Lenten Reflection: Jonah, Noah and Lent

March 17, 2015 Comments Off on Lenten Reflection: Jonah, Noah and Lent

Shortly before Lent, Mo. Emily gave a lovely and cogent sermon on the rather grumpy and recalcitrant Jonah. Jonah, she explained was different from most prophets who, when called, answer, “Here I am, Lord.” But the all too human Jonah was so reluctant to answer God’s call to travel to foreign places for the purpose of telling a people that their behavior was about to incur dire consequences that he fled in another direction. Mo. Emily asked us to take another look at the rest of the story. When Jonah’s behavior put him in the drink, a large, terrifying fish came along. The fish swallowed Jonah. This has always been both a harrowing and humorous part of the story for me. Who wants to spend time in the belly of a fish? But the fish not only arrived just as Jonah was being overwhelmed by the sea, it spit the reluctant prophet out on dry land. The terrifying fish was Jonah’s savior.

In my head, Jonah’s story is linked with Noah’s. Both men are sent to save a portion of God’s people, a remnant. In a way, Noah takes on to his ark the yeast of the old world that will become the new world when the old is destroyed by flood. As master of the ark, Noah is the steward of the entire world. A task he actually manages by following God’s instructions. What do these two stories have to tell us today? I believe that we inherit stewardship of the earth and its creatures from Noah, and the responsibility to spread the word from Jonah.

Once again the earth’s inhabitants are in peril. It is clear that our behavior has brought on climate change (according to 97% of scientists). It is also likely that climate change and global warming could bring about the extinction of the human race. I hate sounding like Cassandra, but there is also the nagging voice in the back of my head that says, “Cassandra was right.”

What to do? In the bible, when God sends messengers it is always as a warning. God seems perfectly willing to change his mind if our behavior changes. Just ask Jonah.

How would this look? I have been interested in environment issues for a long time. I do a lot of little things to try and do my part. I take bags to the grocery, I drive a Prius instead of an SUV, I do my best to recycle. But these are really minor steps considering the fact that I do own a car, and, as my wife keeps reminding me, I forget to turn off lights when I leave a room. This is why I am a vegan. It is the single largest action I can take on behalf of the planet.

A UN report reveals that livestock is responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. And this does not even take into consideration other animal industries, fur for example. In the introduction to his book, Occupy This Book, Mickey Z states that the global animal by-products industry consumes one third of the planet’s surface and is the top source of human-made greenhouse gas. A Guardian article on the UN report reveals that the UN, “considers a vegan diet crucial in order to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty, and climate change.”

I was pleased to find The Church of England speaking out on the issue. A February article in the Guardian discusses the key points of the church’s recent 52 page pastoral letter. The open letter urges clergy to join in political debate, especially around issues concerning social welfare. The article gives some of the key points addressed in the letter: the economy, poverty and inequality, and unemployment to name a few. I was pleased to see the environment listed as a key point. The letter states, “We belong together in a creation which should be cherished and not simply used and consumed.”

As Lent is a time of reflection and examination, I hope to spend some prayer time asking God how I can best answer, “Here I am,” when called. I think that if the fish saved Jonah, it is our turn to save the fish. Surf’s up. Meatless Monday anyone?

– Suzanne Pyrch

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