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Sermon by Bishop (em) Bärbel von Wartenberg-Potter at worship service for climate justice (12 November 2017)

Sermon by Bishop (em) Bärbel von Wartenberg-Potter at worship service for climate justice, on 12 November 2017, 9:30 St Paulus Church, Bonn, Germany

13 November 2017

Sermon by Bishop (em) Bärbel von Wartenberg-Potter
Worship Service for Climate Justice
12 November 2017, 9:30
St Paulus Church, Bonn, Germany


Dear sisters and brothers,

I am very glad to share with you this morning our strength and our common commitment to Mother Earth and to creation.

Olav asked me why did I choose this subject or this issue to be so strong on my retirement life. It is true, it starts all that I realized how unimaginably neglecting we are of all our creatures living with us on the planet. We are neglecting them because we feel we are not part of nature, we human beings - we are something beyond. But the truth is, when you ask science and when you ask now theologians, you have to learn how deeply we are inter-connected with everything created. We are dependent on the air in the morning, in the day, in the night, which the trees do for us. We are dependent on the water which comes from heaven or sky or come from fountains. We are dependent on clean air. We are dependent on the animals not only to eat them, we actually should eat them. But we are dependent on their whole generating together with us the life on earth. So these were a part of the reason when I realized a big part of my theological learning and teaching had left out this aspect of life. And as a theologian and church leader we are given the responsibility, especially now in this year of celebrating the Reformation.

I was always encouraged by Marin Luther’s courage and by his boldness to speak. He spoke to the issues of his time. And I understand that you have to talk to the issues of our time. And we do in the churches talk almost exclusively about human beings and their relationship with God and Christ. We do not recognize how much the grace of God comes to us, so all the gifts of real physical life that’s around us, and as we destroy our forest, our waters, as we destroy animal world, take away, destroy islands and human beings. As we do this, we are told now in the Reformation that we are justified people. But how are we justified if we live so unjustly?

I think I understand the Reformation where that God makes just people out of us in order that we can live a just life.

The second part we have to consider and fortunately so many committed people here in Bonn, and you all who are involved in it, think afresh the Reformation means deeply thinking in light of the situation in which we live and the global challenge, the environmental destruction is like a shadow over us while we are busy now with not unimportant but still the details of life, horrible as they sometimes are, but if we make light of what protects us as a whole, nobody, no animal, no human being, no plant, no water will have this future which is and was our benefit in all the ages past.

So Martin Luther was bold and I try to be a student and a disciple of Luther as well as of the Bible to discover that we human beings, are not only the center of the universe and of God’s concerns, we are interwoven in the great tapestry of life. We have a special responsibility for this tapestry but if the others don’t give their gift of life to us, we cannot survive. And indeed the human species is endangered because we destroy our own house of life in which we live.

And therefore the Reformation calls us to read afresh also the biblical texts because in the creation story alone, it says at the end of the creation story, when God created the animals and the human beings and then He said it was very good. You read today that between the creation, the blessing “very good,” it says when God had created everything, he saw it was very good. So God blessed this inter-wovenness of created things, not just the human being, and so you can continue to accept or acknowledge these stories of the Bible and discover how deeply we have to move out of the center and be part of the web of life, of the circle of life and don’t think that we are the crown of creation. And that is the task of humility, and humility we learn foremost from the one whom we follow, Jesus Christ. So I wish that all of you deepen your commitment to renewal. We churches are not a museum. We live in our time. Bless you with all you do, and I hope, Olav, that I explain why I am so remaining permanent on this issue because it concerns the overall shadow over all us.