Creation Care

Today’s reading is Psalm 104:5-20Open Link in New Window

Here is today’s reflection by Richard.

In our reading today the psalmist paints a picture of God and his creation which echoes the formation of the world and indeed the universe in Genesis. It is a picture of ecological harmony. The water flows from the mountains to enable grass and other plants to grow which in turn feeds and waters animals both domestic and wild. Human beings derive their food from both the plants and the animals all in pre-ordained seasons. There is real sense of joy at God’s bounty in verse 15:

wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.

It is a place in which all creatures are able to live and have their habitats.

The trees of the LORD are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the junipers.
The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.

The psalmist paints a rosy picture but of course we do know from our Biblical studies there were famines so it was not always plain sailing. Human beings, however, co-existed with nature and pretty well everyone would have been very much involved in agriculture in one way or another.

Two to three thousand years later the world we live in is very different.

  1. Whilst we probably do not give it much thought we still depend on agriculture but most of us, in this country are not involved in it. We certainly do not co-exist with nature in the same way, unless we are farming for a living.
  2. Habitats, on which animals depend have been either severely tested or completely destroyed.
  3. Global warming threatens our very existence. 2020 was the hottest on record, along with 2016. Temperatures globally are 1.25°C higher than in pre-industrial times as Carbon Dioxide warms our planet. With this comes the melting of ice caps and glaciers resulting in weather changes and potential catastrophic flooding.
  4. The situation is so critical we have seen the rise of new environmental movements and many organisations are declaring a climate emergency including our own Diocese.

In last weekend’s newspaper was an article about how we can change our lifestyles to head off ecological disaster but not feel overwhelmed or guilty. I really resonated with this particular article, as on a personal level I have not engaged with environmental issues as much as perhaps I should have done… Except perhaps, for loving walking in mountains and enjoying nature.

I say this because in 1980 I was awarded a degree in Environmental Science and was a pretty active environmentalist during my college years. I had formed an environmental society at college (The Environmental Action Group), put on fundraising events for Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and even written anti nuclear power pamphlets. Our field trips were to landfill sites (or rubbish tips as they used to be known), polluted rivers devoid of life and industrial plants which were blighting whole communities. Most of what I studied was from a Marxist perspective and of course it was all the fault of the capitalist society! Pretty naïve stuff, given the Soviet Union had a terrible environmental record, the legacy of which is still being felt today.

I left college feeling utterly depressed believing our future as a planet was bleak. I simply couldn’t face engaging with environmental issues anymore.

I only really started to re-engage as a result of going to Trinity College five years ago and learning about the Church of England 5 marks of mission, one of which is this: To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

The other marks are:

  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society

To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth sounds very laudable but why as Christians do we need to engage in this as part of our mission? Surely we should be concentrating on 1 and 2 of the 5 Marks—the Great Commission from Matthew 28Open Link in New Window?:

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

The answer is twofold:

Firstly, it is not either preach the gospel, or look after the earth—it is both. Secondly, God designed and created a beautiful fully functioning world for us to live in. Genesis 1:31Open Link in New Window tells us this: God saw all that he had made and it was very good. In other words God loves us and his creation and if we love him then we should be taking care of what he has created. We should see this in terms of a gift to us. Like any gift from someone we love, we take care of it, it is special to us. Imagine the hurt to a family member if we received a gift this Christmas only for us to treat it badly and break it within days.

So what can you or I do given we are one in 7.7 Billion people who are currently living on our planet?

  1. Firstly, believe change is possible. Although I was depressed with what I saw on my field trips 40 years ago, things have changed for the better. The river we visited with no life in Wales is now brimming with fish and is really healthy. The smokeless fuel factory at Aberdare which killed the trees for about a mile around and left people with lung damage has gone. But more than this, a member of this church, Andy Dakin was responsible for regenerating the town of Aberdare —Thanks to Andy it is a very different place. There was virtually no recycling of waste in 1980, now every council in Britain recycles. In Bristol we recycle 47% of our waste, the highest of the core cities in the UK. If we change as individuals, ultimately we collectively make a difference.
  2. Secondly, make some practical changes to how we live. The charity, Green Christian has 7 practical actions for us to take

    [from The 7’Rs]

  3. As a church we have a Silver eco award—let’s go for Gold! This will need all of our support.

If you are interested in Green Christian or the Arocha Eco Church awards, do visit the websites, there is a wealth of information there.

I urge each one of us to make just one change over the coming weeks as part of our contribution to creation care.

There will be a video version of the service.

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