How do we pass on the gift of integrity to our children? Only by living it Click To Tweet
1 September to 4 October each year has been designated as a time for the Church to consider care for the environment. In 1989 the Ecumenical Patriarch suggested that 1 September, the first day of the Orthodox Church’s year, should be observed as a day “of protection of the natural environment”. The proposal was widened ten years later by the European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN) which urged churches to adopt a Time for Creation stretching from 1 September to the feast of St Francis on 4 October. This was endorsed by the 3rd European Ecumenical Assembly in Sibiu, Romania, in 2007.
Many Christian organisations and churches have produced resources for this period, detailed elsewhere on our website, and the season has recently been commended by Church leaders around the world, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
This week’s reflection is based on the resources produced by Eco Congregation Scotland.
How can we pass on the gift of an integrated world when our actions (and our refusal to make substantial changes) persist? Click To Tweet
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
Hearing and Doing the Word
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
James 1:17-27 (NRSV)
First fruits. Ripe, often surprising, hints of a hopeful harvest. And they are evidence of the tilling, the planting, the worry and the work of producing something tangible. The text in James supports the need for integrity, that holistic approach to life that marries words and action, hearing and doing. We are called to be tangible signs of God’s work in the world.
The agricultural imagery can be unpacked well here. In our personal lives and in the societies we form, are there habits, policies, practices to be unearthed and weeded out, so that more positive fruit can grow? What is stifling justice, compassion, love? Invite your congregation to consider what, in their local context, could stifle goodness.
Equally it is important to widen the thinking to reflect on actions, assumptions, cultural norms and political decisions that stifle the life of the world. As we consider the deeper implications of integrity, what we do or do not do can negatively impact our global sisters and brothers. A live example is climate change, which is driven by the developed world’s love affair with a consumer-based, fossil fuel-driven lifestyle. How can we pass on the gift of an integrated world when our actions (and our refusal to make substantial changes) persist?
You might use current news to unpack the issues, to see where integrity (that unity of words and practical action) is making a positive or negative difference. Where are the first fruits growing and what nurtures them? In places where that cohesion is missing, what is the ongoing impact?
Another example can be found in Christian Aid’s partnering work on internal displacement. Globally, 65 million people are displaced through climate chaos, religious and political oppression or conflict. That is 1 in every 113 people on the planet. Of those 65 million the vast majority, over 40 million, are internally displaced. They never cross their borders, or they spill over into neighbouring countries that are hard-pressed to cope, yet welcome them. At least 80% of internally displaced people live and work in host communities. There are extraordinary stories of compassion and collaboration. Currently, internally displaced people do not have any recognised status, and are therefore not entitled to the rights and protection of those with refugee status. Christian Aid are lobbying the UN to have that changed and asking the Prime Minister to back the move. By offering rights and recognition, a real hope is planted.
We then go back to the question – how do we pass on the gift of integrity to our children? Only by living it
This reflection is based on the Creation Time 2018 resources produced by Eco Congregation Scotland