We need you, God. More than we realise. We need you to wake us up to reality. We need you to give us the courage to face it. We need you to give us the wisdom to know what to do. And we need you to give us the power to do it. We hear the cries of creation and know the longing of our hearts. Fulfil your purposes in and through us. Amen.
Reflection: The Creation Waits
…the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; Rom. 8:19
This well-known verse from Paul’s letter to the Romans sums up a truth that is ever the more evident to us in these times. The whole creation longs for humans to act as God desires: in right relation with each other, the earth and her creatures, and the Creator. No more war, no more pollution, no more hierarchy of human value. No more greed, no more thoughtless exploitation of the earth. We know what such a world looks like; we described and celebrated it in our epic Pentecost poem. We have the vision. Do we live it?
That is the key to Christian living – to live the reign of God. Jesus said it as he came proclaiming the good news of God: the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near [or is at hand]; repent, and believe in the good news (Mark 1:14).
Repent. In the Greek this word is an active, stop in your tracks and change direction word. It’s not just what we believe or say. It’s what we do and how we live. It’s about our compass and map, what motivates and directs us.
Repentance has been reduced to saying Sorry, to prayers of confession, to feeling remorse. It is no such thing. It is to stop living one way, turn around and take a different course of action.
The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare that our economic system does not reflect Christian values. Why do key workers, those whose labour we need to live – care workers, shop workers, farmers – struggle to make a living? Why does the inequality gap continue to grow and the rich get richer even in difficult times? Why are Black and minority ethnic people at the bottom of the heap, expendable, feared, exploited? Why do we not take the challenges of climate collapse more seriously and demand and engage in action for change? In whose interest is it to continue to structure our life together this way? Why do we put up with it?
Hard questions about matters that seem too big for us to tackle, we sigh. But we are complicit. If we have been able to make a comfortable enough life for ourselves with the way things are, we are not too keen to rock the boat. Our horizons are small. We are locked into our own comfort and convenience. We feel powerless – which is more comfortable than grasping the power we do have that could unsettle the whole of life as it is. We like the things of the flesh (that which does not endure). But deep within we hanker for the things of the spirit (that which does). We know that things, as they are, are not right.
Meanwhile the creation groans under the weight of careless human exploitation and greed, the pressure to expand markets and a system that lines the pockets of the haves and causes untold suffering for those who have not. Hearing the cries of creation, knowing our own discomfort and reluctance, how shall we live? How can we live? Despair courts weary hearts. There is nothing I can do about it.
We are not the first people to live in difficult and frightening times. The Bible was hewn from such times. Paul knew such times. He knew that they only way to live in them is to be fierce with reality, awake to the reality of the things that do not endure and awake to the larger reality of God. The only way to live in difficult times is to face reality and to groan and long for the reign of God with the whole creation (we are not separate from it!). The only way to live is to hope in and with and for God’s reign with all our might.
Hope is the counter to despair. It too like repentance is not a passive, believing, thinking kind of word. It is active. It requires action – requires living as if the reign of God is within our reach, as if it is the most important thing. Because it is. It requires doing the right thing even if it may inconvenience or hurt us, even if it feels futile.
Living in hope towards God, living in the reign of God, is the only thing that will save us. Our technology will not save us if it is not aligned to the reign of God. Nor will our bank accounts or portfolios (if we have them). Nor will angels swooping from the sky. As Augustine observed in the 4th century, Without us, God will not. Without God, we cannot. God made the world so that the salvation project is a divine-human endeavour, requiring the depths of love in partnership in order to be fulfilled.
We feel helpless because on our own we are. We need God to truly repent, to stop and change direction. We are habit-making creatures. Are our habits good for us and the creation? Do they serve us? If not, who or what do they serve? Who do we serve?
The creation groans and waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God, for the divine-human project that upholds, sustains, recreates and loves the earth and all her creatures.
Repent. Believe. Live and act in hope. It’s the best we can do. It’s the only chance we have. We pray: God, free us to love and serve only you.
Hymn All my hope on God is founded (R&S 586)
Sung by the Newcastle Cathedral virtual choir
All my hope on God is founded;
he doth still my trust renew.
Me through change and chance he guideth,
only good and only true,
God unknown, God alone,
calls my heart to be his own.
Human pride and earthly glory,
sword and crown betray our trust:
what with care and toil is builded,
tower and temple, fall to dust.
But God’s power, hour by hour,
is my temple and my tower.
God’s great goodness aye endureth,
deepest wisdom, passing thought;
splendour, light and life attend him,
beauty springeth out of naught.
Evermore from his store
new-born worlds rise and adore.
Daily doth the almighty giver
bounteous gifts on us bestow;
his desire our soul delighteth
pleasure leads us where we go.
Love doth stand at his hand;
joy doth wait on his command.
Still from earth to God eternal
sacrifice of praise be done,
high above all praises praising
for the gift of Christ his Son.
Christ doth call one and all:
ye who follow shall not fall.
And now unto the One who by the power at work within us
is able to accomplish far more than we can ask or imagine.
To God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)