I recall the time I learned the word ‘ubiquitous’, suddenly and ironically it began to pop up everywhere. This often happens. Scripture talks about having “ears to hear”. When we find ourselves in the place where we seem ready to learn a topic we begin to see the subject everywhere.
I have been thinking much on the subject of our relationship with the earth. We again planted a ‘Street Hope” garden this year and were experiencing our best yield ever but before the harvest much of our crop was despoiled. Vegetables were picked and left to go bad in the sun. It was very disheartening!
Coincidently (or God-incidentally) I have been asked to speak at a local church this week on the topic of “God and the Environment”. As many readers will know, I am enamoured with St. Francis and I have been reading his ‘Canticle of the Creatures’. This proto-type evangelist had a profound love for all creation and most of all for the Creator who called all creation “good”.
Christendom, it seems has long forgotten Francis and glommed on to a theology that all this earth was going to be burned up at the consummation of all things and so ought to be exploited without conscience or consequence. This is a position the Church is now rueing and I hope repenting.
The Creation story paints a wonderful picture of harmony between God and humans but also between humans and the rest of creation. Humans were involved in care and stewardship of creation in harmonious partnership with the Creator. A mark of the “Fall” is breach of harmony and a break in relationship: Godward, between each other, with self, and with creation itself. Paul writes in that great eighth chapter of Romans “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom. 8:22 -23)
Instead of being on the forefront of exploitation of creation we ought to be at the forefront of care for creation. We would be in a more creditable position with the world if we held this place. As we pray “thy Kingdom come” as we actively seek to see his Kingdom realized more and more, we look for a return to the Garden. It is not meant to be ‘pie in the sky when we die” it is meant to be “steak on the plate while we wait”! There is much work to do toward that time. I remember an article written by N.T. Wright “Jesus is Coming – Plant a Tree” in which he advocates the work of care of creation as one of the means of extending the good rule of God.
Now back to our Street Hope Garden. While losing the crop was a disappointment (and I was quite angry about it!), the crop yield was never our main goal. We wanted to beautify an abandoned lot in an ‘abandoned’ neighbourhood. Our goal has always been a prophetic one and any temporal blessing was ‘gravy’. So as I have cooled down, and sought prayer and counsel, I have decided to keep on gardening. To do less would be sin! Next year we will likely turn our vegetable beds into flower beds which will point people, by their colour and scent to the Creator of all. We have had some generous offers to purchase locally grown produce so that we can host our Harvest supper and I expect that is just what we will do.
Here is a poem by Wendell Berry which says so well what I would like to communicate.
The Clearing Rests in Song and Shade
The clearing rest in song and shade,
It is a creature made
By old light held in soil and leaf,
By human joy and grief,
By human work,
Fidelity of sight and stroke,
By rain, by water on
The parent stone.
We join our work to Heaven’s gift,
Our hope to what is left,
That field and woods at last agree
In an economy
Of widest worth.
High Heaven’s Kingdom come on earth.
O dust arise!