What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: ‘There is no one who is righteous, not even one; there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.’ ‘Their throats are opened graves; they use their tongues to deceive.’ ‘The venom of vipers is under their lips.’ ‘Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.’ ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery are in their paths, and the way of peace they have not known.’ ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’ Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For ‘no human being will be justified in his sight’ by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
Today’s Scripture reading offers a damning assessment of humanity. But these words have a chilling resonance when we read it in the context of today’s news headlines.
The damage to the environment speaks for itself. Plastic waste drifts ashore on remote Pacific islands, micro-fibres are blowing on the winds in the Pyrenees, and sweet wrappers have been found in the ocean depths. We even have a growing junk problem in low-Earth orbit threatening human space flight and satellite operations.
We have sought to exercise mastery over nature and tainted the world around. It seems that even the ends of the earth are stained with the damage of human excess.
In his essay The Abolition of Man C S Lewis writes that we do not just seek to control the natural world. We also seek to control the metaphysical world – the spiritual space around us. We dictate the terms that we will relate to God. We have even declared that God is dead. We are trying to be masters of our reality and damaging the sacred spaces in the process.
So how should we travel through the physical and spiritual sacred spaces around us? The prophet Micah offers us a simple rule of thumb. “The Lord has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6.8)
Creator God, please forgive us for holding such misplaced illusions of self-grandeur. May we walk through these lands remembering that they were crafted by your hands. May we remember that the Heavens are your domain, and we can only enter by your gracious invitation. Help us to treat each other with the dignity that you have bestowed on all humanity. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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