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)
Such a fragment, just a remnant, nothing wasted, nothing lost; all creation has its value, has its purpose, place or cost. Things we count of little value have inestimable worth; every grain of soil we’re tilling, in each land upon this earth. We must treasure earth’s resources and each moment of our time, life and all we have for living, bound in loving’s endless rhyme. On hearing John A Bell preaching at Comberbach Methodist Church Harvest Andrew Pratt 26/9/2021 Words © 2021 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England firstname.lastname@example.org . 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 composed by Frances S. Drake (USA) in the week following the composition of the text. Frances can be contacted by emailing – email@example.com
Hear the tune at –
Hear this hymn being sung at This fragile, passing beauty
On the 1st September 1939, 80 years ago, the Second World War began. Germany invaded Poland; with the United Kingdom and France declaring war on Germany two days later…
This fragile, passing beauty,
this autumn, red and gold,
a season’s recollection:
love never will grow cold.
The seasons change and fracture,
the leaves of green turn brown,
as life seems tinged with sadness,
as petals flutter down.
This time of our remembrance
that reaches back to pain,
the chill of recollection
can open wounds again;
But this we must remember
that human war and hate
are matters of our choosing
and not some random fate.
God let this time of grieving,
of mem’ry and regret,
in case we just forget.
Fill human hearts with courage,
frame human words with grace,
that love might flow among us,
make Earth a sacred place.
Andrew Pratt 16/9/2019
Words © 2019 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.
Tunes: BRED DINA VIDA VINGAR (Reclaiming Praise, No.142 – https://stainer.co.uk/shop/b891/), another setting of this tune can be heard at https://youtu.be/V6dDt3OJf6Q ;
Another tune: AURELIA.