Creation Part One

Since June I have, for the first time in my life as an ordained person, been the Incumbent of two parishes. One unanticipated result of this is that I will be celebrating Harvest Festival twice this year. This weekend I will celebrate Harvest at St Mary’s (and I’m grateful for Fr Alan Moses for presiding and preaching at St Nick’s this weekend while I’m there) and next weekend I will do so at St Nick’s.

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We call it Harvest Festival, although strictly it should be called a Harvest Thanksgiving. Our church calendar does not designate Harvest as a ‘festival’. That lofty title is reserved for those great heroes of the faith, the saints. The church offers us specific bible readings for Harvest, but whether we celebrate it at all, and when and how, is rather loosely prescribed. In a society where so very few people are actively involved in agriculture, in which food comes to us from shops not farms, many wonder how relevant to most people’s lived experience a Harvest Thanksgiving really is. There’s a lurking sense of ‘if you must’ in behind it all, a sense that there is something not convincingly Christian going on here.

Well I regret all that for any number of reasons, and I want to use this column both this week and next week to offer a different perspective. I want to suggest that Harvest offers us an opportunity to reflect on our Christian view of creation. I would add that there has never been a more important time for us to get this right.

Each week we say that we believe in God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth. When we say this, we are echoing one of the deepest sentiments of religious people everywhere – that the natural world exists because of God. With this comes another idea, that the natural world tells us something about God. ‘The heavens are telling the glory of God’ as the Bible says. The Bible also tells us that the earth belongs to God. It is not ours, but God’s, and we are just as accountable to God for how we behave towards creation as we are for our conduct towards each other.

Christians often get this wrong. Throughout Christian history there has been a strand of suspicion shown towards that natural world of physical things, a fear of the body, and a resistance to the idea that God can and does make Godself known to us in creation as well as in the material of the sacraments. It is a short step from here to feeling a sense of entitlement to help ourselves to the bounty of creation without acknowledging it as God’s gift to us.

We are increasingly being faced with the disastrous consequences of our reckless consumption. We are all responding in our own way. There are strong disagreements and feelings are heating up as quickly as the planet. My own view is that as Christians we need to place our belief in God as Creator at the very centre of our response.

May God bless you all,