Glory to God
Last week’s Blog nearly never made it; it was all written, when my laptop decided not to connect to the internet, and while I know there are ways that my phone can connect to documents on my laptop, I hadn’t investigated them. However, sheer stubbornness saw me through, and I got it over to Bungay for uploading to our website. Wednesday saw me going over to Bungay, via a less technological route, so our secretary could examine why the internet connection wasn’t there. (She succeeded). Travelling on the top deck of the bus, through the south Norfolk countryside, I reflected on how beautiful it was. The smell of newly turned earth came through the open window as a field was ploughed; past the changing leaves, and through the familiar views as we drove through Ditchingham, then across the river into Suffolk: it struck me how privileged we are to live in an area of such beauty, and how utterly essential it is that we preserve it for future generations. Even living in Norwich, the beauty of the natural world can shine through, from the trees and gardens we pass, along the river, or the wonder of the full moon. It is so easy to ignore what is around us, to never pause and drink in the wonder of our earth; to spend just a few minutes silently breathing in the fresh air, and contemplating what we see. Even from my window, while I can see cars parked and traffic going past, I can also see the grass, wet from rain or fog, and trees and bushes turning to their autumn plumage. Especially after the past summer, the joy of looking out on green grass is a privilege.
It does, inevitably, bring up climate change, how we respond to that; it also brings up planning regulations, and how we preserve our countryside while still providing the homes we need. The cost of living crisis hits straight through the middle of that: leaving aside questions of government, and what impact economic pressures (to say nothing of changing Prime Ministers) will have on the response to climate change, the rising cost of living is likely to affect how we as individuals respond, especially if using the ‘green’ solution is more expensive and therefore becoming less affordable. But it also brings up the fact of our creator God, whose abundant generosity can become so clear when contemplating the glories of our natural world. It is so easy to become bogged down in our increasingly complicated daily life (to say nothing of our political life), and fail to give God the glory that is God’s due.
It is tempting to blame God: why doesn’t God sort out this or that crisis? Why does a loving God allow such suffering to happen? Why doesn’t God just step in and solve it all? I’m not saying that these aren’t questions that should be answered, or that should not be asked. But I do wonder if they need to be asked in the context of giving the Glory to God, in the context of a life centred around God, in a context that allows God to be God in the midst of the suffering and turmoil that living in our world brings. Maybe a certain acceptance that God is God, and that we are not; that God is God, and that we are not the centre of the universe (maybe our world isn’t the centre of the universe either…). Read Ephesians 3:14 – 4:6, especially verses 20 and 21, as Paul gives glory to God, at a time when he is imprisoned. Are we able to give God the glory, from the depths of our being, in the midst of whatever complicated circumstances we are in? In the midst of a world of economic turmoil and climate change? In a country where increasing numbers of people do not have the resources to live their daily lives? Still to acknowledge that God is God?
For it strikes me that may be one of the lessons of the Old Testament: time and again, prophets call the people back to their core relationship with God, for that is central to what else follows; seek first the kingdom … (Matthew 6). Now I am not saying that those who struggle, those who suffer, those whose income does not match their outgoings have not got their relationship with God correct; neither am I saying that if we give glory to God, and put the Kingdom first, then our economic troubles will be over. I don’t think it works quite like that. God isn’t a magic slot machine, where you put in so many prayers and so much into the relationship, and God will sort everything out. Indeed, putting God first may draw us to the conclusion that we become more deeply involved in the world’s troubles, that we suffer more as our core needs conflict with that of the world. I am also aware that for most of us giving God the glory will involve a journey, that none of us are likely to get that completely right; that it is a process that needs to draw us on each day, as each moment we try and keep God at the centre.
It is not easy; we are so much at the centre of our own worlds, that it is possible to think (if not consciously) that the world revolves around us and those we love, and coming away from that can take a conscious choice. To give God the glory means acknowledging the fact of God’s love, in the midst of all the turmoil; acknowledging the fact of God’s love for all those around us; acknowledging the fact that God is God, and we are not – and that God may just know better than us. It also means setting all that in the context of a community. Go back to the Ephesians passage: Paul is encouraging those who read the letter not just to root themselves in God’s love, but to also root that love in the care of those around them. Which brings us straight back the cost of living crisis, and climate change: how do we respond to these, so that not just we ourselves can manage through them, but also others can too? Maybe we could each try and pause for a moment each day and drink in the glories of God’s creation, wherever we can find it around us; and, as part of that pausing, allow God to become more central to the rest of our day, and to draw us further on the path of love, a real, practical love that will respond –as we are able – to those we meet.