Several times during the summer months I have been tempted to choose the hymn which begins “Summer suns are glowing over land and sea; happy light is flowing bountiful and free; everything rejoices in the mellow rays; all earth’s thousand voices swell the psalm of praise.” And the reason I have been tempted to choose this hymn is not because I have been rejoicing in the far-from-mellow rays but because what usually happens when a Minister selects that Hymn on a Thursday, ready for the Order of Service to be printed, is that by Sunday the heavens are pouring rain down by the bucketful and the congregation must sing that hymn with either a vivid imagination or a strong sense of humour. Choosing “Summer suns are glowing” appears to be the equivalent of an ancient “rain dance.”
If only it were that simple! From the beginnings of civilisation human beings have prayed and worshipped their gods; engaged in rituals, even made sacrifices in the hopes of getting a climate that would produce food and provide safety. Over this last summer people all over the world, even in our sophisticated modern times, have become seriously alarmed by the levels of heat, the devastating bushfires, the floods when rain does come and that general sense of being out of control. Even allowing for media over-hype, we do appear to have reason to be concerned about the changing of climatic conditions all over the world and the dangers these present to nearly all forms of life.
Of course, the difference between civilisation now and that of more primitive times is that now we know so much more about climate control. We know all about the need for trees to produce oxygen; we know how different species of flora and fauna depend on each other in order to survive; we know about laying vast areas of land waste by over-production of cash crops; we know about the hole in the ozone layer; we know about the devastation caused by non-bio-degradable waste. We know that it is not rain dances that will produce the kind of climate we need in order to survive but lifestyle choices.
But we also understand how incredibly complex these ecological issues can be and that there are no fast or easy solutions. The Christian church has slowly come to accept that being responsible stewards of creation is part and parcel of our faith and not just a minority interest but what can we do? Yes, we are doing our best to increase our “eco-friendly church” status and every little helps but do we have a message to share on this issue?
Two “key” words come to my mind here: Humility and Hope. Faith does not have to be naïve. We are not called to leave our brains and our responsibilities at the church door and enter into some kind of cloud cuckoo land where all is sweetness and light. But we are called to come to God in humility, admitting
that we cannot quite cope with life alone; accepting that we are caught up in something far greater than our own personal concerns and that we need guidance and strength from a far greater power. Maybe we no longer picture God deliberately inflicting torrential rain on some (especially when the Minister has chosen ‘Summer suns are glowing”) and blistering heat on others but if we acknowledge God as the source of life, it is surely to that source of life that we turn for wisdom and strength in keeping that life safe and creative?
But nor is faith about denying our own worth. For me, one of the most joyfully inspiring News stories in the whole summer was the rescue of the trapped Thai schoolboys from the flooded caves. I found myself feeling so incredibly proud of being human when I saw the levels of skill, creative thinking, technology and courage being employed to achieve what looked like the impossible. There are some awesome God-given gifts in the human race and this must surely give us hope for the future.
God had faith in humanity: he trusted himself to us in Jesus Christ. And despite the fact that humanity hated, betrayed, rejected and crucified that Christ, God’s love for us and faith in us proved stronger than anything we could do.
So let us keep the faith; let us be people of humility and hope in a frightened world; praying, trusting and living by that trust that creation may yet vindicate God’s trust in us.
With love and good wishes to you all,