This morning Minjing and I drove to North Bend to hike Mt. Si. Mt. Si is one of the best training hikes for people who are planning to hike higher mountains. In fact, three months today I will be my ascent of Mt. Baker for the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer.
It was a good day to be outside—not just to get in shape but because, as many of you know, today is Earth Day. Earth Day is an opportunity to recognize the beauty of the earth and our human responsibility for stewardship of the earth.
It seems fitting that this year Earth Day is on Good Friday. Today’s readings describe not only Jesus’ suffering and death; but the Bible uses words and images that lift up the power of God’s creation. Matthew writes that at Jesus’ death the earth shook, and the rocks were split. With these words we remember not only Jesus’ suffering but the suffering of the Japanese people from the recent earthquakes and tsunami. Jesus’ suffering is an echo of all human suffering. Some human suffering is mostly beyond our control. Hurricanes and floods, as well as recent tornadoes and earthquakes are examples. We continue to be humbled by the power of the earth.
And yet, not all suffering is the result of factors beyond our control. Much of the ongoing suffering in Japan is due to the anxiety and expense related to damaged nuclear reactors. Nuclear reactors do not occur naturally. They are made by human hands. The benefits of abundant electrical power are clear. But now, the suffering they can cause—as at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island—again becomes abundantly clear.
It seems appropriate that Good Friday falls on Earth Day this year. This past week marked the one-year anniversary of the largest oil spill ever, the Deep Water Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This had nothing to do with a natural disaster. This was entirely the responsibility of human beings. The suffering that resulted continues to this day. The spill destroyed the livelihood of people dependent on the fishing industry and other natural resources. Beyond that is the untold destruction of plant and animal life. Two thousand years ago humanity crucified the Son of God. And remember why Jesus came? John 3:16 says it all: Because God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…
It seems right that Good Friday falls on Earth Day. Earth Day honors God’s creation, which is the very first thing the Bible writers chose to do in the first chapter of Genesis. As I read parts of this story, listen to how God feels about the creation (reading from Genesis 1)…
Do you hear that? Over and over the scriptures affirm that God’s creation is good. The creation is good. Good Friday. Good Friday reminds us not only of creation’s suffering but the goodness of all creation, and our human responsibility to take care of and preserve that creation, not only for its own sake but for the sake of generations to come.
The power of God’s creation is all around us. The fragile nature of that creation has become more and more obvious. On Good Friday as Jesus was dying, he cried out to his Father: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? As we witness the warming of our climate, the disappearance of fish and coral reefs and glaciers and polar ice caps and rain forests—all of which humans depend on for our own survival–Jesus’ cry from the cross might now be God’s question of us: My people, my people, why have you forsaken me? You who have been entrusted with care of the earth; why have you not taken care of it?
We call it “Good Friday” not because everything turns out “good” on that day. We call it “good” because it sets the stage for new life. Death gives way to a miraculous resurrection. We Christians believe in miraculous resurrection. We see it all around us–in our own lives–but in the natural world, too, especially this time of year. As the death and cold of winter gradually give way to warmth and new life of spring, so also God’s creation, by our faithful stewardship, can also move from death to resurrection. In the ordinary circumstances of our lives, how we shop, what we do with our trash—all these are things that anyone can do to our gratitude and willingness to take responsibility for God’s good creation.
It seems right that Good Friday falls on Earth Day this year. The story of Jesus’ death and resurrection has a simple, powerful meaning: the commitment of just one person can lead to the transformation of others. One person, in fact, can change the world. Likewise, the commitment of just one person—just you, just me—to take good care of God’s creation, can be used by God to transform and even save the world.