22 The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. […] 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5: 22 – 23; 25 – 26; NRSV)
These past years have changed us. Yes, we long for a return to normal. But whatever normal we inhabit will be different, if only because we are different.
Life is inestimably more valuable now. We have come closer to death. Touched it perhaps – in family, friends or neighbours. Life has become fragmented. You in your small corner and I in mine.
I’m reminded of my mother picking up a remnant, a scrap bit of cloth, piecing it with another, sewing and making something good out of leftover material.
Biblically the remnant was that group of people who survived when times were rough, through famine or illness. Perhaps we are not unlike that remnant.
Our purpose now. To take broken lives, a broken world, and in our particular part of the world, at least, to begin the patchwork quilt of reparation, using what we have however little, who we are however frail, to work as stewards with God. Seeking the Kingdom is not something material. It is to do with living together as though every neighbour of every race, colour, creed, gender, orientation was as Jesus to us and among us.
The new hymn ‘Such a fragment, just a remnant’ reflects on this.
I have a friend who likes jigsaws. A thousand pieces make a picture. Just one missing and it is incomplete. Every person on this planet is as valuable. Each important. All of us have a place. That ought to affirm us. It also ought to open our eyes to affirm one another. All God’s children, ‘brother, sister, parent, child’ as the hymn ‘For the beauty of the earth’ has it.
Psalm 8 says, God has given humanity
…dominion over the works of our hands;
you have put all things under our feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
This earth, this planet…our home has been lent to us. Others lived here before us, gathered a harvest, fed on the fruits of creation. Yet over the years we humans have become arrogant, kings of some evolutionary castle, top of the pile. Humanity, we, have seen everything as ours to use, from which to benefit, or to plunder.
Yet the Bible saying that we have dominion over creation is not suggesting we dominate and ruin, but nurture and conserve what has been handed to us. Others will follow us. What will be left for them, our children and our children’s children will depend on us. Whether there will be a harvest next year, in ten years, a hundred years at the moment is down to us, our generation of humanity.
But to care for the planet is just too big a task, and we are numbed by all the calls for climate change, for recycling and all the rest of it. You or I alone can’t achieve what is needed. But bit by bit together we can make a difference – separating out litter, walking when we might have driven, re-using what we might have thrown away, travelling less or in different ways, using different sources of energy.
God in his love for us lent us this planet. Let us love it as if it was our own, of infinite value. Because it is. But it is never ours to possess, but simply to share and value and hand on to those who come after.
May our faithfulness mirror that of God’s faithfulness toward us and may we be faithful one to another and to our neighbours and descendants on this earth.
(Based on a Harvest Festival Service at St Andrew’s Methodist Church, Winsford, Cheshire, UK; October 2021)