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Stations of the Cross: Confronting and Contemplating Climate Change

A practice for individuals and churches

 
You can “walk” these stations by practicing one station per day, from March 20 through Good Friday, April 2 – or at any other time or manner during Lent (Ash Wednesday, February 17, until Easter Sunday, April 4).  These Stations and the accompanying graphic can be used by churches to set up a Stations walk, facing the public – posted on outside-facing windows or walls.  Churches are urged to be creative – do your own versions of these Stations!  Please send images of your Stations to me, to spread to the progressive Christian network.  And of course post them on your social media, as well.

Lent is a time to see, pray, and act.

Lent is a time to see the cross of Christ – in its very real forms today.  To see the ways that we crucify, and are crucified.  To see the harm we to the planet and to others by our actions and by our inaction.  Lent is a time to face the cross.  Because the only way beyond it is through it.

Lent is a time to pray… to bring what we see before God.  God is divine, unconditional agape love.  And we practice that agape love by paying attention so deeply that our prejudices and assumptions about what we see are stripped away, so we can see what is as it is, in itself.  So that we can see others as they really are, in themselves.  Do you have eyes, and fail to see?” asked Jesus.  Prayer opens our eyes wider, and opens our hearts more fully to receive what we see.

Lent is a time to act.  Having seen, having prayed, we know what needs to be done and we have the heart to do it.  We are spiritually prepared to be agents of resurrection and reconciliation for peace, justice, and human and environmental flourishing in the real world around us.

The Stations of the Cross

The practice of contemplating the Stations of the Cross, depicting the final hours of Jesus’ life, is a very old one. To this day, many churches have gardens or sanctuaries in which the stations are situated.  Each of the 14 stations marks a point along the way to Jesus’ death.

The crucifixion of our time is catastrophic human-caused climate change.  This depiction of the Stations confronts us with the ways we have nailed our planet to this cross, and the choices we can make to turn away from this destruction.

By squarely facing what we have done, we begin to experience the life on the other side of the cross.

Because the cross is suffering, and also its cure.

“…as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up…” (John 3: 14)

The Romans used the cross as a symbol of their power to torture their subjects into submission, but their brutality contributed to the moral decay and eventual collapse of their Empire.  The early Christians turned the empire’s intended meaning of the cross upside down and inside out, and made it a sign of liberation into life.

In the gospel of John (3:14), the cross is described as the homeopathic remedy for the human condition.

In ancient times, homeopathy – the principle that “a dose of that which ails you is the cure” – was the dominant form of medicine. The cross is the central symbol of the Christian religion; it confronts its viewers with suffering, and it is through this homeopathic encounter that suffering is transcended.  Buddha’s first step on his path to enlightenment, known as the First Noble Truth, is that life is suffering.  Only by facing this truth can one begin to relieve it.  The first and most deeply paradoxical of the Twelve Steps toward recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous is to admit that one is powerless over alcohol.  It is by facing what crucifies us that we begin the process of resurrection toward healing, recovery, forgiveness, reconciliation, repentance, and renewal.

The passage from John refers to a passage from the Hebrew Scriptures (Numbers 21:9): “ So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.”  The people of Israel, wandering in their desert exodus, began to despair and were then punished for their complaints with a plague of snakes that bit them and killed some of them.  Moses cried out to God for help, and God told him to put up a bronze serpent on a pole and have the people gaze at it, and thus be healed of the snakebites. The gospel of John says that as the serpent was lifted on the pole to save the people of Israel, so would Jesus have to be lifted up in order to save humanity.  The image of serpents on a pole, the caduceus, is the symbol of medicine.

The bronze serpent was spiritual homeopathy for snake bites.

The cross is spiritual homeopathy for the ways we bring suffering on ourselves and others.

To get to the other side of the cross, we are called to see, pray, and act – to reverse catastrophic human-caused climate change.

1.  Jesus is condemned to death

SEE:  Climate Change – THE BIG PICTURE

The world’s scientists confirmed in the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that at the current rate, the world could cross 1.5˚C hotter as soon as 2030. That’s only a decade from now, well within the lifespan of most people alive today.
Earth has always had natural cycles of warming and cooling, but not like we’re seeing now. The top five hottest years on record are 2016, 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2014.

Human beings are causing climate change, largely by burning fossil fuels.
Rising temperatures correlate almost exactly with the release of greenhouse gases.
Before the 18th century, when humans in the industrial west began to burn coal, oil and gas, our atmosphere typically contained about 280 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Those are the conditions “on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.”

Now, as the use of fossil fuels spreads through the world, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is skyrocketing — we’re now well over 415 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere.

At the same time, the rapid growth in demand for animal-based agriculture by wealthier countries has seen other greenhouse gasses like methane and nitrous oxide rapidly rise. The contribution of agriculture causes about 15% of global emissions. Burning fossil fuels remains by far the biggest single contributor to the problem: in 2017, close to 70% of annual emissions came from fossil fuel use and other industrial processes. This is compounded by the fact that carbon dioxide stays active in the atmosphere much longer than methane and other greenhouse gasses.
In 2019, CO2 concentrations crossed 415 ppm in the atmosphere for the first time in at least 2.5 million years.

An overwhelming 97% of scientists agree that climate change is being caused by human greenhouse gas emissions. There is no meaningful debate about the basic science of climate change.

1˚C of warming has already resulted in devastating impacts across the planet.
Global grain yields have declined by 10% from heatwaves and floods connected to climate change, unleashing hunger and displacement. Over 1 million people living near coasts have been forced from their homes due to rising seas and stronger storms, and millions more are expected to flee in the coming years.

The IPCC states the difference between 1.5˚C and 2˚C of global temperature rise could mean well over 10 million more migrants from sea-level rise.

Climate change science leaves no room for doubt. The 2018 IPCC report has confirmed what we’ve known for decades: increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events is a result of climate change.
(Source: 350.org)

PRAY:  Lectio Divina
Lectio (read aloud):  The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers.
  (Psalm 24: 1-2)
Mediatio:  In silence, receive the scripture into your heart, letting go of any preconceptions or assumptions about its meaning.  Let the scripture “sink in” to your soul.
Oratio (chant the Prayer of Jesus aloud, four times)  “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me…”
Contemplatio:  In silence, pay attention to the thoughts, feelings, urges, and sensations that arise out of your time of meditatio.  Center yourself in the divine love of God and wait faithfully for the energy and inspiration to act.

ACT:  Join the global movement to reverse climate change through 350.org

2.  The cross is laid upon him

SEE:  Climate Change and RACISM
Climate change has a disproportionately negative effect on people of color. 

PRAY:  Lectio Divina
Lectio (read aloud):   “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)
Mediatio:  In silence, receive the scripture into your heart, letting go of any preconceptions or assumptions about its meaning.  Let the scripture “sink in” to your soul.
Oratio (chant the Prayer of Jesus aloud, four times)  “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me…”
Contemplatio:  In silence, pay attention to the thoughts, feelings, urges, and sensations that arise out of your time of meditatio.  Center yourself in the divine love of God and wait faithfully for the energy and inspiration to act.

ACT:  Join the movement to end environmental racism through the Poor People’s Campaign 

3.  His first fall

SEE:  Climate Change and POVERTY
Climate change has a disproportionately negative effect on poor people.

PRAY:  Lectio Divina
Lectio (read aloud):   The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19)
Mediatio:  In silence, receive the scripture into your heart, letting go of any preconceptions or assumptions about its meaning.  Let the scripture “sink in” to your soul.
Oratio (chant the Prayer of Jesus aloud, four times)  “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me…”
Contemplatio:  In silence, pay attention to the thoughts, feelings, urges, and sensations that arise out of your time of meditatio.  Center yourself in the divine love of God and wait faithfully for the energy and inspiration to act.

ACT:  Join the movement for economic justice through the Poor People’s Campaign

4.  He meets his mother Mary

SEE:  Climate Change and SPECIES EXTINCTION
More and more of Mother Earth’s creatures are endangered with climate change-caused extinction.

PRAY:  Lectio Divina
Lectio (read aloud):  “ Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.” (Jesus, Luke 12:27)
Mediatio:  In silence, receive the scripture into your heart, letting go of any preconceptions or assumptions about its meaning.  Let the scripture “sink in” to your soul.
Oratio (chant the Prayer of Jesus aloud, four times)  “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me…”
Contemplatio:  In silence, pay attention to the thoughts, feelings, urges, and sensations that arise out of your time of meditatio.  Center yourself in the divine love of God and wait faithfully for the energy and inspiration to act.

ACT:  Reduce your consumption of meat, because animal agriculture is a major source of methane emissions which contribute to global warming.

5. Simon of Cyrene is made to bear the cross

SEE:  Climate Change and MIGRATION
Refugees from drought and flooding caused by climate change are increasingly the cause of mass migration within and across borders.

PRAY:  Lectio Divina
Lectio (read aloud):  “The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:33-34).
Mediatio:  In silence, receive the scripture into your heart, letting go of any preconceptions or assumptions about its meaning.  Let the scripture “sink in” to your soul.
Oratio (chant the Prayer of Jesus aloud, four times)  “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me…”
Contemplatio:  In silence, pay attention to the thoughts, feelings, urges, and sensations that arise out of your time of meditatio.  Center yourself in the divine love of God and wait faithfully for the energy and inspiration to act.

ACT:  Join the movement for immigrant justice through the Interfaith Immigration Coalition.  Press your elected representatives to pass comprehensive, humane immigration reform.

6. Jesus’ face is wiped by Veronica

SEE:  Climate Change and DISEASE
Climate change leads directly and indirectly to the spread of infectious diseases and risks to health.

PRAY:  Lectio Divina
Lectio (read aloud):   ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’  (Matthew 25: 34-36)
Mediatio :  In silence, receive the scripture into your heart, letting go of any preconceptions or assumptions about its meaning.  Let the scripture “sink in” to your soul.
Oratio (chant the Prayer of Jesus aloud, four times)  “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me…”
Contemplatio :  In silence, pay attention to the thoughts, feelings, urges, and sensations that arise out of your time of meditatio.  Center yourself in the divine love of God and wait faithfully for the energy and inspiration to act.

ACT:  Press your elected representatives to preserve and extend legislation to assure that all people have access to health care regardless of their income.

7.  His second fall

SEE:  Climate Change and HUNGER
Climate change, on the whole, will damage the key crops upon which our food supply depends.

PRAY:  Lectio Divina
Lectio (read aloud):   “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  (Matthew 5:6)
Mediatio :  In silence, receive the scripture into your heart, letting go of any preconceptions or assumptions about its meaning.  Let the scripture “sink in” to your soul.
Oratio (chant the Prayer of Jesus aloud, four times)  “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me…”
Contemplatio :  In silence, pay attention to the thoughts, feelings, urges, and sensations that arise out of your time of meditatio.  Center yourself in the divine love of God and wait faithfully for the energy and inspiration to act.

ACT:  Sign a letter to your congressional representative about food security today- through
Bread for the World – and donate to your local Food Bank.

8. He meets the women of Jerusalem

SEE:  Climate Change and CONFLICT
Climate change is a major indirect cause of violent upheavals and wars, as people are displaced and lose their livelihoods.

PRAY:  Lectio Divina
Lectio (read aloud):  He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
  (Isaiah 2:4)
Mediatio :  In silence, receive the scripture into your heart, letting go of any preconceptions or assumptions about its meaning.  Let the scripture “sink in” to your soul.
Oratio (chant the Prayer of Jesus aloud, four times)  “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me…”
Contemplatio :  In silence, pay attention to the thoughts, feelings, urges, and sensations that arise out of your time of meditatio.  Center yourself in the divine love of God and wait faithfully for the energy and inspiration to act.

ACT:  Join the global peace movement through American Friends Service Committee.

9. His third fall

SEE:  Climate Change and the OCEANS
Global climate change results in loss of habitat and death of sea life.

PRAY:  Lectio Divina
Lectio (read aloud):   Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.  (John 21: 5-6)
Mediatio :  In silence, receive the scripture into your heart, letting go of any preconceptions or assumptions about its meaning.  Let the scripture “sink in” to your soul.
Oratio (chant the Prayer of Jesus aloud, four times)  “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me…”
Contemplatio :  In silence, pay attention to the thoughts, feelings, urges, and sensations that arise out of your time of meditatio.  Center yourself in the divine love of God and wait faithfully for the energy and inspiration to act.

ACT:  Turn down your heater setting and turn up your cooling system setting to reduce energy consumption in your home.

10. He is stripped of his garments

SEE:  Climate Change and EXTREME HEAT
Greenhouse gases emitted by human activity are causing catastrophic heat waves resulting in unprecedented wildfires and threats to health.

PRAY:  Lectio Divina
Lectio (read aloud):   As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God. (Psalm 42: 1-2)

Mediatio:  In silence, receive the scripture into your heart, letting go of any preconceptions or assumptions about its meaning.  Let the scripture “sink in” to your soul.
Oratio (chant the Prayer of Jesus aloud, four times)  “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me…”
Contemplatio:  In silence, pay attention to the thoughts, feelings, urges, and sensations that arise out of your time of meditatio.  Center yourself in the divine love of God and wait faithfully for the energy and inspiration to act.

ACT:  Press your elected officials at the local, state, and federal level to legislate against fossil fuels and replace them with renewable energy sources.

11.  He is crucified

SEE:  Climate Change and STORMS
The frequency and intensity of devastating storms is increasing due to human-caused climate change.

PRAY:  Lectio Divina
Lectio (read aloud):   A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.  But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.  (Mark 4: 37-39)
Mediatio :  In silence, receive the scripture into your heart, letting go of any preconceptions or assumptions about its meaning.  Let the scripture “sink in” to your soul.
Oratio (chant the Prayer of Jesus aloud, four times)  “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me…”
Contemplatio :  In silence, pay attention to the thoughts, feelings, urges, and sensations that arise out of your time of meditatio.  Center yourself in the divine love of God and wait faithfully for the energy and inspiration to act.

ACT:  Consolidate errands so that you make fewer trips in your car, to reduce CO2 emissions.

12.  He dies on the cross

SEE:  Climate Change and SEA LEVEL RISE
Huge areas of the world, many of them heavily populated, are being inundated as sea levels rise due to human-caused climate change.

PRAY:  Lectio Divina
Lectio (read aloud):   The waters swelled so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered;  the waters swelled above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.  And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings; everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died.  (Genesis 7: 19-22)
Mediatio:  In silence, receive the scripture into your heart, letting go of any preconceptions or assumptions about its meaning.  Let the scripture “sink in” to your soul.
Oratio (chant the Prayer of Jesus aloud, four times)  “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me…”
Contemplatio:  In silence, pay attention to the thoughts, feelings, urges, and sensations that arise out of your time of meditatio.  Center yourself in the divine love of God and wait faithfully for the energy and inspiration to act.

ACT:  Do an energy audit of your home to find ways to reduce energy consumption.

13.  His body is taken down from the cross

SEE:  Climate Change and INDIGENOUS PEOPLE
Indigenous populations are disproportionately threatened by human-caused climate change.

PRAY:  Lectio Divina
Lectio (read aloud):   Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people;
help me when you deliver them;
that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,
that I may glory in your heritage.
  (Psalm 106: 4-5)
Mediatio:  In silence, receive the scripture into your heart, letting go of any preconceptions or assumptions about its meaning.  Let the scripture “sink in” to your soul.
Oratio (chant the Prayer of Jesus aloud, four times)  “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me…”
Contemplatio:  In silence, pay attention to the thoughts, feelings, urges, and sensations that arise out of your time of meditatio.  Center yourself in the divine love of God and wait faithfully for the energy and inspiration to act.

ACT:  Plant trees appropriate for your local ecosystem in your neighborhood, to absorb CO2. 

14.  His body is laid in the tomb

SEE:  Climate Change and the EARTH
Our actions have put the Earth’s natural processes out of balance, with catastrophic results for all life on the planet.  It is up to us to restore the balance.

PRAY:  Lectio Divina
Lectio (read aloud):  Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him;  they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.  (Revelation 22: 1-5)
Mediatio:  In silence, receive the scripture into your heart, letting go of any preconceptions or assumptions about its meaning.  Let the scripture “sink in” to your soul.
Oratio (chant the Prayer of Jesus aloud, four times) “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me…”
Contemplatio:  In silence, pay attention to the thoughts, feelings, urges, and sensations that arise out of your time of meditatio.  Center yourself in the divine love of God and wait faithfully for the energy and inspiration to act.

ACT:  Invite your friends, family, and community to join you in the movement to reverse climate change.

********************

Rev. Jim Burklo is the Senior Associate Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life at the University of Southern California.  An ordained United Church of Christ minister, he formerly served as a community organizer, director of a homeless services agency, church pastor, and campus minister.  He is a member of the board of directors of ProgressiveChristiansUniting.org and an honorary advisor for ProgressiveChristianity.org.  Jim is the author of seven published books on progressive Christianity, including TENDERLY CALLING: An Invitation to the Way of Jesus, which will be in print in early 2021.  His weekly blog, “musings”, has a global readership.

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