Earth Day And Easter: Connecting The Dots

Christian churches after Easter Sunday use scripture readings that report appearances of the “risen Lord.” They also report how His followers tried to understand the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene, for example, sees a gardener and eventually recognizes the person as Jesus himself.

The passage suggests that He now can be seen in other people LIKE the gardener (and so calls contemporary readers to be attentive in recognizing His presence).

Another reading tells of two followers walking toward the village of Emmaus. A stranger joins them and renders an interpretation of scripture that opens their minds and hearts to realize it was Jesus himself accompanying them. They had eaten with Him, and recognized Him in the “breaking of bread.”

Post-resurrection stories refer to people on “the way” to some place, and casual readers miss the coded reference. “The Way” is how early Christians referred to their community–a community that was able to sustain its faith in their risen Lord by continuing to “break bread” at table, hear the “word of God” in scripture, and support one another in living as people of “the Way, the truth, and the life” (Jesus’ self-description).

Coming after Easter is “Earth Day”–a secular event first celebrated in 1970, and echoing an Easter imperative as old as Genesis–namely, the call to be good stewards of creation. Some might relegate scripture passages to study groups intended solely to provide therapy for people in need. However, the post-resurrection narratives–and the bible as a whole–constitute one clarion call for a discipleship that addresses concrete issues (such as environmental stewardship).

This involvement might seem to some as simply a question of cleaning up after a picnic. However, Christianized ecological activism can generate social friction. Often enough, it challenges those whose concerns are profit alone or self-interest of one kind or other. Laughably dismissed by some as merely a concern of “tree huggers,” care for the environment has roots in the dawn of humanity. Genesis recounts how our ancestors sought profit and self-interest, and this won their loss of Eden. Christian ecologists, resurrection-people impelled by the Holy Spirit, are committed to not repeating the mistake of those who earned that prehistoric, self-imposed exile.

In the Pacific is a vast area, larger than the state of Texas, which sees decades of refuse circulating with the currents. Castoff fishing-nets strangle turtles and suffocate whales, and if not addressed, the ocean might one day be just a gigantic, wet trash bin that kills diverse sea life, e.g., the whale who died from eating 64 pounds of trash–plastic bags, ropes, netting and even a plastic drum–clogging its intestines and stomach. This whale and other representatives of nature’s diversity have joined the northern male rhino, last of its kind, who died this past month.

Meanwhile, on land are one and a half acres of forest cut down every second–the “lungs of the world”— Amazon being one area that has fallen prey to corporate bulldozers. Twenty-eight thousand species likewise will become extinct in the next 25 years due to deforestation. This continuing disaster has taken a tragic toll over the centuries–creating deserts and giving self-inflicted wounds to generations of peoples and now-extinct life forms. Maronite Christian Kahlil Gibran well described the harvest of this behavior: “Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky. We fell them down and turn them into paper–that we may record our emptiness.” The Easter story addresses this void in countless ways–one being the stewardship-mandate that celebrates creation and restores it to fullness.

When Christian communities gather, in faith and in doubt, on “the way” back to their Creator, they seek to foster a deeper appreciation for the gift of their existence and that of all life forms. Naturalist Angela Martin described a kind of conversion experience when recounting what happened to her on a cold, November day when passing a flower garden. One flower remained–and was still lovely to behold (just as it had appeared during the summer months). Its mates were all faded and lifeless, but there it stood–somehow still holding out against the encroaching storms of winter.

Transfixed by its strength and beauty, Martin felt the flower was returning her gaze, and could not help but draw close to this special gift of nature. Words of gratitude welled up within her as she leaned down to express gratitude for its presence: “Thank you, for being with us these past months. You made my life a happier place, and I am sad in realizing you will soon be gone. I hope we meet again in another world where we will be able to understand one another’s language.” As Jane Goodall does with each tree she plants, Martin kissed goodbye her floral friend.

Sadly, some think little about the destructive trends cited above. Some have little use for the moving reflections generated by those who commune with nature. Fortunately, Christian discipleship entails stoking whatever sensitivity might still survive within the souls of the uncaring.

The above illustration points to the sort of attitudes that Christians strive to foster when gathering to break bread, hear of the hope their Risen Lord offers, and galvanize their effort to BE the Christian difference within all sectors of experience. Secular citizens can name a national observance “Earth Day,” but this acknowledgment is part-and-parcel of the post-resurrection identity that all Christians are called to incarnate.

Far more commentary can address this topic of Christian thought, ritual, and activism–so much so that “the whole world would not have room enough for the books that could be written” (John 21:25).