Uniting Earth Advocate Jason John considers the ocean, and how our heaving treading is damaging the beauty, wonder and majesty of these incredible ecosystems.

WEEK 2God's Beautiful Oceans

jason-john.jpg Jason John is a Uniting Earth Advocate with the Uniting Church Social Justice Forum NSW/ACT, helping the church explore the connections between faith and ecology, and how we best respond. He lives in the forest in Bellingen with his family and many non-human neighbours.

I remember being 16, in my first year of zoology. I had spent years snorkelling around the reefs in the waters of the Ramindjeri people (Encounter Bay, SA), and had become mesmerised by the complexity and beauty of the tiny marine communities underneath and around me.

Here, on these reefs, the Ramindjeri have sustainably harvested mussels for millennia. But that year, as I studied the reefs, I began to see a very different relationship with the oceans. Each year, more and more tourists were walking over it, heedless of the homes they were trampling, and even worse, annual family picnics were turning into a massive “mussel festival,” where thousands of humans spent a long weekend filling bins with mussels to drag back home, decimating the ecosystem. Indifferent to the natural rhythms of the reef, this massive assault was destroying it within the space of a few years.

Something needed to be done.

So with great fear and trembling, in an anxiety ridden, squeaky voice, I waded out onto the reef to tell people to put the mussels back. And for a moment, my despair and rage at people’s indifference to their impact on the reef’s inhabitants was transformed into action, even a sense of empowerment.

But only for a moment. My action was a drop in the ocean (literally), and I knew it. What I wouldn’t learn until much later, is that whilst individual actions matter, they only prevail when we all act together – in community, in movements.

Right now, there is a movement to save the world’s biggest reef – indeed the whole ocean – and it too often seems that the Church has forgotten God’s call to us:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Genesis 2 speaks of humanity’s purpose – our entire reason for being – as to serve and protect God’s garden, not enslave and tread down the Earth. And as Brooke Prentis powerfully reminded us last Sunday, we ourselves are part of the Earth family.

So, as Christians, are we considering God’s beautiful oceans?

The scientists up the road from my church consider it. They measure its warming, acidification, expansion. Publicly, they try not to be “alarmist”. Privately they confess that it keeps them up at night.

Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders like Aunty Rose Elu consider the ocean, as trees fail to bear fruit because the soil is now too salty, and land is being lost to the sea in storm surges. She took her advocacy all the way to the COP21 Paris climate change negotiations.

The Church on Takuu atoll considers the ocean. God speaks to them about it in dreams. God, the Creator of their tiny island, speaks to them of the rising sea.

Rev Eria and the other adults in Kiribati have considered it, and they are preparing to abandon their entire island. More refugees, on their way somewhere.

Scientists have concluded that the ocean is responding to our use of fossil fuels. And yet coal mining is being expanded. Will a few get rich at the expense of all of us losing our natural icons like the Great Barrier Reef?

Yes, the world’s biggest reef is now dying, driven by pollution and climate change.

But people are acting. Together. This weekend, people around the world joined the #RiseForClimate action. Informed by scientists, alongside the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Australians are brushing past government posturing and inaction and demanding change. The church is there. All the church needs to be.

Common Grace will be playing an increasing role in helping mobilise Jesus’ followers to do for others as we would have them do for us: those who are suffering from climate change now; and those who will suffer even more in the future- not just humans, but all the creatures with whom we share God’s garden planet.

In the meantime, you can join with others who have put their hope into action, and found hope in taking action, at the Uniting Earth e-conference, unfolding between now and September 25.

WEEK 2Daily Bible Readings

Take time each day this week to explore what the bible says about God's beautiful oceans.

Sunday Genesis 2:15
Monday Genesis 1:21
Tuesday Psalm 104:25
Wednesday Psalm 148:7
Thursday Isaiah 43:2-3
Friday Nehemiah 9:6
Saturday Hosea 4:3


This reflection by Jason John is part of our Season of Creation series celebrating God's Beautiful Earth. You can signup for weekly emails sent each Sunday during September, or follow along on Facebook and Instagram.

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