Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and indigenous people and people of colour around the world, we're praying that non-Indigenous people and white people will stay awake.
The following is an edited excerpt from a recorded conversation between Common Grace CEO Brooke Prentis and Christian ecological ethicist Dr Byron Smith, titled "2020, the Year of Disruption: COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, and the Climate Crisis". Listen to the full conversation here
On the topic of Jubilee, the theme of this year's Season of Creation, in the context of the global pandemic:
BROOKE PRENTIS: To think about Jubilee for the Earth and Sabbath for the Earth, rest was one of the first things I kind of noticed during COVID-19 restrictions. What's happened with COVID-19, simply by the fact that there's less planes in the sky, you can hear the birds more loudly, you can hear the wind through the trees more loudly. You see more things that are around you. And so I think that's a good reminder to us of how we need to reflect about what's happening around us in the world, in our neighbourhood, in the community, in the nation and in the world. All of those are interconnected, and the thing that is central is God's creation and how we're caring for that creation.
If we were to go back to what is considered normal, [it’s about] remembering that this has never been normal for Aboriginal peoples. We had economies before the colonisers came and those economies were in harmony with creation, not disruptive to that creation. And so there's still so much that we can learn from each other.
And so I guess that's what my hope, through that rest, is that it brings reflection and learning and different ways of being and doing.
DR BYRON SMITH: I don't see the pandemic as a sabbath or as a jubilee. I see it as a crisis and a tragedy that brings the possibility of seeking new paths and the possibility of repentance. And so while they are, unexpected blessings even in times of trial and difficulty — and some of them are that we can hear the birdsong and that there is some space some people have had to rest and reflect — actually for most of the oppressed people in the world this has not been a time of rest and reflection.
Now in that crisis, there are opportunities that arise. Opportunities to seek a Sabbath for the Earth, according to the theme of this year's Season of Creation, the Jubilee for the Earth. Jubilee is like the ‘Super Sabbath’, where there's like a reset on economy: where the land is returned to the traditional owners, where debts are forgiven, where those who are in bondage are set free. And where the place of the economy within society and within a broader ecological reality is reaffirmed.
So the practice of Jubilee, as outlined in Leviticus 25, is really an affirmation that the economy is the servant of society, which takes its place within a whole living world. Ultimately, it's a moment where there's a chance to reorient those things and to avoid that temptation that we all face of seeing the economy as first and foremost what it's all about, and the making of profit as the prime goal of our politics and our corporate life and our... jubilee is a challenge to that kind of idolatry. We have the opportunity, here in this moment of planetary crisis with COVID, to repent of that idolatry. And that's what I see as the opportunity that opens here.
In this week's discussion Brooke and Byron reflect on the crisis of the global COVID-19 pandemic as providing a crucial moment to reset. In the midst of our ecological emergency we now have the opportunity to examine and restore just relationships between our economic, social and ecological systems as reflected in the holy wisdom of God’s call to Jubilee.
A moment for repentance
Take time this week to reflect on Byron’s challenge to us to recognise and examine our collective and personal idolatry of the economy. Read through 1 Timothy 6:6-11 and consider the warnings against our cultural values and aspirations in the pursuit of profit. How could a reset and reorienting of our economy as a ‘servant of society’ bring healing and liberating justice to our world and personal lives?
Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. But as for you, man of God (Timothy), shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.
1 Timothy 6:6-11
A time to listen and learn from each other as we find new ways of being and doing.
Spend time praying through Brooke’s call for us to use this moment as a time to listen and learn from one another as we work to restore balance to the systems which enable the whole of God’s creation to flourish. Pray that as we find new ways of ‘being and doing’ that our attitudes and actions reflect God’s deep love for his people and all creation.
Today is Wattle Day. Wattle was here before the colonisers came and is here still today. What better symbol to bring us together for the start of the Season of Creation, Jubilee for the Earth, and to act for Creation & Climate Justice. Share your images of wattle on Facebook and Instagram today and use the hashtag #wattleday2020
Read more about Wattle Day here