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Archive for the ‘God : Jesus + loving creation’ Category

It is hard to not be effected by what has been happening in Japan over these last several days. Coupled with other recent events such as the cyclone and subsequent flooding in Queensland, Australia, and the ongoing political tension in Libya and the Middle East, it brings me down to earth about the hard reality of this world. In particular it makes me wonder about the future, the Kingdom of God, and what God has planned for the earth.

Searching for ideas about what to make of all this, I stumbled across a blog post by Daniel James Levy on the American Evangelical Environmental Network website.

Growing up he had a “view of the world which in turn will one day end in some kind of cataclysmic explosion, which of course included some kind of nuclear missiles, huge machine guns, and the death of trillions of people and animals. After this, God will one day blow up the entire cosmos, just as He spoke it into existence.”

Yet as a youth Levy explains that struggled to reconcile this picture of the future with the call for Christians to spread the Good News and make the world a better place.

Levy writes,

“I remember vividly leaving my youth group one Wednesday night when I was 15 years old, the youth pastor talked about trying to lead people to Christ, to make the world a better place, and so on, but it never made sense in my head. “Why if this world is getting dramatically worst day by day (as his theology taught) would I labor to bring a difference here and now, if it will ultimately do nothing”, I said to myself. So when Jesus said He feeds the birds of the air, I could never make sense to why He does. The only reason it could be, was of course, for me.”

Levy explains the journey he has been on to reconcile this tension.

Drawing on what Stassen and Gunshee in Kingdom Ethics call a covenantal perspective – where covenants such as God’s covenant with creation after the Flood, and the laws of the Israelites which included duties involving non-human creation – Levy explains that we are invited to participate with God in the care of creation.

He writes, we “…are supposed to be a reflection of His nature in the world, which includes His care for the creation.”

While I was hoping that Levy would fill out more what this means and involves (I suppose we have to read Kingdom Ethics for more) he finishes with a beautiful illustration from New Testament scholar N.T. Wright.

Wright describes that for a person moving into a foreign land it is best that they know the language of the locals before they arrive, rather than learning when they get there. That way, when they arrive, they feel at home and a sense of place. He then compares this to us in the here and now and the future Kingdom of God in its fullness.

I don’t know exactly what this means for Queensland and Japan, but it does give me a sense of purpose, something to set my mind to, in an orientation of hope and expectation. In the face of floods and cyclones, I can still all be learning a language of love.

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Have you ever sung to a seal?

My first experience of seal-singing was on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, on the north-east coast of England.

After having been recommended the practice by a friend who lived on the island, I embraced the idea with only some trepidation. I’m not a good singer. I was feeling for the seals.

First we had to find some seals.

After making our way over to the north side of the island, and picking our way along the shore, we were delighted to come across several seals who were lounging-around on the rocks.

This was the first time we’d seen seals since our arrival in the UK. And it was pretty exciting. The only thing was that they were quite a distance away.

In addition, they were very content in staying put. They were sun baking – and sun doesn’t appear much in the north of England (so says an Aussie). If I were a seal, I would have been making the most of any opportunity as well. As we waited around to see if they’d had their fill of sunshine, we became slowly entranced by their lying around. They just lay there. Flapped a flipper around here and there. The odd seal-grunt of satisfaction. It was all simply indulgent. So simple. It sank into me – and infused throughout me – they were thoroughly enjoying just being. Questions rang in the back of my mind: when did I last do that? And, why don’t I do it more often?

Still, I had an objective. A task was before me. After having made this great discovery, I was a little disappointed that they were a bit too far away for singing. And, while there were no other people around, an untrained, warbally, loud singing voice would be the very thing to make concerned holiday-makers come running in case I was raising an alarm. So we took photos and enjoyed the spectacle, without the additional human company.

Choosing to meander further along the shore, it wasn’t too much later that we found another, smaller group of seals, who were also making the most of the sun. Except this time, they were closer in.

…Here goes. My music-aficionado partner shook his head in disbelief.

The thing is, they noticed. One, younger, more inquisitive seal was so impressed that he slid of the rock for a closer look at this singing being.

From then on we were dancing in a relationship of curiosity. Me, fascinated by the effect of my voice on the seals, and the seals, especially the young one, entranced by my voice.

I have no idea why some seals are drawn to humans singing. But they are. And from then on, whenever we toured the coasts of Scotland, my eyes were peeled for more opportunities.

There was one other time when we had a singing-seal encounter.

It was on the south-east coast of Harris, part of the distant island of Scotland which is known as the Outer Hebrides.

We were driving the coast road and my eyes scanned the countless grey rocks (of which every second looked like a grey seal), that spanned the coves. There! That’s not a rock. That there is a seal! We jumped out of the warm car and quickly rugged up in several extra layers, and then made our way to the embankment that overlooked the little beach.

This time a little group were lying around on a bed of seaweed. And this time, when I plucked up the early notes, two smaller seals slid into the water to come a little nearer.

As I searched my mind for songs or snippets of songs that I knew the words to, I was again struck by the beauty of the interaction.

Here I was, offering something to a seal (poor as the tune might be). And it was fascinated by me.

It somehow brought me onto a different level.  The worries – about where we would stay that night, what we would eat for lunch, and whether we’d get to see the highlights of the island in our short visit – all vanished and it was just us and the seals, enjoying a moment. Being together. Us, them, the ocean and the sky.

Whenever I reflect on my seal-singing experiences I am filled with wonder and gratitude. And thankfulness to the woman who shared her own joy of it. Now that we’re back in Australia, I wonder whether our southern-hemisphere seals like human tunes as well. And I wonder whether I’ll ever again share such a special moment with these friendly ocean creatures.

Having said all that, I hope that this story has also conveyed the humour and joy of the Creator. Who thinks of such lovely, life-giving details as curious and time-indulgent seals.

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Check out this poem:

 

God Works in Cycles and Seasons:

“…He guides the days and the seasons;
He guides the birds through the air.
God works his gracious redemption”
We are but dimly aware.

God has his own eco-logic;
God has his own Kingdom plan.
God works in Trinity wisdom;
God holds the world in his hand.

Cycles of cloud and of water,
Cycles of wind and of rain,
Deep-moving flows of the ocean,
Circling, returning again”

Cycles of love and of spirit,
Cycles of seasons of grace,
Times of refreshing revival,
Gaining fresh light from his face.

God is the world’s great Composer,
Dramatist, Architect, King”
Rhythms of art; sounds melodic”
God gives us music to sing.

God simplifies deepest mysteries;
God complicates best-laid plans.
We walk in wonder before him,
Trusting our ways in his hands.

God in our own lives recycles”
Physically, through blood and cell;
Spiritually, through prayerful rhythms;
Stewardly, as we serve well.

We are a part of the story;
We have our key roles to play”
If we but follow the Master”
Spirit led, day after day.

We are God’s keepers of nature;
We are his stewards of grace.
We live the Spirit’s commission,
Stewarding both time and space.

God makes us all his recyclers”
This is no secular whim.
This is no plot of the devil”
God makes us stewards for him.

God is the Lord who recycles,
Bringing forth things old and new.
God even makes evil to serve him,
Turning the false to the true.

God is the perfect Recycler”
No wastage; nothing is lost”
Whether in storm, wind, or fire,
God wins the world through the cross.

“Praise God in his sanctuary!
Praise him for his mighty deeds!
Praise him with loud clanging cymbals!
Praise him, all that lives and breathes!”

 

This poem is based on Psalm 150 and other Scriptures.  By H0ward A. Snyder, Professor of Wesley Studies, Tyndale University College and Seminary. See here for the full poem.

What do you think…? Do you agree that God works in Cycles and Seasons?

Poem posted on the Evangelical Environmental Network website.

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This morning on my way out, I rode past a vacant plot of land that has just been cleared of trees. An apple tree had been cut down, and green apples were strewn around and lay in the morning sun – to rot or be eaten by birds and insects. No one had claimed the apples, and no one was cheeky or daring enough to scoop them up. Perhaps also, no one had the inclination?

We live in such a rich society here in Australia. Even with the devastation of recent floods, fires and cyclones, there is an abundance of food around us so that none should be going hungry in the next few months (despite the price hikes in some fruit and veg).

The reality around us plays into our understanding of the wider world, and can influence how we consider this question:

“How do Christians choose between caring for the poor and caring for creation?

This is a frequently asked question directed to Scott Sabin, the Executive Director of Plant with a Purpose, by curious Christians.

In Caring for the Earth Is Caring for the Poor, Flourish authors argue that we don’t have to choose one at the expense of the other.

In Caring for the Earth, Sabin is quoted as saying that his care for the earth grew out of concern for the poor.

While we in the West have more than enough food waiting for us in our supermarkets, the quality of life of the poor is acutely tied to the quality of life on the land around them.

Sabin explains:

…serving the poor – helps to serve the environment and helping to restore the environment serves the poor. Both activities serve the Creator.”

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Do you donate money to charity? To an aid organisation?

Do you sponsor a kid or get moved to give during times of natural disasters?

Guess what,

climate change will undo sixty years of development if we don’t act now.”

So says Tim Costello from World Vision Australia.

Do you want to know why? Check out this article by World Vision’s Jarrod McKenna.

Jarrod reflects on what Martin Luther King Jr would say today about Christians and climate change.

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Check our this Christmas reflection from Mehrin.

Mehrin is part of the Seeds mob of Victoria – a network of Christians seeking to explore together what it means to know the Word, live in community and engage in the wider world (mission).

She writes:

“…it takes faith to believe in something when others choose to doubt it.

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There is a lot to celebrate at Christmas.

The Incarnation signals a renewed relationship between God and humankind, between heaven and earth, and between the peoples of the earth.”

So says Simon Holt in an Evangelical Alliance article, “Christmas Feast.”

Drawing on his own Christmas culinary cravings, and the work of L. Shannon Jung (Food for Life), Holt challenges us to reposition our understanding of Christmas roasts and all the trimmings into a Christ-centered perspective.

Holt writes:

The real joy of Christmas is found in connection, connection to God and each other.”

Food is a gift. From God. Making it sacred. (So says me reading Holt who read Jung). The problem is that we’ve become distanced from the gift-Giver, and we’ve become disconnected from other people and the earth – with whom, I’d argue, we can share this gift, and better appreciate it.

What am I going to do this Christmas to reconnect food and faith? Do you agree with Holt’s article…if so – how are you going to respond?

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