Connecting with God’s creation
Suzanne Cooke urges us to get closer to God’s wonderful creation as part of our walk with Jesus.
As I write my column to you today, I am sitting on a ferry on my way to the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides. The Scottish Isles feel a million miles from where many of you find yourselves, but I tell you this not just for the romance some of you might enjoy of imagining yourselves on a Scottish hillside, but because over recent months I have had a growing sense of the importance of creation in and for our Christian lives.
You may know that I am now Vicar of four churches in North Northumberland, St Mary’s in Wooler being one of them. Wooler is a small town of about two thousand people, deeply rural (my nearest supermarket is 18 miles away) where agriculture is the main employer. Tourism is another major factor in the local economy and The Cuthbert’s Way brings many pilgrims both to the town and through the doors of my churches. It is, in very many ways, a place quite different from where most people live out their lives.
This year at St Mary’s we have put together an exhibition which we’ve called “Heartbeat of Christ: landscape, spirituality and faith”. In the exhibition, which we have put together in partnership with the Northumberland National Park, we, as the title would imply, are trying to help people make an emotional connection between what they feel when they are out in the countryside or ‘landscape’ and that thing that many people call ‘spirituality’ but we might call faith, the thing that compels us to make a commitment to Jesus Christ.
I have often encountered Christians who are suspicious of this ‘spiritual’ connection to creation. The reasons for this I know are complex, but for myself I want to seriously question that suspicion. We understand as Christians that God is revealed to us through scripture. It is beyond doubt that scripture forms the backbone of our faith, our practice, our tradition, our worship - I could go on. But we are also told that God is revealed to us in His created world. We believe and know that Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, is inextricably connected to that creation: “All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being.” (John 1:3).
But in what fundamental ways did we forget this connection along the way? How did we forget that without trying to find our place, our connection to and with God’s awesome creation, we might not fully understand our connection to Jesus Christ as well? And more than that – if we didn’t come to understand how we are connected to creation through Christ, we might be missing a crucial element that enables us to fully experience or enter into that relationship.
I am beginning to believe that growing into or towards this understanding, or probably more accurately, this experience, fundamentally affects our emotional and spiritual wellbeing – as Christians we might call that, our salvation.
Judging by the popularity of pilgrimage, of ‘getting out into the hills’, of mountain biking, cycling, running, climbing, water sports, open water swimming, dog walking, hiking etc – it seems clear to me that modern non-Christians are looking to make a connection – a connection between their own identities, their lives, their sacred stories and the created world – God’s created world.
So maybe it is time for us book-bound Christians to lift our heads, pause, be still, if only for a moment, and find ways to reconnect our Christian selves to God’s awesome landscape – landscape that resonates with the heartbeat of Christ.
The photo above is taken from the ferry to Barra, and is courtesy of Suzanne Cooke.
Suzanne is the vicar of four rural churches, sitting at the foot of the Cheviot Hills in the far north of Northumberland. Her call to ministry came whilst living with her family in North Norfolk and she is proud to have begun her ordained life in the Norwich Diocese.
The views carried here are those of the author, not of Network Norfolk, and are intended to stimulate constructive and good-natured debate between website users.