On the hills above our parishes are the moors, peaty, boggy moors “no good for anything much” some would say, of little value compared to farmland in the Ribble Valley. Those peaty moors help hold the rain and minimise flooding, acting like a huge sponge. They also help hold carbon dioxide, again like a large sponge. The apparently “useless” areas are critical for our well-being. The draining of the moors for farming and the removal of trees and coppices and copses has contributed to the flash-flooding so many experience.

In the tropics, mangrove swamps have been removed so that holiday makers get a better coast-line, prawns can be commercially harvested etc, but the mangrove swamps were natural barriers to mitigate the effect of major storms. Again what was apparently of no “use” was a critical part of the eco-system.

Our plastic has been sent away to faraway places to be disposed of; powerful companies control the majority of banana growing and other commercial harvests but the local people do not see much of the benefit and the land is exhausted in the pursuit of a quick profit.

Our peat bogs can be a reminder to us of the world’s eco-systems. They protect Bolton and further down-stream from flooding. We are interconnected. Our coppices and copses of trees and bushes encourage a biodiversity, the insects that are crucial. We have done our world and our landscape a disservice in removing hedges but before we blame the farmers or whoever, we must remind ourselves that we want food prices kept low, and we want food available for us to buy. We do not want to have to deal with how 8 billion people can learn to live on what is now a more crowded planet, though there is still plenty of room for all to have enough.

Scripture talks about the hills rejoicing and the trees clapping their hands, the rivers roaring and nature celebrating its creation and its Creator. Our view of religion may have dangerously narrowed to be about God and me, or it may have withered so God has pretty much disappeared, like the last vestiges of the Cheshire Cat’s grin. In humility and penitence may we reconnect with the beauty and intricacy of this world and with the Creator who has made it

A healthy sense of Creation, of God the Creator, of our place as stewards and care-takers of this world, may help us refocus; a recognition that not everything has to be turned to immediate profit, but rather should be held in harmony, that beauty, is a gift, that even apparently dull things have a place and purpose will help set us free from an overly consumerist view where everything must prove to be of monetary worth. The peaty moors and our hedges and clumps of bushes and trees are all crucial to our ongoing well-being; the mangrove swamps are of greater value though they “produce” nothing, than the prawn farms that make an apparent profit.

This world has a “fragile – handle with care” sign on it. May we heed that notice for God’s sake, the planet’s sake, for the sake of the most needy, and in fact for our sake and our grand-children’s sake. It does not mean we cannot enjoy the world.

Gracious God,

Creator of this wonderful but damaged world

Forgive us our indifference

and our narrow interests.

Open our eyes to see as you see

and strengthen our hands and wills

to do as you seek us to do.

Guide the leaders of our world

that they may make the right decisions

for the sake of the needy,

the damaged earth

and future generations.

We thank you for this wonderful world;

may we cherish it and its future. Amen

Rev’d Peter Reiss