Recently, renewable energy has been in the news. Specifically, the Paris Climate Accord, or rather, the decision by the president to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Accord. In a good faith effort to understand the issue, I visited the website of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which drafted the Paris Climate Accord. The document reads, “the agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2˚ Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5˚ Celsius.” Seems reasonable, but only if we believe we can directly affect the global climate. The agreement relies on the conviction that we are not helpless in the face of this threat to our climate, that perhaps together we can reverse the harm or avert further harm to our planet and its inhabitants.
Then there was this. “The agreement requires all parties to put forward their best efforts through nationally determined contributions, and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead.” That sounds like each country is permitted to do as much as or as little as it wants. Enforcement of the agreement would require transparency, each country reporting on its greenhouse emissions voluntarily. And in good faith, those involved should do what they said they would. Chances are, not all would meet their goals, which would be evaluated and further adjusted. And if everyone still kept good faith, some would need to raise their goals, while others would have to admit failure, maybe pay a fine, and seek technical assistance from those with more advanced resources. Ultimately, we do what needs to be done for the greater good.
The basic reality is that human progress requires energy. If we want to keep the fires of progress burning, we will need to feed it with fuel of some sort. And while we have fuel, we keep the fire burning. The challenge we face is twofold—our supply of traditional fuel is limited and rapidly depleting, and continued exposure is harmful to us and our environment. In our resourcefulness and creativity, we can surely find better, less harmful, more abundant, and more efficient ways to satisfy our need for energy. Slowing down progress is not an option. We believe progress is of great benefit to human society. Progress helps us achieve our potential, enlightens minds and hearts, enables us to live healthier lives, and ensures prosperity for our future. Alternative fuels that are plentiful, safe, and versatile allow us to continue advancing human progress. I know it’s not as simple as it sounds. But all our lofty ideals need to translate into lived reality. Otherwise we cannot adequately address our challenges.
The Holy Spirit is God’s fire that shines the light of faith upon the darkness of sin and unbelief, that rids us of insincerity and self-righteousness, and that sends the true disciple proclaiming with conviction the redeeming love of God by their words and their way of life. On that first Pentecost the driving wind and blazing fire of the Holy Spirit sent the once timid band of Jesus’ followers from the quiet isolation and security of the upper room into the world to dispel fear, to inspire creativity, to reveal amazing evidence of God’s presence, and to proclaim the Good News of our salvation to the ends of the earth. They received power to speak of and hear about God’s saving deeds in many languages. Now we might not easily communicate with recent immigrants or refugees, nor readily embrace the new ways of a minority culture, nor fully grasp the isolation and pain experienced by those with disabilities and addictions, nor ever understand the speech patterns and customs of teenagers, their disillusionment, their alienation, their discontent. We might feel awkward around them. We might even concede a smile, a wave perhaps, even a handshake or hug. But they are still “them” to us, foreigners and strangers, for as long as they are not “us.” But when the followers of Jesus realized that God came to save all people, they understood that the Good News of God’s redeeming love was to be proclaimed to everyone in every generation regardless of language, creed, gender, culture, disability, or age. This is the church’s mission for all time, to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
Now Christianity has been around for roughly 2000 years. We would be hard pressed to find anyone today who has not ever heard of Jesus Christ. But does that mean the church’s mission is finally accomplished? Can we now sit back and scale down our efforts to bring Good News to the ends of the earth? If it were so, our churches would be full, and we would welcome God’s Word and come to church often (filling up the front seats first), and we would not have to threaten or bribe our spouses and our children to come with us. If it were so, we would choose leaders who resolve global conflicts patiently with respectful deference and dialogue. If it were so, we would more easily extend mercy and kindness to the hungry, the homeless, the poor, the suffering, the dying, the young, the old, the immigrant, and the stranger. If the Good News of God’s redeeming love were truly proclaimed to everyone in every generation regardless of language, creed, gender, culture, disability, or age, the church’s mission is accomplished. But our work of evangelization is not done.
Jesus sent us to proclaim the Good News of God’s redeeming love with our words and our way of life. If the blazing fire of the Holy Spirit is to continue dispelling the darkness, inspiring creativity, revealing God’s presence, and proclaiming Good News, our highest priority is to tend that flame and provide the fuel it needs. We cannot proclaim what we do not know. We cannot share truth that we do not believe. We cannot burn with God’s love if we have not first come to know healing through repentance for our sins and allowing God’s mercy and forgiveness to change us. We, our faith, our convictions, our lives are the fuel that feed the blazing, illuminating, purifying, and transforming fire of the Holy Spirit. There are many who do not yet know the Father’s unconditional love for them, who do not yet know the healing that Jesus offers through his passion, death, and resurrection, who do not yet know the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit who sustains us in communion and joy.
But how could we be running low on fuel? Is not the fire of the Holy Spirit still burning in our hearts? Should we not more earnestly explore new sources of plentiful, safe, and versatile fuel for the progress of the Kingdom of God? That same fire of God’s redeeming love has been burning since the first Pentecost. It has been entrusted to us to keep burning brightly. We must take care it does not go out on our watch.
Rolo B Castillo © 2017