This week cobwebs, and what they catch, have been catching my attention, and leading me on a web of ideas and reflections.

 

Firstly my attention was drawn to a cobweb on the outside of one of my windows. A lot of thistledown has been blowing across my garden, and the cobweb had caught a considerable amount of it. For several days, I had a very fluffy cobweb outside the window, until the wind eventually blew it into a fluffy blob in the corner of the window instead. And secondly, I released a honey bee from a cobweb where it had apparently been trapped overnight. I placed it in a safe, sunny spot on some flowers, not knowing whether or not it would survive its ordeal.

 

Strangely for me, it was the cobwebs I found myself reflecting on, rather than the bee. As I watched the first cobweb blowing in the breeze, I was struck by its apparent beauty and fragility, and I reflected on how misleading such an image is, since spiders’ silk is one of the strongest materials we know; for its weight it has about five times the strength of steel. Then I mused on the legend I learned as a child of Robert the Bruce famously learning persistence from watching a spider building a web. That led me to reflect on the place that the natural world has had throughout history in story and legend. Every culture seems to have its accounts of people learning from creatures and characteristics they observe in the natural world. And, in our present crisis, I have heard many examples of people turning to nature to bring mental well-being, or to relieve boredom, or to re-evaluate long-held attitudes and behaviours.

 

The Bible too is full of natural imagery, much of which has passed into Christian tradition. A constant theme throughout the Bible is God’s care for the natural world, and how the natural world is both created and loved by God, and capable of revealing God. For the ancient Israelites, living next to Lake Galilee with its unpredictable weather patterns, the sea and all that is in it represented all that was dangerous and fearful. Imagery of the ancient Israelites as a vine planted and tended by God, or as sheep cared for by God the Shepherd, is very common. Many of Jesus’ parables are woven through with pictures drawn from the natural landscape. And weather and landscape images such as storms or desert appear regularly throughout the Bible and Christian history to describe life events.

 

  • Reflect on a time when something in the natural world has helped you understand yourself or a situation.

  • How is the way you treat the natural world influenced by the way nature is portrayed in your faith or your ideology?

 

Prayer for the week - 15th May 2020

 

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