Over recent centuries, society has been built on the premise that economic growth is a noble goal. That has led humanity, globally, into a flagrant abuse of the lush creation God entrusted to our stewardship. We have been living as caterpillars, indulging voracious appetites which are never satisfied. In the air, on land and in the depths of the ocean, we exploit the world, treating it, and each other, without compassion, understanding or care.
Like caterpillars, we have destroyed that which could be fruitful, and left it in shreds, like the brassicas in my garden. Every few years, I plant broccoli in hope, taking preventive measures like netting them, only to find the white butterflies somehow still manage to reach the plants and lay their eggs. Generally, the voracious larvae leave us with skeletal plants and no green veg.
‘Like caterpillars, we have destroyed that which could be fruitful and left it in shreds.’
Stewards of the earth
As we tentatively emerge from the cocoon of the Covid-19 lockdown, Europe has been plunged into a brutal war costing precious lives and eclipsing the urgent need to steward the beautiful earth God has graciously given us. In the chaos and uncertainty, there is scant regard for limiting our reliance on fossil fuels and plastic.
How can we, the church, while praying and working for peace in Ukraine, also encourage society to pause and think about the fragile state of our planet? How can we recalibrate? How can we build a society, a church and individual lives with Jesus’ footprints as the foundation, rather than continuing to live in such extravagant wastefulness that our carbon footprint stamps out biodiversity, and perhaps life itself? Is it too late to change our ways?
The short answer is no, not if we rely on God. It’s never too late to turn to God. We worship the God of hope, the God who hears the cries of his people: in Egypt, in Babylonia, in Palestine of the first century, in Ukraine today. Maranatha! Let’s be crying out to our Lord and king. Hosanna! Save us! God responds to our cries for help by calling people: Moses, Ezra, Nehemiah, John, Jesus, you, me.
His desire is that we ‘do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God’ (Micah 6:8). While he answers our sincere cries for help, he is also responding to the desperate cries of the poor and the marginalised, those for whom climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’, drastically reducing their lifestyle choices and compounding their suffering.
He has shown you, O mortal,Micah 6:8
what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
‘God responds to our cries for help by calling people: Moses, Ezra, Nehemiah, John, Jesus, you, me.’
A critical moment
Walk humbly with our God. He has created us to walk and work with him. This is a critical moment, heightened by the violence in eastern Europe. It is crucial to be still with God, listening for his whisper and obeying his directions. With our confidence anchored in Jesus, then, we can ‘rise up… take courage, and do it’ (Ezra 10:4).
Do what? I believe that in the midst of this current world turmoil, God is calling out builders to lay a new foundation on which to build society, based on love: love for God, love for one another and love for creation, where the footprint leads to life, and life in all its fullness. The footprint of aggression and hedonistic consumption is not sustainable and will only lead to destruction.
‘God is calling out builders to lay a new foundation on which to build society.’
God is calling selfless, passionate, spiritual leaders to engage not just left- and right-brain thinking, but also emotional intelligence and spiritual intuition. Could you be one of these leaders? Could I? (Moses, after all, was 80 – I’ve another decade to go!)
When a caterpillar pupates, it looks like the end of life. Nothing is moving. But the warmth of spring sunshine stirs the apparently dead back into life. It resurrects the spirit within, and a creature transformed into a beautiful butterfly emerges. It doesn’t emerge without a struggle. Without the strength gained through struggle, it will never be airborne.
No one would dispute the fact that the world is struggling now as never before.
Jesus told his followers to remain together in Jerusalem for the gift promised by the Father, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They obeyed and joined together constantly in prayer. When poured out at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit shattered the spiritual chrysalis of the first followers of Jesus, and they flew out of the upper room transformed, as beautiful butterflies, boldly proclaiming the truth of God and the lordship of Jesus Christ. There was more struggle, and when persecution came, the early church prayed for boldness, not rescue. The church held fast to her commitment to Jesus, constantly recharging in the light of his presence, and as a result faith in Jesus Christ spread.
Now is the time
Now is our moment. Now is the time for us to be still before God, joining together constantly in prayer. He will help us to break out of rigid mindsets that separate us. He will help us, together, to lean into God like never before, to absorb the light and life of Jesus and then to reflect that into the darkness that threatens.
Let’s reimagine our individual, broken lives, as we faithfully wait on Jesus. Let’s reimagine church as we wait on Jesus together, struggling in prayer, bathing in the warmth of God’s light and love and breaking out of the graveclothes of greed and selfishness which have bound us for too long.
As we focus our eyes on Jesus and trust in him, he will clear our minds of the cache of historic failures, inspiring creative solutions to the current crises. He will reconcile the politically divided radical right and left so we can collaborate on new paths to building a just society. He will enable us all to see that it is not power or economic growth that are noble goals but living in harmony with the one true God and stewarding his glorious creation with compassion and love.
As Paul wrote to the Romans, who were facing intense persecution, ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 15:13, NIV).
Let’s embrace our moment and, following Jesus, lead the world into a new age of harmony and peace.