Broken World, Current Events — April 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Can Good Friday & Earth Day Coexist?

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Of all the cathedrals I visited during my summer in Amsterdam, I will always remember a little chapel as the most unexpectedly sacred. Most of the cathedrals I had seen were renowned as historical landmarks and tourist hotspots, but divorced from their original purpose of worship. These sanctuaries did not welcome God’s presence anymore, and instead they felt haunted by His absence.

But this chapel was different. It is actually in Belgium, part of the Beguinage in Bruges, a community for Benedictine sisters who still live there today. The chapel was small, modest, with unadorned plaster ceilings and simple wooden benches inside. But what struck me the most was the grove of poplar trees just outside in the courtyard—none of them grew upright. Every tree’s trunk was angled toward the sanctuary, as if there were some gravitational pull toward that holy place, and the trees were bowing in leafy reverence.

As Christians, we don’t often think about the earth worshiping its Creator as we do. But this year for the first time, April 22nd happens to host a curious convergence of days: Good Friday, the commemoration of our Savior’s crucifixion and death, and Earth Day, the celebration and renewal of environmental concerns. This calendar collision has caused a divergence of opinion in the church, with some who reject Earth Day as “petty politics” which should not be mixed with eternal reality, and some who understand this convergence of dates as profound and providential.

In my experience, Christians are far more interested in discipleship than reducing their carbon footprint. We tend to view the environmental movement with fear—regarding it as a false gospel, a gateway to pantheism. Likewise, those who champion green living march under the banner of sustainability, health, and animal rights. Talk of soul-saving doesn’t really hold appeal, because in their minds, they’re already saving the planet.

But is there really a dichotomy between faithful stewardship of the earth and the gospel? Because in my perspective, both Earth Day and Good Friday are straining ahead toward wholeness. Whole earth, whole life, whole redemption.

All of creation, the earth and humanity together, was once whole in Eden. But Adam and Eve chose to disobey their Creator, and Genesis narrates the fragmentation that resulted from their sin. Their communion with God was severed, their bodies would begin to experience decay, conflict was introduced to their formerly harmonious relationship, and the earth ceased to thrive for their harvest.  Thorns took root in the ground and sin took root in our hearts.

As we look to Scripture, creation is actually in bondage just as humanity is under the effects of sin. Romans 8:22-23 says, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

But Good Friday set into motion a new gravity, reversing the decay that our world was subjected to because of sin.  Leslie Leyland Fields, author of The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God, says, “Colossians 1:20 reminds us that ‘Through [Christ] God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of the cross…’ And on the day we celebrate his resurrection, we remember that Christ’s resurrection power is so great it will lead to the full restoration of this earth!”

Growing up my family attended a Passion Play every year on Good Friday, and I always felt that the conclusion of the evening was anti-climactic: every year, the tomb would be sealed shut, we would sing, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”, and we would go home. The verses of this old spiritual are composed of questions and a repeated lament, “Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.” Like the song, Good Friday leaves us, in our darkest hour, with only trembling questions. And we tremble, question, and doubt until the resurrection on Easter morning.

We are all trembling and groaning, whether oil spills or aching hearts, failed crops or painful consequences of sin—these are all symptoms of a world desperately waiting for redemption. This Good Friday and Earth Day, let’s wait together, the earth and God’s children, the created crying out to the Creator.

4 Comments

  • There are many verses in the bible that talk about having reverence for the ‘earth’ but since they are in the ‘old testament’ most Christians don’t realize they exist.
    I’ll just point out two to wet ones appetite
    Needlessly destroying trees:
    Deut 20:19-20
    19 “When you besiege a city a long time, to make war against it in order to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them; for you may eat from them, and you shall not cut them down. For is the tree of the field a man, that it should be besieged by you?
    20 “Only the trees which you know are not fruit trees you shall destroy and cut down, that you may construct siegeworks against the city that is making war with you until it falls.
    (NAU)

    land (earth) gets to have a sabbath rest as well… you don’t give your land a rest you will be removed from the land so it can have it’s rest.

    Lev 25:2
    2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD.
    (KJV)

    Lev 26:34
    34 Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies’ land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths.
    (KJV)

    Please note the time of the exile of the Jews from the land was timed according to the sabbaths rest the of the land.

    2 Chr 36:21
    21 to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete.
    (NAS)

    Yes God expects us to take care and have respect for His earth not ours.

    Lev 25:23
    23 “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.
    (NIV)

    Turn that into earth worship?… of course not

  • John, thanks for pointing out these verses…so interesting that the land is given a sabbath as well. i also notice all the verses that personifies nature as praising God, and it does seem clear in Scripture that they bear constant silent testimony of our Creator. Wonder why there’s not more on this in the new testament, as you noted.

    • Ya nature praising God that’s cool Ps 19 The heaven declare…tress of the fields clap their hands… (I have one tree in my yard that dances in the wind) So if he made all this to praise and declare him when we mistreat we’re just saying ‘shut up’ or maybe Jesus’ parable of the tenants who mistreated the workers or

      Lev 18:28
      28 And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.
      (NIV)

      I mean really- who wants to be puke?

  • Sorry didn’t see your question at the end of the second reply. Myself as a Torah observant believer the answer is actually very simple. I see the NT as an amendment not a complete whole.
    So for example If you were going to amend in the ‘Bill of Rights’ the right to bear arms you would not repeat the rest of the bill of rights affirming right to freedom of assembly or religion or… with in your amendment, those would be considered obvious.
    So to when Israel went through different stages of development you don’t see a rewrite of the Torah in Judges nor when they entered the time of the Kings. Samuel addressed in his speech how a king would effect things. As well you don’t see a rewrite of the Torah in Nehemiah nor Ezra.
    So when The Messiah came he as well considered it obvious and said
    Matt 5:17, 19
    17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil…
    19 …Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
    (KJV)

    This very quick statement of Jesus included it all in the NT. We just tend to pay attention to The Amendment and ignore The Bill.

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