Presbyterians for Earth Care wraps up its hybrid conference with a call to give heed to voices too often disregarded

The Rev. Jed Koball, a mission co-worker serving in Peru, leads closing worship from Lima

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Priscilla du Preez via Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — During “Inward and Outward,” her final Bible study Saturday for the Presbyterians for Earth Care conference, the Rev. Dr. Patricia Tull offered this caveat: “A journey that is self-renewing and self-focused does no earthly good.”

“We love [Second] Isaiah because it speaks hope to a people without hope,” said Tull, the Rhodes Professor Emerita of Old Testament at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. “As a result of these words, Jerusalem does rebuild. The Temple is rebuilt, but life is never the same again. This persistent hope — we owe it to the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam as we know them today.”

The place for change in the way we care for Creation is less about whether we recycle or engage energy companies and their practices and more about what’s going on with our spirits, according to Tull. As part of a class she taught, Tull took students to a Louisville synagogue to join in Friday evening Shabbat prayers. One young woman cried during the entire service. Asked by Tull if she was all right, the student said she was more than all right. “Being here tonight,” she told Tull, “is like finding a family I didn’t know I had.”

The Rev. Dr. Patricia Tull

“The most important thing we can do is recognize the immediate ties that bind us with God and the Earth and all its inhabitants, to grow in gratitude and enjoy,” Tull said. “It results in a completely different path in our lives and what we do day by day.”

“I am sure you came here with a to-do list already going, and likely have filled it up over the past three days,” Tull said to the people attending PEC’s conference, “The Climate Crisis & Empowering Hope.” “I hope your ambitions are large and your energy is bountiful.”

Closing worship features mission co-worker serving in Peru

The Rev. Jed Koball, who serves in World Mission with the Joining Hands Network in Lima, Peru, preached remotely on Matthew’s account of the Canaanite woman’s faith.

In a sermon he called “Great is your faith!” Koball told conference-goers if they want to solve the climate crisis, “listen to indigenous peoples,” a practice on which the church has a spotty record. “We must look back in history to find hope for our future,” Koball said. “The voice of indigenous peoples in this part of the world is still very strong, and indigenous voices have never been so relevant. They continue to resonate with hope, but only if we listen.”

Koball arrived in Peru in 2009, just about the time Peru’s then-president was referring to people indigenous to the Amazon River basin as “dogs” during a televised speech.

“They have been the frontline defenders of our metaphorical lungs,” Koball said. “They were taking a stand in defense of their mother.” A few days after the president’s statement, Peruvian national police killed dozens of the protectors for blocking highways.

“The Doctrine of Discovery produces rotten fruit to this day,” Koball said.

The Peruvian president wasn’t the first to call people dogs, Koball noted. Jesus used the same term responding to the Canaanite woman, reflecting as Koball called it “the culture of prejudice in which he was raised.” After that reference, the story turns, and “it hinges on her faith and his humility. She calls Jesus into a deeper understanding,” Koball said. “The difference between Jesus and the president of Peru is that Jesus listens.”

The Rev. Jed Koball serves as a mission co-worker in Peru.

“It is the Canaanite woman’s courageous voice that makes her the hero of the story, and Jesus’ divine humility that makes him the Savior and worthy to be followed,” Koball said. The woman’s faith “changed how he understood God’s call on his life.” Jesus would go on to perform another miracle, the feeding of 5,000 families, “a turning point for Jesus and his followers,” Koball said.

“We are in need of our own turning point today,” he said. “We need to listen to courageous voices of faith among us today, the courageous indigenous voices of faith around us.”

While 500 years ago Fracisco Pizarro’s quest was to take all the gold he could, nowadays it’s about taking all the lithium, cobalt and copper that can be mined — “humanely if possible, but get them,” Koball said.

“Now is the time to listen and change, to secure a just transition … away from the Doctrine of Discovery toward a praxis of recovery,” Koball said. “It requires us to listen like Jesus listened, to listen to resistance and say, ‘great is your faith.’”

“We stand together, and when we do, I believe our turning point will come,” Koball said, sharing this Cree vision: “When the Earth is sick and dying, there will come a tribe of people from all races who will put their faith in deeds, not words, and make the planet green again.”

“Go and join the cries of Creation yearning for healing,” Koball said during his benediction. “Go and work for the healing and wholeness of all the Earth. Amen and amen.”

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