Saturday 19th September 2020
Romans 8: 18 – 25
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 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. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Lots of us love watching nature programmes on television. We revel in the flora and fauna of Planet Earth; we marvel at the penguins, the whales, and other marine life in Blue Planet; and all accompanied by the reassuring voice of (Saint?) David Attenborough. But where are the pictures of human creatures like you and me in all of those hours of viewing?
We live as though we can see nature (creation) from somewhere else. Consciously or unconsciously, we believe we’re outside (or above) it all. In truth, though, we’re players, not spectators, in the game of life; actors, not the audience, in this planetary part of the “theatre of God’s glory”.
Paul was a practical theologian, not an ecologist. Writing of humankind sharing the groanings of creation, and creation awaiting the freedom of the glory of the children of God, he’s not describing scientifically how we humans can only flourish as part of healthy planetary ecosystems, though that’s true as well. Paul’s point is that God’s intention for human freedom is caught up with God’s intentions for the flourishing of all of God’s creation, and vice versa. We are not outside or above it all, although we may be an important part of it.
First century Christians were not confronted by catastrophic changes to the planet brought about by humanly induced climate change. Had they been, Paul might have had more to say. He might have said that we who subject the rest of creation to ecological bondage and decay are living as though we think we can frustrate God’s desire for its flourishing. And being Paul, he would have said that forcefully.
Ecologically and theologically we are all in this together. Better then, to live our lives in ways that anticipate the ‘freedom of the glory of the children in God’, both for ourselves and for everything else as well.
God of all creation,
give me a lively sense of your intentions;
give me desire and the means to journey in those ways;
that the whole world (including me),
obtains your glorious freedom.