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Lenten Reflection - Energy

Lenten Reflection:  Energy


Church Lent programWeekly Reflection

Lowering Carbon Emissions, Being Light


They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.      
Isaiah 11: 9


Watching a baby take her first steps is enchanting.  The child pulls up from the floor, holding tightly to her daddy’s hand.  She takes one step on little round feet, totters then plops back down again.  She tries again, this time moving first the right foot forward, then the left.  Then, plop!  She might decide to sit out a round -- back to what feels safe and comfortable – before trying again.  Soon she’ll be able to join her brother running around the house.

Learning to walk with earth-caring feet is a lot like a baby’s first steps.  We might try one thing and then lose interest.  It might be a little while before we try out another suggestion – take a step or two – then give it a break.  If we listen, we can hear about a teen group striving to motivate individuals or legislators to make wise energy choices so that the younger generations will have the chance to inherit a healthy planet.  This or something else might compel us to try again – maybe turn off unnecessary lights or shut down our computer monitor at the end of the day or even more.

Each of us might forget or be inconsistent.  The important lesson to remember is that we can learn to be attentive to our energy consumption if we desire.  Every day we are given an opportunity to try again.  Today we might change to LED or CFL light bulbs in one fixture.  Maybe tomorrow we will dry some clothes on an outdoor line instead of turning on the dryer. 

We who live in Developed World countries have electricity brought to our homes, schools and businesses like flowing water.  We have constant access, right there from an outlet in our wall.  We flip a switch and brighten the corners of our rooms every night.  We rarely think about where the power comes from until a heavy storm knocks out household power, reminding us that we are very dependent on electricity to live well.  We may not think much about energy, but the cost to our Earth is real.  Nearly 70% of our power comes from the burning of coal, natural gas and petroleum.  All three emit excessive amounts of carbon dioxide which is destructive to God’s creation and to human life. 

We cannot lose heart.  While one person powering down within their household might seem to be a negligible action, when joined by others – and there are many who care -- we can make a vast difference in worldwide carbon emissions. 

And our choices affect real people.  The tops of mountains in Appalachia are destroyed to reach narrow coal seams in an effort to keep up with our country’s need for cheap coal to burn.  The trees, plants, soil and stone that is blasted off is then dumped into valleys, streams and gullies, destroying local communities – often the poorest and the least likely to have a public voice -- and permanently and radically changing the ecosystem of the area. http://ilovemountains.org/ 

Being attentive to recycling can help as well.  Recycling just one aluminum can will save enough energy to  power an average TV for three hours or is equivalent to the energy in a half gallon of gasoline. 

This Lenten lesson is not so much about sacrifice as it is about using electricity and natural gas mindfully, about choosing a constructive path that makes sense for all of us

This week think about being a light for others.  And like learning to walk, all of us will find that choosing well becomes easier over time.

To meet the people and hear the voices of those affected by mountaintop removal, watch this compelling YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPixjCneseE

Environmental church programThis Week's Practice 

Change your light bulbs to LEDs or CFLs

“You’ve got to stay bright to be the light of the world.”     

Matthew 5: 14 (from “Godspell” lyrics)


Jesus was patient with his disciples, aware of their human limitations.  Despite Peter’s desire to be faithful, when pushed into a corner he disowned Jesus.  Yet from the deep love nourished through his relationship with his Abba-God, Jesus continued to call his disciples to be shining lights.  He calls us to do the same. 

Walking is accomplished a single step at a time.  We can walk to a positive choice, we can take a step.  We can continue to reach beyond our edges of comfort, to be light to the world.

It’s more than a play on words to examine the light in our own households.  The movement to replace less efficient sources of lighting with bulbs that save energy has grown steadily over the past few years.  While the response to CFL bulbs has not been overwhelmingly positive, a new option—LED bulbs is promising even more efficiency and longer life (up to 25 times the life of incandescent bulbs), without some of the concerns, like the presence of mercury in CFLs.

According to Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, qualified bulbs and fixtures use about 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last ten to twenty-five times longer!
We can reduce energy use, save money (the average home lighting can account for 20% of one’s electric bill!), and lower our personal mark on God’s creation.

There are related suggestions that can assist:  hanging thinner curtains to let daylight in, using three-way lamps on a lower setting when able, installing dimmers or motion sensors inside or outside the house, opening south-facing curtains on a winter sunny day to make best use of that natural heat source. 

This Lent, why not be a light for our earth, and “be bright,” choosing energy-saving LEDs or CFLs  – one step at a time.

Learn how carbon dioxide emissions have grown steadily since the 1990s at http://co2now.org/


Church Lent programChurches in Action

Carbon Reduction Campaign


United Methodist Church

excerpted from “Carbon Reduction Campaign: Success Story – Lawrence Avenue United Methodist Church Combining Environmental Stewardship and Financial Stewardship: A Perfect Marriage!” 

Lawrence Avenue United Methodist Church in Charlotte, Michigan has reduced over 9,064 lbs of carbon through the Carbon Reduction Campaign. A congregation of 400, they have replaced 25 Incandescent light bulbs with Compact Florescent bulbs, and installed 5 LED exit signs which will save the congregation approximately $360.00 per year. In addition, Lawrence Avenue UMC has installed 70 energy‐efficient replacement windows, added weather‐stripping to all exterior and interior doors, insulated steam pipes, and installed a timer on the restroom lights.

Lawrence Avenue UMC was inspired to reduce their carbon footprint after two very passionate groups within the congregation came together to share ideas and resources. One group had a strong desire to be better stewards of God's creation and wanted to save the environment for future generations. Another group was passionate about being wise stewards of the church’s financial resources. According to Rev. Karen Wheat, the groups’ union was “a perfect marriage.” She explains, “The cost‐cutters were open to learning more about going green and the environmentalists learned more about the financial workings of the church. It brought together two groups that really had never worked in tandem before.”

This partnership lead to the congregation’s first project, replacing all non‐stain glass windows with energy efficient windows. Members from each group worked together to present the environmental and financial stewardship benefits of the project. “The results have been fabulous,” Rev. Wheat reports. “Our utility bill went down $1000 for the month of February (first full month the windows and some of the other things have been in place) in comparison to that same month last year. Also, the old, drafty building is just plain warmer with the additional steps taken to utilize the resources more efficiently.”

Rev. Wheat’s advice to congregations interested in reducing their own carbon footprint is to “Get the money people and the environment people together and let them see how this can be a win/win situation for both of them. And then let them talk it up. A year ago no one talked "green" very much at church. Now it is a priority for just about everyone. Even the children are involved and remembering to turn off lights and keep doors closed.” Caring for God’s Creation is now part of the congregation’s everyday practice.

Catholic Archdiocese of Washington  and Catholic Climate Covenant

Many Christian Churches offer members a Lenten Calendar with tips for change.  One offered by the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington DC is called “Lenten Caring for God’s Creation Calendar” and can be found here

While you are at looking at the calendar, reprinted by the Catholic Climate Covenant, look up the amazing work that organization is doing getting churches to sign the St. Francis Pledge and make efforts to care for God’s creation.  Sign here.

Lenten programWhat Churches are Saying

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Excerpt from “Ten Reasons Why Lutherans Care for Creation” at


4. Ecclesiology: We are called in our human vocation “to serve and to preserve” the Earth. We understand that the church exists for the sake of the world, especially now in this time of ecological crisis that affects all living things. We do not have an escapist theology. When Luther was asked what he would do if he knew the world would end tomorrow, he replied, “Plant a tree.”

5. Ethics: We Lutherans have a contextual, incarnational (yet non-relativistic) ethic that is not built on rules that can be confining and enslaving. We are free to address new and complex situations, such as the environmental state of the world. We do so not as ones who dominate and exploit but as servants to our human and non-human neighbors. And we do so not out of fear or guilt or shame or arrogance but out of gratitude and grace.


Catholic Church

From Pope Francis’ Lenten message, 2014:

Dear brothers and sisters, may this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ. We can do this to the extent that we imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt…

Prayer for Week Four - Energy

Good and gracious God,

you are the light of the world.

As we search for ways to light and energize our homes,

forgive us for acting as if creation belongs to us,

rather than you.

Help us to conserve, preserve, and use wisely

the treasures of our Earth.

Teach us lifestyles which are a blessing for creation

and all your creatures.

We rely upon your Spirit

to illuminate our way.

Imagine if the Earth were divided equally among all of us. Each person would receive 4.5 acres. Now imagine that everything you need – food, energy, home, clothing, gadgets – must come from those 4.5 acres. But it takes 22.3 acres to maintain the average American lifestyle.There is a new way of observing Lent that helps us care for God’s creation by taking steps toward using only our fair share of its resources. Moving in the direction of 4.5 is essential for anyone walking in the footsteps of Jesus today.

Our Ministry

Lent 4.5 is a seven-week faith formation program which inspires and informs Christian communities on how to use the traditional Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to protect God’s creation, embrace Gospel justice and nurture spiritual fulfillment. It offers practical opportunities for people of faith to apply the values of Christian Simplicity to their everyday lives.

This Week...

Lowering Carbon Emissions, Being Light

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