Sunday, April 24, 2016

Earth Day • Easter 5C

Revelation 21:1-6

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." 5And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, 'Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." 6Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life."
Every day is Earth Day, but on Friday 22 April we celebrated the 46th official formal Earth Day. The Earth Day theme this year is #Trees4Earth that relates closely to #FaceofClimate for 2013 and #GreenCities for both 2014 and 2015. Trees and forests are earth's respiratory system, this planet's lungs.
from "Let us Talents and Tongue Employ"

Jesus lives again
earth can breath again
pass the word around
loaves abound!

Fred Kaan, 1975
For Easter 5 and Earth Day we mainly discussed Revelation 21:1-6, and also considered creation-themed Psalm 96, Psalm 98, and Psalm 148, as well as the beginning of James Weldon Johnson's poem, The Creation. All this poetry is about a God so in love with Creation that God chooses to make a home on earth in the midst of creation. This contrasts with the way temples for other nations and for the Jerusalem temple featured a small physical space with the deity contained and confined to a tiny place.

Most likely from the period of Babylonian exile, Psalm 96 and Psalm 98 are Enthronement Psalms about God's reign over creation. Although Psalm 148 is probably post-exilic, it carries a similar theme of all creation joining in praise of God; Isaiah brings us similar imagery. Hebrew Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann says, "Of course the oceans roar—no more pollution!" "Of course trees sing and clap their hands—no more clear-cutting!"

Sacraments depend upon a healthy creation.

New Song in scripture is not so much a tune and lyrics no one ever has heard before; a new song is a new era, renewed perspective, different paradigm, transformed worldview.

Very briefly from last week: the book of Revelation shows us how empires everywhere operate; it provides not quite a road map, but it's somewhat of a guide book for living baptized in the context of empire. This week and next week the passages from Revelation especially show us ways to live baptized into the new creation.

Bookends in the canon of scripture:

• Genesis 1 and 2: Tree of Life, River of Life, and Garden.

• Revelation 21 and 22: Tree of Life, River of Life, and City (that grows out of a well-tended garden).

Empire? I had Egypt, Babylon, Rome (John on Patmos recorded Revelation during the reign of Roman emperor Caesar Domitian), Spain, Netherlands, UK, USA in mind; Richard mentioned Ottoman Empire.

"Ocean no more" in Revelation 21:1 isn't about ecological disaster! It's a code word for untamed chaos. In the famous passage that opens Genesis 1 the Spirit of God hovers and breathes and speaks over the "deep," the unordered chaotic waters. In our baptism with Water and Word, God calls and enables us to speak words that tame and order the chaos of empire.

More discussion of how physical, earthbound, and incarnational Christianity is. God so in love with creation God chose and still chooses to make a home on earth in a body formed from the stuff of creation. I quoted the Heidelberg Catechism, "we move from Christmas with the mystery of spirit in flesh, to Ascension with the mystery of flesh in spirit."

A had a lot more notes and ideas than we discussed this morning, but happily most of those will work well next week on Easter 6, so I didn't include them here.

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