From the Rector
It’s really no coincidence that some of the most poignant moments in Holy Week happen in gardens. We remember the holy vigil Jesus kept in the grove of olive trees just outside the Jerusalem walls. We remember his interrogation in the garden courtyard of Caiaphas, the chief priest of the Temple. We remember that, after his crucifixion, Jesus’ body was placed in a rock hewn tomb in a garden just outside the city. And we remember the morning of the resurrection, when Mary Magdalene confused the risen Lord with the local gardener. It would seem that God hasn’t given up on the idea of us dwelling in the midst of a garden paradise, one in which we flourish in his presence and are finally at peace with one another and all of creation.
So it makes sense why so many people feel restored by being in the midst of nature. When we stand in the presence of the cathedrals of nature, gazing upon all that which God carved and shaped and grew over the eons, we somehow return to our purest, most essential selves. We are who are meant to be, and God’s exultation at the goodness of all things declared at the dawn of time reverberates within our soul.
Unfortunately, we have not been particularly good stewards of this fragile earth, our island home, and the facts of our mistakes can be staggering: an area of rain forest the size of Indiana is deforested every year; there is a collection of plastic trash the size of Texas that won’t biodegrade, floating in the Pacific Ocean; a dozen species are estimated to go extinct today (and every day). Not to mention the escalation of climate change and its corresponding weather havoc.
Before it ever became a political issue, our care of the earth was a spiritual issue. The Bible is unequivocal in its direction that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof (Psalm 24:1).” It simply does not belong to us, and when we neglect or abuse it wantonly for our own personal comforts, we violate a trust that was placed in us by God at the dawn of time. The extinction of animals, the acidification of oceans, the annihilation of whole ecosystems…these things deeply grieve the heart of the one through whom all things came into being.
Every year on Maundy Thursday we are reminded of the great, new commandment Jesus gave his followers on his final night of mortal life: we are to love one another as he loves. Loving others by the standard of how we love ourselves is apparently too modest, or else not a terribly transformational standard when so many people don’t actually love themselves all that much. Our command as Jesus’ followers is to love like he loves. And this commandment to love like Jesus is actually about more than just our relationships with each other. Because Jesus, the one who calls us to love with his love, actually loved all things into being. It was he through whom oceans and forests and polar bears and pigmy salamanders were formed. He brought all those things to life, and he intends for the beauty of Creation to be a part of the eternal future, too.
And if the Cross and Passion of Jesus teach us anything, it is that love is about more than feelings. Which means that our love of this beautiful earth will need to go beyond emotion. We can’t simply feel awe at mountain vistas and coral reefs and call it love, just as we can’t simply feel bad about oil spills and mountain removal coal mining and call that loving creation, either. Feelings don’t become love until they reach our hands and become something through our lives.
This weekend, right at the outset of the season of Easter, we’ll honor Earth Day. It’s a day when we’ll pray for renewed commitment as stewards of the Earth, repent from the ways we’ve fallen short of that sacred responsibility, and seek new inspiration to do more than feel things about the world, but actually have the will to act in new ways. As we’ve done in recent years, we’ll make a few sacrifices – such as keep most of the lights off in the hallways and church, forego printing our bulletins, and turn up the setting on the thermostat – in the hopes that we pay more attention to conveniences we take for granted that come at a cost to the natural world. We’ll also welcome a handful of organizations to display information and/or resources in the Tower Cloister, in hopes that we will leave church better equipped for the holy work of caring for our earth. Again, the goal is to cultivate more than feelings, but to renew us to let our love for this beautifully fragile world flow out through our lives and participate in its healing and restoration.
See you this weekend.