Chaplain’s Blog

Welcome to the Environmental Chaplain’s blog – a new page where Rev’d David Coleman shares his thoughts and reflections.

  • Sustainable harvest vs single-use manna?
    Harvest cross

    A sermon on some lectionary harvest themes: taking scripture seriously, if not literally.

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    Deut 26.1-1When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, ‘Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.’ When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lord your God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labour on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.’ You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. 11 Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.

    John 6.25-35. 

    25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ 26 Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’ 28 Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ 29 Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ 30 So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”’ 32 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which[g] comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ 34 They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’

    35 Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

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    May the words that are spoken, and everything which we share here and now, convey your living Word of comfort and of challenge,  Our Rock and Redeemer, Christ the fruitful Vine, Wild Wind beyond control, all for the Good of the Earth…

    Amen, Amen.

    Yes, I did say Amen twice. That was a distinctive habit of Jesus, stylistically hidden by most of our English translations. Amen Amen.Let it be so, Let it be so…  Amen at the end of a prayer is not so much a punctuating conclusion, but ‘Get on with it!’ 

    Though at the beginning of a speech, as it occurs twice  in our Gospel reading, perhaps, it’s something more. 

    A call to open up our minds and hearts to possibilities which we might otherwise dismiss as unrealistic, untraditional, unacceptable. 

    Or indeed, to hear voices  which we might have dismissed as primitive, backward, earthy. Like  the witness of the indigenous peoples of the from the Pacific to the Arctic, on a relationship with fellow creatures which does not reduce them to commodities. Things which challenge the foundational expectations of our  imperial, single-use, throwaway culture of addiction to fossil fuels, and of values built around the soul-less values of money above all else. As if we were the only life God made.

    Amen, amen..

    Such a challenge confronts us in the scientifically attested fact, that almost everything in the natural world cited  in Scripture as being reliably permanent – the seasons, the climate, the migration of birds and animals  – all these things are already out of balance and becoming more so.  

    And it’s serious.  And it’s dangerous. And the things we put our trust  in, which determine how we act and spend money, use our premises, insulate our homes, travel and pray, are part of this.

    ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you trust in him whom God has sent.’ 

    From that trust, rather than trust in money, in the superior  value of our nation or our species, will flow your contribution to the healing of the Earth.  Your harvest!  From that trust will flow your own resilience to what lies ahead, in the things which cannot be halted, but may be transformed.

    From that trust, and from awareness of the fragility of life, will flow prayer expressed as it is now in so many local churches, in the lessening of waste, the banishing of plastic….

    From that trust derives your place and purpose.  

    Today we are looking at what that might mean.  But also what it means in that passage from Deuteronomy about possessing land as an inheritance. “As” is a big wee word. Wildlife is given the world as a habitat. The fish are given the seas, the birds the air.  God’s gifting is gracious, though seldom exclusive.

    In Jeremiah 8:7: Even the stork in the sky knows her seasons; and the turtledove and the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration; but my people do not know what the  LORD requires.

    Built into that saying is the unity of the laws of God and of nature. How often have we quoted such poetry and not made the connection?

    An inheritance is something which is received, enjoyed, and passed on. It’s what the people from the Amazon who spoke last year at the United Nations Climate Conference in Glasgow described as wealth. Wealth as something to share, and to be jointly responsible for, rather than to keep to themselves. 

    It is sacred obedience and justice that the stranger and the dispossessed are not just tolerated but welcomed. So too, livestock and wildlife both, share in the richness of the Promised Land. Inheritance is not buried with one generation, but recycled, repurposed – or lost!  

    As “food which endures” is a crop where seed corn is set aside  for the next planting. The temporary, emergency manna is a provision  in which the people have no hand, thus it is neither harvest, nor an inheritance. 

    Selfishness, exclusivism, and the abolition of diversity are not just immoral, they are thrombosis in  the circulation of Creation.

    Inheritance is  a concern which draws many older people to become deeply engaged with the Care of Creation: bequeathing a safe, healthy, beautiful  planet, a common home, for their children and grandchildren. To delight in what delights us.  In a climate crisis, the older generations,  whose contribution, likewise; has been devalued, have the work of encouragement to do: the handing on, rather than the taking it with them. In so many ways.

    A number of times this year I’ve been face to face with the most beautiful and inspiring fellow creatures. But will there be puffins in the Scottish islands in fifty years’ time? Quite possibly not. 

    Because the crisis of nature, that accumulation of disasters which can no longer be seen as natural, is right now. 

    At the World Council of Churches  in Germany  a few weeks ago, a young woman from the churches of Pakistan made it abundantly clear; that the unprecedented floods in her country are not merely tragedy without a cause, but an injustice with a cause. And with responsibility.

    In the disruption of climate, even heaven itself – as the writers of the Bible present and understand it – is shaken out of balance.  For whatever else we may understand Heaven to be, it’s also always sky.   

    So when Archbishop Justin Welby says of prayer,

     ‘it’s not about sending requests into the sky, it’s about allowing God to make us more like Jesus Christ’  

    He’s both right and wrong, for spiritually, biblically and realistically speaking, the sky is no neutral dumping-ground. 

    Jesus Christ, the Word as Flesh deals firmly with just such problems in the Gospel reading today.  Looking, as we pray  – in obedience to him –   in the Lord’s Prayer for the will of God to be done in the whole of Creation, in sky and soil. 

    Or perhaps I should put it this way: for the will of God to be done in the Earth including Heaven. On this planet including the atmosphere. The sea and the sky, both warming, changing.

    The Bible becomes far more coherent than I had ever been led to believe, when we accept that our cherished scripture is experiential – written out of the knowledge and practical learning of humanity. That is it terrestrial – written from the point of view of those who look up and see the curvature of the Earth as a dome which God has set in place.  

    Scripture comes  with real knowledge of the natural cycles of air and water; indeed, the water cycle is mentioned in the same breath as the Word of God.  It speaks substantially the same language as  the indigenous peoples in respect and love for life beyond human life.  Scripture is built on the observable  habits of wildlife,  even of insects,  which is presumed to be schooled by God. The Wisdom of Solomon was in his familiarity with trees, animals birds, creeping things and fish.   ‘Speak to the Earth and the animals and the birds of heaven and the fish of the sea’, says the book of Job, and they will pass on that knowledge. 

    But as we have done with minorities of language and race and identity, we speak about them, rather than to them. Stewards rather than partners. As if “heaven” were part of a superior Creation, and Earth the work of an inferior God.

    Yes, it’s inspiring and wonderful to look  out into outer space, as with my children, I did last week, when Jupiter came closer  to the Earth than for sixty years, and from our back garden we got such a good view of the planet and five of their moons,  perhaps sharing something with those of Jesus’ disciples who were rudely admonished by the Angel at Christ’s ascension: we are here to be concerned in our life, our prayer,  our choices, with this common home we share with everything which, having breath, praises God. 

    Even with the trees, who breathe out the oxygen which we breathe in.

    It’s no accident that the central sacrament of Christianity,  for which our Gospel today is an important support,  is one which involves the most basic and visceral processes not just of our life, but of all life.  The bread of heaven is not given other than with the gift of the bread of Earth. The gift of God’s self, God’s Son is not given without the Word becoming flesh. Eating and drinking.

    Scholars and preachers love to pile in at this point with the dismissive insistence that our human language is inadequate to the task.  They don’t “let it be so”:  for as they explain away the poetry of John’s Gospel, they point to the confusion amongst Jesus’ first hearers: which bread is which? 

    And  yet, the more I work in churches with an awareness of the frightening gravity of the myriad environmental crises the more I face the  discipline of letting Jesus mean what he sounds like, rather than dismissing him as inaccessible and incomprehensible. Jesus is, after all, proclaimed as the clearest view of God we’ll get.

    So many times in wider Scripture, God is recognised as the Creator of Heaven and Earth, of Sky and Soil both. Creation is that one unified realm into which Christ, risen from death, ascends, to be present wherever we engage with that “Work of God, which is to trust in the one”  who referred us to the birds, the trees and the signs of the times in the skies; to the flowers of the meadow; Jesus, who spoke  as firmly and personally to the wind and the waves as to any human being who was in need of healing or putting in their place.

    Thus we meet Jesus in person on those occasions, in those places where the alienation between what we might call Heaven and Earth is swept aside. When we take at face value the holiness of what we touch, taste smell and love.

    Because you cannot have the one without the other. You cannot enjoy Creation without Creation.

    I managed to arrange things about 27 years ago, and indeed also at the ordination of my late wife,  that the first Eucharist at which we presided was a Harvest festival.  

    That, in that tiny village church in Wales, the Lord’s Table was also a table full of the produce of the gardens and allotments of the congregation; it spoke of their partnership and the partnership of the Earth. How blessed are you, Lord God of All Creation.

    Those Harvest tables, and the ones in my subsequent pastorates also displayed, by tradition, a piece of coal – that dirtiest of fossil fuels, which particularly in Wales had nonetheless been for generations, part of what had kept folk going. 

    People have recently asked me whether we should take away the coal. I would say no. The coal, the oil and the gas are a sign of our current relationship with the earth, and if that’s problematic, we need not to pretend otherwise.

    but bring that, with a listening ear, to God, who in Christ says to read the signs of the times and take note: 

    we bring to God in openness and honesty, what we have and what we are, for God to make life better.

    Amen….Amen!

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  • Am Anfang… [we plough the fields and scatter, fresh translation]

     Matthias Claudius, 1740-1815. This translation: DJMC 2005  Looking at the German text of a familiar harvest hymn, I found a lot more joy and playfulness, and acknowledgement of the partnership with Creation that is Harvest

    1) To start with, earth was  gloomy, and empty dark and bare

    if anything should  come to light, it must be from elsewhere!

    And that’s the way it happened

    When God spoke in the now

    As from that first beginning 

    This very day that’s how..

    Refrain

    All good gifts we’re given

    Come forth from God the Lord

    So thank him, thank him ,

    Thank him, place

    your trust and hope in God

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    2)We plough and then we scatter

    The seed across the land

    Though flourishing and growing

    Are held in heaven’s hand

    In softly-blowing breezes

    God rises and comes near 

    And trickles on our turning

    to him all growth and cheer

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    3) God sends both dew and raindrops

    and shines through sun and moon

    and artful, weaves his blessing

    his care so opportune 

    so nimbly, lightly gently,

    in field and daily bread

    so all we think we’ve fashioned 

    Comes forth from God instead

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    4.) The close things and the distant

    – through God they come to be

    The blade of straw, the star-filled night

    The sand-grains, and the sea.  

    From God  the fronds and forest

    From God the fruit and grain

    The lovely springtime showers

    The snow and frightful  storm

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    5) God calls forth sun a-rising

    Lays out  the pale moon’s way

    Instructs the winds in blowing

    Send clouds in sky to play

    God’s gift is joy and laughter

    Life radiant, free from dread:

    He gives the cows their meadow

    and all his children bread

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  • Reflection for a meeting
    ‘Talinoa’ dialogue tableau from WCC. NB equal numbers of men and women in this crop

    God Sustainer

    Word made flesh

    And Wild Wind Untamed

    The signs are out in the open

    Earth’s groaning loud and clear

    The forecasts superseded .

    We are in a crisis.

    Yet churches still ponder the dancing of angels on  pinheads.

    We wring our hands and say

    with such piety

    how good it will be 

    when finally we get round to it

    when desks are clear

    to hear the Voice 

    the poor/youth/women/Earth/ Voice-

    still insulated in tokenism

    still boxed up as an issue

    long since screaming anyway.

    We are Moses too concerned with sheep

    to waste time on blazing bushes.

    But things have changed. 

    Christ’s gone ahead of us.

    The Crisis has united us

    whether we like it or not

    and there’s real Emergency, 

    even if we haven’t declared it.

    The time for anger, lament, and panic is short;

    the time to choose despair

    or courage, hope and joy 

    is now.

    is for our lives

    for Good

    with Christ incarnate in the Earth

    without whom we are truly futile

    with whom… who knows what?

    thank God

    Amen.

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  • Prayer for Day of Care
    Sanderlings on Iona North End beach

    As the World Church gathers in Karlsruhe for the Assembly of the World Council of Churches:

    1st September is the beginning of the Season of Creation and the ‘World Day of Prayer for Care for Creation. As I’m in Karlsruhe as an observer (annual study leave) here’s a reflective contribution to that day…

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    Note: I hope we are recovering from the damage done by over-eager theologians who some while ago maintained – in defiance of the exemplary life of Christ – that Christian love can only be 100% self-giving, self-sacrificing.  That and the equally harmful, entitled  and imperialist suggestion that the church is an organisation concerned only with the care of those who are not its members.   Care is much more nuanced and interactive than that….especially care of Creation, who cares for us.

    Created, we are sustained.

    Not past: ….right now

    Not looking back.

    (We’ve done enough of that!)

    for so much lies before us:

    and Christ….

    Christ walks beside us.

    Showing us the wisdom 

    of the trees and the birds and the Earth.

    Christ be sharing with us

    as in prayer of word and thought

    and prayer embodied as action and commitment

    we seek the Wild Wind Spirit’s help and guidance

    to renew and repurpose your Church

    keeping  faith

    with fellow creatures 

    -known and unknown-

    on whose care for us, unbeknown 

    we have always depended:

    That family of the Earth

    whose value and whose rights

    so vastly exceed whatever price

    with which we brand them;

    with which we discount them.

    Christ teach us again that Kingdom

    you brought within our reach:

    to live the Way the Skies are Ruled

    whom birds make Heaven;

    into whom trees breathe life

    that we may breathe at all.

    And  Christ, as you gave all,

    and yet enjoyed hospitality:

    (needing to be strengthened and prepared for that giving)

    Liberate in us

    that powerful  balance of giving and being given

    making and making new:

    a path and a direction for all who have breath…

    though now, for now, 

    even Heaven suffers;

    cries with all Creation

    May we add this cry:

    Break down the barriers

    of race and class and  species.

    And fill the gap with respect and order.

    of predator and prey

    of life and decay

    of death and hope

    that even endings be beginnings.

    Show us what and how to value

    What you sustain and love. 

    Yes, love.

    And loving, care.

    And caring listen

    And listening change.

    Through Christ, the Word, the Flesh.

    That’s us!

    And as Jesus loved to say:

    AMEN: get on with it!


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  • Gospels by the Loch

    The 5 Season of Creation Lectionary Gospel Readings, read aloud, by Loch Ossian

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  • Holding our feet to the climate fire

    A draft sermon for Sunday August 14th

    Isaiah 5:1-7

    Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall,
    and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed,  and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds
    that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice,
    but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!

    The Gospel

    Luke 12:49-56

    Jesus said, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptised, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 

    Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, `It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”

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    We are, I pray, and  the EcoCongregation movements have contributed to this, now some small  distance beyond the time when members of churches, could attend a meeting on zero-waste, circular economy, the switch from fossil fuels to sustainable investment, or anything else environmental, and people would say:

     ‘Oh, you’re the church? Nice to see you, but what are you doing here?”  I’ve heard that, but thank God, it’s a while now.

    That  bizarre attitude – which nonetheless has been encouraged, at times, by the churches – of   “What has the church got to do with what God has made?” [Genesis 1:1]

    Which ought to be strange:  not only because of  the very ambitious aspiration  that churches might be  Net-Zero  in prayer work  and worship  just a few years from now….  

    And , if  that’s  going to happen, it will need to be a positive response of faith, rather than a reluctant surrender to  secular box-ticking; … 

    Not only that,  but for any church not to be passionately and urgently committed to “Care of Creation” [Genesis 2:15] is really really odd, because ours is a faith founded on God’s choice to be one with Creation; to feel in the flesh what it’s like to share, down to to a cellular level with everything that has breath,  the pull of the Earth; to wake up each day to the wonders of the heavens.  The Word became…. Flesh. [John 1:14]

    The vocabulary was there, of course, to say in John’s Gospel, that the Word became, with a significant exclusiveness, human flesh, but that writer made the choice of  an inclusive way, reminding us of God’s Rainbow Covenant not just with Noah,  but with All Flesh; with the Earth.  [Genesis 9:9-11 & 13]

     Sharper focus can be quite brutal.  

    A couple of centuries later, the historic creeds of the Church delighted in the humanity of Christ,  but some then  got carried away [cf some writings of Augustine] and devised ways of viewing women as derivative and inferior beings, with the injustice which unsurprisingly followed. 

    Like greenhouse gas emissions – and CO2 sticks around for centuries – injustice takes a lot of cleaning up after!

    In the Gender Day at COP  [‘the 26th Conference of the Parties to the intergovernmental framework Convention on Climate Change’ ] last year, that is, at the United Nations Climate conference in Glasgow, which I was able to  attend,  the objective case was compellingly made, that the education and empowerment of women is one of the most powerful measures for cutting down global human impact on the life of the planet. 

    We now have solid evidence that only justice is green.  That the transition which lies ahead of us is a must, but that transition must be just.  [See, for instance,  anything to do with the Just Transition Commission set up by the Scottish govt.]

    These are the signs of our times.  The things that for Jesus, only a fool would ignore.  And God doesn’t protect against chosen foolishness. [e.g. cf Matthew 7:24-27 ]

     We’re in a time when our spiritual  pendulum needs to swing in the direction of the shared earthiness of Jesus, and all that opens up,  whilst still valuing the reality of specifics. Of every sparrow that falls.  Of the drowning of a poor woman called Nonhlanhla in Durban, in floods caused to be more frequent by  fossil fuel burning, as our recent heatwave is made worse by that same cause.  [example cited by Rev Dr Rachel Mash of Southern African Anglican churches ]

    Now therefore – just as we value every  prayer of words or thought – now is the time to value the embodied prayer of every small commitment or change of mind in the face of the warnings – those signs of the times [in our reading today Luke 12:cf vv 54-56] – with which God out of love has confronted us, both in our daily experience and in the prophetic voice of the suffering Earth, interpreted for us by the disciplined honesty of science.  

    Now is the time  to be “kindled”,  in a way which might seem novel for a civilisation dominated by the violent power that comes with money and scale, of the neglected and despised voices, of the Earth, and of the wisdom of those still surviving indigenous humans. These peoples who care for most of the biodiversity even more vital to our survival than a balanced climate, though of course they are linked. 

    Those who live close to the Earth speak the same experiential, relational  language as the Bible writers.  We should not despise either.

    For every local church, there remains, if we are to ‘have life and have it in abundance’[John 10:10], a need for discerning choices, as to what, in our prayer and life and work, we take and what we leave. All the more as we have before us the spectrum of all the slants, biases and directions of interpretation to which the Holy Spirit has led us through the centuries.  

    Theses ways inspired,  in the face of particular crises, to recycle the spirit and the Scriptures which themselves arose in times of trial.  

    And in Jesus’ own crisis-driven words today,  [“what stress I am under”] we glimpse the context and value of those Gospels:  full or urgency, full of warnings to recycle for this day, this place, this age.   The transformation, the recycling and refertilising power of fire, as it’s been used in the management of land over millennia. [“to bring fire to the Earth”]

    Not the sick, twisted, unbridled wildfires overtaking so many places on earth, but an emergency.  Which will test the nature of how well we love our friends, neighbours… fathers sons, mothers, daughters,  in-laws and more.  [Luke 12:53] 

    Whom do we love well enough to stand up to them because we can see the harm they are doing?  

    Whom do you love well  enough to ask if they’d thought of walking rather than driving to the post-box? Of taking the train rather than flying to a meeting in mainland UK? Of eating less meat?

    When I’m gathering material for the Season of Creation, which involves asking people whose views I respect to spend time thinking and writing for riches in heaven, [Matthew 6:20]

     I know I have a limited “budget of irritation”.  

    And yet, in terms which cannot but speak to us directly of climate and weather and the groaning of Creation,  Jesus insists we be prepared to cash in and max out that budget.  Out of love.  [Luke 12:53] . Because what else is Jesus about?  

    But “my country or my church or my family right or wrong” is an attitude which, without spiritual discernment, leads to the destruction of that country, church or family, and the world of life to whom God has gifted this habitat we share.  [cf e.g. Job 38: 5-8 ] 

    We have no time to waste worrying about how or ancestors got it right or wrong.  At times they may have been completely on target!  Frequently,  it’s  hymns and prayers of previous centuries, which were untroubled by recognising  feelings and personalities of Creation, which do the job.  The antiquated language of King James does not, like the Good News Bible,  presume that when the Greek talks of ‘every creature’  [Mark 16:15 ] it must be ‘correctively diminished’ to  “all people”.   Though of course, ‘every creature’ includes all people. 

    Look online at the widely differing approaches to translating the Bible, even into English, and realise that we only ever receive the Bible in a community of interpretation, where some voices, for a while, are dominant,  but no voice is definitive for all situations. 

    One Word of God,  interpreted through the Spirit, but not one version of the Bible, fits all.

    So, urgently, “What is the Spirit saying to the churches today?

    As EcoChaplain, I’m not restricted in the scope of my work with Christian congregations to the “bit at the beginning”  [Genesis 1-9]  and the “bit at the end”  [e.g. Revelation 21:1-3]  of the Bible.  For  that sharing of our life, and therefore of Jesus’ life with “Life writ large” is so magnificently, mind-stretchingly  broad.  

    Trees, in their own way, breathe: we couldn’t if they didn’t.  

    And as science has more recently reaffirmed, trees ‘talk’  [cf Isaiah 55:12]  and given the chance, care for their own. The mountains, in their own timescale, and not just in earthquakes  [Psalm  114]  certainly dance. Those of us who have cared for non-human creatures, be they plants in a vineyard or cats and dogs at home,  know of their thoughts and feelings after their own fashion: such ‘sentiment’ is God’s gift, rather than something to be ashamed of.  

    All the more because love is the difference we bring into any situation.   [cf 1 John 4 7ff ]  Love is why the Church is involved.  Love is why we contribute reconciliation and transformation of conflicts where others prefer blame-games and revenge.   [cf Romans 12:19] Which are luxuries we can afford less than ever, the more we become aware of the complete connectedness of all the Earth.  

    Into the worries and fears and desperation about the state of the planet, we bring  the proclamation that this is the world God so loved that God gave of Godself that which was most beloved,  that those who hope and trust might not be lost.   [John 3:16] 

    And binding the Old and New Testaments together,  this is reinforced by the insight that the sabbath, and the jubilee, those times of rest and recovery and celebration, were for the land and the wildlife as for the people.   [cf Leviticus 25:6] Though of course, they also are for the people.

    But that’s also one of the mysteries; how western and global north capitalist culture has bullied Christianity into a forgetfulness that what we see when we step outside and look up is not only sky, but also that the birds make sky heaven.  [Mentioned many times in OT]   How an archbishop can share a post on social media that talks of the sky as if it were a neutral dumping-ground, rather than the medium of the Word of God which comes down with the rain and snow, side by side with the equally life-giving water cycle to do the job, before the next cycle?  [cf Isaiah 55:8-13] 

    The poetry of Scripture – all the way through – quite rightly and wonderfully blurs the lines – between the actions of the creator and their outcomes in Creation.  Do not ever be embarrassed or ashamed when confronted by the beauty of a mountain or a sunset or a blade of grass, by a robin or a puffin, to say ‘O  my God…’  And whatever, as a church, you actually ‘do’ – insulation, changing lighting, cutting down waste,  getting rid of plastics, tending your grounds for wildlife rather than tidiness – make sure you go for the “low-hanging fruit” : the easy enjoyable stuff first as the first steps so that they won’t be the last steps, so that joy will sustain you.

    What is never said in scripture – in fact rather to the contrary – is that human beings have neither the calling nor the capacity for good or ill, to intervene in these fruitful cycles. 

    We are part of them, from Adam on, that name which means ‘the Soil’. We have, and with close to 8 billion of us, it can’t be discounted, a place and purpose.  To nurture protect, enhance – or disrupt  this whole great family of the living Earth.  

    And as with  that  garden  prepared for the Beloved,  which in the God’s love-song of Isaiah  referred initially to  Israel,  injustice always has environmental impact [cf Jeremiah 2:7] . Whether in terms of neglect or the toxicity of pride and greed, those thromboses in the circulation of the goodness of Creation.   Human injustice hurts every fellow creature whom God gives life.  

    If nothing else, next time you speak a prayer or sing a hymn which mentions the Earth, try thinking “who” rather than “it”. Or spell Earth always with a capital letter, as you would the name of a beloved relative. See what difference it makes to your thinking.  

    That’s what that churchy word ‘repentance’  [“meta-noia” = change of mind]  needs to mean. Not just saying “sorry”, but choosing to change the way you think, when you’ve recognised the harm which your previous thought led you into,

    Whatever else we choose to understand by that word ‘heaven’, we’re not taking the atheist science fiction route of a mysterious and separate dimension.  Many many times, God is referred to as Maker – and in Scots, perhaps we might say Makar that word for the Poet of poets – of heaven and Earth, of Sky and soil both.  In Christ, it all holds together.   [Col 1:17] 

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  • Season of Creation 2022: Major Reflections (for download)- Sermon-slot material for online worship:

    This is a Season in itself, created during a retreat experience, staying at Loch Ossian Hostel, on Rannoch Moor (only accessible by train). Expect to be challenged.

    Week 1: Choosing Life: [13 mins 50] available for Download in up to 4k.

    Heeding warnings …. NB Includes one shot of a dead bird.

    Week 2: Honour the Lost [12 mins 56 ] available for download in up to 1080p [4k from mid August]… Who is lost, who is not, and do we listen to the voice of God in those we have marginalised and despised?

    Week 3 : Jesus blunt and wild

    Week 4 : Net Zero Life . NB: some consideration of death and bereavement, including one shot of a funeral.

    Week 5: Roots in the Earth, Roots in the Church

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  • If rulers are from God
    Young climate protesters at the Scottish Parliament 2022

    God and Politics

    For use with 1 Timothy 2:1-7 or other passages

    Meter 8886  e.g. Saffron Walden, Childhood

    it is, of course, absurd, to say, or tolerate the saying, that ‘religion and politics don’t mix’, since both are concerned with the good of people and planet.  The Timothy passage can. however, be read in a way which encouraged quietist disengagement.  

    This hymn poem disagrees

    1) If rulers are from God, it’s plain

    they’ll always seek the common good.

    So Christians pray, and give support,

    where justice is assured.

    2)When rulers lie and cheat and steal;

    with malice, trample on the weak

    then still we pray, protest and vote;

    speak out, when called to speak.

    3)God, even-handed sends the rain

    bright Sun, through leaves; Creation’s fuel.

    Our choices have their part to play:

    the web of life’s renewal….

    4) When rulers act to tend the Earth:

    -every transition must be just-

    with all good will, our prayers and more

    give power and hope and trust.

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  • God writes our names into the sky

    A hymn-poem on the ‘reward’ Jesus said was worth rejoicing over, that the names of those who were prepared to go and heal on his command had their ‘names written in Heaven/the Sky. [Luke 10:20 ]

    Tune – LM, ideally ‘Church Triumphant’.

    The ‘skyness’ of Heaven is part of the experiential dimension of faith, which of course happens within the unified Creation of ‘Heaven and Earth’

    Text only:

    1)When we are sent,  we travel light

    not bearing hatred, malice, spite

    we warn, alert, and love is why 

    God writes our names into the Sky!

    2)When we are partners with the Earth-

    Our praise is chorus; deep our mirth,

    with those who swim and squirm and fly:

    God writes our names into the Sky

    3)God loves this world’s diverse delight:

    paints puffin’s beak so rainbow bright.

    We’re made that way, so can’t deny

    God writes our names into the Sky!

    4)The Earth is frail;  we’re sent to heal;

    the danger to all life is real

    with every prayer and act we try

    God writes our names into the Sky!

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  • Eight trees. Sermon from a travelling preacher.

    Things may change, of course, in the next few days, but I set out with a wee bit of preparation.

    .

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