Walk 3 from Kincardine O’Neil, September 2015
The season of the year is important to how we regard the world around us. Creation in springtime looks so different to Creation in the autumn.
In today’s society we are so separated from nature. We experience God’s creation in more detail than perhaps ever before but usually through the medium of a television screen.
Similarly our food tends to come to us in plastic bags or even as meals, which we need only place in an oven.
To experience the reality of creation we need to be among it.
We need to feel the movement of wind against our skin, to hear the sound of our feet on the ground, to smell the delicate scents of plant life and to be impressed by the variety of all that we can see even during a short walk.
In the spring we see the potential of plants and crops to grow in the autumn we see what became of that potential and what is being set up to be achieved in the coming year. To appreciate all of this the third of our walks repeated the route of the first walk but at the end of the year rather than close to the start.
We followed the same route and stopped for reflection at the same places although we used different readings to focus our thoughts. As with the first series of walks these readings were selected from both Scripture and secular writings so as to make the connection between the science, which is inherent in both faith and the world in which we live.
For this walk, coming after the main harvests of grain crops had been completed and following a year when yields had been reasonable it seemed appropriate to focus, especially through our secular passages, on our use of the resources available to us and how as a society we both use science and seek to interpret scripture using a contemporary lens.
How we use science and how we both understand science and its purpose sit at the base of many of the apparent conflicts between science and faith suggesting that perceived tensions are more a matter of the desired outcomes of our current society than differences in the message of two complementary approaches to life and the working of our societies.
The primary focus of this stop is a field devoted to crop production which helps us to link all in scripture about food with all the science which has gone into modern food production and our increased understanding of genetics.
A timeless agricultural scene which could be either the beginning of a spring crop or an autumn sown crop but is appropriate for us to reflect on just how the things we have from God life and seeds together with the advances in plant breeding a discipline at the heart of modern agricultural science have come together to feed us in increasing numbers.
He is the image of the invisible God; his is the primacy over all creation. In him everything in heaven and on earth was created, not only things visible but also the invisible orders of thrones, sovereignties, authorities and powers: the whole universe has been created through him and for him. He exists before all things and all things are held together in him. He is the head of the body, the church. He is its origin, the first to return from the dead, to become all things supreme. For in him God in all his fullness chose to dwell and through him to reconcile all things to him self making peace through the shedding of his blood on the cross- all things whether on earth or in heaven.
The Letter of Paul to the Colossians Chapter 1 v 15-20
“There is a fear that giving up the consumer lifestyle we have grown accustomed to will lead to hardship. We worry that without this abundance of industrial products we will have a life of suffering, as if we were exchanging a silk garment for a hair shirt- or Gandhi’s loincloth.
When we think of an environmentally sound lifestyle, we think that it’s going to be limiting; it’s going to be a drag. What I’m proposing is the exact opposite of what you are worried about. I’m talking of an elegant, simple, beautiful, exciting, creative, colourful, healthy and wonderful way of living. It will be much more fun. At the moment people are too busy to enjoy their lives. They have lost the luxury of time. Their busy lives are very stressful. Commuting from suburbia to the city, working from morning evening in factories, shops and offices, the joy of life has been squeezed out. People in industrialised societies like Japan, the United States, and Europe and in big cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Mexico City- they all have no time. They are all time poor, time starved, time hungry. When I was growing up people used to say, “ When the Gods made time they made plenty of it. What’s the hurry”? So why can we not create a future which is time rich? Why not slow down and go further? Why not do less and do it well? Why not have less quantity but more quality.
People have lost the luxury of good food. When we get food wrapped up in plastic, imported from somewhere far away the taste and flavour of the food has been squeezed out There is no celebration of food. Aren’t you encouraged that your food will be grown compassionately? Should we not aspire to have such biodiversity and cultural diversity in food? But the food in modern times is so convenient-we goes to supermarkets and gets everything from around the world in one place. But at what cost to our families and our environment?”
Satish Kumar Earth Pilgrim p102-103 Green Books, Devon
Walking brings us face to face with creation and with the moods of the seasons. It allows us to journey with others and at a pace, which permits and encourages both conversation and reflection. We can discuss just what we are experiencing as science and as scriptural insight.
Our second stop is at a gateway. Gates are always point of stopping and of choice; do we go through the gateway or do we go a different way or simply turn back.
Wisdom cries aloud in the open air, and raises her voice in public places. She calls at the top of bustling streets; at the approaches to the city gates she says: How long will you simple fools be content with your simplicity? If only you would respond to my reproof I would fill you with my spirit and make my precepts known to you but because you refused to listen to my call because no one heeded when I stretched our my hand because you rejected all my advice and would have none of my reproof, I in turn shall laugh at your doom and deride you when terror comes, when terror come like a hurricane and your doom approaches like a whirlwind, when anguish and distress come upon you.
Proverbs 1, 20-27
Death is one of the great-undiscussed subjects of our age. In nature we see death of individuals all around us but we also see regeneration, new life coming from the space vacated by the old and new communities coming into existence as a result of what is left behind.
“Some people believe that the early chapters of Genesis are incompatible with the kind of evolutionary scenario we have been painting. Two points are worth underlining. The first is the primacy of the authority of the word of God I personally take scripture as my final authority in all matters of faith and conduct. For me the word of God has the final say on the matter. It is not to be subjected to any other authority from whatever direction that may come although of course our interpretation of Scripture is influenced by our own particular church tradition. Secondly, modern science may shed light on a biblical passage but I don’t think it should be used as a tool for interpreting the passage. I have been critical of those who read ancient texts through modernist eyes, treating them as if they were scientific texts, in the mistaken supposition that scientific literature offers a truth superior to that found in the literature of other disciplines exploring different aspects of reality. So the purpose of our discussion of Genesis is not to see how the text responds to enquires from the direction of evolutionary theory but rather to see how we should understand the book of Genesis in the context of the rest of scripture.
Genesis is a book about families: about Gods very first family comprising those who knew and worshiped him as a personal God and about other families called to follow and obey him within the same covenant relationship.
How we interpret Genesis will clearly be highly influenced by the kind of literature that we think we are reading. It is clearly not scientific literature in the way that we currently understand that term any more than any other passage of the Bible is scientific literature. It is inappropriate to force a modern scientific understanding of language on an ancient text. Neither is Genesis Hebrew poetry. It is describing creative events that occurred before anyone was around to describe them so it cannot be history in any normal use of that term.”
Denis Alexander, Creation or Evolution, Monarch Books, Oxford
Our third stop is beside a waterfall. We hear the power of the water and reflect on what is under our control and what is beyond us. We also reflect on the importance of water both in terms of its place in scripture but also its importance to the landscape as we currently see it and to the production of our food.
The heavens tell out the glory of God, heavens vault makes known his handiwork.
One day speaks to another, night to night imparts knowledge and this without speech or language or the sound of any voice.
Their sign shines forth on all the earth, their message to the ends of the world
In the heavens and abode is fixed for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom from the bridal chamber, rejoicing like a strong man to run his course.
Its rising is at one end of the heavens, its circuit reaches from one end to the other and nothing is hidden from its heat.
Psalm 19, 1-6
In the waterfall we see the power of water and of nature. Here we something which we may seek to control but where we are never completely successful everywhere and at all times. The floods, which occur each winter, remind us that we are never quiet always in control. We develop our understanding but its never complete and it keeps taking us by surprise.
“Successive administrations in the UK have built upon but not diminished the political identification of material wealth with the chief justification of doing science. The pattern is similar in other developed nations with dedicated research budgets. Although there is a quiet and downplayed recognition of some value in knowledge for its own sake, even pure science projects are justified first in terms of their technical spinouts. The logical tensions are buried.
The last decade has witnessed at least a desire to engage a wider public in the political debate around science. But can we sustain a reasoned and constructive debate when science its self appears on our public stage only in the alternative guises of entertainer and villain. Angela Tilby wrote in her book “Science and the Soul” from the perspective of some one with no background in science yet attuned to the way that it is projected: “Like priests in a former age scientists seem to guard the key to knowledge, to access to transcendent truths which the rest of us could never hope to understand. Many people feel that what they do is cut off from every day life, that it is irrelevant and rather frightening, a form of magic.” The word association game is played out on the larger canvas of the media when “faith” is the subject. We are carried by the multiple meanings of “faith” from the consideration of trust and reliability to all the religious connotations of the word. Community service, contemporary theology and soup kitchens do not sell newspaper copy, web page hits or air time. The threat of extremism, the debate on homosexuality in the church, the social and educational demands of religious groups and the politicisation of religious belief in the crucial power of the USA are all projected and amplified to a much higher level when ever we tune in. Small wonder then that the noise of confused debate reaches new heights when the two hard ideas of faith and science are brought together especially when faith now carries its other religious sense. The debate has become highly political in the sense that quite incompatible positions are held and advocated by people of ostensibly equal authority.”
Tom McLeish, Faith and wisdom in Science, OUP
Our final stop focuses on wood and the various ways in which we use the land and the resources, which it generates. The production of a timber crop requires time and management, a partnership between man and nature, which is a good model for the type of management urged on us by scripture.
There lived in the land of Uz a man of blameless and upright life named Job, who feared God and set his face against wrongdoing. He had seven sons and three daughters and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred she donkeys together with a large number of slaves. Thus Job was the greatest man in the east.
The day came when the members of the court of Heaven took their places in the presence of the Lord, the adversary Satan was there among them. The Lord asked him where he had been. ‘Ranging over the Earth” said the Adversary, “from end to end”. The Lord asked him have you considered my servant Job? You will find no one like him on Earth, a man of blameless and upright life, who fears God and sets his face against wrongdoing. “ Has not Job good reason to be God fearing?” Answered the Adversary. “ Have you not hedged him round on every side with your protection, him and his family and all his possessions? What ever he does you bless, and everywhere his hers have increased beyond measure. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has and see if he will not curse you to your face.” “Very well” said the Lord “all that he has is in your power; only the man himself you must not touch.
Job, 1, 1-12
- Trees are important. They are the source of the wood we use to beautify our homes. They are a place of refuge and rest for many of our birds. They are home to some of our larger fungi, to many mosses and to lichens. Global warming science tells us just how much they matter to our ability to care for Gods creation.
Once upon a time Adam was lost in the jungle, where he encountered two wild elephants. They began to chase him. In order to escape from these frightening beasts Adam climbed a tall tree nearby, but the elephants were not going to let him go so easily; they curled their trunks around the tree and began to shake it furiously.
It so happened that above the branch that Adam was holding was a beehive. As the tree shook, honey began to drip down, straight into Adams mouth.
At that moment some Angels in their chariot were flying past and seeing the desperate plight of Adam they slowed down and said “come, we will rescue you, come into our chariot.”
“Oh how kind of you. But please let me have this sweet drop of Honey, then I will come “ said Adam.
The angels were kind and patient and so they waited. “Alright you have got your honey drop! Come now be quick”.
”Please let me have just one more drop,” Adam pleaded
The angels were astonished. They said, “ You are being stung by bees and any time now the elephants will pull the tree down. You greedy fool, you cannot let go of the desire for that drop of honey! Come this is your last chance, come now or we will go.”
“Please, please let me have one more drop of honey- its so delicious” said Adam. The angels waited for a little longer but in the end they could not draw Adam away from his imminent death and they left.
Indigenous people are the angels of our time. They are calling on us to refrain from the momentary gratification of economic growth which is like the Honey drop.
Mosses as a group in all their diversity remind us of just how long there have been complex living organisms on the planet and relative to them just how recent we are. They show how it’s possible to live survive and diversify in hostile environments and how to wait out difficult times.
“The planet is threatened by global warming, rivers are polluted, rainforests are disappearing, human population is exploding, biodiversity is diminishing and traditional cultures are declining- all this in the pursuit of economic growth so that we can have sweet drops of consumption.”
Satish Kumar, Earth Pilgrim, Green Books, Devon
Pilgrimage is about journeying. It’s a journey in terms of distance covered but it’s also a journey within our selves. As we walk we share with those with whom we walk. We each see different things. We each express what we see in different ways. We each have a different concept of science and different takes on scripture and faith. Pilgrimage licences each of us to share from our own journeys with our fellow travellers.