This week's prayers:
- Time for Creation: What do we give up?
- Time for Creation: Joys and Concerns
- Autumn Planning
- Short Notes: Brazil, Paralympics
Time for Creation: What do we give up?
"Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple ... Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple .... none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions."
Luke 14:26-27, 33 (Revised Common Lectionary Readings for this week)
A crowd was following Jesus, the local nine days wonder. But far from encouraging people with blandishments, he told them with customary clarity that his true followers were not choosing an easy path: disciples needed to be prepared to love Him more than family attachments, physical well-being, life, and possessions ... anything that threatened to distract them from their call.
As we move through the Time for Creation, what does this passage say to us if we take it seriously? What is it that we need to give up in order more fully to follow Christ? How might doing so shape us and our world in ways that give new life and manifest the Kingdom?
A single thought: if you're not already doing it, what about taking the idea of a Sabbath seriously ... spending a day as free of distractions as possible, with time to focus on worship and listening to God, while caring for others? Different care obligations may mean that for some of us even a Sabbath will be more Martha than Mary ... but imagine if we all made a commitment to do what we could to observe the Sabbath regularly!
Creation Time Sabbath Suggestion 1: Go outside or, if that's not possible, somewhere where you can see or sense creation ... perhaps by an open window. Pick a prayer or leaf through the Bible and pick a verse or chapter that strikes you. Read it twice, each time asking God to speak to you through it. Praise God for what it shows you of God's love, and pray as you feel led.
Creation Time Sabbath Suggestion 2: Take some time to read the Pope's message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. How does God speak to you through it?
Time for Creation: Joys and Concerns
China and the US ratify the Paris Agreement
Just before the G20 Leaders Meeting in Huangzhou, the President of the United States and the President of China announced that they had deposited their countries' instruments of ratification with the UN Secretary-General.
Twenty-four other countries had already ratified the agreement, but they are relatively small, accounting in total for just over 1% of global emissions. The agreement can only enter in force 30 days after 55 or more countries representing 55% or more of emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification. As China is the world's largest emitter (20.09% of emissions), and the US is the second largest (17.89%), their ratifications bring the goal considerably closer. There is also a widespread sense that this move will encourage other ratifications in the near future, and enable an early entry into force of the agreement.
Although an early entry into force would create certain legal and logistical difficulties, the rapid movement towards ratification is being widely celebrated, given the urgency of dealing with emissions. Action by the two largest emitters, neither of whom was a party to the Kyoto Protocol, represents a major commitment to action and sends a clear signal that investment in clean technology can proceed.
The joint announcement by China and the US also included commitments to backing for work relating to two other international agreements, one reducing the use of hydroflurocarbons and the other tackling issues around aviation.
Please give thanks for the steps that are being made towards genuine climate action and pray that they continue. Pray that commitments made are honoured, and that the way in which two countries that have so often been at loggerheads on climate issues are working together will help to enable swift progress towards a cleaner, safer world. Pray, too, for wisdom for those charged with working out the details of implementation.
World Day of Prayer for Creation
It was a blessing to see so many Christians around the world joining together in prayer on the 1st of September. Give thanks that so many did! To coincide with the day, a news release also went out about churches in the UK that have switched or are planning to switch to renewable energy - over 3500 of them. Give thanks for their intiative and pray that many more follow suit.
Each week during Time for Creation, we'll be offering a prayer for use in your churches/private prayers. This week's comes from the Pope's World Day of Prayer message (full link above) and is taken in part from Laudato Si':
O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
who are so precious in your eyes…
God of love, show us our place in this world as channels of your love for all the creatures of this earth.
God of mercy, may we receive your forgiveness and convey your mercy throughout our common home.
Praise be to you!
Hermine, a North Atlantic tropical cyclone, hit Florida as a small hurricane, and we remember in prayer all those in its path: you can use our sheet of prayers for people affected by extreme weather to pray for them.
But the destruction it's caused isn't the only reason why this highly unusual storm is in our prayers: the other reason is because it's something of a bellwether. Having crossed land and emerged back into the Atlantic severely weakened, the usual pattern for a storm like this would involve further weakening. But the sea surface temperatures off the East Coast of the US are very high: off the coast of New Jersey, for example, there's an anomaly of about 2 to 5 degrees Centigrade. Because of complex interactions with other weather phenomena, Hermine is going to be stalled over these warm waters for quite a while. And so the general forecast is that instead of simply becoming a post-tropical storm, Hermine could start to intensify as it moves up the coast, picking up some tropical characteristics again and hitting hurricane strength - whether as a post-tropical storm or as an actual hurricane - as it sits just south of New York.
None of this is certain: tropical storms are notoriously hard to forecast in terms of both intensity and track. And it's worth noting that even if the storm does re-intensify to hurricane strength, it's quite a small storm and the forecasters currently put Hermine's path to the east of the coast, so that while coastal areas will feel the impact of tropical-storm winds in beach erosion and storm surges, the bulk of the wind and the rain will stay out to sea. But with all those caveats, the storm functions as yet another clear warning: when sea-surface temperatures rise, weather events can intensify in unexpected ways. The warming anomalies in this case relate to complex natural variabilities as well as underlying patterns. But the underlying patterns matter. Pray that we hear the warning and take more climate action.
Short Notes: Brazil, Paralympics
Please continue to pray for Brazil and its ongoing political crisis. On Wednesday this week Brazil’s upper house voted by a substantial majority (61 to 20) to impeach suspended President Dilma Rousseff. Her political opponent and former Vice-President Michel Temer, who has been acting as interim president since May, was immediately sworn in as President for the remainder of the term of office, which lasts until 2018. (Mr Temer is himself accused of corruption and in June was banned from running for any political office for 8 years by a regional election court in Sao Paulo). President Rousseff was found guilty of breaking budgetary laws, but the impeachment is widely seen as politically motivated.
Following the vote, there were both celebrations and widespread, angry protests in Brazil in response to the impeachment. Former President Rousseff herself tweeted, “Today is the day 61 men, many of them charged and corrupt, threw 54 million Brazilian votes in the garbage”. On Thursday, Ms Rousseff filed an appeal at the High Court against the impeachment, although it is seen as unlikely to be successful.
Please pray for stability, justice, compassion and competence in Brazil's government. Pray that in this time of economic and political turmoil, Christians may listen for God's Spirit, follow God's guidance in their speech and actions, and witness to God's love.
The Rio Paralympics open on Wednesday, and the athletes who have come are prepared to do great things. As the head of the International Paralympic Committee said: "I am fully confident Rio 2016 will be the best Games ever in terms of athletic performance. You only have to look at some of the achievements from Para athletes over the last two years to realize that we will witness some truly spectacular sport.”
But some of the athletes will have had a hard time getting there, as the organisers of the Rio Paralympics have struggled more than anticipated. Significant deficits - linked to the city's and country's general economic issues, an initial failure to sell Paralympic tickets, lack of sponsors, and perhaps the overspend on the Olympics - have led to the closure of a major facility, cuts to transport services, and such serious delays in getting travel grants to countries that many have been struggling to send delegations. Algeria, for example, only named its delegation on Thursday, and the IPC itself had to step in to fund the Ghanaian team's flights as well as those of several other delegations.
- that all the selected athletes arrive safely and are able to compete at their best level
- that they will be competing in the appropriate categories, and that the competition will be fair
- for the athletes' safety and well being while they are in Rio
- for the #FillTheSeats initiative, which aims to buy tickets for local children and people with disabilities so that they can attend the events and be inspired by the athletes' feats
- that the athletes' accomplishments will help to change the perception of people with disabilities in ways that are helpful to all