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St Johns Southgate

11 Jul 2019

Why, oh why, can’t we?

Lately I’ve been singing our two-year-old daughter, Genevieve, to sleep.

She’s been needing a little extra tender loving care, having been somewhat displaced by her understandably needy three-month-old brother, Hugo. So, lullabies have been abounding at bedtime, the repertoire varying but always coming back to Genevieve’s current favourite, Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

The other night, after singing what seemed like every song I know, I was starting to think that she might have drifted off. She’d stopped wriggling, was completely still, breathing slowing and had her eyes closed. Even so, I thought I’d better just finish off Somewhere Over the Rainbow one last time – just to be safe.

In more hushed tones this time, I sang the second verse, “Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly. Birds fly over the rainbow, why, oh why, can’t I?” At that, Genevieve sat bolt upright, and in what one might call an outside voice, blurted, “Because you don’t got wings! How many times do I have to tell you!” I couldn’t help but laugh before having another go at getting her to sleep, and sleep she eventually did.

Certainly, there’ll be a time and a place for a conversation with Genevieve about poetry, metaphor and so on, but she got me thinking. Sometimes us grownups do need to be told how it really is.

At St Johns Southgate, our 11am services include a time of brainstorming about what we, as a congregation, might pray for in worship. At a recent service, a child of the congregation requested that we pray for the natural environment – and our diligence in regard to reducing, reusing and recycling for the good of the planet. I must admit, I was more than a bit blown away by the wisdom of the request. It brought home for me the need to listen more closely to the young. Yes, sometimes the young really do need to tell us grownups how it is. And we need to listen. After all, we can’t very easily fly over the rainbow and find a new world to live on once we’re done raping and pillaging this one.

One young person who understands this well is Greta Thunberg. She’s the sixteen-year-old Swedish school student who started the School Strike for Climate. She understood the reality of the desperate situation we’re in, so she started skipping school to sit on the steps of parliament demanding further action to address climate change. The School Strike for Climate is now a global movement. There was one such strike here in Melbourne in March and another is planned for the September 20.

At a recent middle school graduation assembly, a school principal said some humble, and I think necessary, words to the class moving up. He said: “We need you, as a generation, to not necessarily follow our lead.” I couldn’t agree more. But more than simply waiting for the next generation to find a way forward, we need to listen to what they have to say now. We do need to give the young permission to correct us, to set us straight on environmental issues – after all, it’s going to be their world long after today’s adults make their last carbon footprints.

Caring for the environment – what Christians might refer to as good stewardship of God’s creation – needs to become more central to who we are, what we do, and where we’re going, regardless of creed or worldview. I, for one, would like to see a few more bluebirds and rainbows. Let’s listen to the young and make that future possible!

Tom Hoffmann - Pastor

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