Sunday 3 October 2021
Trinity 18, Twenty-seventh in Ordinary time, Proper 22
More than a knee replacement!
Context: a regular Sunday morning Salvation Army congregation of around fifty worshippers
Aim: to challenge Christians in their responsibility for the created world
‘Love in a time of Coronavirus’ has been quoted during the pandemic in reference to the novel ‘Love in the time of Cholera’ by Gabriel García Márquez. There has been a lot of play on this theme during the past eighteen months not least regarding the environment and our responsibility as Christians for the created world. Creation in a time of coronavirus is something that springs to mind as I look at verses 18-20 in Genesis chapter 2.
In a sermon from 1789, John Wesley attempted to answer the question, ‘Why has Christianity done so little good in the world?’ Rebecca Copeland of Boston University has suggested that this question remains relevant more than two centuries later, as environmentally minded Christians wonder why their religion has done so little good for the world. She says that studies of Christian communities and individuals from the last 50 years have shown negative correlations between Christianity and environmentally protective beliefs and behaviours.
As we read verses 18 and 19 of the second chapter of Genesis, we see again the importance God has laid on the creation of sentient beings. And this is inextricably tied up with the environment as a whole. The first two chapters of Genesis set out for us in no uncertain terms the way in which God expects us to care for the planet.
Most people – scientists and lay people alike – would agree as we are now in the second year of the pandemic, that we are suffering largely due to our disregard for the world to which we belong. The razing of rain forests, the industrialisation of farming, our treatment of animals purely as commodities, our lack of care for the land. The consequence of all this is that the natural order of things has been upended.
The rereading of Genesis is crucial to our understanding of the world in which we live. Had we read it correctly in the first place and acted on it we may not find ourselves in our current predicament. The challenge to all Christians is to rediscover the truth that God’s love and liberation is for all creation, not just humanity, and to seek new ways of living that restore balance and hope of life to the endangered planet.
In the beginning God created the world for us to enjoy. It wasn’t just good – it was very good. Regardless of how we may believe God created the world the bottom line is that he did – and he did it for us. Out of his great heart of love. Genesis means ‘the beginning,’ the origin. Begun for us to enjoy but also for us to take care of.
I am a few days away from undergoing surgery – a total knee replacement. My second in four years. I’m glad I only have two legs! Over 100,000 of these operations are carried out each year. There are different kinds of prosthetics available but mine is the Genesis model. It seems this is a good choice because it lasts a long time – at least twenty years – is very effective and gives a new lease of life! I’m weirdly aware of the fact that each time I can go for a long walk and climb stairs without pain I can think of God’s plan for humankind!
TIME FOR A RETHINK
Genesis is a constant reminder to us that our God is a great God and has a plan for us both as individuals and as a global family.
Unfortunately, the Church in general has not always been as committed to the environment as it should have been. We have been party to consumerism, wrong planning and a blatant disregard for the environment. In the words of the Orthodox Patriarchate, ‘This may well mean that just as a shepherd will in times of greatest hazard lay down his life for his flock, so human beings may need to forego part of their wants and needs in order that the survival of the natural world can be assured.’
There are sacrifices to be made, decisions to be taken, and choices to be considered if we are to improve the current situation. The Coronavirus pandemic has been a huge wake-up call for all of us. Let us all play our part in making our planet look much more as God intended. Let us read and read again the great Creation story. The blueprint for how we look after our environment is found there for all of us to embrace.
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