Sept. 22, 2019 Sermon

Are you familiar with Greta Thunberg? She is the sixteen-year old Swedish activist who
just spoke to Congress on Sept. 18, 2019 about the urgency of saving our environment. In a word, she is amazing. Let me tell you a little about her.
In August of 2018, Greta decided not to go to school. Instead, she decided to
demonstrate in front of the Swedish parliament. She demanded that lawmakers address
climate change. She has vowed to continue protesting in front of parliament until the
Swedish government aligns with the goals of the Paris Agreement. People began to notice
her, and other students followed suit by protesting in their own communities. Together,
they organized something called “Fridays for Future”, which they describe as a school
climate strike movement. Greta gave an address to the 2018 United Nations Climate
Change Conference which was held in Katowice, Poland from Dec. 2 and 15, 2018. After
Greta gave the address, she became instantly famous, and students around the world
supported her by organizing protests where they lived. On May 24, 2019, students from
1,664 cities across 125 countries just walked out of school to protest climate change under the banner of Fridays for Future. On March 15, over 1.6 million people across 133
countries organized demonstrations in unison to advocate climate change.
Time magazine has profiled Greta as one of nine people who they believe would be the
leaders to shape the world in the near future. In the article, she says, “I felt everything was
meaningless and there was no point going to school if there was no future.” She also
mentioned that she was inspired by the young survivors of the Parkland School shooting in February of 2018. This is when she decided to begin cutting classes every Friday to
concentrate on imploring politicians to reduce carbon emissions. She has relied heavily on social media to spread her cause. After the U.N. Climate Change Conference, Greta’s
Twitter followers have increased 4000% according to Time magazine. In fact, there is also
a tweet from Former President Barack Obama: “Young people all over the world are leading the way in the fight to protect our planet because they know their future depends on it. This Earth Day, I want to celebrate the courageous, committed young leaders who are stepping up to save the one planet we’ve got.” “They’re people like 16-year-old @GretaThunberg, whose protests at Swedish parliament sparked a movement. Inspired by Greta’s action, Fridays for Future brought together more than a million strikers on every continent last month to demand action on climate” (April 22, 2019). On Sept. 17, 2019, Greta met with Obama. Obama praised her in a tweet: “Just 16, @GretaThunberg is already one of our planet’s greatest advocates. Recognizing that her generation will bear the brunt of climate change, she’s unafraid to push for real action. She embodies our vision at the @ObamaFoundation: A future shaped by young leaders like her.” I went to the Obama Foundation’s site where you can see a video of their meeting. Greta may only be sixteen, but what she said in the video was truly inspirational: “My message to young people who want to have an impact is to be creative. . . . There’s so much you can do and to not underestimate yourself.”

She implores young people not to let their young age to disparage them from saying
what they want to say or doing what they want to do. I have great hope for the future
because of the vision that our young people have. Adults, whether by design or chance,
have a way of keeping young people down. Nonetheless, I am a true believer that age is
merely a number. Adults are not always right. And, when adults desert discussions on
climate change as some had done at the recent G7 Summit in France (Aug. 26, 2019), it is
left to young people like Greta who must step forth and speak the truth. I sincerely believe that young people already have the potential for greatness within them.

I would like to draw your attention to the 27th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, “Myosho Gon-
no Honji Hon” (『妙荘厳王本事品第二十七』). There was a king by the name of Myosho Gon-no who was a staunch believer of the Brahmin tradition, a belief that was not subscribed to in Buddhism. He had two sons, Jozo and Jogen, who wanted to becomeBuddhist priests. In their great love for their father, the two sons impressed upon their father the beauty of the teachings of the Buddha, until they finally convinced their father to the point that he asked to meet their teacher, Un-rai On-shuku Ooke Chi Butsu. This example teaches us that age should not be an issue, and that it is possible for someoneyounger to stand as a leader to guide others who may by chance be older. As Greta Thunberg’s earnest supplication has displayed, confidence in oneself, regardless of age, will grow if that which you sincerely believe in is the truth. Age is not a factor when you have truth behind you. (Eisei Ikenaga)