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by Daniel Meeter
As you read this, the Lord willing, I am on a bus to Washington, D.C. for the People’s Climate March.
I feel awkward when I do this kind of thing. The other people on the bus made posters and signs and all kind of creative things, and I’m jealous of their easy enthusiasm, and I’m conscious of being self-conscious, but at least I’m on the bus.
I’m on the bus with a couple people from my church, but the other riders I don’t know. The bus is sponsored by the owners of a cool and funky Brooklyn restaurant, The Habana Outpost, where I’ve eaten before. I have no idea if they’re religious, but they asked me to pray a blessing as we left, and I gladly did so.
I am also praying for myself. God have mercy on me and my constant doubt and second thoughts. I am always more excited about these marches beforehand than when I am on them. I don’t doubt the value of the march, and I believe in the cause. But I am always tempted to be sober and somber compared to other marchers. I am critical of myself and, worse, I’m critical of everybody else. But at least I’m on the bus.
I’m praying for the joy of the Spirit to join in the chants and cheers. I am not wearing my clergy collar, as other pastors did on the Women’s March. I am not wearing a stole, as other clergy did in the Climate March in Manhattan a couple years ago. I don’t want to stand out. But I do want to join in.
I’d like for once not to feel the reluctance that comes over me when I’m on these things. I felt it a couple months ago when I took the bus to Washington for the Women’s March. I felt it fifteen years ago when I marched in Manhattan against the invasion of Iraq. I feel it at the amplified worship services at General Synod in that whipped-up manipulated style with jumbotrons and people cheering God. I have no problem doing this for the Mets at Citifield, so I’m praying to let go and join in. But at least I’m on the bus.
When I prayed for the bus this morning, I also thanked God for the young woman whose influence in my life is why I’m marching. I thanked God for May Boeve, who worships in my church. May is the Executive Director (and one of the founders) of the climate action group 350.org, of which I’m a small donor. I’m her pastor, but in many ways she is my leader. She’s just ten years out of college, and already she’s had more impact in the world than anyone else I know, and her quiet and steadfast leadership is why I’m on the bus.
May grew up in a Reformed church parsonage, and I worked with her father on the ecumenical commission of the Reformed Church in America. Years ago we worked together for the Belhar Confession, and against apartheid, and for full communion with the Lutherans. Four years ago his daughter showed up in church. And began to teach me, and gently challenge us. But also encourage us. She became a Catechumen, and I was honored to confirm her. She reports that she gets a lot back from our congregation. I shared her weeping after worship a few Sundays ago, when she was exhausted by having to stand up to the new levels of hatred and violence spewing out of Washington. I have come to love her very much. But it’s not just to please her that I am on the bus.
If other people on this bus have no religion I don’t judge them. I’m not with them to convert them. (They probably need to convert me.) But it is for religion that I am riding with them—for serving the Lord Jesus. It’s because of Our Lord that I take this climate witness seriously. Psalm 8 and all that, our stewardship of Creation, Noah’s Ark, St. Paul’s “all creation groans,” etc. I am on the bus for Jesus’s sake.
Tomorrow, God willing, after church, I will be on another trip, but in my car. I will be driving to Ontario for a retreat with other pastors. We do this twice a year at my cottage in the Canadian Shield. My wife and I have been going there for twenty-eight years, and in three decades the change in the climate of our lake is observable and incontrovertible. It’s warmer even though the colds are more extreme. The winter snow is less dependable and some summers now the lake is very low. The lake is getting weedier, the fish population is changing, and we’re getting more largemouth bass. That’s why I’m on the bus.
What difference does one marcher make? Well, what difference does one voter make in a democracy. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. I’m on the bus because my leader on these issues asked me to march. May Boeve sees the larger strategy, and my marching is my small part of her larger work. I am remembering her tears. The climate campaign is a spiritual struggle, so I am on the bus.
Tomorrow, God willing, before I leave for Canada I will be preaching about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They were discouraged. But the Lord Jesus met them on the road. He challenged them as “foolish and slow of heart to believe.” I know all about being slow-of-heart—it’s me in the bus. Dear Jesus, meet us on the road today. Give us the joy of your resurrection.
It’s because the Lord Jesus has risen in his body, to walk upon the planet and breathe its air and eat its fish that I am on the bus.
Daniel Meeter is pastor of the Old First Reformed Church of Brooklyn, New York, and hardly an activist.
For more on May Boeve, see Time or The Guardian or The Guardian again, just this week.
Thanks, Daniel, for this compelling piece. My response: Upon this vital issue may my light, along with yours–and May’s– shine for Jesus, brightly and always.
Thank you, cousin Dale!
Thank you for this, Daniel, and for being there. And you won’t be the only self-conscious minister there, marching for your lake and his grandchildren and yes, for the risen Jesus.
“The Lord willing.” I learned to say it from my mother, especially, though my dad said it too. It’s from James 4:15. The classier version is “D.V.”, for deo volente, meaning the same.
I’m glad I practice that, I’m glad I wrote that phrase right up front, because, as it happens, I’m not on the bus. Can I say that it was not the Lord’s will? Or does that go too far?
I wrote the piece above on Wednesday, and filed it with the editor, planning on it to come true. On Thursday I came down with an infection in my foot. Friday morning my foot was swollen with blisters leaking fluid. Yesterday afternoon my doctor forbade me to leave the house. I’m sitting here with my foot up and wrapped, with antibiotic cream on it, and I’m taking antibiotic pills twice daily. So I’m not on the bus.
My doctor warned me not to preach tomorrow. Is that’s God’s will? I didn’t dare tell him that I was planning to go to Ontario right after the service for our retreat. Early this morning my wife warned me about this too. To listen to my wife is usually smart, and gets me closer to God’s will.
I am hugely disappointed. I’m a little worried about the next few days as I sit here with my foot elevated. But at least my wife and my daughter are on the bus.
Heartbroken for your poor foot, praying for your recovery, grateful for this exquisite meditation.
So sorry that you could not be on the bus but so thankful for your testimony of love and concern for God’s earth. Two times this week you have popped up on my facebook account and I am thankful! May God continue to bless your ministry. I pray that your foot heals and that you can enjoy your cottage retreat. “We are all just walking each other home!”
Hallelujah, Daniel. Blessings as you take to the streets, but please know you’re a blessing right there on the bus.
You and I are there in the Spirit. Thank you, Dan. (I too am reluctant about many of the things you identify. I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.)
You are on the bus only in spirit, but you wrote this piece. You put us all on the bus at least metaphorically. And that has power, too. Thank you.
Thank you, Daniel. I could only go in spirit, but I am proud of friends who went in person. In a way, knowing this was more difficult for you than for most of them makes me most proud to call you a friend.
Blessings to Bob’s Lake and the many others in our lands! Still remember canoeing with our little kids over to the island with the Bald Eagles nest every day to check on them.