Crucifixion & Creation

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.

dali st john crossJohn’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)

copyright © 2019, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

Living in a Loving Community

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection…rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; so not to claim to be wiser than you are.” – Romans 12:9, 15-16.

Paper chain neighborhood and familyThese words of Paul give us pause to contemplate our relationship with God, creation and each other this Lent.  Paul is describing the marks of a follower of Jesus, and I feel convicted.  Following Jesus is a matter of living life connected to each other; those with whom we worship, those in our neighborhoods and families and those across the oceans from us.  Our connection is made obvious in worship when we begin by turning to those on the other side of the aisle from us and confess along with everyone else, “that I have sinned by my own fault in thought, word and deed.”  I have sinned.  I am not surprised, but now I am thinking about it, and what that means. I have to take responsibility and realize that my actions or inactions have hurt another, that my actions or inactions have hurt creation, and that my sinful actions or inactions make God weep.

We live in a very individualistic world.  A world that says, “look out for number one” and promotes success at any cost.  The problem with individualism is that it sacrifices the experience of loving other people, it sacrifices rejoicing with them, for a “me” centered response of jealousy instead.

An individualistic world says that you need to pull yourself up by your own boot straps, and if you don’t then the problem is yours. In fact it may be their problem, but it might also be that they are not fortunate enough to have what is needed to pull themselves up.  The problem is also that Jesus doesn’t ask for us to analyze another person’s condition to determine their worthiness in our eyes.  They already are worthy and loved by God.  And God calls us to love. Period.

The Christian lives in community.  I had a seminary professor who stated quite clearly, that a person can’t be a Christian without living in community.  The two go together and are inseparable.  The Bible is about living in community.  When we live life with a focus on community, we see the world as including more that ourselves. The world is a lot bigger. The world is full of people who are also broken and in need of God’s forgiveness and healing, and God uses God’s people to bring that care and unity.    Confession opens the door for each of us to do a self-inventory of ourselves.  We see our actions can hurt others, creation and God.  Viewing the world through the eyes of one whose sins are forgiven by God leads us to being grace-filled with other people; loving without stipulation and forgiving without strings attached.  Living in community helps us to live humbly, knowing that the “Gift” the “Joy” of life is Jesus whose Spirit calls us to actions of love in response to the love we receive.

This year, our HTLC community almsgiving opportunity is to share God’s love with those throughout the world who are in need of food.  ELCA World Hunger Appeal gives these statistics on hunger:

Hunger facts

  • 821 million people around the world – that’s more than 1 in 10 – can’t access the food they need to live active, healthy lives. [1]
  • According to the most recent estimates, 736 million people live in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 per day. That’s 10% of the world’s population. [2]
  • At some point in 2017 (the most recent year available), more than 40 million people in the United States were unsure where their next meal might come from. [3]
  • 39.7 million Americans were living in poverty in 2017. For a family of four, this means their annual household income was below $25,094. [4]

The world is in need of loving actions to feed the hungry in the world.  We have just confessed in worship that there are times we are selfish and think only of ourselves.  But there are brothers and sisters in need, and our hearts once again become open to the Spirit’s work.

After we have admitted our sin before God and the worship community, we hear words of absolution and pardon from those on the other side of the worship aisle.  “Almighty God grant you healing, pardon and forgiveness of all your sins.  Amen”   We can start again!  The burden we carried is removed and we can try again at love, knowing it makes a difference because we are all connected.  We can live as community connected to all people.  We are all one, created by a God who is full of mercy, love and forgiveness.

Peace! – Pastor Pam Schroeder

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[1] )Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2018

[2] The World Bank, 2018

[3] USDA, 2018

[4] US Census Bureau, 2018

 

Grace Notes

Christians, especially Lutherans, believe that we exist; that we live; that we breathe; that we are saved by grace – the unmerited love of God revealed in Christ. Grace happens all the time, in each moment, in every place. For a specific group of us, it happens in and through the people and mission of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Ankeny, Iowa.

“Grace Notes” will be a way for the pastors, staff, and leaders of this congregation to communicate about the grace we witness and share with one another and with the world. We hope that this will be another way for us to communicate with each other as the body of Christ in this place and time. You can subscribe to Grace Notes to the right. We’ll be sharing it through social media, on the website, and the weekly ePistle. If you’d like us to talk about something in particular, drop us a note through this site. We’ll do our best!

Grace to you, and peace!

Pastor Tim Olson