An Eastertide sermon related to Genesis 2:4b-10a, 15
That the Easter vision of resurrection is an Anastasis of Creation as well as all humanity.
Genesis 2:4b-10a, 15
In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5 when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed an a-dam from adamah, and breathed into its nostrils the breath of life; and the a-dam became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there God put the a-dam whom God had formed.
Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
A river flows out of Eden to water the garden…
The Lord God took the a-dam and put it in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
For the Word in Scripture
For the Word among us
For the Word within us
Thanks be to God.
As I’ve mentioned before, the Hebrew word play here is missed in English. As I’ve said before, it is not Adam, a male human being with a personal name that is formed, but, in Hebrew, an ‘a-dam made of the ‘adamah, ‘an earthling made of earth.’
You and me, we, are earth. All that is here on earth is of earth, a family of earth, relatives. As the Lakota say: Mitakuye Oyasin, “All my relations.”
My friends, to be faithful to this sacred story, we must acknowledge that the relationships among earth relatives are troubled, due mostly to the number of humans and the nature of the activities of human beings. I won’t belabor the data, but the picture is deeply troubling and with each re-evaluation, like the recent one from the UN panel on climate, we see that our window for action to alter or mitigate the damage grows smaller by the month and year. The predictive models have not overestimated the speed of this undesired change, rather they have generally underestimated it.
Science and technology are not lacking here.
We know enough to act effectively for positive, life-giving change.
Adaptive cultural and political patterns are lacking.
Spiritual and psychological wisdom is lacking.
There is trouble on the inside of our personal and cultural psyche. There is a spiritual malady, a deep infection of spiritual dis-ease that keeps us from being loving neighbors to our earth relatives.
Theologian Thomas Berry says,
The difficulty is that with the rise of the modern sciences we began to think of the universe as a collection of objects rather than as a communion of subjects….The world about us has become an it rather than a “thou.”
Or as the American historian Frederick Jackson Turner said,
“To those who followed Columbus and Cortez, the New World truly seemed incredible because of the natural endowments. The land often announced itself with a heavy scent miles out into the ocean. Giovanni da Verrazano in 1524 smelled the cedars of the East Coast a hundred leagues out. The men of Henry Hudson’s Half Moon were temporarily disarmed by the fragrance of the New Jersey shore, while ships running farther up the coast occasionally swam through large beds of floating flowers. Wherever they came inland they found a rich riot of color and sound, of game and luxuriant vegetation. Had they been other than they were, they might have written a new mythology here. As it was, they took inventory.”
As I said, it is not the science that is lacking.
The cultural and religious stories related to the earth that we in the West have held in the modern centuries and that are still largely in effect are not life giving, but life taking and life draining. They are so because they largely objectified and commodified the rest of Creation. We must reclaim the Genesis story of our sacred origins as the story of our earthiness, our earth-being-ness. Religiously true, scientifically true. We are earth.
The spiritual shift invited here is the shift to an earth identity and story of relationship, of communion. With such a shift, our favorite earthly outdoor place is not merely an it, an object, but becomes another earth being like us, and then can become a friend, a sibling, a companion, or maybe even a teacher, an elder, a cherished relative that our sacred story asked us to care for and to keep, to be in loving and balanced relationship with so that the garden might flourish.
And, in this Eastertide, we must reclaim the full sacred story-truth of Resurrection which we have largely lost.
Anastasis. Do you know the word?
It’s Greek. It means ‘up rising.’
Above murals depicting the resurrection story of Christ, on the walls of many ancient churches of the East, written in Greek, is the word anastasis, up rising. These images show Christ breaking down the doors of the land of the dead, standing atop and subduing Hades, and grasping the wrist of Adam and Eve and leading other saints in an uprising, a jailbreak triumph over death. In his book Resurrecting Easter, John Dominic Crossan documents these images and what we in the West, Protestant and Roman Catholic, have lost;
the sense that the Resurrection is a universal resurrection for all humanity and all Creation.
Recognized in the mythic language of its time, it is a vision of triumph as a Christ-led countercultural way of life and its power to overcome ‘the soul and body death’ way of being of the empire. In the West, we too often limited the Resurrection story to an individual story of Jesus and maybe as a story of individual hope, while in the Eastern side of Christianity, the Resurrection was an anastasis, an uprising, a universal uprising at that, not against mere individual mortality, but against the imperial and cultural powers of death, the power of Caesar, of Pharaoh, of all those internal siren voices and external fear-filled forces that claim life and peace is served by a law and order of violence, of domination, of intimidation, of punishment, of separation, including separation from Creation (as if we are not also of earth).
We have forgotten that Resurrection is about rising up, together with Creation, throwing off the powers and principalities of death, the systems and values of domination.
To truly be an Easter people, a people who sing of and have a trust in the story of Jesus and the power of Resurrection, we are called to rise up like the A-dam (earth creature) and Eve (mother of all living), taken by the wrist by the Risen Christ rising up with Creation and all of our earth relatives into another way of acting, another story of what is possible.
Another story of what is possible.
We must have a story that leads to action. Yes, we can act effectively, especially if we act together as a body, reducing the carbon and water footprint of our church property, voting together for policies and candidates who support the environment, teaching our children and learning from them. Indeed, if you can’t quite feel the passion to act here maybe you can feel it if you focus on the children, grandchildren, and the seven generations to come.
It seems it is easier to act against a short-term drama like Pearl Harbor or 9-11 than it is to comprehend and act in the case of this slow-moving emergency of environmental crisis. But that does not mean that it is impossible to do so nor that it is not imperative.
I have seen the depth of that imperative at Standing Rock.
The Lakota Reservation that borders the Dakotas rose up in 2016 to fight in the courts and on the land against ‘the black snake,’ the Keystone XL oil pipeline that was deemed too risky to put upstream of the white community of Bismarck, but not too risky for the First Nation Lakota peoples water supply. When my wife and I spent a week there at the camp in late October of 2016, we were impacted by the determination of the people to protect the water and the life of Mother Earth. In Lakota, it was spoken simply, mni wiconi, water is life. And we were impacted by the clarity that this encampment was a prayer meeting where the sacred fire never went out and where the prayers that supported their actions never ceased.
My friends, I believe that we at Plymouth Congregational as a community of faith are well meaning and well-meaning toward God’s Creation. What I have not yet seen is that intention cultivated into the fullest fruit of collective action for the earth. I have not yet felt what Dr. King would have called the ‘urgency of now’.
It is time, time for our prayers and actions to strengthen.
We have, in our faith, the spiritual resources and impetus to support this intention. And we have stirrings in our congregation to do just that. I believe Spirit is moving now at Plymouth for earth action, not only through the strategic plan calling for concrete action for the earth, but in the passions of those in our midst. We had/have a Forum today to move us forward as well as sign-up sheet for a new earth action oriented team, and a handout detailing actions that you can take now.
The 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, the late Kenyan environmentalist and political activist said,
We are called to assist the earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own -- indeed, to embrace the whole creation in all its diversity, beauty, and wonder.
Oh, and lest you think this is some new-fangled recent fad of faith, hear the words of none other than John Wesley, the 18th century founder of Methodism.
I believe in my heart that faith in Jesus Christ can and will lead us beyond an exclusive concern for the well-being of other human beings to the broader concern for the well-being of the birds in our backyards, the fish in our rivers, and every living creature on the face of the earth.
--John Wesley (1701-1791)
On this Earth Day Sunday, in this Eastertide season, we are called as an Easter People of the Resurrection to rise up with the Risen Christ against the powers and systems of Death. That means honoring the earth story that we received from our ancestors of faith: that we are earth beings, a’dam from the Adamah, and therefore kin to all other forms on the sacred earth. As the Lakota say: Mitakuye Oyasin, “All my relations.”
The New Creation envisioned in faith is a place where love of God and love of neighbor IS love of all our earth neighbors and God’s precious earth. Following the Risen Christ, it is time we at Plymouth deepen our faithful action for Creation on every front; prayers, votes, messages to government, purchasing and consumption habits, everything within reach and maybe a little beyond that. Like the Risen Christ, let us rise up so that together we can do something faithful and meaningful!
May this be so. AMEN.