The incarnation of creation

Autumn Leaves falling

In this Autumn season there is a ‘falling’, as we watch the leaves make their descent, swirling and twirling in the breezes. In this time we also celebrate the gathering of the harvest, giving thanks to God for the provision of the earth in all its goodness and abundance.

Incarnation  is a lovely word which describes a kind of ‘falling’ – the falling or descent of God to earth… the revelation of God in our material world. We often use the word in relation to Jesus as one who makes God known to us. But there is an incarnation which preceded the Bethlehem birth, and that is the very act of creation when God pours out himself into every material thing. ‘It is good!’ God acclaims in Genesis 1 and St. Paul in Romans 1 writes ‘ ever since the creation of the world God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made’. Sometimes I think we don’t really catch what St. Paul is saying here!

This prior incarnation is still with us,  and we have opportunity to see each new day God with us – right in front of our eyes. In every little thing, and big thing, God is here. We just need to see… and that’s the problem for many of us. We see, but we don’t see. Jesus would make a similar observation in the gospels – and it’s true for us today. Yes we see creation – the trees, the vegetation, the ponies, the cattle, the fish, and clouds in the skies… but perhaps we don’t see. They just pass us by!

The Christian faith is an incarnational faith. It is founded on God making himself visible, touchable, and it is accessed first and foremost by our experience of it. By this I mean how it makes me feel – when I pat my pet dog Nahla, when I taste the beetroot in the salad, when I feel the sun rays on my back or the raindrops on my face – these experiences are the doorways, the windows into absorbing the very presence of God into me.

Clearly we are lost for words when we try and sum up this in any description. This is beyond our language – although we do give it a real good go! But as we absorb this presence something very real happens in us. The Russian author Leo Tolstoy describes it as ‘something that had been slumbering, something that was best within, suddenly awakes joyful and youthful’. Here Tolstoy is describing the experience of one of his protagonists, Andrew Bolkonsky, in War & Peace experiencing the incarnation. This waking up inside us happens every time we consciously offer gratitude for the ordinary material bits of life. And that’s what we do as a gathered community at Harvest.

And the ‘falling’ of the leaves this autumn reminds us that the incarnation of creation never stands still – it is still unfolding even when it looks as though it’s coming to an end!

 

Live to eat or eat to live?

Dear Friends,

Do you live to eat… or do you eat to live?

These two questions invite us into a reflection on what is it which gives us impetus and meaning. In order to do the bit which drives us we need to do something to enable this to happen. So for some of us we live, we get out of bed, in order to eat, eat, and eat some more. The sausage sandwich, with the red, brown or no sauce, is just too good to puto one side. For others, the eating is not the end product but rather the means to give me the required energy to breathe, run, and enjoy this amazing world.

In the harvest season we give thanks for what we reap in order to sustain us. In our paradoxical world this can be somewhat uncomfortable, as we give thanks for the ‘harvest safely gathered in’ knowing full well that for millions of people the harvest is bare. This disparity is a chilling indictment on the way we order and direct the economic mechanisms of the world community. The rich really do seem to get richer, while the poor get poorer.

Yet, when Jesus tells us that it is more difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, we need to take note – especially as we are apparently privileged to live in the wealthy part of the world community. The rich man has few needs – everything is in place, the larder is full, the table laden with what is required… but still something is lacking. Something really important.

The quality of gratitude is a quality which money cannot buy. Indeed, the more money you have it seems the harder it is to appreciate the simple necessities. For St. Paul, the practice of ‘giving thanks in all things’ was an essential element in living life well. The expression of thanks stretches and shapes our perceptions of life in a remarkably tangible way. By learning to say ‘thank you’ from our hearts in the course of ‘ordinary’ life, we learn to see the stuff of life as a gift. Rather than being a ‘right’ life becomes something more, something which can surprise and never taken for granted. For many years we have become accustomed to the language of ‘rights’ – in many instances it has been highly appropriate, but in other ways it has entrapped us in a limited and soulless existence, a million miles from the vibrant original intention for life. Learning gratitude from the heart pulls us into a much more fluid, dynamic and spontaneous mode of living – whatever the hum-drum nature of our daily lives might be.

This frees us up from the chains of having to ‘possess’, ‘own’ and ‘control’ everything that happens. And because we are free in this way, we can then allow our hearts to feel, sense and be aware of others – our natural state.

If it is our intention to say ‘thank you’ from our hearts we are genuinely on the journey of faith to living life well. And it is then we begin to understand what it is which gets me out of bed each morning – whether the sun shines or the rain pours.