God has a planet (but has he lost the plot?)
The recent BBC series “Blue Planet 2” presented by David Attenborough has revealed marvellous mysteries of marine life across the world, both on or near the surface of the seas, and far down in the ocean depths. These programmes have been both wonderfully affirming of the glory of God’s creation, and profoundly disturbing, as the fragility of the eco-systems are brought to our attention.
Many species are under threat, not from natural predators, but from human interference, exploitation and greed. For example, plastics are dumped into the oceans in vast quantities, finding their way into the life and microbial infrastructure of life beneath the waves. All too slowly, individuals and governments are waking up to the fact that we need to look after all the creatures that inhabit our planet, including those that swim in its vast areas of wild water.
We may well ask “What is God doing about this?”, since he created everything in the first place. Isn’t he concerned? Is he powerless to act?
Similar questions are asked whenever a terrible war or natural disaster occurs. Shouldn’t a loving God intervene and take back control? These are important questions for our planet, but also for us as individuals, and it is important that we have a thought-through response as Christians.
God has a plan (but not as we would do it)
In Blackadder the comic character of Baldrick always has a “cunning plan” that gives a glimmer of hope for a moment, until it is shown to be ridiculous.
God’s plan in sending Jesus to this earth also seemed far-fetched and ridiculous to the religious leaders of that time. Many thinking people today also struggle to get their heads round the idea that God would become a human being. Logically it seems puzzling that the creator of time and eternity becomes real flesh and blood, subject to time, mortality and even death itself.
But with Jesus you have to take the whole package. We need to observe his compassion and his healings around Galilee, to listen to his teachings recorded in the Gospel writings, and his own understanding of his role and his purpose. Then it starts to fall into place. The Son of God came specifically to be vulnerable like any ordinary human being, to die in our place in order to redeem us and bring us back to God. In the words of St John “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
God has a purpose – for you and me
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian pastor and outspoken critic of Adolf Hitler and the cruel Nazi regime, died as the Second World War drew to a close, aged just 39. Shortly before his death he wrote these words from his prison cell on New Year’s Day 1945:
“With every power for good to stay and guide me
Comforted and inspired beyond all fear,
I’ll live these days with you in thought beside me,
And pass, with you, into the coming year.”
So, like Bonhoeffer, we may be persecuted, misunderstood, victims of poor health or circumstances, but it is our faith in God that illuminates and transforms everything. Our instinct as believers is to “accentuate the positive”, or to “count our blessings” because the basis of our faith is that good always outlasts evil and triumphs in the end. Here is a prayer to launch you into the New Year. It is right that we should be hopeful, but it is wise to be realistic about the way the world is, so that we can understand more about God’s purpose as each day unfolds:
Lord of the years,
we ask your blessing on the year to come.
Give us the resilience to bear its disappointments,
energy to seize its opportunities
and openness to accept the more abundant life
which you have promised to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen
God bless you with his peace and joy throughout 2018
May the road rise up to meet you;
May the wind be always at your back;
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rain fall soft upon your fields;
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.