It has been a fascinating summer of travelling for the Furley-Smiths, with at least 5 European countries visited (Greece, Albania, France, Belgium and Germany) and the opportunity to meet lots of interesting people, from even more countries. Throughout the whole experience I remain amazed, particularly given my well-known inability to master any language other than my mother tongue that I have been able to communicate so well with so many people. That is largely due to their ability to understand and speak English but also because we have been able to communicate in ways that did not depend upon the spoken word. Communication took place through a jumble of expressions, smiles, shrugs and pointing. Whilst there were times it was frustrating, more often than not it was the cause of shared humor over the situation.
We do well to remember that language is not limited to the spoken or written word in matters of faith as well. Even though the Bible rightly has a treasured place in our tradition, let us not forget that the revelation of God is not limited to the written word. As the Word of God itself consistently reminds us, creation is an expression of God’s love for us. Nature is God’s ‘Word’ to us and it is a word we can all understand. This ‘word of love’ is available to all regardless of nationality, education, position or status.
We were fortunate on holiday in Greece to be on the North West coast of Corfu and each evening we sat in our favorite restaurant watching the sun set behind the neighboring islands. It was a moment of awe-inspiring beauty. Each evening, as the sun disappeared, there was a sense of wonder shared with all fellow diners. It was a very corporate act of celebration at the beauty and mystery of creation. All we needed was a quiet rendition of ‘The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended’ and the worship would have been complete.
Nature is a universal language. Nature is a tangible reality of God’s love. It speaks to our human longing and deepest desires. An awareness of our place within God’s creation can release us from self-preoccupation and release in us an awareness that we have a significant contribution to make within God’s plan of love. We thus become one with ourselves, we are one with our creator and one with all things created. In such an awareness is true joy realized and glory given to God.
This month we have two tangible ways to explore and express this truth. Firstly, we begin a new series of Sunday evening Bible studies entitled ‘God’s Green Book: seven Bible studies about the environment’. These will be held on the first Sunday evening of the month from September through to next March. Secondly, we celebrate Harvest Festival on Sunday, 27th September. I hope you will be encouraged to be part of both.
With love and prayers
Russell J Furley-Smith