Thought for the Month (July 2012)

Dear Friends,

Kate and I returned home after catching those few hot days at the end of May in our caravan to find our garden in a total mess. Everything had grown like mad, particularly the weeds! It took a full fortnight to get the garden back under control, and I was reminded of Genesis 2 v8 "Now the Lord had planted a garden in the east, in Eden....and the Lord took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." What a task!

The meaning of this part of the Creation story matches up with later wording at the end of the story of Noah to "be fruitful and occupy the Earth" (Genesis 9 v.1) and that "all the living things, plants and animals are given into your (our) hands", that God intends mankind to be Stewards of His creation and to look after it. In general most Christians have agreed with this idea, and the way that the "Green Movement" seems to have caught the Christian Establishment by surprise is probably due the fact that most Christians were pretty 'Green' already and couldn't see what all the fuss was about.

But what about the weeds? "Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown." As with plants and animals, so with our fellow human beings. We are charged with caring for good and bad alike, the parable of the Wheat and Weeds (Matthew 13 v24) makes this clear; and in general the Christian Church over the centuries has done a pretty good job of trying to care for the less fortunate and downright difficult members of the human race. Unlike gardeners who may use pesticides and weed-killers, we are charged to "love our enemies" and "do good to those who hate us". Unfortunately, as in my garden, there do seem to be an awful lot of weeds!

Perhaps "the answer lies in the soil!" Good gardeners know that they must look after the condition of their soil in order to gain a good crop; and this idea takes my gardening analogy to its final level. What are we Christians doing about our task of looking after the "soil" of God's creation: the social, economic and political medium in which we all live day by day?

We live in an age of confusion. There are many daft ideas roaming around and they spread so quickly: for examples, the modern obsession with sexual gratification, the fascination with celebrity culture, the measure of human success in monetary terms, and the "anything goes as long as it's fine for you" pick and mix of modern morality. And I do not doubt that the same problems were there in Jesus's time. But Jesus had an answer (that is apart from His final act of eternal salvation): he healed the sick he encountered, and taught the people how they should live. In short he preached the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and I believe that he expects us to do just the same.

Preaching the Gospel is not easy these days, but there are ways. Letters to the papers and magazines, Facebook and Twitter, (although make sure you state your views as a personal opinion do not make the claim of universal truth), day-to-day conversations with friends and neighbours, sticking up for your Faith in the workplace, and supporting organisations fighting against the tide of secular legislation. Sometimes it seems that we have come a long way from Genesis and the Garden of Eden, but we are still "our brother's keeper" and still fully responsible for looking after the "soil" of God's world.

May God bless as all as we work together in His garden,

Bob Webb (Tunbridge Wells URC)

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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church