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HEAT-WAVES AND WILD-FIRES


The extreme heat of last week and the wild-fires that struck in many parts of the country have brought home to us in England, perhaps for the first time, the reality and seriousness of global warming. The last parish in which I was a country parson before I retired was Ashill in Norfolk. On the Tuesday evening of the heat-wave, at about 5.00 pm, a fire started in a field of standing wheat on the edge of the village. It swept across the field and into some of the houses and gardens near the village green and the pond. Some 11 houses were completely destroyed; the inhabitants were made homeless and lost all their possessions. Climate change is real, and a real hazard.

Last Sunday I was leading the prayers at our local church and I wondered how we should pray about this. I was reminded of Romans 8.26, "The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us through wordless groans." I guess that that is the first way we respond in times like this: by groaning.

Yes, we ought to groan: at our profligacy, our self-indulgences, our relentless pursuit of wealth, pleasures, comforts, and consumption, our careless waste that litters and pollutes land, sea and air, our squandering of the world's precious resources. God made a beautiful, rich, and fruitful world, and we are busy ruining it. And by 'we' I mean the whole human race, including all of us who are caught up in this present consumer way of life.


Is this a wake up call for us?

The Apostle Peter writes, "I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and the command given by our Lord and Saviour…. Long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men." (2 Peter 3.2, 5-7) It was Isaiah the prophet who had said, "See, the Lord is coming with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind: he will bring down his anger with fury, and rebuke with flames of fire." (Isaiah 66.15)

So, how are we to pray?

First, for repentance, for ourselves and the whole human race, that God will reveal to us our own over-indulgence, our greed, our wastefulness, areas in our lives in which we each need to change; that God will teach us to seek and find our rest and satisfaction in him, and not in the passing pleasures and distractions that so dominate our lives today.

Second, that God will send revival, here in our own country and throughout the world, not only to save souls, but to save the planet.

"Lord, send you Holy Spirit. Lift up the holy Name of Jesus, the Saviour of the World. Turn the hearts of the peoples back to you, O God our Creator and Redeemer, that we may follow your ways, control our appetites, and live in harmony with Nature and with one other."


Lastly, we do need to be aware that this world is not going to last forever, that one day the Lord Jesus will come again, and that we shall all have to give an account of how we have lived our lives and what we lived them for. Those words of Peter were paraphrased in an old hymn: "God gave Noah the rainbow sign: no more water, the fire next time." We need to be ready for that day, whenever it comes, to make our peace with God and re-order our lives now – before it is too late. Perhaps these wild-fires and heat-waves are a wake up call for us all.

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