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Sermon during Presbyterians for Earth Care conference hints we’re living in ‘such a time as this’

The Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett highlights Esther’s courage during her second conference sermon

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Tim Wildsmith via Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — After conference musician Warren Cooper delivered a soothing version of “There’s Just Something About That Name,” those attending the Presbyterians for Earth Care conference heard a sermon Thursday by the Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett, this time drawing on familiar themes from Esther 4:12-14 and 5:1-2.

Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, told her own family’s story of living in “such a time as this.” During the civil rights movement, her grandfather used to risk his own safety by leaving his home in North Little Rock, Arkansas, to cast his ballot. His wife would urge him not to, wondering, “What will we do without you?” if he suffered injury or death. He told her, “What kind of life will my children have if I live but do not vote?”

“In that story,” Moffett said, “I knew our grandfather loved us before he knew us. Some actions we take not just for our well-being, but for the hope they will have positive actions in the present and the future.”

PEC’s hybrid conference, “The Climate Crisis & Empowering Hope,” is being held Wednesday through Saturday at Massanetta Springs Camp and Conference Center in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and at three remote sites: First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley, California, Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, and Westover Hills Presbyterian Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.

While we may not be forced to consider risking everything the way that Esther did, we too are sometimes called to make difficult decisions that reveal our nature and our substance, Moffett said.

“When the time is fulfilled, we must kiss destiny and romance chance,” Moffett said. “There was no guarantee Esther’s actions would result in the salvation of her people, and there’s no guarantee the energy we are pouring into this [Creation care] movement will have significant impact. … We may not see all the fruits of the actions we take to cease climate change, but our actions point to a future where our planet is saved.”

The Book of Esther, where God’s name is never mentioned, records that Esther puts on her royal robe and goes to see the king on the third day after sending word to Mordecai, “if I perish, I perish.” Moffett called that gap “a literary device to note a lapse in time. Esther does a work on behalf of God and her people. She goes because it’s the right thing to do. I submit this is our third day right now. It’s time to be Matthew 25 people. It’s time to disrupt the damage being done to God’s people and our planet.”

The Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett

“For such a time as this,” Moffett said, “may we stand with those who feel the blows of Haman’s cruel decrees.”

Esther “could walk into a room and show folks what she was working with. She gets to the palace because she is beautiful, and she works at it,” Moffett said. “She put on her best clothes and began to actualize her influence through her connection with others and with her God.”

Unlike Esther, “We don’t have to wonder if our monarch will hear our request and accept our call,” Moffett said. “We are in partnership with a God who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above anything we can think or ask. … We empower hope in this crisis through Jesus, to whom is given glory and power forever.”

Bible Study Part 2: The Poor and the Rich

The Rev. Dr. Patrica Tull, the Rhodes Professor Emerita of Old Testament at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary who’s leading Bible study throughout the conference, noted several of many Old Testament passages dealing directly with wealth and poverty: Exodus 23:6, Leviticus 19:15, Deuteronomy 16:20, Proverbs 13:21, Isaiah 1:16-17 and Amos 5:24.

“We have scriptural tools to talk about God’s Creation and social justice,” Tull said, displaying a Venn diagram of each. “The intersection is environmental justice.”

In 2010, some of the world’s richest nations pledged $100 billion to the Green Climate Fund. But contributions have fallen well short of the promised amount. The United Nations’ Loss and Damage Fund aims to provide financial assistance to nations most vulnerable and impacted by the effects of climate change. “Lifting people out of danger anywhere helps people everywhere,” Tull said.

Tull told the 200 or so people gathered online and in person that “We can practice environmental justice in our own communities. I hope you are already plugged in, Presbyterian and otherwise.”

The Rev. Dr. Patricia Tull

Presbyterian Women has invited Tull to write its Horizons Bible Study for 2024-25 on environmental justice. It’ll have nine chapters: Environmental Justice, Land Justice, Food Justice, Water Justice, Air Quality, Climate Change Justice, Economic Climate Justice, Intergenerational Justice, and Sustaining Creation’s Health for All.

“I hope this study will inspire people to ensure we always protect justice for the poor,” Tull said.

After taking participants through one such story in Kisuma, Kenya, Tull noted that “a relatively small amount of money from here can work wonders there.”

“This is not the time for us to build bigger barns,” Tull said. “It’s the moment to make sure our bounty can benefit our neighbors and the health of the planet.”

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