The world is burning, twinkling lights betray a damaged conscience, we have lost our way. Our neighbours drown, we build on solid ground, as Jesus weeps while songs of praise resound. Within this season darkness clouds each mind, consumption numbs the pain we ought to find when hearing news of hunger and of drought, a stable’s birth should soon erase all doubt: the Christ we claim to know, born in the dirt, while at our doors our neighbours starve and hurt. So put aside this carolling and praise until compassion drives our words and ways. Andrew Pratt 19/11/2021 Words © 2021 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk. Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd. Tune: WOODLANDS Metre: 10.10.10.10
Blue planet, rising, soaring through the cosmos, was lent in trust for us to tend and care while children, young in wisdom, call in anguish, for all they see now fills them with despair. The wonder of the sky has drawn us upwards, our eyes diverted by the moon and stars, and as we dream we lose our moral compass, and in our greed we grasp creation, call it ours. Time runs away, our life on earth is finite, young prophets calling, needing us to act are crying out, lamenting for our planet, while ‘adults’ sleep, denying fear and fact. Still others stand, immune, ignore the future, absolved from fault for all that comes to pass. When will we grasp the need for urgent action, see clearly, not net curtained, or through frosted glass? While sands of time run down, are gone and finished, in fear of change we hanker for the past, but life on earth is threatened by inaction, as lethargy and greed resist and last. Good God forgive us for each fault and faction, unwillingness to change to save this earth. God give us ears to hear the words of wisdom that we might save this planet, cradle of our birth. Andrew Pratt 29/10/2021 – Responding to Greta Thunberg ahead of and following COP 26. Words © 2021 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk. Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd. Metre: 126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52 Tune: BLUE PLANET RISING; LONDONDERRY AIR
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)