Reflections - 24th February

Sunday 24th February 2019 2nd before Lent

Genesis Ch. 2 vs.4b-9, 15-25; Psalm 65; Revelation Ch. 4; Luke Ch. 8 vs 22-25.

I offer you my words in the name of God, our creator, Jesus our redeemer and the Holy Spirit. Amen

A quote from our Psalmist, “May the pastures of the wilderness flow with goodness and the hills be girded with joy.”

And from our Gospel,” Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water and they obey Him.”

“Act locally. Think globally.” Has been one of the sound bites of the world wide fund for nature.

There is no doubt now that if we do not heed the warnings of scientists this country and the whole of this world face environmental devastation. Quite frankly, let us be honest, the problems brought about by Brexit negotiations are totally insignificant when compared with those of climate change.

The sea is ever filling with more and more plastic waste poisoning and suffocating God’s creatures. The forests are disappearing at a frightening rate making desert of the land. The air becomes ever more polluted causing respiratory and other diseases including cancers to multiply.  

And we say, “Well what can I do about it if governments and greedy multinational companies are not prepared to act? “ Act locally, think globally.” My favourite rant, but more of that later.

What started me thinking along these lines when I started to put together this sermon?

Well the answer is in today’s readings. It has been a while since I have had the pleasure to read such creation centred scripture.

Our Genesis reading today gives us the alternative creation myth. As an aside, I believe, that it makes a mockery of those fundamentalists who believe that Bible stories are literally true. The two creation myths; Genesis one and two are in d$irect conflict to one another.

The creation story in Genesis Chapter 2 relates very strongly to the Middle Eastern environment. Creation is from a dry desert and fertilised by the waters of three rivers; A practical adaptation to nature. 

In the genesis one myth the earth is described as a, “Formless void.” Further, “Darkness covered the face of the deep while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. “In the mythology of Canaan and Mesopotamia the waters were the symbol of chaos which the powerful deities had to bring under control. All this was quite consistent with the Hebrew God of order. The power of God to achieve His purpose is evident when He speaks His intentions and they are accomplished.

God separates light from darkness, day from night and water from dry land.

As we proceed further with our reading we move into the mythical garden of Eden, a paradise, a Shangri La, an unspoilt earth that God and nature created with Adam and Eve, metaphorically representing humanity as a whole,

We are given a glimpse of a world in which people and nature can relate meaningfully to each other, because both of them relate to God. We see the tragic results that follow when the relationship breaks down. The tragedy is familiar enough to everyone but the Old Testament has its own diagnosis of the problem. The world is out of joint because men and women are in revolt against their creator. Human wrongdoing affects both human life and the life of nature; wilful neglect of God’s values will inevitably lead to God’s judgement. The course of human history has demonstrated all this often enough, but the Old Testament does not leave it there. For it also affirms that God wishes to bring order out of chaos, to replace alienation with healing and to ensure that forgiveness and love are always available to those who are prepared to acknowledge their dependence on the creator and creation and obey the laws of nature.

So where does all this tie in with my earlier thoughts? How should we, as Christians, be acting in this connection? Are the problems just too great for us to make a difference? Can we do anything about probably humanities greatest sin; environmental destruction?

It is very easy to think that it is all somebody else’s problem. Yes it does need to be tackled by individual nations and globally and industry must be forced to play its part. But, yes, there is much that we as individuals can do.

I read this week of two encouraging stories of actions taken by individuals: a lady in Cornwall became totally distressed about the plastic and other debris on her home village beach realising that such pollution was about to enter the marine environment. She took positive action. She set herself a target in 2018 to clean up one Cornish beach a week. A target, with local help, she admirably achieved: bringing wildlife back to those beaches.

I was also moved by the story of a citizen of Mumbai in India. He posted pictures of Mumbai beach a year or so ago. It was a complete rubbish tip covered in plastic and other waist. It was, quite bluntly dead, an ecological desert.

His anger prompted him into positive action and he recruited many others from the city. Today, Mumbai beach is a pristine sea shore again. Turtles and other wildlife are now breeding on it. Pictures show it as a tropical paradise.

So all of our small actions can help; reduce, reuse, recycle refuse can be our moto and our practical action. We can all play our part and put pressure on the authorities to enforce.

And finally, what about the Church.

This week Archbishop Justin made the following statement ahead of the General Synod meeting on the environment, “Reducing the causes of climate change is essential to the life of faith. It is a way to love our neighbour and steward the gift of creation.”

And we at Saint Nicks; well watch this space. Some of us are having early discussions about an environmental action group.

In the word of the Psalmist, “May the pastures of the wilderness flow with goodness and your paths overflow with plenty.”

We may then ask the question of our Gospel writer, St Luke, “Who is this that He commands even the winds and the water and they obey Him?

And in the words of folk singer songwriter Joni Mitchell, “We have to get ourselves back to the garden.”