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Posts Tagged ‘Christians’

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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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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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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What does a green bag, a wheelie bin and mound of compost have to do with God?

What does my care of water have to do with my faith?

According to Margaret Feinberg and Wendell Berry (see here), quite a lot.

In More Than a Trend: Why Creation Care is Good for the Christian Soul Feinberg reflects on how caring for creation requires a change of heart in how we see ourselves and the surrounding world (and, I’d add, better understanding God’s love for all of creation).

Feinberg celebrates the learning we’ve all been doing about caring for the world, and for the changes that we’re making in our daily lives.

Yet she probes deeper into what drives our care (or lack of care).

She draws on Berry to highlight the way that we’ve put ourselves first, and that creation has suffered for it. This isn’t to say that we have to worship trees. Rather, Berry – and Feinberg – argue that caring for ourselves and the world can and should go hand in hand. They should compliment each other.

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In the Guardian online, Brian Draper has published an inspiring and challenging article: “Church’s vision can guide the young.”

Gen Y has very little contact with, or understanding of, the Church or Christian faith. So says the Church of England – in a report published last week – along with other thinkers on the issue.

He writes that the youth of today have neither the hang-ups about the church that some Gen Xers have carried, or the wisdom and insight about life that our faith tradition is so rich.

Yet there is hope, says Draper. Despite facebook, twitter, and the other aspects of the internet that so attracts their attention and defines this new generation, many Gen Y’s are “…keen to make a meaningful, positive difference through who they are and what they do.”

And it is a good thing too, argues Draper, because these young people are decision makers for the future. He continues:

they are the first generation which has no choice but to reject the short-termism, greed and ecological indifference which has taken us to the verge of planetary catastrophe.”

The message of Draper’s article is this: the church plays an important and vital role to play in helping these young people. The Church holds a vision of the world, of the Kingdom of God, that can equip and inspire this young generation to live in hope. And they are not going to understand or take up this vision unless they see it enacted by those who hold it most dear: us.

Draper asks:

Where else could they find such a vision?”

(Would we want them to go elswhere anyway?)

And what a gift to give others: a way of life that leads to life: today, tomorrow and the hereafter.

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Yancey talks about the importance of living out faith in the real world in this interview with Roxanne Wieman from Relevant Magazine. The context is Yancey’s new book “What Good is God: In Search of a Faith that Matters.”

Yancey speaks on a personal level, saying that he came back to his faith because he saw people serving others humbly and sacrificially in the example of Jesus.

…the biggest encouragement to my faith is seeing it lived out in real life.”

While the article sheds light on what motivated and inspired Yancey in writing this new book, giving us a glimpse of the wisdom in the pages, I was drawn to the last of Wieman’s questions:

“In the book you say that the story of Christianity is Creation. Fall. Redemption. In light of the tragedies everyone faces – the fallen, broken parts of this world – it begs the question: If the fall is inevitable, what’s the point of Creation at all?”

What’s the point of Creation at all?”

I wonder whether the answer to this question is a central issue that can make the difference between Christians caring for creation or alternatively being apathetic or uncaring (and everything in between and around these two extremes)?

While Wieman’s question seemed to be broader than creation care, I wonder whether it includes it nevertheless.

Yancey’s response is one filled with hope and trust – in God – and in people. He explains:”…God judged all of history, including the tragedies, including the rebellions, including the crucifixion of His own son, and judged it as worth it.”

Sounds pretty inspiring to me. In fact, how do we get our heads around that idea? God really reckons that it’s worth it?

And where do we humans come in? Yancey reckons:

…God seems to take pleasure not in doing it Himself, but in turning it over to the rest of us to see what we can do.”

Wow. That’s pretty big stuff. Who would have thought that God would have so much faith in us? While at the same time that God know’s we’re going to make mistakes and contribute to the wretched brokenness of the world,  God also invites us to participate in His grand plan of redemption.

Yancey explains that with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can choose to “..take the results of fallenness – the brokenness, the poverty, the pain [and I’d add: environmental degradation] – and demonstrate what God plans to do about those on a cosmic scale someday.”

Can we believe this is true? Can we transform our belief into action? And if so – what does or could that look like? How can we live out such hope in the face of the overwhelming or daunting science of climate change?

Source: Roxanne Wieman, “Philip Yancey Talks Doubt” Relevant Magazine, 11 October 2010.

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What is sin? Is it doing something naughty? Or, is it greater than that – is it anything that separates us from God?

If sin is an act of hurt, an attitude of selfishness, or a community of thoughtlessness, then sin is great indeed.

If that then, is the enormity of sin, how much greater must be the grace of God, to cover it all…

And all the wickedness in the world that man might work or think is no more to the mercy of God than a live coal in the sea”

– William Langland

Kim Cornford, in a recent talk, considers the nature of sin, the amazing grace of God, the gift of salvation, and what we can do in response to God. It is a thought-provoking story about her own journey in understanding climate change, as well as an insightful discussion on these Christian themes.

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