I've been in and around a number of public protest marches.
Last week I was with about a thousand people thronging through the streets of Bristol to raise a voice against the intransigence of the world's leaders on climate change. The outfits, noise, colour, tattoos, banners, and passionate rhetoric were infectious, and one wondered how observers could stand by and watch with such passive faces.
I was also in a church service recently. The relatively small number of people were notably inanimate. Meanwhile the worship team at the front were investing their creative expression with obvious heartfelt passion. The sounds, expressions, and body language of the team clearly displayed their inner feelings. They would surely have been deeply depressed if it were not for the fact that they were worshipping God. No amount of passivity around them could change that reality.
It's hard not to draw the parallels (or lack thereof) between church and public marches.
Some people invest heart and soul; the cadence of their voices communicates the depth of their feeling, their passion, the joyful highs, the depths of concerns - these are people who expose their inner self because they know truth.
Others seem to choose to suppress. I listen to some Christians speaking about Christ, and the passion is muted, the glories understated in their body and inflection, the distresses of lives and the world are discussed in even tones.
To actually engage the emotions that go with the thoughts is surely what it means to live totally.
Why then does the topic of Jesus seem to lead people to become emotionally suppressed? It doesn't happen with sport, it's not a factor at parties, and we never hold back our outbursts at perceived personal injustices. Perhaps it is an attempt to find a secure zone when confronted by a disturbing reality by trying to claim an objective wisdom that rises above those showing personal emotion?
I wonder if those who become seemingly introverted in the presence of Christian topics are actually scared to engage with the reality of the world around them (and perhaps those who adopt an extrovert expression are scared of the reality inside)?
Guest blog from Peter
And what do a tortoise, puff adder, dung beetle, gull and flamingo add to the picture? Well, it’s all to do with enjoying our world! A recent trip to the West Coast National Park stimulated a fresh appreciation for the pleasures of creation. God has so much fun in the creation process! The longer he takes and the more complex and varied the result the greater the pleasure and satisfaction. All of creation ultimately reflects the glory of God. The Bible gives a picture of how “in the beginning” God saw things as being “good”. He still enjoys his creation and he desires that we should as well. Paul when writing to young Timothy says; “Everything that God has created is good; nothing is to be rejected, but everything is to be received with a prayer of thanks” (1Tim.4:4).
So, it is with gratitude that we reflect on the vast granite boulders that provide such a reliable foundation. Boulders that have been shaped by eons of tectonic forces and weathered to their rounded form to provide fine sand for our beaches.
Strength in nature is mirrored in the elegant Eland that graze in herds on the lush spring grass among the delicate beauty of the flowers that come to life in the warm sunshine after the winter rains.
It’s little wonder that David exclaims in Psalm 104:24; “Lord, you have made so many things! How wisely you made them all! The earth is filled with your creatures.” The spring flowers along the West Coast ring out in joyous praise to God. Why, even the caterpillar enjoys the choice spread!
We can worship God in the magnificence of his creation. It is all for our pleasure. It is not only for us but for his own pleasure that God enables life to continue. It is also for the glory of the Son, Jesus Christ himself. Col.1:15-16 sums it up: “Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God. He is the first-born Son, superior to all created things.
For through him God created everything in heaven and on earth, the seen and the unseen things.............. God created the whole universe through him and for him.” So, as we wonder and enjoy, our worship is not directed to the created ‘things’ but to the Lord of all, who has the ideas and takes the initiative. Job, after all his pain and suffering, was confronted with the wonders of creation – the galaxies of stars, the created order, the seas and seasons, the climate variations, the wild animals, birds, beasts of prey, sea monsters and the like.
As he looked at all the evidence in nature and listened to the arguments of friends he concluded that the Lord God was all powerful and he repented of his arrogance because; “I have seen with my own eyes.” (Job 42:5). In our cluttered commercialised world let’s take time to ‘look and listen’ to the rich creation around us and in it be aware of the relational God who loves and cares. Sometimes we are like the determined tortoise that retreats into his shell and hides behind his surroundings and becomes immune to the colour and beauty that makes up his world!
The Hartlaub’s Gull on the other hand makes it clear to all in his ravenous squawking that there is something worth appreciating.
And we haven’t even had time to reflect on the wonders of the poisonous puff adder, the busy dung beetle or the flamboyant flamingo! Marvellous indeed is all of creation but be reminded of Jesus’ comment that we are of far more value to him than all of this (Matt.10:31). Do we need to get anxious and worry if God cares more for us than all these things? Matthew 6:28-30 reassures that he loves and cares for us!
Look, wonder, enjoy, explore and meditate on all that God creates.
It is our privilege to care for it all!