As we approach Earth Day (Monday 22 April), the largest civic-focused day of action in the world, the Environmental Coordinator for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Canon Rachel Mash, poses a challenge for Christians and makes connections with the Easter story.
If the Easter story is the central truth of our Christian faith, then how does that help us understand the fate of our Earth? How do the Easter themes of death and resurrection speak to the present peril of our planet?
The Earth is dying. In my life-time we have wiped out 60 per cent of wild animals from the face of the earth. Before I die, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Since I was born, we have pumped so much carbon pollution into the atmosphere that we have already significantly worsened the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
We must begin with confession and lament. With Jesus, we must walk to the cross, experiencing the pain of loss and suffering, hearing the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. We must lament the mortal wounds which are destroying the web of life. We must confess our guilt: our offences against those most vulnerable on this earth, as well as our theft from generations to come. We weep because we love the Earth, the creatures and humans who are suffering from the damage we have done. Deep in our souls we must feel the groaning of creation (Rom 8:22).
Our hearts are broken as Jesus dies on the cross. . . “God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son” John 3:16.
We have often misunderstood these words to mean that God loved only the people of the world, and it is for humans alone that Jesus came. But the word for world in the original Greek is “cosmos”. God loved the Cosmos so much that he sent his son to die, to bear our suffering and the pain of the whole web of life.
For Christians, the despair and darkness of Good Friday are not the final word. Jesus, the Word of Life, overcomes death. At the heart of our faith is resurrection, redemption and new life. The groaning of creation is not a hopeless pain, but is described as the groaning of child-birth when agony gives way to new life.
The Bible tells us of the “New Earth”. This is not another Earth in a different place. There is no Planet B. God promises us that this very Earth will be renewed. We are part of Gods redemptive plan, sadly we have almost delayed too long and the renewed Earth may bear scars just as Jesus’ body did.
Creation is waiting for us to act, creation is standing on tiptoe for the children of God to be revealed (Rom 8:19). It is time to rise up and act, remembering that we are co-creators with God; we are called to renew this, our common home.
We are not chaplains administering the last rites to a dying Earth. We are midwives to the new Creation.
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