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Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Eastertime Reflections
distributed 4/13/01 - ©2001

This weekend, we participate again in the great drama and high holy days of the Christian year. We proclaim the saving work of God in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

As with so much of our faith, many of us have soaked up our Easter theology and doctrine from the hymns we sing. We know those great songs about as well as we know the Bible stories of the resurrection.

As I page through various hymnals, I'm struck by the pervasive sense in those songs that Easter is for us -- for humanity, and especially for the faithful. The personal aspects of atonement are lifted up (as they should be!), but the cosmic side of redemption is almost invisible.

The Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) has an interesting Easter hymn which reminds us that God's act of reconciliation in the resurrection has significance for all of creation. Interestingly, the words are drawn from a source that dates back 1400 years to the end of the sixth century.

The first verse of "Hail Thee, Festival Day!" includes these lines:

All the fair beauty of earth
      from the death of the winter arising!
Every good gift of the year
      now with its master returns:
Rise from the grave now, O Lord,
      the author of life and creation.

Christ is master of the verdant, springtime growth of nature. As Paul wrote to the church in Rome, "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves."

As the Gospel of John proclaims, "God so loved the cosmos that he gave his only begotten son." At Easter, and always, the Church will do well to remember that the love of God reaches out to encompass and restore all of creation.

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This week, a pastor told me that, for Earth Day, she plans to use the lectionary text from John. She wrote, "I decided that I would take the theme from Matthew Fox with his notion of the crucifixion of Mother Earth. How to get from doubting Thomas to that will be interesting."

A connection sprang to my mind that brings the two themes together.

The April 9 issue of Time Magazine had a 16-page special section on Global Warming: the science, economics, technology, and especially the politics. The cover says, "All over the earth we're feeling the heat. Why isn't Washington?"

I listen to the words of Thomas ("Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my fingers in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe"), and I hear contemporary echoes of his voice in those who seek absolutely definite proof of climate change before they will believe.

More to the point of the biblical story, and the modern case, is what happens once we are confronted by proof, once we do come to belief. Encountering new realities should be transformational. Thomas doubted, but once he came to believe he proclaimed, "My Lord and my God!"

What I see in the current crucifixion of Mother Earth is a different story. We -- yes, even George W. Bush -- have come to believe the proof of climate change offered by science. Few credible authorities can now deny the human impact on our global climate. But we are not transformed. In the face of proof, our president protects the economy, not life. Polls of the American public show that 75% see climate change as a major problem, but those same people will rebel if they have to pay 25 cents more for a gallon of gas.

Are we, like Thomas, capable of being converted and transformed, or will we continue to crucify and destroy, even when we know what we're doing?

The resurrection of Jesus is an unprecedented event that brings good news into the world. The story of Thomas shows that believing in what has already happened is transformational.

The human impacts on the Earth's climate are unprecedented. The change is real; the evidence is all around us. The good news in this case can only come when we do believe, in our hearts as well as our heads, and when we are transformed in our individual and collective lives.

Eighteen US states are now participating in the Climate Change Initiative of the National Council of Churches. Religious congregations are joining together in an interfaith effort to speak theologically about this great threat to our planet. The initiative calls for transformation on many levels: personal and political, economic and technological. How appropriate it is for faith communities to take the lead in such an effort.

Shalom!

Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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