ASH WEDNESDAYScherschligt: Ash Wednesday shows a new way of living together
Posted: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 10:00 pm
Every year in the final weeks of winter, I fast.
For me, fasting during Lent — the 40 days on the Christian calendar between Ash Wednesday and Easter — has meant different things over the years. In some years, I have fasted from solid food for several days. In others, looking to reflect on my impact on the environment, I “fasted” from using my car to get around, or “fasted” from using the dryer to dry my laundry.
No matter how I fast, the practice puts me in touch with a spiritual lesson the natural world and the Christian tradition offer this time of year: Something has to die so that something else can be born.
And nothing dies harder than the desire we have to live without limits.
Starting with Adam and Eve, humans have challenged the parameters of our relationship with the natural world with disastrous consequences.
I believe that our ecological problems present each of us with a spiritual challenge: Given the reality of climate change, how will we respond?
The crisis of global warming testifies to the limits on how many tons of heat-trapping climate pollution our atmosphere can hold. Right now, for example, the Unitarian Church of Norfolk already has to cancel services when the rising sea floods its building at high tide.
As we have flouted limits on how much we use and how much we waste, the consequences harm our neighbors and the natural world. At this time of year, I fast with my church community as a way to take responsibility for the impact of our choices, to repent for the pollution our choices have caused, and to accept new limits on our consumption of resources. Only through this practice can we make way in our hearts for the birth of something new.
This year, I’ve been thinking that some of our state legislators could benefit from a bit of Lenten discipline, too. I invite our leaders to join me and other people of faith in taking responsibility and accepting some limits when considering climate and energy policy.
Earlier this month, when asked to vote on an amendment affirming the dangers of climate change, delegates — including Del. Richard L. Morris (R-64) and Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-13) — dodged responsibility by denying climate science entirely, suggesting that the “so-called global warming” already flooding Norfolk couldn’t possibly be caused “by anything humans have done.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Frank Wagner has championed legislation that would excuse Dominion Virginia Power from the regular every-other-year review of the rates it charges us. Dominion executives have claimed that they need to be excused from accountability in rate-setting because they’re being asked to implement the most reasonable of pollution limits: the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, the first national safeguard concerning carbon pollution from power plants.
On this Ash Wednesday, my prayer is that all of us in Virginia, including our General Assembly, embrace the coming days as an opportunity to reflect on the consequences of our choices, including the way that our energy use is damaging our climate.
If we wish to live together as neighbors, we will need to accept that our desire to live without limits must meet its end. That way, come Easter, a new way of living together — a new way of living well together — can be born.
The Rev. Sarah Scherschligt is the senior pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Alexandria, and works with area congregations on climate initiatives through Interfaith Power & Light. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.