The floods that have inundated our region over the last month or so are beginning to diminish, though travelling around our area is still not terribly easy. Jubilee Church came to the fore in acting as a hub for donations of food, bedding, clothing, cleaning materials etc. The generosity of our local community in providing material help and donating time and expertise to help people affected by flooding has been overwhelming. It’s been a wonderful experience to be at the heart of such a kind, generous community and a timely reminder that we church-going Christians don’t have a monopoly on kindness and generous self sacrifice!
But not only our local Thameside communities have been affected by extraordinary weather events and many of us will have connections to strange things going on elsewhere. My wife and I were very fortunate to enjoy a break in the Scilly Isles over Christmas, and were particularly blessed that we were able to get there and back, albeit with some last minute panic to change flights. We sat in our refuge in the Atlantic hearing the wind whistling and watching the sea crashing in around us. A good Christian man I know living in Cornwall has been battered by storms for months and posted a picture on Facebook of the sea crashing in up Newlyn high street with the impassioned plea that ‘we’ve had enough’.
Views across the Somerset levels as we returned from a leaders’ conference in Taunton made us question our navigation, as we seemed to be looking out to sea when we were 30 miles or so inland. Pictures in the news of the battered remains of a bus, on a route very familiar to me in Pembrokeshire, having been swept off the road into a flooded field were another personal connection; if I’m not mistaken the bus was even one I’d driven in a previous existence, both for it and me. Meanwhile friends in North America have been enduring temperatures akin to those inside a butcher’s freezer, yet in Melbourne another friend has been putting up with warnings even more scary than our local flood warnings, as bush fires approached her house while she endured temperatures up into the 40s. You do have to wonder what in the world is going on.
A UKIP councillor famously, or notoriously, linked the crisis to God’s anger about gay marriage; but the truth has to be more complex than singling out one particular aspect of the way mankind is turning its back on God’s ways. It maybe even directs the blame on to individuals in one sector of society whom God loves in ways we can’t begin to imagine.
I don’t have a sense of God speaking clearly about any one specific issue; there doesn’t seem to be a clear message coming across through prophetic people across the globe. Yet at the same time it does seem that God is seeking to grab our attention and wants to remind us to turn back to him. Psalm 1 reminds us so beautifully of the blessings on those whose delight is in the law of the Lord.
Romans 8 tells us the whole of creation is groaning and is suffering decay as it remains under godless rule. How often in scripture does God plead with us to return to him; Almighty God longs for fellowship with mankind and for a people that love him and abide by his wisdom. Yet we choose our own foolish ways because somehow it seems better to us.
There are many who would seek to deny the reality of climate change, yet the climate seems to be changing in front of our very eyes with ‘rare’ weather events becoming more and more frequent. Where our carbon emissions are contributing to it is more contentious, and I’ll leave you to contemplate on whether 30million road vehicles in this country alone, each emitting, conservatively, a tonne of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year might not be having some effect: and road transport is only responsible for just over 20% of the country’s ‘greenhouse gases’.
Maybe as stewards of creation, we do need to take a look at how we can reduce our carbon emissions. Here’s a challenge for those of us that live in Shepperton and worship at Jubilee Church; why not try leaving our cars at home and walking (or cycling) to church? You might feel better for it, you could save parking spaces for people that really need them and who knows, you might just make a tiny contribution to relieving one factor that causes creation to groan and decay! And that walking time can be a great opportunity to contemplate whether we are walking spiritually in the ways of God.