Tag Archives: thanksgiving

What about Creation?

Creation is wonderful! If you doubt it, think how many different people would be fascinated, within their speciality:

  • Engineers of all sorts are fascinated by the order, and interlocking systems balancing
  • Anthropologists and Zoologists can spend lifetimes studying the diversity and intricacy of what they discover – knowing there is much more
  • Astronomers get excited by things I don’t understand at all!
  • Authors are amazed by the varieties of human experience, or travel possibilities.
  • Artists look at landscapes, from postcard sunsets to subtle delights

I try to take photographs, and have a continuing series of clouds. Sometimes with skyline, often without. There is colour, shape, contrast, mystery, power . . all sorts of things, often in great beauty.

Yes, creation is wonderful but – read Romans 8:18-25 as we did, and we need to look forward. We know there are various things wrong. Climate Change has been highlighted as a concern for us all. But there are other problems: trade imbalances impoverishing the weak; technological changes affecting cultures. . Paul is not very specific, but seems to say that creation groans, and that humans, including Christians, also experience less than the ideal. This isn’t it – we haven’t arrived.

These and other problems don’t mean creation is wholly spoiled, but neither is it as it should be. So creation groans – verse 22. One commentator says “Cosmic pessimism was rampant in the first century; most people believed that decay and Fate reigned supreme.” I’m not sure of the most popular outlook today, but Paul adds that even Christians who have been given the Holy Spirit share this groaning, looking for what they do not yet have or experience. What is that? Freedom from the present problems – so heaven, or perhaps the full experience of the Kingdom of God. It has started, but we still wait for its full realisation. We can’t make the Kingdom of God happen. It needs God, and his timing. So we wait, perhaps suffer, and hope.

But do we do that idly? No, at least I hope not.

  • We relish creation, enjoying it according to our gifts (taking pictures, easing relationships under strain, gardening) – and hope that helps others as well as us enjoy and glimpse the Creator.
  • We learn to give thanks, recognising the Creator, and our bounty.
  • We look forward. We talk about what we have now and what we are waiting for, keeping up our expectation with encouragement.
  • Where possible, we put things right. Fair Trade matters; it won’t solve all the problems of the world, but it will help, and fix some. Climate change matters, and yes, its a big issue – but find out what you can do, and do it.

Creation is wonderful; and we are waiting for our Creator God to make it as it is really supposed to be. In the meantime, we can still see some of his character in the creation, and we have things to hope for, and things to do.

The joy of limited responsibility!

There are (at least) 2 ways of living as a Christian:

  • loaded down with all the concerns – lists of sick people to pray for, world problems, – proper concerns, but “heavy”, and liable to make life hard going.
  • or with a sense of God’s ownership, and thanks for it:
    sometimes (as at Harvest) times are good – there is the reminder of the gifts of creation
    sometimes (as at Christmas, Easter, Pententecost) focus on the gift of Jesus, of his life, his death for us, his sending of the Holy Spirit.

In darker moments, when its easy to focus on what is going wrong or badly, and the pain of it, the best way may be to go on with a sense of God’s ownership. We don’t have to understand, as long as someone makes sense of it.  We are not called to be in control, but only to do our part.  If we don’t understand everything, is that a great surprise – God is much greater than we are, and there is no suggestion we have all the information, let alone the ability to process it properly.

Jesus tells the story of the Vineyard (Matthew 21:33-46), picking up from Isaiah.  God had worked, not just to pop plants in, but to clear a place, build a wall, plant, and get everything set up. All the tenants had to do when they came in later was to carry on with the harvest and maintenance. There is real anger at their attempt to take over ownership – the deceit, theft, pretence.

Of course there’s a warning here for us all: Don’t imagine you own – anything! On earth, we’re all tenants, and we need to know that, and pay due regard to the landlord.  That’s the negative side, but see the positive as well – Like a good tenant, you don’t have to worry when the roof leaks – you do what you can, and tell the owner. That’s your responsibility.

When life is good – Give thanks.  When life is not so easy. Give thanks for the owner, who has to deal with everything. We don’t. And if you can remember that, you could save a lot of nervous energy.  Whether it is as easy to put into practice as to understand – well, you try.

Not mine! (Proper 13, Pentecost 11)

It is hard being poor!  Not that I have direct experience, but working with Christians Against Poverty Swansea Debt Centre brings reminders and stories.  It might be enough to make me anxious, or reinforce my mean nature, but this weeks reading in Luke 12:13-21 is a good antidote.

Jesus refuses to arbitrate an inheritance dispute (did he want to leave it to those appointed for this, or recognise that to divide a small inheritance would leave no-one enough, or was he just making a point?).  He goes on to talk about greed, and tells a parable about a rich man who plans a life of idle luxury, and dies before he can enjoy it.

He doesn’t complain about the good harvest, nor even the man’s riches, but about perhaps three other things.  First, this man is stupid to forget his mortality; he can’t control how long he will live.  Death isn’t something we talk much about, but perhaps it ought to be better prepared for – hopefully not because terrorism makes sudden death more common.

Then there is his obvious selfishness.  He either totally fails to recognise the needs of others, or thinks they are none of his concern.  It looks almost as if the person has been taken over by his possessions – who is making use of who?  In any case, he is quite wrong; the whole point of the abundance of the earth’s resources is that they are for the benefit of all God’s people.  Those who are rich have added responsibility, and an opportunity for good (remember the Good Samaritan?).

Thirdly, he misses a safety net.  If he had only paused to thank God for his gift, he might have been led to remember that nothing we have is “owned”, but only ever “lent”.  Just as we tell children to be specially careful of how they treat something belonging to someone else, so we need to relabel “mine” as “God’s loan”.  Perhaps it is only a verbal trick, but it helps sort my attitudes.

Generosity is not something we talk about much.  Which is odd, when from a world point of view we in Britain are so rich.  Luke, and the other gospel writers, make it clear that this is a gospel issue.  How we own / deal with God’s loan, is central to our life with God.  Poverty is hard, but wealth may be even more disabling if not handled with faith and generosity.