God is Green
Happy Easter, everybody!
A week ago we had a little surprise at our house: no hot water. When I checked out the water heater, it was leaking slightly, so I knew it had to be replaced, which fortunately we got done the next day. But even a brief time without hot water reminded us of what a lovely luxury it is – hot showers loosen the tension in my back and help me wake up in the morning! Clean, fresh water is a great gift of Creation that it’s easy to take for granted.
Many of us grew up saying grace before meals, reminding us of the goodness of God’s creation:
“God is great and God is good….”
Even as children, this prayer helped us remember that God’s Creation is good – very good – and gives us both life itself, and much joy. Everybody loves food; it is a natural channel for our gratitude. Water and food – two blessings we might take for granted, but in the rest of the world they are still precious privileges.
This Easter, coming so close to Earth Day, I propose a new prayer for us – a prayer not just for food, but for the whole Creation:
Every Easter we hear the story of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, showing that God wants to bring new life out of death. God demonstrated that in Jesus; God wants to redeem and save each of us. No past sin, failure, or mistake can change God's love for us, God’s desire for us to be alive, and joyful, and whole. Whatever you think cannot be forgiven or overcome, God can transcend. If God can raise the dead to life, God can vanquish our human sins and offenses.
But this year, I want to focus on a broader picture: the redemption, the salvation of the whole Creation. Christianity teaches that God not only loves each and every human being, but God loves the world, the earth, the cosmos. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son….” Jesus comes not just to save individual humans from our brokenness; Jesus is the Christ of Creation who brings renewal to the whole world and all its creatures.
St. Paul writes in Romans 8 about his “hope 21that 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. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves.” Our salvation is tied up with the salvation of the whole earth.
Springtime in Washington helps us see how overwhelmingly beautiful this gift is – all Creation springing forth into life: a riot of colors, textures, fragrances, and a green everywhere: such an intense, vivid green. We are really blessed to live where each season (with the possible exception of winter) is such a display of God’s handiwork!
Back when the world was new, Adam and Eve were set up in a beautiful Garden – a symbol of all that is good in Creation. But they rebelled against God’s rule. (Human beings don’t seem to like to be told what to do.) God sent them away from the beautiful garden of Eden: they were alienated from the earth. Genesis tells us that God cursed the earth itself because of human sin. Since then, we have become alienated from the very world we live in. We have used the earth, not as a cherished home, but as a cash-cow we could exploit. We all know that the earth is sick now – staggering under the weight of human exploitation and abuse, just as surely as Jesus staggered under the weight of his heavy cross.
In the resurrection story, you noticed that Mary is mistaken when she first sees Jesus. She doesn’t recognize Jesus. She thinks he is the gardener. Well, I’ve come to believe that he is! He is God’s gardener, bringing forth life from the earth.
I’m not much of a gardener, (I have a very brown thumb), though I really wish I were, especially as I get older. I’m working on it. Connecting with the earth, and participating in God’s giving growth, moves me more and more. I enjoy the simple things, like a few flowers by the front door, and around the back patio. I love the sound of a swiftly flowing stream of fresh, cool water, kicking up a spray that catches the sunlight. A brisk walk with the dogs (dogs are another sign that God loves us).
Maybe this Easter, we could think of our lives as a garden, and ourselves as junior gardeners – God’s apprentices, so to speak. How can we bring beauty into our own lives, and into the lives of those around us? How can we better tend our earthly home – from picking up litter, to reducing our energy use? What garden tools might we need? Well, a rake to clean out what is old and dead. A shovel to dig holes to plant God’s new tree of life. And most of all, we need the fellowship of other gardeners, to encourage and teach one another – I have a lot to learn! We can think of the church as a garden club – where all are welcome to join in celebrating and tending God’s creation.
I am quite sure that a clean, green earth is God’s vision, God’s preferred future for our world. God has immense power to bring new life out of death, but humanity must cooperate; we must partner with God in tending the Garden we have been given. We may not live in Eden, but that doesn’t mean our earthly home cannot be beautiful, fragrant, and supportive of all kinds of life.
This Easter, God is bringing new life, both to us as individuals, and to the whole earth. And God wants us as partners – to be God’s junior gardeners to help till, plant, nourish, and enjoy the fruits of the earth – fresh water, wonderful foods, beautiful flowers and foliage. This is both a gift, and a challenge to us. Together, we can work with God for the salvation, the rebirth of the earth.
God is great, and God is green. Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!