Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day

One Good Friday, when I was a child, we attended the Tenebrae service at our Lutheran church, and while we sat in our pews a storm rose outside. The wind began to blow wildly, and while Christ made his way to the accursed tree, every tree on the hills around us was made to bow and bend. Hail, King of the Jews. The sun went dark. The windows shook. The clouds shed tears. Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. From the steeple at the center of the circular sanctuary hung a large wooden cross on a chain, and as the rain lashed the roof, the steeple began to vibrate. As those wind vibrations worked their way down the chain, the cross began to hum. To buzz. To moan. The wood itself seemed to cry from out of the depths—a basso profundo wailing. Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani? I remember the chills I felt as the massive Bible was slammed shut and the lights flicked off, the creak and groan of the wooden pews as we filed wordlessly out of the service, the whip of cold air as it snaked its way through the glass doors, biting at our heels, making me shiver.

Truly this was the Son of God.

That Good Friday storm was one of the more dramatic events of my church-going life. In retrospect I have wondered what physics were behind that mourning cross. More than physics, perhaps. That the storm blew in at the perfect moment, that a cold Canadian front met with a mass of wet southern air at that precise geographical location and sent the wind swirling in just such a way as to communicate grief through the glass, down a chain, and into that heavy wood seems almost unbelievable. As unbelievable as the death of God. But I was there. I was a witness. And I do believe.

Today is Earth Day. Today is Good Friday. On this day, two holidays—two holy days—collide. Today, Evangelical pastors and Greenpeace activists share the same hope: the hope that the earth will be saved.

We Christians and we earth-lovers want this world to be redeemed from destruction. None of us want it to go up sulfer-scented flames. I, for one, would rather not turn the wetlands into a trash heap. I'm all for biodegradable grocery sacks, and I don't mind the green glow of my compact fluorescent bulbs too much either. I do have a mandate to care for creation, but by composting my potato peelings, I am not, ultimately, saving the world. We all want to restore paradise, to bring heaven to earth. But at this point the Good Friday and the Earth Day visions diverge. Today we preach our respective gospels to the dying:
    Christ was crucified.
    Plant a tree for your tomorrow.

And yet, in a twist of irony, the salvation of the earth does, as it turns out, depend upon a tree—a tree that was planted on a hill outside Jerusalem two millennia ago. Creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

There was an earthquake that day on Golgatha. Seismology played a roll at the crucifixion, but something more than plate tectonics was at work; the earth itself was taking part in Christ's passion. There was a storm on that Good Friday of my childhood. Perhaps a meteorologist could explain the peculiar atmospheric fluctuations that arose that dark evening when the earth, again, acted out its passion play. Was climate change behind it? Should we try to prevent those conditions from arising in the future? Somebody, after all, paved paradise to put up that church. But that church—that cross—is where the heavens met the earth that day. And where heaven and earth are joined, paradise is restored.

The cross, that deadly collision of heaven and earth, is where the true lover of the world—He through whom the earth itself was created—bled to save it. If He did not come to restore the earth, then all the neighborhood recycling programs in the world be damned.

Good Friday is Earth Day, this year and every year. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.


Beth Crawford said...

So good. Thanks, Hannah.

Elastagirl said...

Beautiful. Thanks for the reflections. (Found your post through Craig Broek)

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