Every Common Bush Afire by Revd Richard Clarkson

Every Common Bush Afire

Revd Richard Clarkson

Creationtide Week Four

This is the fourth week of a series of daily reflections for the Season of Creationtide (which runs from September 1st to October 4th).  For those of you who are doing this sequentially, you should start this week on Saturday 22nd September 2018. These reflections offer opportunities for reflection and response each day.  They are not written with the purpose of convincing the reader that the world was indeed created by the God of the Bible.  Instead, it will look in a variety of ways at what it might mean to live within that created world, to help the reader to reflect on their place and role in the world that God has made, and to let that inform their faith.  The daily reflections will draw on a range of writers, thinkers, poets and storytellers from across the Christian tradition. To read more of Richard’s reflections go to the special Creationtide page.

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There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. (Exodus 3:2)

Moses had, by this point, lived and worked in the wilderness for decades. A burning bush would not have been anything out of the ordinary and yet he was attuned enough to his environment to recognise that there was something unusual going on here. It is in stopping and looking that he is able to encounter the living God.

Maximus the Confessor, the 7th century monk and theologian, saw the forty years in the wilderness as a kind of preparation for Moses for this one encounter.  Moses’ familiarity with his environment enabled him ‘to see and hear…the divine fire that exists…within the essence of things’. God is present in all of his creation, Maximus is saying, but we can only see that divine fire when we are ready to look.

The Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning made a similar point in her poem Aurora Leigh: ‘Earth’s crammed with heaven’, she says, ‘and every common bush afire with God;  but only he who sees takes off his shoes, the rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.’

This is far from being Pantheism, where everything is God, though it often faces that criticism.  Rather it is Panentheism—where God may be found in everything without all things becoming God.  This is a tension that Maximus and his contemporaries were perhaps able to hold more lightly than we are today.  How often do we miss what God is doing because we are not ready, or willing to see it?  If we can but open our eyes then we too may see God in the holy ground of all Creation.

How will you open your eyes to the ‘divine fire that exists within the essence of things’ today?

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Rev. Rich Clarkson is Rector of five rural parishes in North Shropshire. He has degrees in Physics and Theology and recently completed his Master’s dissertation on Nature Contemplation in the writing of Maximus the Confessor. He is a member of the Lichfield Diocese Environmental Group, a JRI associate – and dad to three wild boys!