There is a hymn, quite popular with some congregations “God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year. God is working his purpose out and the time is drawing near, nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be, when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God, as the waters cover the sea.” It is an evangelical or missionary kind of hymn about us joining in the task of doing God’s work which God will bless. Composed, it appears, by AC Ainger some time in the 19th century, maybe even 200 years ago, long before the current, much deeper, awareness of climate change existed. Maybe the mission that was being preached was that God would be doing the work. Today, when it comes to the environment it could even be seen as the other way round. There does not even appear to be enough of that aspect spiritual, as the focus is on what we, human beings, have done to cause harm to the sea, and need to do to stop and put things right. The recent SEASON OF CREATION was intended to be a spiritual as well as a practical journey, celebrated by believers of different Christian faiths across the world. But I ask myself has enough introspection taken place, reflecting on the spirituality, the tree as a gift from God for his creation. w However, there is certainly a growing awareness and much is happening on all kinds of levels, scientific and practical too. Pope Francis reminds us that we are all called to be missionaries.
The www.laudatosiactionplatform.org is one organization that is picking up the tab and its comprehensive basket of 7 goals are being promoted again as a journey of integral ecology. Goals are to be implemented by various sectors, the first one being the family as a starting point, followed by other sectors of society too. Families, of course being basic social building blocks can have a wide influence on every other sector. We can promote the goals, can take action right from a home base where we can and should also develop an ecological spirituality, in the footsteps of St Francis, who loved and admired everyone of God’s creatures.
Take a simple example. Everyone loves a butterfly. The female of the human species regards it is as beautiful as well as rather frivolous, having no great purpose in life but to flit about looking beautiful and being frivolous. And yet a popular scientific “word of wisdom” has grown up around it, the “Butterfly Effect.” If a butterfly flaps its wings in Pietermaritzburg it can set a series of events in motion that will result in a tornado halfway across the world.
But there is much more to the purpose of its existence than that, as I discovered, having got caught up in a study of the life and times of the butterfly. Apart from giving glory to God by their artistic beauty – and God is artist par excellence, – they are excellent pollinators. They flit from flower to flower searching for nectar and carrying pollen to fertilise another plant. Pollination is an essential component of the story of life of plants. Similarly sexual reproduction is the common denominator in almost all of creation. Butterflies, eggs, pupae and caterpillars, which are the phases in the lifecycle of the butterfly, are welcome items in the diet of birds and other mini-predators.
The thousands of species of butterfly are found in every continent except Antartica. Many live their short lives of six weeks within one location near the plants they choose for their food. But others are migrators – the impressive monarch butterfly in the US, in their millions, migrate north to Canada in spring and later south to Mexico for the warmer winter. Here in South Africa we have migrants too. The small white and brown-striped/spotted butterfly breeds and begins its life at the start of summer in the dry Karoo and the whole population reportedly flies 1000s of kilometres too in a north-easterly direction towards Mocambique. They feed along the way, but what do they do when they get to their destination? It appears little research has so far been done on this local migration phenomenon which does attract a good many watchers. Suffice it to say, God is good, God is great, God is a great artist with a marvellous sense of humour. Did he purposely create the butterfly effect? Who knows.