Sermon: Intersections


A Sermon for The Eliot Church

Rev. Reebee Girash

April 22, 2018


Audio Recording (Including Liturgist’s Scripture Reading):





1 John 3:16-24

16We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? 18Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him

20whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

23And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.24All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.




Surely, Lord, you are in this place.

    The Charles River, and its watershed.

Surely, Lord, you are in this place.

The land of the Mashpee Wampanoag.

Surely, Lord, you are in this place.

The city of Newton, place of both abundance and need.

Surely, Lord, you are in this place.

This sanctuary, with these your beloved children.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts together be always acceptable in your sight, in this time, in this place. Amen.




On Wednesday of this week, on the most beautiful spring day, between snow storms, I walked this place, this neighborhood.  We are in a beautiful neighborhood, you know? And on Wednesday, the crocuses were still out and the forsythia had bloomed overnight, the daffodils were starting.  I even saw three or four pioneer tulips. The sky was cobalt blue with whispy clouds, the air was crisp but not cold, children were playing in the park and people were out talking to their neighbors.


I walked down toward the church and was excited as I am every time to glimpse our shiny solar panels turning the sun’s good rays into electricity that powers every switch in our building. And I thought about our boiler, which is aesthetically speaking quite ugly but hiding down there in our basement is a thing of high efficiency beauty.  And I thought about our Level III Green Church certificate and I was mighty proud of this church, I tell you. Mighty proud.


And this naturally led me to think about Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 7 Episode 9.  Actually, everything gets me to thinking about Star Trek. In college my idea of a good time was to watch Star Trek with friends, and heaven help us John and I have been watching the entirety of Next Generation with Zac, including recently Season 7 Episode 9.  What, the plot of “Force of Nature” is not something you have memorized? Let me just tell you: it’s the climate change allegory episode, although IMDB says it’s about a problem with the warp drive. To the Enterprise crew’s shock and dismay, two scientists from an isolated world prove beyond a doubt that using warp drive to zip across the galaxy at high speeds will lead to devastating subspace rifts.  Their planet, is already on the verge of being uninhabitable. And so, the Federation issues an immediate directive: no more warp travel in fragile corridors. No more warp travel over Warp 5 except in emergency. The Federation takes immediate and clear action and saves the galaxy once again.


I love Star Trek, I tell you.  


The episode ends with Captain Picard staring wistfully out at the stars, waxing eloquently: “I’ve charted new worlds. I’ve met dozens of new species. I believed that these were all valuable ends in themselves,” Picard says. “And now it seems that all this while I was helping to damage the thing that I hold most dear.”


The episode aired in 1993.  You know, five years after climate scientist James Hansen told the Senate that global warming was increasing, was human caused, must be addressed in order to preserve a habitable earth.  


In a hit-you-over-the-head reference to emerging climate change science, the writers of that episode declared when the science is clear, you must take decisive action.  I love Star Trek. It’s so perfect.


Except it wasn’t.


See, this radical change in how the Federation would travel through space, this sacrifice for the sake of neighbor and creation?  It’s a footnote in two more episodes – when the crew chooses to break the new limit – and then, magically, in the next Star Trek series they changed the angle of the warp nacelles and magically solved the problem with technobabble.


In Star Trek, all you have to do to solve an existential crisis is to make a minor tweak to the engines and then never think about it again.  You can save the galaxy and miss the big picture; you can travel at warp and skip all the intersections.


Let me confess that I’ve spent a lot of time in Star Trek land –

Land of the simple fix,

Land of, if we just do this one simple easy discrete thing, everything will be fine, for everyone.


In my early days of climate activism I was drawn to climate work because of the risk to everyone, vulnerable populations, poor folk around the world.


But neither I nor the organizations I joined were  listening to, or partnering with, any of those people.  Not with Native Americans working to save the water sources on their land nor the women walking miles to get water in West Africa.  Not with folks advocating for cleaner and more frequent buses in Four Corners nor with those whose backyards were bisected by leaky pipelines.  Because I was working on fossil fuels, carbon parts per million.


I think in the last couple of years I’ve, at the risk of an overused phrase, woken up a bit.  Seen that in this particular time and place I also need to be thinking about and working on racism, about land use, about militarism, about poverty, about water rights.


I was at a racial justice retreat for the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC last year when a certain prophet, a woman of color from Western MA, helped me see how the climate movement is seen by some folks.  We were talking about the conference’s most recent conference email. All that’s ever in there is climate this, environment that.  That’s all this conference thinks is important she said.  We were sitting there at a racial justice retreat sponsored by the conference to help launch racial justice trainings, but around the room there were nods.  She was not the only one who felt there was some tunnel vision. I tried, stumbling, to express that one of the underlying reasons I was committed to climate action was because of racial justice.  It didn’t fly. The folks talking about climate were not the folks showing up at Black Lives Matter rallies or Poor People’s Campaign events. We weren’t working intersectionally. We were traveling in separate ships at warp speed.  


I am increasingly converted to what Dr. Barber calls the moral fusion intersectional movement building that works across communities and causes for the greater good.


Just one example:


Puerto Rico, post Maria, exists at the intersection of

    The most intense hurricane ever


    A new tax bill that taxes Puerto Rican goods at foreign good rates


    An island wide blackout 7 months later


    System Racism


    Climate Change


So an intersectional response has to deal with economic justice, racial justice, and climate change.


At the Revolutionary Love Conference at Middle Church, I learned about Middle’s Puerto Rico response.  They are both doing hands on repair work and fundraising – and installing solar panels in partnership with local folks (you know, the only spots not in blackout last week).  Most of the folks in leadership from Middle are Puerto Rican or have relatives there. And of course, they’re doing their work in the interior of the island, so that they can be Middle in the Middle.


You heard the scriptural basis for Middle in the Middle in our text:


16We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? 18Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.


I want to get to the place where my climate action is intertwined with my solidarity with Black Lives Matter; where I show up for the Poor People’s Campaign both to protect our planet and to call for a living wage; where I protest a pipeline as much for its impact on the neighborhood as for its carbon emissions.  


Because, it really is true that if we cut carbon emissions to zero, poor and vulnerable people are going to be stuck in the same place.


The next steps in the climate struggle are deeper than how many cities will choose 100% renewable electricity.

The next questions are more complicated and require something more of us.

The next steps connect the dots of systemic racism and economic inequality to the health of the planet.


Love and justice exist at the intersections.  It is complicated, though, and occasionally overwhelming.  There are soooo many crises in our world – and we have to connect the dots between them?  


It was much simpler when I could just keep saying 350 over and over again.


But.  The good news is right there in our text:


19And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and God knows everything.


God is greater than our hearts; God is greater than our confusion; God is greater than this complexity; God is greater than all of these problems combined.


Put another way – in a verse that stood out for me in Jen’s Bible study this week from Matthew 19: The disciples, asked, Then who can be saved?”

26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”


At this moment, we may be beyond the easy fix.  


But we’re at a moment where by working intersectionally, it is possible we might live into a world that is a bit more just for everyone, all the same.  We are building the world we want to live in.


We will do everything we can,

We will love our neighbors as Jesus commanded us,

We will abide in him,

We will take care of creation while standing in solidarity with our neighbors,

We will notice the intersections,

And we will hope that nothing is impossible with God.




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