About 10 billion years ago, so astronomers have said, in a gigantic display of cosmic shock, two enormous heavenly bodies collided to form what became the Milky Way Galaxy of today. It’s hard to imagine! But right now, it is Jeremiah’s image of cosmic shock that has my attention. We find it in chapter 2 verses 13 and 14:
Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.
Behind Jeremiah’s negative image there is a positive message, but first we have to understand the cracked cisterns if we are to have a chance of moving beyond them. At the beginning of the Season of Creation, we would do well to ask what that means in terms of our care of the natural environment. But, of course, there are other issues as well.
Jeremiah laments the way in which people have deserted God as they chase after other seemingly more attractive options. Modern generations too have moved away from God in droves, and there are still many false gods out there, such as our narrow definition of economy to refer only to financial issues. In fact, the literal meaning of the word is household management. So when finance alone defines the boundaries of our goals we are in trouble; and when we believe that a sustainable environment would be nice to have provided the economy can afford it, we are living in a world of hopelessly flawed values and cracked cisterns.
What we need to do, figuratively, is not so much to dig fresh wells as to seek the divine fountain, whether in the matter of environmental care, other social justice issues, or more generally in our relationship with God.
In Colossians we are reminded that in Christ all things hold together. What that means spiritually is that we are invited to live in a way that leads to the transformation and renewal of a covenant between God, ourselves and creation. When faith learns to view creation as a gift of God, it leads to a context of love, of deep joy, wonder and humility. Such a view quickly becomes an approach to creation care.
A new wave of cosmic shock would sweep the heavens, but it would be one of great rejoicing as we abandon our cracked cisterns to seek refreshment instead at “the fountain of living water”.
Clive W Ayre