The storm isn’t coming; it’s already here.
Last month I spent several days in South Dakota, where it rained and rained onto melting snow. We were basically stranded at the campsite where we were staying, unable to leave, while those scheduled to speak to us weren’t able to come because the roads were so bad.
The surging waters in the Niobrara River, less than 50 miles south of us, burst the Spencer Dam in Nebraska. Just last weekend, our own weather forecast here in Delaware warned of rain falling at a rate of over ½ inch per hour, with flash flood potential.
Sure, the rain has subsided, but, each time it rains, we get pounded.
I recently learned of a new kind of drought caused by rising temperature, rather than declining precipitation. You see, when the air gets warmer, it can hold more water, even sucking it out of plants and the ground. Then, guess what? When it rains, it really pours, because the air is holding more moisture. This is climate change, and we’re all experiencing it on a weekly basis.
Again, where’s Noah?
As you may know, Noah’s the guy in the book of Genesis who listens to the Lord and follows the instructions of the Divine to preserve every living thing on the earth — all of its biodiversity, flora and fauna. God wants us — his followers — to take care of this planet and all life residing on it.
That’s the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Jesus refers to the plants and animals a lot in his parables. He said, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” He reminds us that God causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on us all — plants, animals and humans.
These testaments intersect in the text that Jesus read in the synagogue and said was fulfilled in him. It was Isaiah 61:1-2 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Have you ever considered how the negative impacts of environmental decisions — where landfills are built, or which communities the wind blows pollution into, for example — tend to affect the poor and marginalized among us the most? And Jesus also said as much as we have — or have not — done for the least among us, we have — or have not — done for him.
Noah would speak up for the plants and animals as being the least among us, like the Lorax, Francis of Assisi, and our current Pope Francis!
This is prophetic ministry that’s not just decrying the injustices of society. It’s more broadly about nurturing, nourishing, and evoking a better society — the Kingdom of God, the Beloved Community. In this sense, every prophetic act is part of a way of evoking, forming, and reforming an alternative culture that honors every living thing, including our planet.
Jesus worked to create heaven on Earth, and the belief required to make it happen is actually the audacious faith that it can be done, that the powers and principalities — the oppressive institutions and economic systems today — can and will be overthrown. We should do whatever we must to preserve all life on God’s green Earth.
Those are the Divine instructions that Noah accepted and acted on. Each one of us is invited to become God’s Noah in the world today. Our churches and religious communities, especially, have the potential — indeed, the calling — to become models of the future we want to create —centers of hope and resilience in the face of the storms of climate change.
We are the Noahs we’ve been looking for.