My article for the October Crossways newsletter for St Paul’s Church Spennymoor and Whitworth Church.
Harvest is a good time to stop and think about God’s creation. What attitude should we have towards our world?
First, we should have gratitude.
It sounds obvious, but it’s very radical! Being thankful would not come high on any list of British or Western values. Our consumerist culture teaches us never to be happy with what we’ve got. We’re constantly bombarded with adverts telling us that we can’t possibly find true satisfaction until we buy this new car, or that expensive holiday.
When I meet Christians from poorer parts of the world, I’m often amazed at how thankful they are. Even though they don’t have nearly as much ‘stuff’ as we do, they seem so grateful for what they do have.
How can you make gratitude part of your daily routine? Many Christians make it a practice to give thanks before every meal. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just switch the adverts off for a moment, close your eyes, and say a quick prayer. It can be as simple as, ‘Thank you, Lord, for this food. Amen.’ You can say it silently in your head if you prefer. It’s just a simple way of saying ‘thank you’ to the God who ‘gives everyone life and breath and everything else’ (Acts 17:25). Why not give it a try?
Second, we should have hope.
Last month, children and young people led millions around the world in a global climate strike. One of the placards I saw online said this: ‘the earth is dying’. The Bible says that creation is ‘groaning’ (Romans 8:22). There are three ways we might respond to this.
The first response is denial. When it comes to our own bodies, we can often respond like that (particularly if we are men). It’s nothing. I’m fine. I can cope. I’m sure it will pass… When it comes to the planet, it’s more complicated, of course. But it’s not only global warming. Every day we hear about deforestation, extinctions, plastic in the oceans, pollution in the atmosphere, soil becoming less fertile, sea levels rising … and all with a global population that is growing rapidly.
The second response is despair. We might think, if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
But the third response is hope. This isn’t the self-confidence of Bob the Builder: ‘Can we fix it? Yes we can!’ Nor is it the despair of Private Frazer: ‘We’re doomed!’ But hope involves admitting that something is wrong, recognising that only God can fix it, and trusting that God has promised to sort it all out.
The resurrection of Jesus is the first-fruits of a greater harvest still to come. One day, ‘Christ will come again’, and the whole creation will share in his resurrection life.
Knowing God in Jesus Christ means we have someone to say ‘thank you’ to, and someone who gives us hope, not only for ourselves, but for the whole creation.