Care of Creation Ecological Themes for Easter in Year A (2014)
An Overview by Dennis Ormseth
Jesus' refusal of the powers of the domininon of death is vindicated: raised from the dead, he opens up the dominion of life, again appropriately signaled by his appearance as "the gardener" to Mary Magdalene. As the reading from Jeremiah anticipates, he will "plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit." With the restoration of Zion, he shall reign from the mountain that is at the center of creation, and the mountain will give thanks, as the creation is released from the imperial structures which oppress God's people and all creatures.
Second Sunday of Easter
Quoting Psalm 16 in his Pentecost sermon, Peter proclaims the resurrection of Jesus as life in the presence of God, with glad heart and rejoicing tongue, living in hope with neither his soul abandoned to Hades nor his flesh experiencing corruption. God has made known to him "the ways of life." Resurrection life is clearly participation in the dominion of life. This life in hope, according to the reading from 1 Peter, is kept in heaven for us as "an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading." But it is also a present reality for his followers: breathing his spirit upon them and offering his wounded flesh to Thomas, Jesus confirms in them the hope of life lived in the presence of God.The significance of this eschatological destiny for care of creation is this: the destructive power of the dominion of death is already broken; the dominion of life for which the Servant of Creation gave his life will not only endure, but will grow strong within the creation as it is renewed by God's Spirit, until it is completed in God's own time.
Third Sunday of Easter
That the first recognition of the resurrected Jesus by his disciples in the Gospel of Luke occurs as he takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them, is of profound significance for the church's care of creation. As part of the course of repentance, baptism and reception of the Holy Spirit, and participation in life together established in the early community, the meal becomes a primary means of linking the presence of Jesus to participation in the dominion of life. The gathering, preparation and eating of food for the sustenance of not only human life, but also all living creatures, is a primary web of relationships within the creation. The meal accordingly anchors the community within that web, even as it renews their life in the presence of their risen Lord, and the unfailing grace of God.
Fourth Sunday of Easter
As a metaphor for the relationship between Jesus and his followers, the relation of shepherd and sheep is incomplete without reference to the pasture within which they live. So also is the actual relationship of Lord and church incomplete without reference to the places in which it is lived out. Human life needs a sustaining place in nature; a restored creation complements the fulfilled life in community. The sheep who were gone astray but now return enjoy the beauty and goodness in the dominion of life. Participants in the dominion of life will witness to this truth with respect to both the land for which they share responsibility as a congregation, and that for which they are individually stewards.
The Fifth Sunday of Easter
In his Farewell Discourse, Jesus speaks, as Moses before him, concerning how his disciples are to live in his absence. His promise is one of continued relationship that is only apparent absence. Again the relationship is given spacial location, now in terms of "many dwelling places" in his "Father's house." While this metaphor is commonly taken to mean "heaven," the model of the shepherd's pasture, and Moses' anticipation of future life in the land given to Abraham, Jesus' word to his disciples can be interpreted as comfort to those who will be displaced from that land and need to find God elsewhere. The"Father's house" with its "many rooms" is best seen, not as heaven, or at least not heaven alone, but heaven and earth, or the whole cosmos God so loved (John 3:16), and for the sake of which, as the reading from 1 Peter reminds us, God brings into being a "chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people" as witnesses to God's mighty acts. From such dwelling places the faithful will see visions of Jesus at the right hand of God, which sustain their courage for the struggle against the dominion of death.
Sixth Sunday of Easter
A second reading from the Farewell Discourse in concert with Paul's sermon to the Athenians serves to further extend the consideration of the location of God with respect to our ability to live in relationship to him. The community of those who love Jesus and so are loved by him and by "his Father" are caught up in the divine relationship of Father, Son and Spirit. At the same time, in as much as it is in God that "we live and move and have our being," we are "at home" with God in all God's creation. The panentheism adumbrated here provides an opportunity for working out the faith and work of the church in relationship to the entire cosmos.
Seventh Sunday of Easter
On this last Sunday of Easter, the church takes note of Jesus' ascension to the Father and recalls Jesus' prayer for the church in view of the mode of his presence as universal, i.e. at the right hand of God. With God, Jesus is everywhere, as God is present to all times and places in the creation. And yet this is also the God of Psalm 68, who "scatters his enemies," "rides upon the clouds," is "father of orphans and protector of widows" and "gives the desolate a home to live in." At this God's presence "the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain." The psalmist praises this God , saying "you restored your heritage when it languished,; your flock found a dwelling in it; in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy." Jesus is at the right hand of the God of creation. Together, as creator and "keeper" of the creation, they work to "restore, support, strengthen, and establish" all things in eternity (1 Peter 4:12).