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By Donald Phillipps in All Sorts

finding a sense of proportion in God's creation

Looking in the mirror first thing in the morning isn’t always a happy experience - quite often, too often, Ebenezer Scrooge is there. I know he’s saying “Bah!” and “Humbug!” He’s also lurking in the background, somewhere, almost
every time the advertisements come on – but, then, I don’t like them any more than he would.
But it’s not advertising that’s my concern at the moment. It is steadily increasing flow of information about the mis-use and/or over-use of the world’s resources. David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series, for example, recently described vividly the effect of non-biodegradable plastic on the world’s oceans – seemingly vast, and yet threatening the lives of even the greatest of the whales. This week we saw Maori elders placing a rahui on the Waitakere National Reserve, in an effort to prevent the further spread of kauri die-off. There is the constant battle being waged by NZ Forest and Bird Society to prevent the unnecessary intrusion of industrial development into pristine areas of native bush.
A different sort of dilemma faces us as a country when we see what money is to be made from tourism. It would be good (??) to have the Hillside Rd Workshops up and running again – with more jobs for local people. Another tourist operator want so to open up little used tracks in the Tongariro National Park – with all the potential for collateral damage to that delicate environment. And, of course, there’s the overwhelming presence of pollution – affecting rivers and lakes, sea and sky, - natural life in all its variety.
So what is Scrooge’s view of all this? He would say that our well- meaning concern for nature is ‘humbug’. He belonged to a time when to ‘get on’ in the world was the first priority. The hemmed-in environment of London was his means for getting on. That’s where he belonged, and he took his chances as they came. Did he ever look up? Recently a cricket test was temporarily stopped because of the appalling air pollution that plagues Delhi – that started in his London. From that time there comes a Punch cartoon that remains in my memory. A group of London slum-children have been taken by well- meaning friends on their first-ever visit to the country – by train. They have reached their destination and have just stepped onto the platform. One wide-eyed little boy looks up at his kindly lady and says, “Oh Miss! Look how big the sky is!”
When the ancients raised their eyes to the hills they didn’t comment on the castles. They saw the sky – they saw great trees – they saw vast craggy shapes, full of hidden meaning – they saw all these as evidence of God. We still do just the same thing in Aotearoa. We look to the high country, or at the beaches on which there are no footprints, and - whether we call ourselves religious or not - there is something within us that responds to untouched nature. If we can’t, or are unwilling to, speak of God at that moment, we may have, at least, the grace to keep silence.
The ancients saw God in creation – everything that was made was made by God. Every aspect of creation – from earthquake to cyclone to lilies to the child in the womb – fulfilled the creator’s design. That, I suggest, is a very dangerous idea. It gives the unscrupulous religious (and political) leader justification for claiming, as happens to this day, that destructive acts of nature are signs of God’s judgement - acts of God. If you want to stress the wrath of God above all things, you’ll see nature in this light.
Some of us, these holidays, will have the opportunity to move out of the city into a less crowded and more ‘natural’ world. Even if we stay home, we still can look up and see the clouds, or a high hill – or on a cloudless night be astonished by the stars. Wherever we are, it’s no bad thing to find a sense of proportion – and I wonder whether it might be put this way – that we discover that God’s creation is not made for us, but, rather, that we are made for God’s creation.
We are its carers, and if we don’t take our role seriously, creation will be irreparably damaged. God is for creation – are we?
Donald Phillipps