The Season of Creation focus this week is on ecology (oikologia, literally study of the house). As a scientific discipline, ecology explores the relationships and connections between living organisms – including humans – and their physical environment. Humanity of course has significantly altered the environment of many creatures through agriculture, forestry, commercial scale fishing and creeping urbanisation. Many species are under threat as their habitat shrinks or is destroyed. Other species are struggling to adapt to climate change (e.g. the coral reefs of the world as the ocean warms).
English poet and Dean of St Pauls cathedral, John Donne, famously wrote that ‘no man is an island, entire of itself’. He was speaking of the deep connections between all of humanity, so that the suffering or death of even a single person affects the whole. Likewise there are deep and sometimes mysterious connections and inter-dependence between all living creatures. As part of the created order, and especially given our call to care for creation, humanity is integrally connected with the health and well-being of all creation.
If we are to turn around the widespread threats facing the planet, we need wisdom as well as the will to act. The book of Proverbs suggests that God is ultimately the source of true wisdom, but there is much to be gained from close observation of how various creatures live and co-operate. There is also much wisdom to be gained from listening to indigenous people who have cared for creation for millennia. They would tell us to listen to creation itself and to respect our plant and animal neighbours with whom we share the earth. Covid has given us the time and space to slow down and explore the environment close to where we live. What are we seeing? What are we hearing? What wisdom are we discerning?Posted: Friday, September 17, 2021 by Peter Mallen
Tags: Proverbs 1:20-33, Proverbs 30:24-28
The economy is what most politicians and business leaders seem to focus their attention on, even and especially during these Covid times. While daily press conferences may focus on case numbers and hospitalisation rates, the push to get people vaccinated and ‘the economy’ opened up again form the back story. It’s clear from the Prime Minister’s language that he wants the States to stop lockdowns as soon as possible … because he wants the economy to be buzzing along when he calls the Federal election early next year.
It may surprise you to know that the New Testament speaks several times about God’s economy (oikonomia) and about being good managers (oikonomos) or economists of God’s resources. These Greek terms refer to managing various aspects of a household, including its finances. But when these terms are linked to God’s provision and God’s values, it becomes clear that God’s economy operates quite differently to the commercial economy that we are used to.
God’s economy is built on grace and generosity, where all have enough and all are treated equally whether or not they ‘work’ equal hours (as in the parable of the vineyard workers). God’s economy encourages us to build up treasure in heaven – rather than in our bank accounts – by loving our neighbour. In this Season of Creation it is helpful to think about our neighbours broadly – and to include our plant neighbours, animal neighbours and bird neighbours (as indigenous Christian leaders encourage us to do). God’s economy is also heavily focused on the poor and encourages positive discrimination for the poor, confirming that the economy of God’s kingdom is remarkably counter cultural. There are not winners and losers in God’s economy, nor rich and poor, and caring for creation is not an afterthought. Instead, there is a just home for all of God’s creatures, both human and non-human.Posted: Friday, September 10, 2021 by Peter Mallen
Tags: James 2:1-8, Matt 6:19-21, Matt 6:25-33
This is the time of year when Christians are invited to celebrate the season of creation. It seems appropriate to be doing this at the start of spring when flowers are blooming and all of creation seems somehow more alive. For the Wurundjeri people of Melbourne this was season is called Poorneet, the tadpole season, the season of plentiful food from lilies, orchids and yam daisies.
It also seems appropriate to be remembering the groanings of creation in the lead-up to the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow which starts at the end of October. While much media attention remains focused on the Covid pandemic, the threat of climate change poses a larger threat to the whole of creation as habitats warm and become inhospitable to many species. While fossil fuel companies direct our attention to the small changes we can make to our own individual lives (which collectively are helpful), we will not reach sustainable levels of emissions without major changes at a government level.
The creation stories recorded in the book of Genesis set the scene for the unfolding story of God, creation and humanity. In these stories, humanity is given a vocation to care for and tend creation as God’s representative. If we take our cue from God’s gracious providence, as described in Psalm 104, the call is not to dominate over or to destroy creation but rather to care for it in such a way that each part of creation can thrive. There is much we can learn from our indigenous brothers and sisters in this respect. But we must also recognise that use of fossil fuels (e.g. coal, oil, gas) must drastically reduce – and soon – to give creation a fighting chance. As some of the posters at the School Strike for Climate rallies point out, there is no Planet B.Posted: Thursday, September 2, 2021 by Peter Mallen
Tags: Genesis 2:4-15, Psalm 104
This week we have seen Australia scrambling to evacuate our citizens from Kabul in Afghanistan along with interpreters and security staff who helped Australians during the last 20 years. It’s clearly been a difficult and dangerous task to undertake in the current circumstances but our government’s tardiness and flip-flops on visas haven’t helped. Our offer to take in 3,000 refugees from Afghanistan sounds reasonable at first blush, but not when compared to historical precedents.
After World War 2, Australia accepted some 100,000 refugees/migrants from Europe every year for 15 years. After the Vietnam War ended, we took 8,000 refugees per year for 10 or more years. We accepted 40,000 refugees from Kosovo and 12,000 from Syria. There is a trend here. Australia has steadily become less compassionate and less generous. Our language reflects our hardening actions. Asylum seekers are now ‘illegals’ and our Immigration Department has become Australian Border Force. We claim to be the land of the fair go but we have closed our hearts to the needs of the vulnerable seeking hope and a new life in our midst. I have witnessed first-hand the effects of our cruel policy of indefinite detention of asylum seekers. Yet Scripture is unambiguous. We are called to love the foreigner in our midst, because God’s people have known what it’s like to be foreigners and to be oppressed. Jesus calls us to feed the hungry and to welcome the stranger. Sadly, these Scriptures are ignored by our Christian Prime Minister who himself oversaw the ring of steel placed around Australia in 2014, supposedly to protect our borders (who remembers Operation Sovereign Borders?). Please pray that our political leaders would become more compassionate and that the Australians who vote for them might also be more empathetic and kind to the plight of refugees.Posted: Friday, August 27, 2021 by Peter Mallen
Tags: Deut 10:12-22, Matt 25:31-46
This last week has been pretty grim on the news front. The spread of Covid seems to be getting away from us in Australia, especially in NSW but also in Victoria and ACT. Lockdowns are being extended and made more restrictive. The collapse of the Afghan government and the mad scramble to evacuate people from that country are deeply troubling on many levels. Good news seems to be rather thin on the ground at the moment.
The closing remarks of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church are a reminder that we live in an often dark world and we are engaged in a battle against evil whether we like it or not (which is not to say that Covid in itself is evil, although some of the actions of the Taliban in Afghanistan appear to be evil). Paul is not trying to alarm the church, but rather is being fairly practical. He writes that there are evil forces at work that will try to tempt, deceive or manipulate us in ways that will undermine or threaten our faith. So we must resist these forces and stand firm. This call is consistent with the line in the Lord’s Prayer ‘Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil’.
The way to stand firm is to arm ourselves – inwardly – with the character of God – with truth, righteousness, peace, faith and the hope of salvation. We’re also to immerse ourselves in God’s word – the Scriptures – and to pray as we are led by God’s Spirit. If we follow these suggestions it does not mean that evil will cease to buffet our lives … but we will have our focus where it needs to be – on God and what God is able to do in us and through us. Then we can be strong and able to withstand what comes in our direction.Posted: Friday, August 20, 2021 by Peter Mallen
Tags: Ephesians 6:10-24
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