Saturday, 3 February 2018

Cae Post and Hullcoins . . . a sermon

I was sad to hear about the decision to close the Cae Post recycling depot at Trewern. This is a time when arguably we need to be doing more and more recycling rather than less. For Cae Post losing their kerbside contract with Powys County Council was clearly a major blow. I do recognise the financial constraints under which our councils have to operate these days, but I still think that that was a significantly wrong decision.

I remember visiting Cae Post many years ago. One of the younger members of my then church, a lad with some mild learning difficulties, had got a job there, and someone I sang with was involved in management, and showed me round. I have to say that the amount of rubbish thrown out by the average person, family, household these days is truly staggering. You only realise that when you see so much  of it all piled up together. At Cae Post recyclable items were sorted and baled for transfer elsewhere, and this created employment opportunities for people who might have struggled to find work elsewhere. So that for me made Cae Post a resource that shouldn’t be judged - nor should it stand or fall - on strictly financial terms.

In my spare time I pick litter. I don’t go out as often as I should, but as the days get a bit longer I aim do at least one pick per week. Not much of what I pick gets recycled, sadly, nor does much of what’s put into litter bins in street. That’s not financially viable, so it ends up as landfill. We invented money, but now money dictates how we live. Money can close down community projects, and it can even help poison our planet.

That planet is our theme today. It’s the only one we have, and although we might dream of travelling to others, and doing that looks straightforward enough on Star Trek, the reality is that if we don’t look after this planet we’ve nowhere else to go. And we share this planet with other living things, that aren’t just there for us to enjoy, but by their health or otherwise provide an indicator of our own health and our own future.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God.” John’s great inspiration was to identify Jesus Christ as the creative word spoken by God by which - in Genesis, chapter one - all that is made was made. We are the product of that spoken word, and we human beings in particular are by that word made in the image of God. By that we mean that we are sentient, aware, creative. We know things, we can interpret, plan, invent, love. We can imagine the future. Unlike other living things, we know about life and death.

Being made in God’s image, we’ve no excuse not to be God-like ourselves in our care for what he made. Now we may think we’re being God-like in the way we dominate the world, bridge mighty rivers, raise up high buildings, flash messages instantly from continent to continent, or use giant machines to gouge out forests and quarry the earth - or for that matter, to build weapons that, if once used, could lay the whole world waste.

But there’s nothing God-like about that. That’s just throwing our weight around. God’s Word enters what he has made, becomes part of the human story, to show us what being “made in the image of God” really requires of us. The Kims and Trumps of our world may crow about the size of the nuclear buttons they can press, but what’s far more God-like is to put our arm around the shoulder of a grieving mother, or to feed a hungry child, or to wait and watch beside a hospital bed. When we light lights, when we restore balance, when we give time, when we care.

I was driving not long ago in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, a quiet lane miles from anywhere, when I came across a council truck. Two men were loading onto it what looked like most of a kitchen, dumped into a hedge bank in the countryside. I couldn’t help but reflect that if half the effort that must have gone into taking all that stuff out there in order to dump it miles from any place had instead been spent on doing something charitable, our world could be so much nicer.

Easy for me to say. Maybe harder to do. I know I take the easy option or make the selfish decision far too often. That’s one of the reasons why we Christian folk are supposed to take time to pray. Not in order to present God with our list of wants and instructions, but to re-tune ourselves into his creative will, and to re-awaken that bit of us that is made in his blest and loving image. The Christian challenge is to be like Jesus, which is what Jesus asks of us when he says, “Follow me.” He doesn’t just mean ‘trail along behind me’, but listen, watch, take note, see what I do - and now go, and do the same.

So what does it mean for me, for you, to be like Jesus, where we are? This is the Divine Word by whom all things were created. We too are called to be creative, lovingly creative, in the way we balance and prioritise and live our lives.

Hull was in the news last week, mostly because of the Banksy mural that appeared on a disused bridge. Hull was our city of culture last year, of course. But Hull was also more quietly in the news last week because of Hullcoin. You know about Bitcoin? Well, Hullcoin is a virtual currency that’s designed to reward people who volunteer. They can be given Hullcoins in return for their voluntary work, and at shops and businesses involved in the scheme their Hullcoins can buy them money off the usual price of things. Not everyone needs this, of course - but some volunteers are themselves poorly off, maybe they help out because being unemployed they’ve got time on their hands. It’s a nice thank-you, and a recognition of the way in which we depend on each other, if where we live is to be a balanced and healthy place.

Our world here is I think a poorer place for the loss of Cae Post. Maybe that couldn’t be helped. But we’ll be poorer still if we lose what Cae Post stood for: care for the environment allied with care in the community, care for one another. We’ve just this one planet, which we’ve borrowed from our children; we’ve no second home. We can’t afford the luxury of poisoning our own well.

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