Later today, sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg will arrive in New York City to begin her American journey to enlist our commitment in saving the planet. After fifteen days at sea, Thunberg will travel the USA and attend the UN Climate Summit, beginning September 23. An unlikely activist, small in stature, soft spoken, she asserts that her Asperger’s has enabled her to think outside the box and to follow a different path than most teens. Though some call her a hero and savior, she points beyond herself, challenging children and adults to be saviors of our planet. Still, one without power and pretense can lead us to become the leaders we need today!
A little more than a week before Thunberg’s arrival, a self-important national leader, reveling in being touted as the Second Coming of God and King of Israel, proclaimed himself the one called to defeat his nation’s enemy, “the chosen one,” and then looked to the heavens. Alas, the skies did not open, a dove did not descend, and the “enemy” did not blink. No Messiah could be found.
In her “Poem for South African Women,” great-spirited women whose weakness was more powerful than the violence of apartheid, June Jordan proclaims:
And the babies cease alarm as mothers
and heart high as the stars so far unseen
nevertheless hurl into the universe
a moving force
irreversible as light years
traveling to the open
And who will join this standing up
and the ones who stood without sweet company
will sing and sing
back into the mountains and
even under the sea
we are the ones we have been waiting for
Yes, we are the ones we have been waiting for! Powerless women and teens, little children, and outsiders coloring outside the lines. Friends, the Second Coming has been postponed indefinitely. There is no fantasizing “chosen leader” who will save us. You and me – and we – are the anointed ones, called in this time and place to take up our vocation as God’s beloved Earth healers.
I speak as a follower of Jesus, and Jesus says whoever believes in me will do greater things than you’ve seen me do. (John 14:12) Jesus told his followers across the generations “don’t be passive, don’t conform to the world’s deathful ways, don’t give up your agency, heal the world, bring Shalom to this good Earth.” And, this healing path includes atheists, agnostics, none of the above, seekers, done with religion folk, as well as participants in the world’s wisdom traditions. This is our Greater Work! To be companions in healing the Earth.
As we look at a potential planetary apocalypse, Thunberg asserts: “Yes, we do need hope—of course, we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.” We need as a plaque at Kirkridge Conference Center in Pennsylvania says, to “picket and pray.”
Yes, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the little Christs, the bodhisattvas, the superheroes, the wise ones, the healers of our times. We don’t need grandiose leaders proclaiming that they are chosen, and then proceed to disappear when other leaders focus on climate change. We don’t need leaders who have forsaken the prophets for the sake of short-term profits, planting seeds of destruction for generations to come. We need ourselves, and we need a teenage girl, an elementary school child, a wizened elder, and harried parent, we need people of all ethnicities, nations, and places. We can be the change we want to see in the world, as Gandhi says. We can take up our calling as the Hebraic prophets and the Healer from Nazareth proclaim – to be God’s companions in healing the Earth one decision, one act, one prayer, one protest, on phone call, one change at a time. Now is the day to heal the Earth.
Bruce Epperly is a Cape Cod pastor, professor, and author of over fifty books including “Spiritual Decluttering: 40 Days to Spiritual Transformation and Planetary Healing,” “Praying with Process Theology: Spiritual Practices for Personal and Planetary Healing,” and “Become Fire: Guideposts for Interspiritual Pilgrims.”