Responsively Yours: For God So Loved the World
Growing up in New Jersey, I came to associate the blooming of certain flowers with Easter and to connect this with resurrection and new life —so much so that I found it disconcerting when the redbud trees in Nashville bloomed early in Lent.
I've recently wondered if my association of resurrection with spring blooming has muted the radical doctrine of resurrection. After all, we do not believe that Jesus was sleeping or hibernating or participating in any other cyclical pattern; we believe that, outside the natural cycle, God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus' resurrection and his contact with the disciples before the ascension are supranatural. For we who study natural order so that we can understand it (and so predict and control it), this description of God's intervention in is mind-blowing.
This radical intervention affirms God's amazing love for creation. Throughout biblical history God engaged with the creation. From the first act, when God simply "was" and moved over the face of the deep, to the Covenant with Noah, to a land flowing with milk and honey for a people wandering in the wilderness, and through famines and harvest, the laments and thundering of the prophets tell us that God is engaged with the creation.
In Emmanuel, Jesus becomes not just fully divine but also fully human. Perhaps an even more powerful affirmation of creation than the birth of Jesus is his resurrection. Jesus who has "borne our griefs and carried our sorrows" is raised from the dead. What a profound demonstration to the women and men around Jesus that they were not mistaken to have hope in him, that they need not fear either their own death or the death of the hope that Jesus was the promised messiah—a messiah come to redeem not just the people, not just all nations, but the whole creation.
If "God so loved the world" — what about us? Do we so love the world? What if Jesus' ministry of reconciliation and the redemption Christ offers includes the reconciliation and redemption of all creation? What if our faith in the bodily resurrection and God's promises of a New Creation means that we are charged with ensuring that creation to flourishes rather than just sustains human life? This puts a different light on our conversations about depleting natural resources and care for creation.
This makes rising sea levels, unsafe ozone levels in cities in China, desertification in formerly fertile areas in Africa and drought in the United States where large single-crop fields threaten to re-create Dust Bowl conditions warning signs that we must heed as disciples of Christ. We should attend to this ecological stress not just because of its potentially disastrous consequences for humans (especially the most vulnerable) but also as a matter of our response to extend God's love to the whole world.
Many of us will sing words of Charles Wesley again this Easter: "Soar we now where Christ has lead/following our exalted head/Made like him, like him we rise/Ours the cross, the grave, the skies."
May our confidence in the resurrection undergird us for the work of re-presenting the love of God for the whole world.
Harriett Jane Olson
United Methodist Women