COP26 reflection from Hannah Malcolm
Our Duty and Our Joy, even Here and Now
“It is our duty and our joy at all times and in all places to give you thanks and praise”
The call to offer thanks and praise at all times and in all places requires a continual stance of gratitude and witness: for our lives to be testament to the gifts we have received and the ways we have been made as a gift to others. What is demanded of the Church if we are to offer our thanks and praise at this fearful time we have been given, and in these bruised places in which we dwell? What evil do we perpetuate when we fail to live as grateful, joyful children?
“Duty” leaves no room for negotiation. It is not based on the behaviour of others or questions of expediency, efficiency, or cost-benefit analysis. To be dutiful is to be committed, with undistracted devotion, to the One we serve. In each time and place, then, we must ask: how can I carry out my duty of thanksgiving here and now? How can I shut out competing criticisms and desires in order to live as a prayerful witness to the goodness of our Creator? If there is no corner of time or space where this duty is suspended, it is not abandoned in our political life, and there is no creaturely relation which is outside of its demands. If God’s children are to dutifully offer thanks and praise, we must be willing to counter the powers and agendas which suppress and destroy places and peoples which might otherwise testify to this goodness. And we must be willing to put aside our own expediency, efficiency, and fear in order to be dutiful in our praise of the One who has made, sustained, and redeemed all of creation.
If we have abandoned this duty – if we can identify places and times where we have put aside service for gain – now is the time to adopt once more an attitude of praise. In view of God’s great mercy to us, this attitude of praise looks not to our own comfort but to the flourishing of others, that they might see the love of God in our words and our work.
But we do not worship a God whose demands are counter to our good: the yoke we are offered is easy, and the burden is light. As we abandon stances of greed and fear in favour of gratitude and praise, we will be made a joyful people, unburdened by self-defence or self-gain. We will find that the act of worship cannot be contained by models of profit and loss, and that every meagre offering we make will be met and exceeded with an overflow of grace.
It is once we begin to live in gratitude and praise that we will discover our duty and our joy to be the same thing. It is my prayer this year that the Church will be made holy in its attention to and defence of every gift we have received, emboldened to live as if we too are a gift to every creature.
Hannah Malcolm is an ordinand in the Church of England and is writing a PhD on a theology of climate and ecological grief. Editor of Words for a Dying World.
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Comments on "COP26 reflection from Hannah Malcolm"
Thank you Hannah. You remind me in this of what is good and true. So often I am turned aside from gratitude and praise to bitterness anger and criticism. Especially at the Church. So glad for your observation that we must be prepared to take this thankfulness and generosity into the places of power with their destructive agendas.