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In his article “The Best Small-Talk Topic” Gilad Edelman talks about something that many of us are familiar with, I’m sure. You’re working away at your desk, or in your garden, or you're out for a walk, and someone stops to say ‘hello.’ Before you can get to anything of substance, there's this invisible social contract that says you must first talk about the weather: the storm that’s promised this evening, how it’s been nice to have the sun, but the rain will soon return; about meteorological patterns, whether it’s normal to have snow this time of year, if your plants will survive.

In Gilad Edelman’s scenario, the colleague who stopped by to make small-talk turned back and said, “Sorry. I know talking about the weather is boring.” 

But, Edelman disagreed. 

“Many innocent people around the world suffer from this misapprehension” he writes. “We are taught that discussing the weather is the epitome of meaningless drivel and the mark of a poor conversationalist, the vocal equivalent of a sign declaring i am an uninteresting person.”

What if talking about the weather was in fact “the most interesting subject available?”

“We want to talk about the weather because it is on our minds,” Edelman continues.

It determines how we dress, the plans we make, what we’ll cook for dinner, whether we catch that flight. It is erratic and mysterious. Today, photons blasted from a nearby star refract in the Earth’s atmosphere, projecting a dome of blue; tomorrow, invisible molecules of water vapor [sic] will condense overhead into microscopic ice crystals that coalesce into ethereal flakes and drift earthward. It’s magic. [The weather] affects our emotions more powerfully than most drugs. Bonding over a sunny day spreads joy. Commiserating over gloom builds solidarity. This is all to say nothing of the ever more palpable effects of climate change.

Consider for a moment that the weather is mentioned in almost every major story in the Bible: there’s an earthquake at Jesus’ resurrection; Noah and the flood; the Creation story; the people of God passing through the Red Sea on dry land; Jonah in the belly of the whale. The prophets are constantly talking about drought; the psalmists—hail, snow, and rain. It’s no wonder we talk so much about the weather!

What if our incessant need to talk about the weather wasn’t a sign that we are uninteresting people, but rather, an indication that the earth, the environment in which we live, is actually a whole lot more involved in our lives than we sometimes give it credit for? What if, instead of the earth being subdued under our feet, it was in fact our best and most interesting conversation partner? What if the earth were co-signer in this covenant with God called life?

The psalm appointed for today talks about the heavens and the earth as conversation partner: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows the handiwork of the Lord” the psalmist prays. “One day tells its tale to another, and one night imparts knowledge to another. Although they have no words or language, and their voices are not heard, their sound has gone out into all lands, and their message to the ends of the world.”  

I think of the day turning into night, the sun and moon saying good morning and good evening to one another as faithfully as a parent does to their child, or a spouse to their loved one, or an individual to the pet or backyard bird that greets them each day.

The psalmist will go on to talk about the sun. It’s not just human beings who have the capacity to praise God; the sun, too, praises the Creator by doing what it does best, what it was created to do: rising every day and setting every night, “com[ing] forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber . . . rejoic[ing] like a champion to run its course.”

The first half of today’s psalm is all about the earth, about creation praising the Creator. The second half of the psalm is about the law of the Lord, the covenant that the people of God made on Mount Sinai, the story of the Ten Commandments which we heard in our first reading today. This covenant would set out the way of life for the people of God following their freedom from slavery. It would include things like, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth”, a reminder that “the people of God ought not to set themselves over the natural world by exploiting its resources, abusing any part of the land for the gain of the human creation alone.” 

Moreover, the psalmist is calling our attention to the earth as “co-signer” to the covenant God’s people made at Sinai. The earth—the sun, moon, and stars—are very much involved in keeping God’s law. It’s as if the psalmist is saying, “Listen up, people! When you hurt the earth you hurt yourselves!”

Throughout the gospels, the earth even shows itself to be Jesus’s disciple. The wind that was battering the boat when Jesus and his friends were caught in the storm? It settles at the same time that Peter settles having trusted Jesus to be with him on the water. Jesus is baptised into the Jordan River—not merely in the river, but into the river, into the Jordan Watershed where all of the rain and runoff from all of the other bodies of water in the area were collected into one big body of holy water. This is where the one called Saviour of the World is named Beloved of God. 

What does all this talk of weather have to do with Lent or with our spiritual lives more broadly?

Peggy gave us some terrific ideas for Lenten practices in her sermon a couple of weeks ago. Among them was the idea of a sacred pause, to “recognize what we reach for when we are at our most depleted”. In the example of talking about the weather, perhaps when we find ourselves finishing up a conversation about the latest cloud cover, we can pause and thank God for the rain, or consider: “What is it rain that you have to teach me about keeping God’s law?” “What is it snow that you have to say about following Jesus?”

It feels a little silly. But, I think the climate crisis that we find ourselves in is due at least in part to the fact that human beings have long considered themselves the chief purpose of God’s creation, rather than “a part of a dynamic cosmic design within which each piece has a place.” May we be reminded this day that the earth is just as faithful as we are (if not more) when it comes to praising God. We ought to emulate the sun, the persistence with which it worships God simply by being who God created it to be each and every day. May we go and do likewise. Amen. 

Works referenced:

Helen Dunn, “Bewildered: Third Sunday in Lent, year ‘b’” in Wild Lectionary (Salal and Cedar Watershed Discipleship Community: 28 February 2024), accessed online on 29 February 2024

Gilad Edelman, “The best small talk topic: go ahead, talk about the weather” in The Atlantic (February 20, 2024) accessed online on 29 February 2024

Sylvia Keesmaat, “A homily on the first Sunday in Lent”, Church of the Redeemer, Toronto, ON: 18 February 2024, accessed online on 01 March 2024

Salal and Cedar, “Tools for Climate Preachers” in Wild Lectionary, accessed online on 04 February 2024

Peggy Trendell-Jensen, "Lent: Are you getting it right?", St Clement's Anglican Church, North Vancouver, BC: 18 February 2024, accessed online on 01 March 2024