It was in Rochdale that I truly learned to hate litter.
Stakehill Lane would have been lovely. My path there was once was crossed by a mother weasel followed by five little kits (don’t be too impressed – I’ve just googled to find the right name). However, such was the quantity of casual litter I invariably felt a sense of anger and tried to avoid the area. I realized that such litter was despoiling a beautiful creation, a sin against God himself.
Even here in Ormskirk, I would rather walk down on the road than take the leafy footpath from Ormskirk bus station to the railway station.
For it’s not just the litter itself – it what it represents, the wanton disregard and selfishness of those who casually dispose of their empty bottles and whatever else.
Myself I would have all those who toss litter shot on sight – but should you think me extreme, only after a shouted warning.
So I was delighted to hear the news on Wednesday of BBC newsreader Alice Arnold. After watching a “thoughtless lout” throw a plastic bottle out of a car window, she simply picked it up and threw it back at them. Wonderful.
In both my personal BRF Bible reading and in our church weekly themes I am working my way through Galatians. Today, chapter 3. Here in v13 Paul teaches that the crucified Jesus willingly became a curse for us.
The apostle explains this with reference to Deuteronomy 21:23 which describes an executed criminal whose body is displayed on a gibbet.
“You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.”
A dead body on a cross and litter on the ground – huge difference of scale, of course, but the same category as a sin against the ground/earth, a descration of the land.
As with everything else, the resurrection of Jesus changes everything.
In his Easter sermon in 2009 Bishop Tom Wright begins with Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem “Let Beauty awake!”
Let beauty awake in the morn from beautiful dreams, Beauty awake from rest!
Let Beauty awake
For Beauty’s sake
In the hour when the birds awake in the brake And the stars are bright in the west!
Wright teaches that God’s new creation is one of extraordinary beauty initiated by the victory of Jesus. But we as the first fruits of God’s new creation are now called to bring this beauty to where it is now absent or concealed. “Beauty matters,” writes Wright, “dare I say, almost as much as spirituality and justice.” ‘Surprised by Joy’ page 233.
So I religiously (right word) pick up litter when I can, especially between the vicarage and the church.
And I was even more encouraged by the Noise last Saturday, when our young people led by Jonathan spent the day picking up a huge quantity of litter. Guess where? The path between the bus station and Ormskirk railway station.
An act of public service, of course. But much more, anticipating the beauty of God’s new creation by doing something here and now in Christ’ name – to contest ugliness so that beauty prevails. For when we enjoy our environment we appreciate God himself. It’s how we are made.