"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day... of course, what else would today be?

So today is Earth Day.  There's a lot of hoorah in Christian circles, ranging from eye-rolling to utterly put out, that Secular Society has exchanged the darkest day on the Christian calendar for Earth Day.   How dare they usurp "our" holiday with their neo-pagan pantheism secular-humanism environazi tripe! 

Now I'm all for good stewardship as an act of Christian living.  I keep my lightbulbs incandescent (no mercury, baby), my laundry natural (and line dried when weather permits), my garden organic, and my car as fuel efficient as possible.  Mostly because I think God did a fine job creating nature, and I like to keep it as much as he intended, heck just for my own well being and pleasure as much as any other, but also because I'm Scottish and therefore somewhat stereotypically cheap.

And if EnviroPaganism wants a holiday, I don't care when or where they schedule it...  as long as they don't expect me to drop everything, hop into my carbon emitting vehicle, and waste my precious time joining them. 

Today, for that "other" holiday happening concurrently, my parish read through the entire Gospel of John during the course of the liturgy.  I admit, I don't often take the leisure to sit down and read an entire Gospel (though I have read all four Gospels in totality more than a few times, fear not!) and it is even more rare that I have the leisure to sit and, aside from taking my own turns at the lectern, hear the Gospel read out loud.

John is a thematic writer, light and dark, Jesus' divinity, the Son's agency, Jewish idenity, fulfillment of the Law.  There are plenty of identifiable themes.  But the theme that most struck me today was the difference between the earth man and the God-man.

Jesus tells the earth -man that he will see angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.  For the Jesus himself is the stairway between heaven and earth (think Jacob at Beth-el).  Angels must ascend from the earth before they can descend and make themselves useful in God's mission.  Likewise no earth-man has ascended, seen God.  The man of the earth is bound to the earth, he comes from the earth (Genesis) returns to the earth, and doesn't seem to have any variation on the theme in between. 

The earth-man stares in wonder, we do not know where this Jesus comes from.  Of course not, earth-man can have no experience of non-earth.  Earth man does not know where Jesus comes from because he can only name geographic locations and the names of other earth-bound creatures.  How could Jesus, who we know comes from Galilee be the Messaiah?  We aren't supposed to know where the Messiah comes from?  How could Jesus, whose mother and father we know, be the mysterious savior... unless of course there is something in him we cannot see through earth colored lenses. 

Earth-man thinks death is the end of this Jesus, to kill the body, humiliate... this will get rid of him and make sure no one cares to follow in his footsteps.  This, this will quelch all hope.

Today Earth-man still strives for his victories.  His religion is still one of deeds, drink from this cup (no not the styrofoam one), reduce, reuse, recycle.  Follow our laws of overpriced enviro-consumerism.  Be greener than your neighbor.  And so earth man celebrates (some celebration) "Earth Day"...

With an hour of darkness....
A rally....
A washable coffee cup...
a reusable grocery bag...

Knowing somewhere deep down that his futile efforts will not cheat death, there is no cure, and the meager remedies are really only a drop in the bucket, at worst hypocracy.  Earth-man's deity, savior, planet is seen as dying.

And that sounds really rather Christian.

Until one realizes that Earth-man's planet has no hope of resurrection.  Death is death and the dead stay dead.

Some celebration.

But God incarnate does not stay dead.  The Christian savior requires no saving from us.  Death, cross, humiliation, these are not the end of him.  For the earth cannot hold him, the grave must set him free. 

And the man he created of the earth itself is in his image, and the earth must set him free.

And the earth itself must indeed pass away, but not without hope.  For he who made it once will make it again, newer and unburdened from our sin and greed and death and pettiness, perfected and eternal.  Even the earth has hope of resurrection.

And God descended, without having first ascended because the earth does not bind him, it is neither source nor strength, but creation.  He descended that we might ascend, freed at last from the duties of imperfect earth.

And so on this day, while others celebrate earth day, we remember him who was "lifted up from the earth" in order to draw all people away from our earthliness and to himself.

I'll take the darkest day of Christianity over the starkest celebrations of Earth-bound man any time.  For we, Christians, are not as a people without hope....

1 comment:

  1. Tara -- thanks for this. I thought this piece from Fleming Rutledge was also quite good, on the same topic --

    http://ruminations.generousorthodoxy.org/2011/04/missing-message-of-cross-during-holy.html

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