Let us pray. O God, I am humbled that you chose to come to Earth, to set foot in our human frame, live a human life, and die a human death; all for the sake of redeeming us to yourself. O God, I pray you would teach us, in the innermost parts of our beings, how we can be true to your Kingdom and your incredible love for us. Amen.
In the midst of this past year’s Holy Week, another event passed us by with only the merest nod of recognition: Earth Day. What does Earth Day have to do with the Resurrection?” Everything.
When God became incarnate in Jesus Christ and became part of the “stuff of earth,” God became one with the “stuff of earth,” and all humanity. This, to heal and restore all that was in need of redemption. Being one with the “stuff of earth,” as Jesus rose from death to life, so all of creation rose with him, being reborn into a new creation, a new heaven, a new earth. 2 Corinthians 5:19 tells us, “God was in the world reconciling the world.” Likewise in the first chapter of Colossians, we find an early hymn praising Jesus Christ, the firstborn of creation, the firstborn from the dead, through whom God was pleased to reconcile all things, whether on Earth or in heaven.
We can join God in that good work. In fact, we must. We are, as the Apostle Paul tells us, heirs with Christ, adopted sons and daughters of God. We cannot sit idly by secure in the saving grace of Christ acting passively on our lives ensuring our place in the Kingdom of Heaven. As today’s Gospel reading tells us, upon appearing to the disciples, “Jesus said to them, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’” This, Jesus speaks clearly to them from beyond the resurrection. Recalling all we know from the accounts of the Gospel writers, this sending is a call to action, not an entrance into an elite social club.
Beyond the Resurrection. Just what, exactly, does that mean? It means we, too are living on the other side of the most extraordinary event in the history of the world, the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead. As the common lectionary for the rest of the year would tell us though the Gospel of Matthew, the Kingdom of Heaven is not a future thing, to be had after the passing of this life. It is a here and now reality, both in the present and in the here-to-come. It is very much present and visible by what we do now, how we act toward one another and the earth upon which we live, tending it as God’s caretakers.
Our actions directly proclaim whose we are and to whom we owe allegiance-in fact, to whom we owe our very lives, and to what ultimate reality we pledge ourselves in fealty. If you have not pledged yourself fully to Christ and His Kingdom, I would urge you to deeply reflect on the manner of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection; all for the sake of reconciling us to God though Christ’s death on the cross. Yes, Christ died for you, for me, and the whole of creation. Christ also rose for you, for me, and for the renewing of the Earth.
New Testament scholar J. Christiaan Berker writes, “The church is not an elite body, separated from a doomed world; but a community placed in the midst of the cosmic community of creation….” As that resurrection community, we have been adopted as God’s own. Indeed, our relationship with God, with each other, and with creation is all part of the same fabric. Pull any one thread and the whole piece begins to unravel; but weave ourselves into the resurrection pattern of the cosmos, and we become a living quilt en-wrapping all whom we touch with the love of God.
Our reading from 1 Peter reminds us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead….” In the words of Deitrich Bonhoffer, “[it is] from the resurrection of Christ that a new and purifying wind can blow through our present world…. If only a few people really believed that and acted on it in their daily lives, a great deal would be changed. To live in the light of resurrection, that is what Easter means.”
Beyond the resurrection, rooted in action, we find our place as God’s chosen people. The resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s great victory over sin and death, is a pledge and sign not only of our own resurrection, but also of God’s promised redemption for the whole earth.
It is up to us as representatives of the Kingdom of Heaven to enact the ethic of that Kingdom with our very lives, to live in that resurrection hope. It is an ethic that is nothing short of advocacy for all the world’s people, the hungry, the malnourished, the homeless, the oppressed, the Earth itself upon which all life depends, and those created beings that have no voice but our own to speak for them.
For us, living so many years away from that momentous event that took place in a tomb in Palestine, we sometimes forget how interconnected we are with all of creation’s redemption. We live in a complex society of advanced technological abilities; the reality for us in our context is we are faced with incredible challenges if we are to truly live out the Gospel to all people — even more so if we take the full message of Christ to heart and live enacting the Kingdom of Heaven in communion with one another, all peoples, and the whole of creation.
In our homes, in our times of recreation, at our places of work, and in our congregations, we can begin to model the kind of love and care for the Earth that God has for us and all creation. Think about your life choices and how they can reflect being an active member of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. For we are called to nothing less. Echoing the words of 1 Peter: “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” And that is living beyond the resurrection.
Let us pray: May all glory be unto the One who lived, who died, who rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen.