May 2016

In the beginning the Word was green…

Early in April we received the good news that we have become an ‘Eco Congregation’. We join around 260 other churches in England and Wales that acknowledge that we have a responsibility for the environment that is part of our responsibilities as Christians. We will receive and display a plaque in due course.

The first two chapters of Genesis record two different creation stories, both of which have roots in ancient myths. The first is the story of creation in six days, culminating with the Sabbath as a day of rest and celebration. This story was written to declare that everything is dependent for its existence and meaning upon the sovereign God, rather than as an ordered or scientific account of the origins of the cosmos. The crowning part of the story is the creation of humanity, with the expression ‘made in the image’ reflecting the privilege and responsibility given to humanity of overseeing God’s rule on earth.

The second story, sometimes known as the ‘garden’ story, tells of the forming first of man and then of woman in the Garden of Eden and includes the story of the ‘fall’. This story comes from a different tradition to the first story. It was concerned with providing answers to some fundamental questions, including the refusal of humans to acknowledge the sovereignty of God and the consequence of this action. This second creation story moves from a pre-historical state of harmony in creation to the fall, symbolised by an act of environmental disobedience.

These creation stories may be viewed as a set of pictures that portray the relationship between God, humanity and the rest of the created order. Whilst they were written against the background of particular economic, social and political circumstances, they contain some insights which transcend time and circumstances.

• Both creation stories in Genesis hold that the world and all that it contains comes from the free creative actions of a loving God. This may be interpreted in different ways. What is widely agreed is that God’s involvement in creation is about producing something out of nothing. For some, this ‘something’ is the bricks and mortar of the planet, for others, that God created the potential for the development of the cosmos.

• The first story of creation suggests an association with an act of worship. Whilst the origins of the account may have been passed down orally through generations, this narrative reads as if it is carefully crafted material used in worship. The story reveals that on successive days God created yet more wonders and at the end of most days there is a refrain, that ‘God saw that it was good’ or ‘God saw that it was very good’. It is possible to imagine a priest reading the story in worship and the congregation responding with the refrain.

The refrain in Genesis reminds us that the whole of creation has value in God's eyes. Whilst it is indeed a matter of human self-interest to care for the planet, there is a danger that the planet is viewed solely from a human perspective. For example, humanity might stop clearing tropical forests because they might contain a plant with cancer-curing properties. This is a ‘what is in it for us’ or anthropocentric attitude. The refrain reminds worshippers that God values the whole of the created order, from aardvark to zebra, from shrimp to blue whale, the land, the sea and the air. Caring for the whole of creation demonstrates our love of God; destroying the environment shows our contempt for God and his creation.

That our church is taking our responsibilities to God’s creation seriously is something to be celebrated. But it is also a challenge. We need to continually look at what we do, both as individuals and as a congregation to see how it impacts the environment and ask ourselves could we do better? Then along with the ancient Hebrew worshippers we too can heartily attest that ‘God saw that it was good’.

Friends, life may not be full of surprises like an Easter egg hunt, but it is full of promise. Jesus says ‘I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’


(adapted from Eco-Congregation Resources)
May 2016