RECTOR’S RUMINATIONS FOR EASTERTIDE 2012
“The Resurrection of the Earth”
We often miss the obvious in hearing and reading the Bible.
Consider the following:
John 3:16, what Luther called the “Gospel in miniature,” “For God so loved the world that He gave his only son…” God so loved the world, not just one species, homo sapien sapien. Or consider the next verse, John 3:17, “Indeed God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Salvation for and of the world – Father Wendell Berry makes the point, “The well-being of the earth is primary. Human well-being is derivative…only in a viable natural world can there be a viable human world.” Consider Matthew 6:10, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” No resurrection to heaven without resurrection of the earth. Again from Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Redemption as inheritance made incarnational. Continuing the incarnational aspect of resurrection and redemption (the two are inseparable) is John 1:10, “He was in the world and the world came into being through him…” Again John 12:24, “….unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” No earth, no fruit.
Or some of the best theology of St. Paul in his letter to the Romans, Romans 8:22, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.” Yes, Paul, and continues to groan more audibly in the present. Romans 8:19-21, “For creation waits with eager longing…for creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Hope for the redemption, salvation, and resurrection of creation itself. Again, the incarnation – resurrection connection in Romans 1:20, “Ever since the creation of the world, his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.”
And finally as we await the resurrection of the earth, consider 2 Peter 3:13, “…in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.” And concluding with the hope in the final book of the New Testament, Revelation 21:1, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…”
Shifting to the Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures, we find the need for the resurrection of the earth – Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth…” and the charge to us to be co-creators in Leviticus 25:23-24, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants. Throughout the land that you hold, you shall provide for the redemption of the land.” Or in the words of the Psalmist, Psalm 89:11, “The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours, the world and all that is in it – you have founded them.” And the call to us again as co-creators, co-redeemers of the earth from Isaiah, 65:17, “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth…”
Some related thoughts for us this Eastertide: Heaven and earth are finally inseparable; the Cosmic God and Cosmic Christ create, inhabit and redeem all of creation. We must not ignore our responsibility as co-creators to redeem, resurrect and recycle the earth as central to Easter. Easter is not a passport from a world we are destroying to a heaven that awaits only humans. John Hall’s provocative book, The Steward, states it succinctly:
Christianity is under God’s judgment for having departed from the Hebraic belief that matter and the earth are good, and for having accepted the idea of spiritual salvation in a world beyond without regard to what happens to the earth now or in the future…contrary to the retreat from the world into which we have been seduced by our failure at mastering it, stewardship challenges us to serve responsibly as those committed to creation.
How is that we overlook the obvious in the Bible. Perhaps because we fail to read and understand another scripture: the earth itself. Jane Blewett, a theologian notes that the “Scripture of the Earth” was lost as a result in the separation of science and religion in the 16th and 17th centuries and the period of the Enlightenment that followed. Earth became divorced from its religious significance and emerged as a machine, an object to be taken apart, ripped open, dug into, manipulated, twisted and turned, for human use and disposal. In short, the scripture of technology replaced the Scripture of the Earth.
Technology is obviously not all bad but when we reduce the earth and the cosmos to the scripture of technology, we fail to see, according to Blewett, that the earth creates an interplay of its life support systems, through its biology, chemistry, hydrology, geology; through its tectonic plates, belching volcanoes, melting ice caps, tempestuous winds, through the breathing of trees and the laughter of humans…”
The earth scripture reveals that the earth is also a community, our most basic community. Our existence, what we eat, what we wear, what we inhabit are all supplied by the earth. St. Francis captured this notion of the primacy of the earth as our community and extended family in calling the sun, moon, fire and water, brother and sister. Hildegarde, a century earlier, named the earth “mother of all.” Sallie McFague, Professor of Theology at Vanderbilt builds on this notion in her book, Models of God in calling the earth, “God’s Body.” She advocates the view of Martin Buber’s famous distinction between I-Thou and I-It – the difference between an aesthetic and a utilitarian perspective, between one that appreciates the other (all others) and one that merely uses the other. Said differently, we personify and anthropomorphize God as “Father.” We need to do the same with God incarnate in the earth as “Mother,” “friend,” “companion,” “fellow creature.” Which suggests that we consider the earth as a living organism not to be worshipped but to be loved, cared for, respected, resurrected and redeemed. In short, the creation is the Creator incarnate. Harming the earth heaps contempt on the creator.
Having called for a Resurrection of the earth, I conclude with an invitation and return to where I began these ruminations with scripture.
First, during this Eastertide, pray for and reflect on how we can as co-creators, redeem creation.
Second, as we come to Pentecost and the longest season of the church year, the “green season” that follows The Day of Pentecost, how we might as individuals and as a Church family be agents of God in the resurrection of the earth.
And a final Easter acclamation from Isaiah 6:3 to guide us:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of god’s glory.”
With joyous wishes for a blessed Eastertide,