Go now to love and serve the Lord

These are the words a deacon says to dismiss the congregation at the end of the service. They are followed with ‘Go in peace’, (then ‘Amen, we go in the name of Christ.’) But in some church circles, it seems that they are followed with ‘Go in Panic.’ I’m talking about those who worry incessantly about the state of the CO2 levels in the atmosphere, and the ice caps melting, and just seem to need to live on adrenaline. The science is coming in all the time, that there is no need to panic.  Maybe it should be written in large friendly letters all over the newpsapers! I get concerned when so much of the church’s attention seems to be about saving the planet, rather than the first part of the dismissal – ‘go now to Love and serve the Lord’. The words ‘social justice’ keep getting car-jacked away from helping people live just and fulfilling lives, to planting trees for the sake of the planet.

Well, if my garden is anything to go by, when we leave things alone, trees plant themselves, and I am always pulling out little seedlings of native trees, which aren’t where I want them. Do I feel guilty? Nope. My main concern about the over-emphasis on green theology is that it’s the easy way out of the hard stuff – it’s much easier to plant a few trees or pick up litter than to visit the elderly neighbour who will probably grumble that you didn’t buy the right brand of tea, but really needs some human contact. It’s much easier to get het-up about battery hens than to look at why that family down the road is always at the food bank, and doing something about it. Loving and serving the Lord must mean challenging the stuctures of our society that aren’t working. Things like self-centred pursuits which say it’s ok for me to spend all the family’s benefit on booze, or smokes, or gambling.

Panic about the environment just distracts us.

The other option, at the other end of the scale, is the ‘it’s all good’ brand of Christian thinking. This is more common in the Pentecostal churches, where everything seems to have a Pollyanna-ish gloss on it. Even when there’s great suffering, the phrase ‘God is good’, answered by ‘all the time’ comes through loud and clear. But what about those times when life isn’t good? ‘It’s all good’ is another phrase you might hear. But sometimes it isn’t.

Let’s be honest as Christians, accepting that life has it’s bad bits, and for goodness’ sake, let’s ‘Go now to Love and serve the Lord!’

The Power and the Glory

Abutilons in my garden, click to enlarge.

This is a photo of one of my favourite plants – abutilon, or Chinese Lantern flower. The orange flowers really glow, and you can see them from a long way away. But there are other flowers in this picture – there is a native shrub, whose name I don’t know, with shaggy insignificant flowers behind each leaf. These other flowers take a bit of looking for, and they’re not very pretty. But do you know what? These scruffy flowers get pollinated, and set seeds in orange berries, which by the way look quite good with the abutilons, but the birds love them! Net result, the seeds are spread everywhere- little shrubs sprouting up all over the garden, and even in the lawn.

It seemed to me that God was speaking to me through these flowers. The showy orange lanterns are all very well, and arrtactive, but they never go anywhere. The humble little ones whose name I don’t even know are the ones which really go places. They are carried everywhere, and grow into persistent woody shrubs. Maybe the sort of celebrities who have very public charity work are like the abutilons. And maybe the sort of people who work quietly away in the background are like the shrubs – their work isn’t showy – it’s very mundane really, as they feed schoolkids, help addicts, care for children, teach Christian Religious Education  and a myriad of other hands-of-Jesus ministries. It’s these ministries that bear fruit! Just as our shrub has lots of berries with seeds that are carried everywhere, so the Christian workers, which should be all Christians will bear fruit that carries, and spread, even if it isn’t obvious in the community.

It’s a bit like the pharisees who give while blowing trumpets, isn’t it?