adapted from notes by Sonia Hinds, Rector of St. Leonard’s Anglican Church in the Diocese of Barbados
Introduction (by Rev Dr Rachel Mash) – “Earth Day and Easter”
This year Earth Day and Easter fall in the same week. The world is in a dark place, just as we were coming out of COVID, the war in Ukraine broke out, and our news feeds have been full of ever more devastating images. At the same time, the latest IPCC report brings us even more distressing news, it seems that we are falling far short of the targets we need to reach in order to halt evermore devastating climate change.
Just this week in South Africa over 400 people lost their lives in devastating floods , a catastrophe of enormous proportions,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said “This disaster is part of climate change. It is telling us that climate change is serious, it is here”
As we celebrate Earth day, how do the Easter themes of death and resurrection speak to the present peril of our planet?
We must begin with confession and lament. With Jesus, we must walk to the cross, experiencing the pain of loss and suffering, hearing the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. We must lament the mortal wounds which are destroying the web of life. We must confess our guilt: our offences against those most vulnerable on this earth, as well as our theft from generations to come.
Our hearts are broken as Jesus dies on the cross “God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son” John 3:16
We have often misunderstood these words to mean that God loved only the people of the world, and it is for humans alone that Jesus came. But the word for ‘world’ in the original Greek is ‘cosmos’. God loved the Cosmos so much that he sent his son to die, to bear our suffering and the pain of the whole web of life.
For Christians, the despair and darkness of Good Friday are not the final word. Jesus, the Word of Life, overcomes death. At the heart of our faith is resurrection, redemption and new life. The groaning of creation is not a hopeless pain, but is described as the groaning of child-birth when agony gives way to new life.
The Bible tells us of the “New Earth”. This is not another Earth in a different place. There is no Planet B. God promises us that this very Earth will be renewed. We are part of Gods redemptive plan, sadly we have almost delayed too long and the renewed Earth will bear scars just as Jesus’ body did.
It is time to rise up and act, remembering that we are co-creators with God; we are called to renew this, our common home.
We are not chaplains administering the last rites to a dying Earth. We are midwives to the new Creation.
Let us not look for the living amongst the dead.
SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME
God’s Creation and the Caribbean’s Call
SUMMARY: Christians have a responsibility to care for the Environment; it is an integral part of our Christian Stewardship. In the Caribbean, we are blessed with many islands that many North Americans and Europeans pay thousands of dollars to experience particularly during their winter season. Yet, we, like them, are challenged to become more faithful stewards of God’s creation as we accept God’s call to be co-creators. Today’s readings for the second Sunday of Easter guide us in this responsibility.
In the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we have a dramatic and bold assertion from Peter “We must obey God rather than human beings . . .” Even as the disciples stood before the Jewish Sanhedrin, there is this powerful witness that invites us in the Caribbean too to be bold when confronting the political and capitalistic policies that push agendas to the detriment of our environment. Our political leaders must hear the Church’s bold assertion as it challenges policies that are unhealthy for our well-being.
The Psalm seems to have been composed for and used as the litany in a public thanksgiving ceremony. Here, we have the king who returns victoriously from battle and reports to the audience on his triumph as he enters his temple amid acclaim and jubilation. The king then offers a prayer of thanksgiving and sacrifice. He proclaims “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. With almost every Caribbean country having annual Carnival seasons, we have opportunity to use this context of celebration that is grounded in our history to celebrate God’s goodness.
In the passage from the book of Revelation, there is promise and threat. God’s judgment would be universal. Verse7 tells us that “All peoples of the world shall lament in remorse.” The Church in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean must act decisively in changing how we respond to God’s creation.
The Johannine text provides the Easter theme of resurrection and so the appearance of Jesus to the disciples is critical. This, however, was not the initial experience for Thomas who had to struggle with doubt and denial before Jesus came to prove that he is present. And his response? “Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” May we too be led to believe in Jesus Christ when we recognise God in creation.
1st Reading (Acts)
Obedience to God rather than human beings is critical for us who, with God’s help, are serious about sustaining the earth. In this reading from Acts, the theme of obedience to God, we meet the apostles being arrested and challenged for speaking the truth about Jesus. However, they are bold enough to respond: “We must obey God rather than human beings . . . We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” It is an example for us who are co-creators to let others know that the voice of God has to be heard and obeyed above the voices of human beings. This particularly so if we accept the challenge and so speak out to those especially those in power (including political power) and who want us to obey the human beings who are involved in the capitalist agendas. Indeed, we must obey God in our stewardship of creation rather than corporate companies that see profits and not people.
The 118th psalm is not silent concerning God’s goodness. As the king returns from battle as victor offering prayers of thanksgiving, we recognise its relevance to the Easter message of the resurrection of Jesus. Recognising that Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is about restoring our relationship with God and with the whole of creation, we too can recognise God’s goodness to us. What is our response? Like the psalmist, we too can sing a psalm of thanksgiving to God for it would be restoration worth celebrating!
2nd Reading (Rev)
In the book of Revelation, Chapter 1:8, we read “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” This verse reminds us of the God who created us from the beginning, the God who became one of us in Jesus Christ and the God who would return to us. In affirming God, the Creator of the world, we affirm that God continues to be with us from the beginning and the end. Therefore in this text, there exudes a feeling of triumph and confident hope. God has done mighty acts for God’s people (v.5b-6). It declares that the present, past and future are God’s in an absolute sense.
In this passage, Thomas is now in the presence of Jesus but was absent when Jesus earlier appeared to the other disciples. He requires proof that the crucified Jesus is alive. While our situation in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean might be different than in other countries, we must recognise the causes and consequences of climate change too. The doubts that we have must not lead us to denial. The proof is all around us. Our water system is changing and we are now purchasing drinking water. Our land which produced foreign exchange is no longer doing so and we are relying on tourist industry as our main foreign exchange earner. This is not sustainable for future generations. This passage leads us to ask: What does this mean to people who do not want to see? There is also more than ample scientific proof that we cannot ignore. Neither can we sit back and blame North America or Europe for our challenges. Like Thomas, we must be moved to belief that Christ is among us.
Environmental & Sustainability themes / links:
Given our Christian belief that creation is a divine gift, what are the implications of understanding that pollution is an assault on the environment?
What message does our passage send to Christians who are hesitant to speak to and engage in indiscriminate dumping, pollution and any other environmental issue?
As a Christian how does your might faith help you to give thanks to God for God’s goodness in the context of a church service focused on the Fifth Mission?
How do any of the three texts help you to understand better our responsibility to protect the environment?
Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)
Are there any endangered species in Barbados? If so what contribution are you making to their preservation? In what ways is human greed a threat to the environment?
How can the belief that water is a precious gift of God influence the way we use it?
We are currently experiencing water shortages across the island. What should be our Christian response to our water scarce status? Are there water saving guidelines in your family?
Do you think that climate change is a threat to our food supply?
WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES
Hymns & Songs
(1) Here I am, Lord https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcxOkht8w7c
Artist: John Michael Talbot
Album: Table of Plenty
Released: 1997 Genre: Christian/Gospel
(2) Breathe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-0EgzOWkvc:
by Revd Sonia Hinds, Diocese of Barbados