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Trinity + 5: God's Creation

16 July 2006
2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19, 2 Ephesians 1:3-14, Psalm 24
The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein Psalm 24:1

Joseph Addison set out for us in ringing tones the daily evidence of God's existence that we see in his creation:

The spacious firmament on high, with all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame, their great Original proclaim.
The unwearied sun from day to day does his Creator's power display;
And publishes to every land the work of an almighty hand...
What though in solemn silence all move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What though no real voice nor sound amid their radiant orbs be found?
In reason's ear they all rejoice, and utter forth a glorious voice;
For ever singing as they shine, 'The hand that made us is divine.'

William Blake thought like a nuclear physicist, seeing the structure of the galaxies echoed in the minuscule atoms of matter:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, And Eternity in an hour.

Frederick Harvey thought God must have relished his finishing touches:

When God had finished the stars and whirl of coloured suns-
He turned His mind from big things to fashion little ones,
Beautiful tiny things (like daisies) he made, and then
He made the comical ones in case the minds of men
Should stiffen and become dull, humourless and glum:
And so forgetful of their Maker be as to take themselves quite seriously...
And as for the duck, I think God must have smiled a bit
Seeing those bright eyes blink on the day he fashioned it.
And He's probably laughing still at the sound that came out of his bill.

But with global warming, air pollution, oil spills, deforestation, toxic waste - the list is long - one sometimes wonders what God must make of man's treatment of the world he gave us. We can't say we weren't warned:

The earth dries up and withers, the whole world withers and grows sick; the earth's high places sicken, and earth itself is desecrated by the feet of those who live in it; for they have broken the laws, disobeyed the statutes and violated the eternal covenant. For this a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants stand aghast; for this the inhabitants of the earth dwindle, and only a few men are left, said Isaiah 24:4-6.

Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring' in 1962 caused us to question our faith in technology as the answer to man's ills:

There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings...Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change...There was a strange stillness...The few birds seen anywhere were moribund; they trembled violently and could not fly. It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of scores of bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.

The widespread use of DDT was eventually banned, and the fish and birds returned, at least for a while. But since then we seem to lurch from environmental crisis to crisis. Global conferences in Rio and Kyoto set targets for governments, and individuals are urged to do their bit to save the planet, albeit on a small scale, like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's little prince:

On the planet where the little prince lived, there were good plants and there were bad plants... there were some terrible seeds on his planet and these were the baobab seeds. The soil was infested with them. A baobab is something you will never, ever be able to get rid of if you leave it too late, it spreads over the entire planet and bores clear through it with its roots... 'it is a question of discipline', the little prince told me- 'when you finish washing and getting dressed in the morning, it is time to attend to your planet, just so, with the greatest care. You must see to it that you regularly tear out all the baobabs, at the very first moment that they can be distinguished from the rose bushes which they so closely resemble in their earliest youth. It is very tedious work, but very easy. Sometimes there is no harm in putting off a chore until another day. But when it is a matter of baobabs,that always means catastrophe'.

But the real temptation for mankind is to over-estimate our ability to have a lasting impact on our world single-handed, as you will remember from Shelley's 'Ozymandias':

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

'If we are going to save our planet, we need to realise the size of the problems that confront us and humbly recognise that we are going to need help:

Ecology and spirituality are fundamentally connected, because deep ecological awareness, ultimately, is spiritual awareness.
Fritjof Capra

But it is wrong to dwell entirely on the world's problems. We are comforted when we consider the glory and wisdom of creation, and both by the sight and the remembrance of all creatures of the earth:

Thy whole creation speaks thy praise...that so our soul rises out of its mortal weariness unto Thee, helped upward by the things Thou hast made and passing beyond them unto Thee who hast wonderfully made them, and there refreshment is and strength unfailing.
St Augustine Confessions

O God, we thank thee for the many riches of this planet, our home. We praise thee for the arching sky, the driving clouds and the constellations on high. We praise thee for the salt sea and running water, for trees and grass under our feet, and the multitude of animals of which we are one. We thank thee for the senses which allow us to see the splendour of the morning, hear the jubilant birdsong and smell the breath of springtime. Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty, and save us from being so steeped in care or darkened by passion that we pass by unseeing when even the wayside thorn bush is aflame with the glory of God. Amen.
Walter Rauschenbusch 'Prayers of the Social Awakening'

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