Final Reflection on Rio+20 UN Conference


Scriptural calls to confession and active repentance/turning

Isaiah 5:8

Ah, you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land!


Job 28:9-12

They put their hand to the flinty rock, and overturn mountains by the roots. They cut channels in the rocks, and their eyes see every precious thing. The sources of the rivers they probe; hidden things they bring to light. But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?


Ezekiel 34:18

Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet?


Deut 30:19-20

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.


Luke 18:4-5

For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.”


Scriptural calls to respond to God’s grace with transformed lives

Acts 4:32

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.

Mt 22:37-40

“You shall love the Holy One your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the laws and prophets.



God of judgment and grace, you call us to confess the ways we fall short of your desires for us. We avoid building the beloved community. We sidestep real justice and instead hope marginal progress or good acts of charity will be enough. We pursue short-term and individual profit over communal growth. We, who are privileged, wait until others, who stand at the margins, remind us of our responsibilities, again and again. Call us back, O God, and help us truly repent, to turn away from our failings and towards your desire for wholeness, justice, and love.


We praise you for your grace that flows continually, evoking a response of gratitude and active transformation from us. May we vision new paths, be energized for renewed work, take leadership to pursue justice and peace for all people and all creation. Trusting your Spirit to hold us accountable and to hold us in care, we pray, Amen.


Final Rio Reflection: Confession, Repentance and Transformation

It is almost three weeks now since the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ended. What was accomplished, beyond the huge carbon footprint of flying in 60,000 people (and housing and lodging and feeding them all)? Unfortunately, many of us are agreed that there was officially only an Outcome Document that moves countries marginally forward, if at all. (In some aspects, there is even great concern that it is less effective and forward-thinking than the original Principles from Rio 20 years ago.) Do we gather for these meetings only to pollute, as prophets Amos, Isaiah and Job remind us of our human propensity to do? Forgive us, O God.


And yet. And, yet! Somehow God’s Spirit of justice and peace, of care and restoration, was with us. I do believe this. I witnessed God’s force for justice in the “persistent widows” (Luke 18:4-5) of people from Via Campesina, from the Landless Workers’ Movement, and from Afro-Brazilian traditional religious communities. I also noted the re-iterated prophetic call to “choose life” in the midst of so much death—a call spoken by Leonardo Boff, by the indigenous leaders of Bolivia, and by women fighting against extractive industries in the U.S. Appalachian states and all around the world.


Around the edges of the official tables of the United Nations’ conference, and across town at the busy People’s Summit, transformation and grace were abundant. People were sharing kindness and compassion, learning and care: listening and teaching each other about their lives and concerns. We are separate and yet we are one body!


God, who commands us to love, God, who so loved the entire cosmos (and all its vulnerable communities, all its justice concerns, all its people, all its creatures), God, who sent Christ to save this cosmos, this God was there, fully present, transforming hearts, minds and souls.


This God of love and justice calls us to continue to till and keep the earth, to honor our vocation to love God and take action for justice. As people of faith, we can remain neither content nor defeated after an event like this. We must still, and always, look to the call that Christ puts on our hearts and answer that call with energy, imagination, enthusiasm, and creative love for God’s world.

How, after confessing all that we’ve done to this earth (and the positive changes we’ve left undone), do we recommit ourselves to our call to care for this earth? How, after acknowledging that this particular U.N. gathering didn’t make huge historical human progress, can we be re-energized to make sure it makes actual spiritual, emotional, and physical changes in the world (which never depend on governmental agreements)?


U.S. Presbyterians and congregations are part of a global church, part of an entire cosmos of our Creator God, and we can be important actors in this globalized world. After attending the People’s Summit with the World Council of Churches, I feel even more strongly that we can and must do this.


How does your life, your congregation, our government help to demonstrate gospel values in a hurting world? How do our local efforts at earth care education and advocacy impact sisters and brothers around the world? What issues will we now attend, having been awakened to urgency and need?


I pray that for you there may be a particular part of the world, a specific environmental concern, or a unique community battling  for eco-justice (of economic, social, and environmental import) with which you (and/or your church) might engage. How might you pray, learn, and act, connecting your life with someone else’s, knowing your transformation affects another community in another part of creation? May God go with us in this blessed work!


Links for more reading on the end of Rio+20 conference:

Presbyterian minister Neddy Astudillo’s reflections


World Council of Churches’ final statement


Stakeholder Forum


 (browse earlier blog entries for more links and perspectives)


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