"Go to the ant... consider its ways and be wise!" Proverbs 6.6
Last night we watched a charming film called 'My Octopus Teacher'. It traces the friendship between Craig Foster, a South African wildlife photographer, and a wild octopus whom he befriends in the ocean off the shore where he lives near Cape Agulhas. Foster returns every day for a year of the octopus' life and wins its confidence, gaining privileged access to the ups and downs of its life: how it hunts, how it survives attack by a pyjama shark (growing back the limb it loses) and, in a bitter-sweet climax, how it starves itself to death in the natural process of giving birth.
It is not a religious film and there is no evidence of Foster's faith commitment, or if he has one at all. But its ethos is consistent with the biblical injunction that the natural world has much to teach us - about ourselves and how we thrive in relationship with our environment and, the believer would go on to say, with the Creator of us all. It is a theme taken up by Steve Aisthorpe's in his second book, 'Rewilding the Church', which I have just started.
Steve explains that the process of rewilding is not simply about a return to nature but also involves rooting out invasive species. Applying this ecological strategy to church life, he wonders what it would look like if Christians rooted out all the habits and attitudes, which are not really germane to biblical faith but have crept in over the years, and then refocused on following Jesus. Along the way, Steve points out that rewilding is not about turning the clock back but rather about allowing the natural order to flourish, now purged of those invasive species. In other words its a strategy for the future rather than the recovery of a golden age that never was.
As we wrestle with the prospect of another lock-down and continue the struggle with the aftermath of the last one, we need this kind of fresh thinking. While past experience has much to teach us, surely we want to go forward and not backwards? And to do this we need each other - not just our fellow human beings but our creaturely neighbours on land and in the air and sea as well - so that we have a planet worth striving for as we emerge. As "stewards of creation" we are responsible - and answerable to the Creator, who is also the Redeemer of it all and the Judge of each one of us!