, reuse, recycle. Wartburg College has added two extra categories to their list: Refuse and repair.

“You have probably heard of the 3 R’s of waste reduction (reduce, reuse, recycle) but there are actually 5 R’s at Wartburg College. They should be considered in this order too.

  1. Refuse – if you don’t need it don’t take/get it

  2. Reduce – only take what you really need, you can almost always get more

  3. Repair – just because it may be inexpensive to get it new, repair will keep it out of the landfill

  4. Reuse – if you are done with it, maybe someone else can use it

  5. Recycle – if there are no other options, recycle, keep it out of the landfill”

Wartburg Sustainability strives to promote these five R’s through sustainable practices around campus.

To read more about Wartburg’s sustainability efforts, click here.

Gettysburg College Offers Nationally Recognized Recycling Program

Gettysburg College has been home to successful recycling programs since the early 1980s. Since then, the College has won national and regional awards for its recycling program. To increase the ease of recycling, Gettysburg College has recently switched to a single-stream recycling program. This system allows for increased convenience, as it is no longer necessary to sort between aluminum, paper, glass, and plastic recycling bins. Additionally, each student residence is equipped with trash cans and recycling bins for increased student accessibility. In addition to this, items not included in single-stream recycling may be recycled in designated locations across campus. Gettysburg has conveniently located areas on campus to recycle batteries, printer cartridges, used cell phones, old computer hardware, and more! To learn more about Gettysburg’s recycling initiatives, click here.

 

Luther College and Raptor Resource Project Build Banding Station (2017)

A grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources allowed Luther College and the Decorah Raptor Resource Project to build an autumn migration banding station on campus, giving students unprecedented direct access to wildlife and conversation research.The banding station, located on Hawk Hill on the northeast edge of the Luther campus, is large enough for classes to observe wild birds, band them and gather data before releasing them back into the wild.
As part of the partnership, RRP hired six Luther College students as interns for the fall semester to learn field and research techniques for trapping and banding wild hawks. The banding station also opens an opportunity for Luther students to interact with students in the Decorah Community School District. When a live bird is banded and school is in session, Luther can contact local schools and take the bird to the school to give a demonstration. To read more about this project, click here.

Several ELCA Colleges Named in the Sierra Club’s Top “Cool Schools” List (2017)

Muhlenberg College, Luther College, Wartburg College, Wittenberg College, and Pacific Lutheran University were all recently included in the Sierra Club’s 2017 List of “Cool Schools”. The national assessment pulls data from STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System), a program run by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Information submitted to AASHE was used and scored across 61 questions from the STARS assessment, in addition to a supplemental question about fossil fuel investments. The Sierra Club used STARS reports to compile the list. To view the complete list of schools click here.

Featured School: Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA

Gettysburg College has been pursuing sustainable decision making for over three decades. As the world’s environmental issues grow more and more severe, the college has increased its commitment to sustainability. In practice, this commitment entails working to enhance and protect the environment through teaching, research, service, operations, decision-making, and other aspects of life on campus. Gettysburg College, as a sustainable campus, is addressing all three pillars of sustainability. Environmentally, the College works to reduce and eliminate its ecological footprint; economically, it makes purchases and investments within budgetary constraints; and socially, the college is increasing awareness about educational, emotional, and physical needs. To learn more about Gettysburg’s sustainability program and efforts click here.

 

 

Concordia College in Moorhead Hosts Successful Community Tree Planting Event (2017)

A recent community tree planting event was a huge success. More than 60 students, faculty, and staff helped plant trees on the east side of campus. With shovels and good spirits, the campus community jumped into the tree planting project Oct. 14.

Overcrowded and diseased trees just south of the high tunnel garden near the soccer fields were removed last spring. They were replaced with 52 trees — each more than 8 feet tall. Volunteers, organized through the Student Environmental Alliance, were given a tutorial on tree planting by college horticulturalist Jerry Raguse before getting to work. “I’m amazed so many people would come out on a cold Saturday morning to plant trees,” says Haylee Worm ’19, organizer and SEA co-chair. “It is cool that there are so many different groups of people here that have a passion for the environment. It really demonstrates that they do care.”

 

 

Augsburg Awarded $475,000 to Help Infuse Sustainability Into All Facets of College Life (2017)

In 2017, Augsburg University launched initiatives to build capacity for integrating environmental sustainability across all curricular, co-curricular, and operational aspects of campus life. The initiatives are made possible by a grant from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. The Minnesota-based foundation believes that college and university campuses can serve as models of operational sustainability for the society at large, testing practical solutions that others can adopt.

Augsburg University President, Paul C. Pribbenow, believes that efforts to achieve sustainability must give consideration to the environment, the economy, and issues of equity. “As a college of the Lutheran Church, we’re called to prepare our students to address and overcome global challenges such as climate change, hunger and food insecurity, and limited access to clean water,” said Pribbenow. “As a liberal arts institution embedded in a diverse, urban environment, we’re accustomed to collaboration across disciplines and beyond the classroom. These important initiatives will better position us to meet these challenges head on.” For more information on this initiative, click here.

Know trash? No trash! Try this youth program!

Put on a youth program about Trash!
How well do you know your trash? How can your youth group become more eco-friendly on the congregational level?
Lutherans Restoring Creation and Lutheran Community Foundation (now InFaith Community Foundation) worked together to provide an exhibit about Trash at the National Youth Gathering. 
Would you like to host a similar exhibit in your home congregation? 
Use our Know No Trash Manual as a launching off point (this PDF can also be downloaded from the bottom of this page). 
                                           
Movies about Trash
Additional Resources to explore your human footprint

 

The Nature of Things: Rediscovering the Spiritual in God’s Creation

Edited by Graham Buxton and Norman Habel
Forward by David Rhoads

With contributions by David Rhoads, Paul Santmire, Celia-Diane-Drummond, Heather Eaton, Ernst Conradie and others, this volume highlights a diversity of perspectives on the spiritual in creation, both traditional and radical.

Download a copy of the flyer here.

Visit the publisher’s website to order

Coming Home To Earth 

by Mark Brocker

As a young Norwegian Lutheran teenager in rural Wisconsin, Brocker lay awake one night worrying whether he believed in Jesus enough to get to heaven. This getting-to-heaven anxiety reflected an excessive focus on individual salvation and a loss of concern for the well-being of the Earth community. A faith journey that leaves Earth behind is misguided.

Ever since those early teen years Brocker has been on a journey to come home to Earth.

Coming Home to Earth makes the case that there is no salvation apart from Earth and that Earth care is at the core of our identity and mission as followers of Jesus. The ecological consequences of a loss of concern for the well-being of Earth have been devastating. Brocker is especially concerned to determine what will motivate followers of Jesus to make radical changes in our way of life so that we can participate in the healing of wounded Earth and all of its inhabitants, both human and nonhuman. We are far more likely to make needed sacrifices for our fellow creatures if we share God’s delight in and affection for them, and cherish Earth as our home.

Read more and order