Season 11 - Week 2
“Hope For a Broken Earth”
Last week I was at our church’s weekly youth gathering. We were unpacking together the themes in the book of Hosea of courage and justice. In an attempt to help the young people in the room understand the nature of ‘sticking-your-neck-out-for-something-you-believe-in’ I dropped the G-bomb (‘You know, like Greta Thunberg?’).
They rolled their eyes and mumbled something about how annoying she is.
I was indignant. I was also totally confused. I’ve heard enough grumpy adults moan about the teenager (from the comfort of their armchair in a country not experiencing the devastating impact on the environment of human consumption of plastics), but young people, in my youth group? Greta’s a young person other young people are supposed to be inspired by. She’s the living embodiment of hope for a broken earth.
Except, she’s not. She can’t be. Greta is just being Greta and that is undeniably an awesome thing for both young people and the planet. Although that photo of the school girl sat alone outside her parliament building sparked something in all of us, the hope at the heart of the Greta phenomenon is the way that one person’s conviction and courage is gathering many, many people.
‘Hope’ in English conjures up abstract ideas. But the Hebrew root word offers a more robust expression of hope. It pictures it as a rope that gets stronger the more strands are gathered and twisted together. It’s not one thread that will snap when the pressure gets too much. It’s a coil of cable-laid rope that can hold a great tanker at bay. Well, that’s the hope anyway!
Rope making is an art form. It has stages, seven to be precise. Things like drilling holes, installing the hooks, setting up the tension, setting up the jig - and that’s all before you can even think about the strands and how to lay and separate and twist them so that they don’t rotate too early and get in a tangle. Needless to say, making a rope takes time and skill. Just like building hope.
One ordinary young person, willing to see the reality and unafraid to take the initial strain for the sake of truth, joined by other ordinary people, all twisting the strands of their hopes and desires into one long rope. Eager, expectant, waiting, pulling together for a new future.
I grew up in a church that struggled to see that the Creator would want us to protect the planet. Somehow love of the mountains, darkest oceans, vast deserts, ancient forests, wide open savannahs and rolling hills wasn’t seen as part of the deal of following Christ. That’s changing, but probably not quickly enough. And our hope for a broken earth isn’t simply that one day it will all be renewed in the new earth, but that right now we who walk this planet, treasure it as the Sustainer of all things, treasures it.
‘You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you’. (Nehemiah 9:6 KJV)
We are to be hope for this earth- this broken, beautiful, fragile, mysterious earth, because we’re not separate from the dust and clay around us. Although we are beings who alone bear the image of God, our flourishing is not separate from the flourishing of the cosmos. I love how Spiritual poet John O’Donohue writes of our interconnectedness,
‘The earth is not outside us; it is within: the clay from where the tree of the body grows. When we emerge from our offices, rooms and houses, we enter our natural element. We are children of the earth: people to whom the outdoors is home. Nothing can separate us from the vigour and vibrancy of this inheritance. In contrast to our frenetic, saturated lives, the earth offers a calming stillness. Movement and growth in nature takes time. The patience of nature enjoys the ease of trust and hope. There is something in our clay nature that needs to continually experience this ancient, outer ease of the world. It helps us remember who we are and why we are here.’ ― John O'Donohue, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace
‘You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you’.
Once you’ve articulated some answers, consider three practical steps you could take to treasure this earth. You might like to call these your ‘hope-strands’
If you’re feeling creative you could hold three strand of cotton or string in your hand. If you can’t get hold of any, imagine them in the palm of your hand.
As you ask the Spirit to strengthen your desire to treasure the earth in these practicals ways, twist the strands together. These small strands are a reminder to you of the many ways you’re connected to the whole of Creation. They’re your prayer of hope for a broken earth.
How might you invite young people to see how their small acts of love for the earth can be gathered into something far stronger?