Green all the way through: Creation Time resources in preparation

With scripture, Green goes all the way though

Life as EcoChaplain, inevitably, evolves, as the climate crisis unfolds.

What seemed at the outset a fairly straightforward task – the assembling of reflections to support congregations and fellowships looking to observe a Season of Creation/Creation Time/Creationtide during the Sundays of September, just into October- has offered very different challenges, especially in how it should fit in with, encourage, or challenge, the life of the churches.

Our inherited context was close co-operation with a denominational weekly resource, tied strictly to the Revised Common Lectionary. Although not universal, this system, closely related to the Roman Catholic Lectionary is very widely followed. Elsewhere in the ‘Creation Time’ movement, compilers had instead cherry-picked Bible texts relating to ‘Mountain Sunday’ ‘Oceans Sunday’ and so on. …Which might initially be more satisfying, even though it risked encouraging the dangerous illusion that you have to pick and choose to discern any green thread at all in Scripture. The lectionaries, however, were compiled well before any mainstream church involved even conceived that the environment would be other than a marginal issue in the guiding of a global Christianity.

My first impression was certainly that some of the passages prescribed would require an undue – or even inappropriate level of tweaking and arm-twisting in order to yield any satisfying level of environmental wisdom. And yet, whether I would or no, ‘gap-filling’ has remained a fairly clear expectation, along with, perhaps, that what fills the requisite gap might not be too challenging. That said, it’s clear that tweaking and arm-twisting is the everyday fate of scripture: the philosophies and agendas behind particular popular translations frequently add valuable depth, though they may also obscure. Don’t blame them: they have done their best. Become aware of the slants and biases your favourite Bible version has chosen, and take responsibility yourself to read with rigour, and seek whatever help is going.

I have certainly revised that first impression, not least this year, when there are so many inescapably dark, forthright and shocking passages, especially those framed with the crackling urgency that is built into the Gospel of Mark, and the Letter of James. What sort of anaesthetic would we need to provide in order to read with a calm voice and an unperturbed brow, of gangland executions, plucking out eyes, cutting off hands and feet? Maybe we’ve been doused in it for some decades.

We might be familiar with this scenario in other ways. A discreet golden crucifix adorning the neckline of an attractive human being is seldom allowed to scream of torture and sacrifice. Yet that’s what it portrays.

[Sacrifice! – What a terrible, shocking and controversial matter “sacrifice” also is! One more anaesthetised word which should otherwise engage ‘fight or flight’. Who sacrifices whom for what and how? But ‘sacrifice’ remains a religious word, only when safeguarded by holy ground from abuse by privilege, by vested interests and populist leaders.]

In my lifetime, hopelessly apologetic ‘apologians’ for Christianity have often talked about ‘making the Gospel relevant’ . Right now, may I suggest, that such is a counsel of despair. Outrageously-phrased warnings with a take-it-or-leave-it urgency are the stuff of the Gospels and a vital spiritual resource in a very scary age. The task it to let these voices speak to our needs and fears, and for our encouragement. Are we prepared for the onslaught of the untrammelled relevance of the Gospel to our time and place?

Creation Time is on the way, with a great deal of behind-the-scenes thought, prayer and hope.
Make of it what you can. To God’s glory and the health of the Planet!

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