This year Easter is sandwiched between Crucifixion and Creation. The Friday before Easter, as always, is Good Friday – the day we remember the crucifixion of God, the rending of the Divine Love of the Holy Trinity, as the Son cries out to the Father, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” This year, the Monday after Easter is Earth Day. As Christians, this day calls for us to consider the suffering of God that happens as a result of the destruction of the gracious works of God – the creation itself. There is a juxtaposition of the suffering of the person of God and the suffering of the works of God on either side of the promise of life.
John’s gospel tells us of “the Word” that exists before all things, that created all things. Jesus is “The Word made flesh” and on Good Friday is nailed to a cross (John 1:14). Through that same “Word made flesh” John says, “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” (John 1:3) When creation is degraded and destroyed by over-consumption, greed, addiction to comfort or whatever, the works of Christ are destroyed.
It is pretty easy for me to delude myself into thinking that I had (or have) no role in the crucifixion of Jesus; that it was “those” ancient people who were too afraid, too comfortable, to uninformed, too busy, too self-absorbed to choose God over Caesar. Yet, I wonder if today it isn’t all those same things that keep us from caring for the earth, tending God’s works – we are just “too” – something. It seems to me you can kill someone off either by killing their body or destroying their work. Maybe that is true of God as well. Nailing Christ to the cross and filling the oceans with plastic, the air with dirt, the ground with pesticides is all the same thing – sin. And it all causes God to suffer at our hands.
The Resurrection tells us that God will not be so easily removed from the human condition; God will not give up on this sorry human project; that humanity does not get the final word – that belongs to God; it is God. In the promise of resurrection, we find a God willing to forgive even divinicide. A crucified God will not stay dead!
What of the degradation of creation? We must never give in to despair because God’s promise to “make all things new” (Revelation 21:5) is grounded in the resurrection itself. That is not a license to sit idly by and wait for God to do something, nor a free pass from the consequences of assaulting our neighbor – the creation. The judgment for our destructive bent toward all life is perhaps inevitable. Joseph Sittler, a prophetic Lutheran voice in the care of creation said, “The reprisals of God’s creation against its abuse may be slow and invisible for generations, but God is just. Sooner or later nature reacts against its exploitation.” He said that in the 1960’s – I’m not sure things are so slow and invisible today. There will be suffering as a result of our actions, and many -perhaps most – will suffer.
As we stand looking upon the crucified body of Jesus and listen deeply to the groaning creation (Romans 8:22) as it longs for redemption, we can make a new beginning in hope; hope grounded in a God who suffers with us and because of us and then shows us the love of resurrection. Sittler again: “God’s creations in the world are his voice, appealing to you and to me not only to join all people of good will in doing what intelligent things we ought to do about the creation, but one thing especially: to love the world and care for it to the glory of God.”
Pax Christi, Tim Olson – Lead Pastor
Joseph Sittler quotes are from The Eloquence of Grace:Joseph Sittler and the Preaching Life, ed. James Childs and Richard Lischer, Cascade Books, October 2012 – Kindle Edition (p 78 & 82)
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