‘Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?
Who has directed the spirit of the Lord, or as his counsellor has instructed him?
Whom did he consult for his enlightenment, and who taught him the path of justice?
Who taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?
Even the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as dust on the scales;
see, he takes up the isles like fine dust…The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.’ (from Isaiah 40)
I recently watched a programme interviewing astronauts who had flown into space, who had circled the earth and viewed it from the heavens. Each one of them reported how they returned inwardly changed. They saw the earth, they saw people, through new eyes. They saw the oneness of the earth and how everything flows into everything else, how all is connected through the seas and the winds and the movements of animals and people. There are no borders, no lines on maps.
People and animals find amazing ways of surviving, even thriving, in what for others would be extremely harsh conditions – those who live in extreme cold or heat, those who live on the sea, hardly ever stepping foot on land and those who never see the sea.
But everything we do can have an affect on everyone and everything else. There are artificially manufactured chemicals, fertilisers, pesticides and the like which have invaded our environment, and were later discovered to be the cause of cancers and deformities at birth, even still births. Seemingly pristine landscapes have been found to be collection points for some of these chemicals – the earth’s flow of water, air and even land, carrying them until they gather at certain points, unable to flow any further. Miniscule bits of plastic now float in the oceans and collect in the bodies of the fish we eat.
There was a documentary recently about the prawn industry in Thailand – about how Malaysian men, seeking to find refuge, are instead trafficked onto fishing boats where they are forced to work as slaves – cleaning the catch of prawns, prawns which find their way to our supermarkets and sold so cheaply. They are not allowed back on land for years at a time, and oftentimes end up dying or being murdered and thrown overboard, never heard from again.
There are so many stories like this – and it sometimes feels just too daunting to try to keep track of all the things we should and shouldn’t eat! So most people just give up. It’s too much!
Arocha http://arocha.org.uk/ is a Christian movement for environmental concern. Among their most powerful messages are those which remind us that everything we eat, everything we consume is sacred. Our relationships are sacred, so where we purchase our food from, or how we grow it, who we share with, and more importantly how we share – are all vitally linked to the worship of God we share together on a Sunday morning.
I think one of the saddest things I have read recently was an article that stated fast food is the food of the overworked and underpaid. It takes time to be able to cook a meal, lovingly and slowly. It takes time to be able to pick out the individual ingredients and ensure they have come from an ethical source. It takes more money to be able to buy fresh produce grown locally. When you have little in the way of resources, when you have little in the way of time – when you are having to work shifts or all the hours God gives just to put food on the table for your family – oftentimes it is the cheapest, fastest and poorest quality available. And this is no criticism of those particular consumers, but more an indictment of a society that places little value of the sacredness of our food and of the bodies God has created for us to inhabit.
This is why it is so important for us as a common humanity to speak out to prevent the trafficking of human beings just so we can have cheap food. To speak out against the pollution of our environment. Everything we do affects everyone else. We are all interconnected. And the solutions to these problems can only come when we work together. I was recently reading about what it took to help end the slave trade in the United States. The British public took a tremendous dip in revenue, loss of trade and income, for the sake of human beings who were suffering elsewhere. At the height of the slave trade in the Antebellum South, 80,000 slaves were trafficked every year. What most people don’t realise is that currently 600,000-800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, nearly 10 times the number Wilberforce and the British nation sacrificed so much to eradicate. 80% of those trafficked are women. There are no statistics for those people who are trafficked internally, never crossing international borders, and suffering in unrecorded silence.
In the gospel of Matthew, chapter 28, Jesus tells his disciples, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’
He begins his command with an acknowledgement of the interconnectedness of creation, he dismisses borders – and tells them to use the name one of the most intimate of connections, that of a parent and child and the bond that hold them together. The Father, creator and loving parent; the Son, redeemer of the world and loving child; and the Holy Spirit, sustainer of us all, connecting us to one another and to God, that quiet voice that whispers in our hearts and lending strength to follow what we know to be the right path – the path of sacrificial love that sees the sower of the seed; the wind and the rain and the sun and the good earth which help it to grow; the reaper, the thresher, the one who grinds the wheat into flour, and the one who bakes the bread – all those who labour that we may eat. As we share our Eucharist each Sunday, we share it with all those across the face of this earth who receive the bead and the wine in their own churches, for our churches are truly One Church, blessed in Trinity.