Courtney Geibert, Redwood City, CA

Warm-up Question

What is your relationship with nature and the planet? 

Climate Crisis and Stewardship

In March 2023, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its final report on climate change. Drawing from the research of over 700 scientists, the IPCC spent thirty-five years recording the physical science, impacts, and mitigation of climate change. According to the IPCC, humans have made unprecedented changes to our planet in a short time, resulting in irreparable harm to people and the environment.

Today, over 3 billion people live in countries susceptible to climate impacts such as extreme temperatures, flooding, famines, and droughts. Emissions from fossil fuels have increased global average temperatures by 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the 1800s. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hasn’t been this high since ancient humans carved their first stone tools! If a child were born today, they would witness a future where the sea level rises by several feet, numerous species face extinction, and millions of people are forced to migrate from areas where their lives are no longer sustainable. 

Luckily, there is hope! We have all of the tools we need to prevent this global crisis; countries just need to implement them. The IPCC has urged the international community to discontinue using coal, oil, and gas as these sources are accountable for more than three-quarters of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. According to the report, electricity generated from renewable sources like solar and wind has become more affordable than power derived from fossil fuels in numerous areas. It is essential for countries like the United States, which ranks second in carbon dioxide emissions, to take greater responsibility for environmental changes. This will prevent vulnerable people and nations, who produce minimal CO2 but are most affected by climate change, from bearing the brunt of its impact.

Discussion Questions

  • What emotions do you feel when you think about climate change?
  • What motivates you to care about the environment?
  • How are nations and individuals responsible for preventing climate change?
  • What do fair and equitable solutions to the climate crisis look like?
  • What steps can we take to encourage governments and corporations to take prompt action to address the climate crisis?
  • Where do you find hope in thinking about the climate crisis?

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 5:1-7

Philippians 3:4b-14

Matthew 21:33-46

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

On Wednesday, October 4th, we celebrated the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. He was a 12th-century monk who cared deeply about creation. Many people commemorate him by blessing animals, recognizing our responsibility to care for creation and the creatures God entrusted to us. 

Just as we are entrusted as stewards over the earth and all of her creatures, in today’s Gospel story, the tenants were responsible for caring for the landowners’ vineyard. The landowner sent his servants to collect his share of the produce during harvest time. But the tenants seized the servants – beating one, killing another, and stoning the third. After this happened again, the landowner sent his son to collect the produce from the tenants, assuming they would respect him. They did not and murdered the landowners’ son. Jesus concludes the parable with a question for his hearers, the elders and chief priests: “When the landowner returns to his vineyard, what will he do to those tenants?” 

In sharing this parable, Jesus calls out the religious leaders (the tenants) for abusing God’s people (the vineyard). The landowner (God) entrusted the religious leaders to lead the people of Israel with mercy and care. Yet, they have harmed the people, disobeyed God, and killed the servants (the Prophets) and the landowner’s son (Jesus). On the surface, this story is about wicked tenants, but underneath, the parable critiques the religious leaders and holds them accountable for their failure to care for God’s people. 

You might not be a pastor or a deacon, but you are obligated to care for what God has given you. As in the gospel story, we are not owners but stewards entrusted by God to nurture creation. God is the owner, not us. At the very beginning of creation, God gave humanity dominion, or care for, creation (Genesis 1:28). We are merely caretakers, cultivating what God has called good. Sadly, looking at the current state of our planet, humanity has shifted from dominion to domination – taking whatever we can at the expense of vulnerable creation and people.

The climate crisis feels overwhelming. Is it possible to get us out of this mess? Yes, but it will take all of us. As a concerned body, we can pressure our elected government officials and corporations. As individuals, we can do small actions like following the ELCA Youth Adults in #noplasticsforlent, taking public transportation, walking, or composting our food. Many of these actions will inconvenience us but are necessary to help our planet breathe again. God has entrusted us with our beautiful world; let’s live up to our calling. 

Discussion Questions

  • How do you hear this story, knowing Jesus called out religious leaders and held them accountable for their failure to care for God’s people?  Where are you in this parable?
  • What does this Gospel story teach you about environmental stewardship and accountability?
  • If God were to speak about the current state of our planet, what would be God’s message?
  • How does your faith interplay with environmental justice?

Activity Suggestions

  • Read the ELCA’s social statement, “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice,” or just the summary. This statement was written in 1993. What would you change 30 years later?
  • In 2023 the ELCA Church Council adopted a social message about climate care entitled  Earth’s Climate Crisis, How does it update the Caring for Creation statement.
  • Go to the ELCA Synods and Congressional Districts Resource. Find the State Public Policy Office and your congregational district. Consider meeting with your lawmaker, contacting an ELCA-affiliated state public policy office, or writing an op-ed encouraging your local government and corporations to take action on the climate crisis.

Closing Prayer

Gracious God, help us be faithful stewards of your creation. Empower us to advocate for environmental justice and those affected by the climate crisis. Guide our leaders to take swift action to address the climate crisis. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.