June 3, 2018
Paoli Presbyterian Church
There are two things that I carry in my wallet at all times—besides the expected collection of credit cards and coins and cash.
The first is my clergy card, verifying that I’m officially an ordained minister in the PCUSA. I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do with it, but whenever I see it, I’m reminded of the larger church I belong to, the call that God has placed on my life, and the communities to whom I’m responsible.
The second is a slip of paper covered in my grandmother’s handwriting. It says *read from it*
She meant those bonds to help pay for my undergraduate education, but I didn’t cash them until I started coursework for my PhD. I can’t tell you why I didn’t cash them in before then, but using the funds to help me buy books for my first semester of coursework made me feel like she was with me.
She died in 2008, and I missed her fiercely when I started seminary and when I went through the ordination process. My grandmother was the person in my life who first taught me about sociology and helped nurture my love of creation, and I always felt her pride when she and I talked about eventually becoming a pastor.
I think she always dreamed I’d be a pastor in a church, not a pastor covering 260 miles mostly by foot, but she also taught me to be fierce and stubborn… and to stop being polite when you’re not being heard. Taking her money with me into my PhD work which has in turn shaped my ministry felt like she was coming with me into this next phase of my life, when I would need a little bit of her ferocity with me. She put a little bit of her treasure in me and my life, and in doing so, she was telling me that her heart would be with me too.
Because where we put our money is a symbol of where we put our hearts.
Money and religion are two things that polite people do not talk about, and this is a sermon about both those things.
But it’s also about how money and our faith can change things when we have courage to understand that
how we live out our faith and
where we put our money
This scripture from Matthew is part of the larger selection of verses that is in the lectionary for Ash Wednesday every year. Ash Wednesday—the day when we repent and remember that our lives will one day end and we will return to the earth. Ash Wednesday—the first day of Lent, those forty days of repentance where we turn around and try again to face the direction God calls us to.
This text is part of the Sermon on the Mount and comes just after the part when Jesus tells his listeners to be quiet about their faith—to not trumpet their good deeds and holiness in the streets and to pray in secret instead. And when you fast, Jesus says, do it not with sadness and publicity… do it in secret and in your hearts. Do not be arrogant in your faith but humble. Make the change not to be showy or to seem holy, but actually change your heart. Do it not for the glory and publicity, but because it is the right thing to do.
Now these verses seem a little strange to reference on day three of our 15 day walk to raise awareness that the PCUSA needs to divest from fossil fuels as a public witness to the sins of climate change. Indeed, part of our work is to publicly—and in the streets—call for a change of heart and mind and practice. We’re not acting in secret.
But our walk isn’t a walk of holiness. It is a walk that is calling the PCUSA—and all of us—to repent. This is a walk that understands that the litany of environmental injustice and climate crisis is one we must confess.
We must confess. And then we must repent.
A few years ago, I was leading a retreat with a church in California about how ecology and earth care could be incorporated into worship. We spent an hour on each section of worship and when we got to the section on confession, we started a litany of all the ways creation is hurting.
You could come up with your own list—and I’m sure you have thought through this list before.
In the retreat I was leading, as we started working on the list of things to confess as our ecological sins, the group wanted to know if we could stop after just 15 minutes… they so desperately wanted to skip on to the part of forgiveness and hope—in a lot of ways, they wanted to move from Ash Wednesday to Easter.
As you might imagine, I said no. We needed to confess—we needed to stretch out that time of confession when we named the ways we have broken our relationships with God and creation and other people… we needed to name—publicly—the ways we fall short in caring for God’s good creation with love.
In our very public walk, we are also doing the internal work of trying to turn our hearts back toward God with each step we take… confessing our complicity in creating climate change, and trying to do that with great love.
In one of the defining texts of the Old Testament, we read the second scripture that has been so important to the divestment movement: Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5).
What if we loved God through loving God’s creation with our whole selves?
In the PCUSA, we have tried to love God’s good creation with our heart through resources for lessening our carbon footprint. We have tried to love God’s good creation with our soul through worship and community resources. We have tried to love God’s good creation with our strength by leveraging our collective voices in public witness.
Climate change means we must change how we treat creation and God with all our soul, all our strength and our all our hearts, and because our hearts are where our treasure is, it matters where our money is.
Where we put our money defines us and has great power. That power is why it matters what we buy at the supermarket (buying organic and local food creates greater demand for more organic and local food), why it matters what kinds of cars we buy (buying less gas for a hybrid vehicle creates less demand for fossil fuels), and why it matters what products we fill our lives with (even changing to recycled toilet paper changes demand for paper!) Where we put our money shows where our hearts are. As a denomination, if we love God and God’s creation with everything else but not with our money—we are not yet loving God with our whole selves.
These two texts—Matthew and Deuteronomy—have been two of the grounding texts for the divestment from fossil fuels movement because it reminds us that we put our money where we have our faith. This is not just true about the people in Jesus’ day or just for my grandmother —when we give money to an organization or when we buy a product or do anything with money we show what companies and industries we believe in. And if we believe too much in that money, we begin to serve that money—and the profits therein—over God.
And so it matters where we put our investments—how we make money is a symbol for who we are as people who follow Jesus, people who are called to love with our whole selves. If we make money from fossil fuel companies, it doesn’t matter if we put that money back into local food or hybrid cars or recycled paper—it’s money that comes from companies that burn fossil fuels and wreak havoc on the planet.
We live in a world whose climate is already changing. Last year we passed a tipping point in climate change that climate scientists have said will be irreversible in our lifetimes—that there are 400 parts-per-million carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, more than ever before. The people who are already experiencing the effects of these changes are people who live in the global South and on islands populated by people of color, people who are least responsible for climate change. The people who have emitted the most carbon are people who live in the Global North and West, communities who have yet to experience many of the effects of climate change and who sit at the powerful tables of climate policy making.
We need to repent and we need to change our hearts as we change our money. Money is symbol of where our hearts are….for where our treasure is, so are our hearts. But—our movement is more than just about money. Just as we carry more than just money in our wallets.
Those two pieces of paper that help define who I am—I carry them in my wallet because I carry my wallet everywhere with me. One piece of paper reminds me that I’m accountable to the church and to the Scriptures and to God who loves all things into creation.
One piece of paper reminds me that I’ve been loved into this work by the generations before me and I am accountable to the generations to come. This morning, I carry in my heart the treasure of my niece Cordelia who already knows what it’s like to know and love creation. Early in her life she knew how to point out the beauty of the flowers and now that she’s two, she knows how to recycle and shout “I love you, tree!” and find joy in water in puddles left by the rain. She’s already as stubborn and fierce as the other women in our family and has already learned that if you ask for something enough times, you will eventually be heard. She—and all humans to come after us, no matter their race, class, gender, orientation, or country of origin—deserve a world where they can breathe and live and love.
We must be willing to live out the Gospel because the whole world is at stake. The Scripture this morning reminds us that we cannot serve both money and God—which will we choose?
 Brian Kahn, “The World Passes 400 PPM Threshhold. Permanently.” Climate Central. Published September 27, 2016, Accessed April 22, 2017, http://www.climatecentral.org/news/world-passes-400-ppm-threshold-permanently-20738.
 See more on climate debt in Klein, 408-410.
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