Spring is on the way
At long last it seems as if spring might be arriving and the weather will improve. Tring the other evening felt like January.
There are theologians express their delight in spring in poetic ways.
Sam Wells: Have you ever sat still in the early morning and heard the dawn chorus? Have you ever felt your heart rise in a throbbing ovation as the birds of the air form an orchestra of glory and voice creation’s praise?
Peter Owen Jones: our great work is to become healers: “It is to heal, to heal the divide, the rift which human-centred theology has brought about; to wake, to waken, to see again, to feel again, to become conscious of the sacredness of all life.”
“We, all of us, are currently overseeing the greatest number of species extinctions for millions of years. We should be in tears, we should be weeping, weeping at the loss of just one life form. We should be on our knees at the permanent loss of any life form."
“Our consciousness is numb, has been numbed. We need to wake up from what is a profound state of disconnection. We need to begin to feel again. When Christ was describing the lilies of the field, the wild flowers, as being more beautiful than King Solomon in all his finery, was he seeing them or was he feeling them?"
In all he said, in all he was trying to teach us, he was trying to teach us to see, to connect with what we are looking at, to become emotionally involved in the great and wondrous beauty of creation.
Another thinker that I like is Jurgen Moltmann who draws out how often Jesus in his parables uses images of nature. The most well known examples are the parables of the sower or the mustard seed.
A farmer goes out sow and knows that it will grow and sows with hope.
The mustard seed starts as the smallest seed but will grow into a big tree.
Moltmann describes that the kingdom can be seen as a “reawakening of nature,” and the parables uses imagery taken from spring and summer, not autumn and winter.
In nature there is growth and then decay, but in the Kingdom that Jesus teaches there is growth and an abundant harvest.
“The Kingdom of God is nothing other than the new creation of all things for eternal life. The nature parables make the Kingdom of God quite sensory. I smell a rose, and with it smell the Kingdom of God. I taste bread and wine, and taste the Kingdom of God. I walk in a meadow with bright flowers, and feel the Kingdom of God where everything can grow and unfold, the Kingdom in which there is enough for everyone.”
The appreciation of the world around us has always been part of Christian thinking and we are fortunate to live in a place where we are surrounded by so much natural beauty.
Appreciation of God’s creation is something that is quite instinctive and appreciation of beauty is a natural way of thinking about the wonders and mysteries of God’s creation.
A concern for the aforementioned thinkers is that the focus in Christian ideas is that salvation has become to human centred or about “me”
Peter Owen Jones “And with a few notable exceptions, St Francis of Assisi and some of the much earlier Celtic Christians, western Christianity has evolved into a myopic, anthropocentric salvation system centered entirely on human beings.
The salvation of the planet and of all other species, all other life forms, are separated, dislocated from a religion that speaks of my salvation, my prayer life, my human relationships, my propensity for sin, which is why western Christianity has blessed (pretty much) a form of progress which has been so toxic to all other life forms on earth.”
The Easter message of resurrection pulls us back to the importance of this world. The story is presented in a way to show that what is around us is very important.
Jesus still has the nail marks on his hands and feet. That means his resurrected body is the same as his earthly body. Jesus is not a ghost.
That means his resurrected body really is a body, and not a disembodied soul.
Jesus eats broiled fish. That means the created order still has a vital part to play in his heavenly existence.
Or you can say resurrection does not mean that the focus is just on heaven but also that the world around us remains important.
One of the things that is so important for me in being a Christian is that it is this worldly.
The resurrection stories describe ordinary people: they are bereaved, lost, anxious and living in fear.
The women who come to the tomb are coming to anoint a body but they are met in their sadness by the mysterious message that Christ is risen.
The stuff of life is important as this is where the mystery of salvation unfolds.
It is important to take it a stage further. Care and concern for the world around us is a natural follow on from this.
Sam Wells: The reason is that if we’re not interested in the home God has made to dwell in with us now, how can we claim to be eager for the home God has made to dwell in with us forever? By the way we enjoy the playground God has given us to enjoy today, we show God how deeply we long to dance with the Trinity in eternity.
If we don’t treasure the earthly theater of glory God has given us, God can only assume we’re not interested in entering the heavenly one. Cherishing creation is the way we show God our gratitude, the way we humbly acknowledge our creatureliness, and an important way in which we worship. Polluting Earth, sky and seas, depleting habitats, over farming land and ocean, eradicating species - such practices tell the rest of creation it’s disposable, and tells God that we’re bent on obscuring eternal grace with temporal consumption.
If spring is finally going to break through this week we should at least once a day give thanks for the beauty of the world around us and as a church encourage each other to take care of it.
Rev Jonathan Gordon