Breakfast with Jesus (John 21:1-19)

Eating with Jesus was always event. You never knew exactly what might happen and who would join this open meal, literally open to anyone and excluding no one. A homeowner, such as Simon the Leper, invited Jesus, only to have a woman , a known sinner, wash Jesus’ feet with her tears and dry his feet with her hair. Or the Last Supper where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and shared a meal relating it to his impending death. Or you might be surprised by the locations of a meal—on the field with 5000, or at home of an infamous regional tax collector Zacchaeus, or in the home of a religious critic.

Meals provided Jesus with occasions to stress the central themes of his message of God’s companionship of empowerment. The themes of forgiveness, unconditional love, shared abundance, compassionate care, inclusivity, healing, the mutuality of discipleship, love, and non-violence. Jesus loved food and wine, and he took the opportunity to break all the etiquette rules and purity codes for meals held by Pharisees and other religious groups.

For outcasts, throwaway people such as tax collectors and prostitutes, these meals were therapeutic and liberative. The open table was healing for many participants. The meals were egalitarian, where all were equals and where all were beloved children of God. They shared stories of their pain at religious exclusion and social shunning at these meals and dreamt about God’s empowered companionship and the type of new society created. They experienced healing from destructive elements of Jewish religious fundamentalism with its stress on a judgmental, patriarchal God. Religious people stigmatized them as sinners, and Jesus told them were forgiven before they even came to sit down at table.

The table of radical inclusivity was revolutionary. Around meals, they found companionship with Jesus and God and with one another. In the nourishing and healing environment of meals, they discovered friendships and some felt call as disciples. Jesus’ meals as healing and empowering occasions have been overlooked by the church over the centuries.

In addition, Christians have read the Last Supper not in the context of Jesus’ meals but the only meal and gave it undue importance, making it an exclusive event for justifying an exclusive male priesthood. For Jesus, his last meal with the disciples was important but so were all his meals with folks. Its particularity was his emotional preparation of his female and male disciples for his death for God’s reign. All Jesus’ meals symbolized the inclusivity of all into God’s reign.
But meals with the risen Jesus were even more eventful. They were to be inclusive, healing, and empowering. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus invite a stranger who had accompanied them on their journey to join them for an evening dinner. When the stranger broke bread, the two grieving disciples recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. He symbolized his continued presence in community with remembered events and the breaking of bread. His walking on the road to Emmaus and joining them for dinner addressed their grief over his death and ritualizing his mission and presence.

Or today’s gospel, after two appearances of the risen Christ, the disciples went back to what they know best, fishing. Did they have to get away from the intensity of feelings from community scoffers, doubters, or their own feelings of guilt from abandoning Jesus to the Temple police and ultimately final crucifixion? Jesus surprises a group of disciples at the Sea of Galilee; they returned to their ordinary lives and have gone fishing.

Easter night and the following week, Jesus appeared to his disciples in the upper room. The first meeting was mixed in its emotions, happiness in Jesus as risen from the dead, deep shame and guilt at abandoning Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Peter, both for his denying Jesus three times and his abandonment of him. Peter brashly professed his faith and commitment as a disciple to the ministry of Jesus. He faced Jesus with shame and guilt over his betrayal. Jesus forgave him and started the process of healing.

Jesus appears as a stranger, and he calls out to them: “Have you caught any fish yet?” Then he instructs to cast the net on the right side of the boat, and they did so and caught a multitude of fish. The beloved disciple recognizes the stranger: “It is the Lord!”

Peter strips off his clothes and swims to shore. The disciples bring the fish to Jesus who has lit a charcoal fire to barbeque the fish and serve bread with the meal. None of the disciples were bold enough to ask. “Who are you?” The stranger reveals himself in the serving a meal of fish and bread.

This meal on the shore of Lake Tiberias was thus no ordinary meal. Jesus was not presiding over the meal, but preparing the meal for several disciples. This is reminiscent of Jesus’ action at his final meal where he washed the feet of his disciples—the duties of slave and women. Here again he takes a service role in cooking fish for breakfast for the few disciples after a night of fishing.

Jesus’ risen presence is revealed at meals, and these risen meals also include healing and empowerment. There was unfinished business between Jesus and Peter. Even though Peter betrayed him and abandoned him, Jesus is there to restore his relationship with Peter. The grace of unconditional love and forgiveness counters the past failures of Peter. The breakfast on the beach was to continue the healing of Peter and to empower him as whole as possible for the on-going mission of God’s companionship of empowerment.

Peter got a lump his throat and became speechless for a moment; he was more embarrassed by his denial of Jesus than his nakedness, dripping with water. He is confronted with his own guilt and shame in letting down Jesus in the moment of his greatest need—his own death. He promised Jesus faithfulness and reliability. Instead he abandoned Christ; he lied and denied that he even knew him to save his own skin. He faced Christ stirring the charcoal fire and looking him straight into his eyes. He melted with shame and guilt. But Jesus served him breakfast and reminded him of the many times that they shared meals of forgiveness and love during his ministry.

Peter knew that this appearance was meant for him and about his relationship with Christ. There was unfinished business yet to be dealt with. Maybe for a moment, he wished he was anywhere but there. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus spoke to Simon Peter. Now, we are getting to the point of the story. This story is about the rehabilitation of Simon Peter. But Jesus’ questions to Peter are wider than this event; the risen Lord asks these questions of ourselves. This may be the important question asked in the Bible.
“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Love meaning self-sacrificing love, love “more than these.” And write “boats, nets, fish, food, family, and friends.” Jesus was asking what are you prepared to do for me? Peter answers, “I love with the love of a friend.” He is not able to love unconditionally as parent loves a child. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to follow me, let that person take the cross and follow me.”

Why did Peter deny Jesus three times in the first place? I think it was because he, like all of us, loved life and the things of this life such as family, friends, fish, boats, nets, etc. Peter loved this life, and he didn’t want to die. It is simple as that. That is why I think Peter denied Jesus in the first place. He loved the things of his own life way more than the possibility of his premature death for God and Christ. But Jesus probes Peter of his reliability. Are you prepared to deny yourself and give up everything to follow me? Can I rely on you and your word to continue my mission?

Peter’s threefold profession of his friendship love for Jesus parallels his threefold denial, that Jesus is giving Peter the chance to fill the hole he has dug for himself with three huge shovelfuls of love.

But there is more. Jesus is not only trying to bring Peter back to where he was before but to move him beyond that. Jesus looked Peter in the eyes intently. Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, I love you as a friend.” Then Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Jesus wants to be assured that Peter loves him. Jesus is not sure about the reliability of Peter’s love and so Jesus asks Peter a second time, “Do you love me as a friend?” Jesus changes the verb from self-sacrificing love to where Peter is at and uses Peter’s verb to love as a friend. Even this friendship love requires reliability and consistency of word.

By the third time, “do you love me as a friend?” Peter feels hurt and responds, “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you.” The risen Christ entrusts those whom he loves to one who loves him.

Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.” He goes on says, “Very truly, I tell you when you were younger you were able to fasten your belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you, and take you where you do not wish to go.” Jesus predicts, “Peter, you may love me as a friend, but over time that love become unconditional love that I now share with you.”

Suddenly it is clear. Jesus has made this encore appearance for Peter’s benefit. In the same way, he returned for Thomas in the upper room, to move him from doubt to faith, he now returns for Peter, to move him from faith to active discipleship.

Jesus also asks us that same basic question: Do you love me more than these? Do you love me more than your family, your friends, your occupation? This is a personal question for each one of us. We, too, like Peter, will come to that time and place in our lives when Jesus will ask us that fundamental question: Do you love me unconditionally more than these things and people? Do you love me more than your own life?

There is a consequence in saying “yes”. Jesus says, “Feed my lambs and tend my sheep.” The Latin word for shepherd is Pastor. How do Christian pastors feed the lambs and tend sheep?

The first purpose of a pastor’s life, of a shepherd’s life, is to feed the lambs in the community and to help them grow into good disciples. Pastors are called to remind the community of their mission, radical inclusive love—the vision of God’s unconditional grace.

He is instructing him on how to become a Pastor, open-hearted and open to the new requirements of serving the post-Easter Church. He had to reliably live up to his word with courage. Peter learned that he had to think before acting. We finally got to the core. Jesus knows everything, including the death by which Peter was going to die, by Roman crucifixion, being lifted up onto his own cross.
Jesus knew that eventually, in his old age, that Simon Peter was going to mature and that his love for Christ would move beyond friendship love to unconditional love and that he would die by crucifixion. It did come true. Simon Peter died a martyr’s death, on a cross, upside down, in Rome, under Nero. Peter who had denied Jesus three times at the home of Caiaphas would be faithful to Jesus onto death. Jesus knew the future and prophesied about Peter’s death. At his death in Rome, Peter thought that it would be too much of an honor for him to be crucified in the way Christ was crucified so he requested to be crucified upside down. Peter learned the humility to follow Christ.

Doubting Thomas: What does He really Doubt

The Gospel of John is one of the most beautifully written gospels. It stands in Greco-Roman multiculturalism. But what I want to talk about the clashing cultural beliefs about death and afterlife in John’s community. I will use the example of the Beloved Disciple and Doubting Thomas. They make the case for counter positions. This is not just a historical exercise of reconstructing this morning. It also reflects a deep divide and compromise.

Celsus, a non-Christian writer, criticized the appearance accounts of the risen Jesus. He actually mocks Christians.

If Jesus had wanted to demonstrate his power was truly divine, he ought to have appeared to those who maltreated him and to the one who condemned him, and to all everywhere.

Celsus makes a point that I thought as kid when I heard the Easter season resurrection readings each Sunday. Why didn’t Jesus just appear to the high priests, Pilate, and the masses in Jerusalem that chose Barabbas over himself?
Let me explain: The community of John, somewhere in Asia Minor such as Edessa or in Syria, is composed of Greek-speaking Jews and Greek converts. The appearance accounts of the post-mortem Jesus risen from the dead were a terrifying prospect. In Matthew, the women at the tomb are told by angels to “stop fearing.” And the second apparition of Jesus, some of the assembled disciples are doubtful.

Even before Jesus appearance in the upper room, the Beloved Disciple runs to tomb and looks into see Jesus’ funeral shroud thrown aside into a bundle but observes the funeral napkin rolled up neatly. He places his faith in Jesus and his words without seeing the risen Christ. In today’s gospel, the disciples neither fear nor doubt when Jesus appears in the upper room. I always thought it might the case of suddenly facing the risen Jesus with feelings of guilt and shame over abandoning him or Peter denying him three times. From that encounter, the Beloved Disciple and the disciples on Easter Sunday are full of faith trying to convince Doubting Thomas of their experience. Thomas was not present during that resurrection appearance, and he expresses doubt. The resurrected dead body makes no sense to him. What is a clue to the gospel today is Thomas’ need for a physical demonstration of the physical reality of Jesus.

In Luke’s story of Jesus’ appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus is not merely a ghost without flesh and bones. When they recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread, Jesus says,

Look at my hands and feet that I am myself. Touch and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. And when he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. But they were still incredulous. (Lk. 24: 39-41)

It was logical for the disciples to believe that Jesus had died and thus they were now experiencing a ghost or the soul of Jesus separated from his body.The community of John suffered division among its members—the primary group affirming that Jesus really died in the flesh. The other group asserted that Jesus did not have a real fleshy body on either side of death, either on the cross or after burial. They denied the reality of the earthly and physical Jesus or the resurrected Jesus. In 2 John v.7, a letter from that same community that wrote the fourth gospel mentions deceivers who have left the community and “who do not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” This is the later community who claimed Thomas as their apostle. We have writings from this group of Christians: The Gospel of Thomas and The Acts of Thomas. Some speculations went as far to deny that Jesus died on the cross, it was an apparition, not real flesh and blood man.

Many Christians at the time of the writing of John’s Gospel, somewhere between 90-100 CE, some 70 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus and well after the death of the all Jesus’ immediate disciples, had conflicting views of the afterlife. Early Christianity proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus yet it inherited traditions of a variety of religious notions of the afterlife, few of which included the resurrection. Some included the ascension of Jesus, angelic body of Jesus, and the exalted and transformed body of Jesus,

On one side of the afterlife, there is a group of Jews that held to resurrection of the body at the end of time. This notion comes from the ancient Persian notions of the end of time in which God will resurrect the dead and unite the body and soul for a final judgment. This seems to be held by the followers of Jesus and some of the Pharisees such as St. Paul.

The prevalent Greek notion stresses the soul over the body. Many Christians held Jesus had risen from the dead as a spiritual being, in a spiritual body of light. For them, the body was corruptible, mutable and mortal flesh, while the soul, the spiritual body, was eternal. The earthly body was bonded to the material body, and it weighed down the soul. Upon death of the body, the soul was released to go to God. For those emphasizing the soul, the post-resurrection body of Jesus is something other than the very same flesh in which he was crucified. Both the resurrection of the body and the release of the spiritual body were two methods that early Christians tired to describe Jesus arisen from the dead.

Doubting Thomas is described as not having faith (apistos) in the tale of the physical resurrection of Jesus from the grave. There is division between the immediate disciples of Jesus who have experienced Jesus as fleshy human being, now resurrected, and Thomas who holds an alternative position of the release of the spiritual body of glory.

If the disciples had said to the absent Tomas, “We have seen the spirit of the Lord,” there would be no problem. There are many common stories of ghostly appearances in the Greco-Roman world. For Thomas, the body was the negative accompaniment of earthly life, and death was release of the spiritual body from its limitations. The post-mortem soul could participate in all embodied functions such as eating and joy.

But the disciples in the upper room said to Thomas, “We have seen the Lord,” meaning in the same physical body with which he died. Thomas and his later faction of Christian community hold that the body traps the soul. He is weary of any talk about the fleshy existence of the risen Jesus. Greeks believed very much in an immortal soul.

Yet John’s community is different from the other communities which developed gospels. It affirms in the opening hymn that we recite during the Christmas Eve service; “the word became flesh and dwelled among us.” Incarnation is about the flesh and blood of a very human Christ.

No cultured Greek would ever ask to stick his hands in the wounds in Jesus’ arms from the spikes or the holes in his feet or the wound in his side from the centurion’s spear.” Would anyone here in Thomas’ position ask the risen Jesus? “Let me put my fingers in the holes in your body from crucifixion.” But does the insistence of Thomas, which we traditionally understand as doubting really doubt as much as holding a different viw of the resurrected Jesus?

The wounds in Jesus body indicate that the earthly fleshy Jesus, who has died, now survives the grave. The retention of the holes in the body of Jesus would not necessarily authenticate that the risen Christ is Jesus who died on the cross. So Thomas asks to touch the risen body, rather than just seeing the risen apparition.
Thomas’ doubts express his not placing faith in Jesus and his words at the resurrection of Lazarus in the tomb. “I am the resurrection and the life; that anyone who has faith in me shall live even if they die.” (Jn. 11:23) Thomas is expressing a position that the resurrection of Jesus is just purely spiritual. He emphasizes the spiritual body of Jesus, not the flesh while the disciples are holding to the resurrected Christ in the flesh. When Jesus appears to Thomas, he has faith in the risen Christ affirming ‘My Lord and My God!”

Let’s step back and review a few points.

The risen Christ is neither a resuscitated body nor a ghost or a spirit. What bodies can go through walls and appear in the midst of the disciples in the upper room!
It is a body that can’t be touched. Jesus says that to Magdalene, “not to cling.”

There are stories in the appearance accounts where the disciples do not easily recognized Jesus until he does something familiar from his earthly life. Mistaken as the gardener by Magdalene, Jesus says “Mary” in a recognized familiar tone for her to respond with “Rabboni.” Or there are the two disciples not recognizing Jesus as he walked with them on the road to Emmaus until he breaks bread with them. Or Jesus on the beach cooking fish when the Beloved Disciple realizes that is the Lord. Then Peter strips down and jumps into the lake and swims to shore. There is something discontinuous as well as continuous with the risen Jesus from his previous fleshly existence.

What we see in the original witnesses is human attempt to make sense what happened on Easter with the cultural stories and notions of death and afterlife various had at their disposal.

But there is a deeper issue that stands at the center of today’s gospel between the Beloved Disciple who looked into the tomb, seeing the rolled napkin and placed his faith in Jesus’ words and the absent Thomas who refused to place his faith in Jesus until the risen Christ asked him to place his hands in the wounds wrought by Roman torture and crucifixion.

For some of the Pharisees and Jesus’ disciples, they believed in the resurrection of the dead at the end of time. It seems Paul believed that when a person died, that person would not be raised until the end of time. And then there was the Greek position that the soul was trapped in the body, and when a person died, the soul was released to join God.

Both positions have come to be our modern Christian position on death. At memorial services, we speak of the spirit of the deceased joining God. Many of us have had the experience of the dying of a dear one, dreaming about her or sensing the presence of the deceased through something remembered or a song or an anniversary or place that generates a vivid memory. The deceased person is physically absent but present to us, and that is real. Something of our life force, spiritual energy, or soul joins with God and Christ.

But God created us with bodies, where we learn and appreciate a physical world. Christ too was incarnated in the flesh and experienced what it means to be human, experience our joy and our pains. We believe that the material universe was created for an intended purpose to be joined to God in unimaginable ways. This is the vision of the future for all of us—spirit and physical flesh united and recreated anew with God’s flesh and Spirit.

Early followers of Jesus proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus as the foundation of their faith; and it is certainly the foundation of my discipleship in following the Christ. Thomas’ position of a spiritual resurrection of Christ was probably the understanding of Paul in his vision of the resurrected and glorified body of the risen Christ.

It says to me that both the Beloved Disciples and Thomas were each partially correct in some fashion, offering us a vision of the risen Christ who united physical body with spirit. They were attempting to comprehend what happened Easter morning within their own languages of the afterlife. Both the followers of the Beloved Disciple and the disciples of Thomas hope to share the resurrected life of Christ. Some looked to an afterlife with fleshy bodies and others imagined spiritual bodies like angels. We will answer that question in the afterlife or something more unimaginable than we can conceive. It maybe the new speculations will talk about the quantum body of the crucified and resurrected Christ. All these are speculations, our attempts to understand something beyond our comprehension.

The tensions played out between these two perspectives leading the Christian movement to a clear proclamation of the real fleshiness of Jesus during his life and in his afterlife. It stands as sign of our fleshy connection to the resurrected Christ and our fleshy connection to the pain and sufferings of people, other life, and the Earth. We all shared a fleshy origin, and our flesh and bones are important to our spiritual journey and facing our mortality.
But for me I recognize this story of doubting Thomas. I recognize the disciples on the first night of Easter and on the eighth day after. I look to the resurrected Christ who carries the wounds of his crucifixion and all other crucifixions continued today. The world needs answers to our crucifixions and crucified Earth. The world looks to us for something tangible for our world to hope. It is the mystery of resurrected life with the wounds that Christ carries. God cares not only for the crucifixion of Jesus but all crucifixions whether it is brokenness of homelessness, the woundedness of poverty or mental or physical illness, or the human ravages of the Earth and its degradation, the world is looking to us to turn the passion of Christ and all crosses into compassionate change.

I look to Christ’s resurrection as the source of compassion for the world. Compassion is the inner message of the resurrected Christ. We are called to live our faith in the risen Christ who says, “Blessed are those who have not seen but placed their faith in me!” (Jn 20:29)

Easter is the Source of Our Green Faith, John 20:1-18

It is amazing how many Christians fail to see Easter as the greening event par excellence in biblical history. Even the Green Bible that has each sections of the Hebrew and Christian marked in green for environmental issues, but it does not mark out today’s gospel in green. Why do Christians miss the obvious, for me at least, dimension of ecological spirituality and themes in the resurrection story of Magdalene discovering the risen Christ in the garden?

Maybe it is my Catholic heritage that opens my eyes to environmental significance of the story. In Catholic Easter vigil, the paschal candle is dipped into the baptismal waters, signifying ancient symbolism of fertility and new life. For Christians, symbols of fertility and rebirth aptly signify the risen Christ, the new life of Easter. Christ is born to new life as we all hope and dream for ourselves.

There are so many clues that point to themes around earth, life, gardens, risen from the tomb, the dead cross and the green garden. The resurrection garden stands in contrast to the Garden of Gethsemane and even the Garden of Eden. It symbolizes the new life that God intended for us from the beginning.
If your green imagination is challenged, think about C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe of the Chronicles of Narnia. The long winter of the Witch’s reign is broken under the warmth of Christ’s springtime. The springtime here signifies new life, new growth, and the restoration of nature by the death and resurrection of the Aslan/Christ figure. Seeds sprout, fruit trees blossom with colors, lilies and flowers in bloom, birds chirping and life filled with hope. All these herald life; they point to God as creator and Spirit. It is time of birth and renewal.
Unlike many Christians who continually throw the Earth into God’s trash bin for a heavenly salvation for themselves alone, I see glimpses of hope in Easter: so marvelously inclusive and extravagant.

And let me tell you that many folks who fight for the Earth and all life are either there with Jesus on the cross Good Friday or with Jesus’ corpse in the tomb. They are so aware of the polluted rivers, the toxic waste dumps that harm us and other life, the extinction of millions of plant and animal species, the radioactive spills into the Pacific Ocean, the thousands of coal plants pumping unceasing carbon and toxic pollution into the air to warm our climate. I can’t help associating the unbreathable atmosphere in Beijing where millions of people have to wear masks against the heavily polluted atmosphere with the experience the asphyxiation that Jesus did on the cross. Humans tortured Christ and other humans through asphyxiation. Or Jesus being slaughtered at the time of thousands lambs for Passover celebrations. He suffered as animals suffered merciless killings or the extinctions of species. Global warming is and its ravages will continue to be a reality that we and our descendants have to live with for generations.

It is hard to maintain hope when you stand before the cross of the crucified Jesus and not think that the Roman Empire and religious fundamentalists have won; or lay in the dark tomb with Jesus’ corpse, realizing the body has been scarred and remains lifeless. This is where many environmental activists are today. They have been shocked out of hope by human degradation of the Earth and all life on the planet. Many mourn the passion of the Earth. Our mission given to us this is Easter to be people of hope and to share that hope with those Earth caregivers who still at the foot of the cross and mourn in the tomb. It is easy to fall into such thinking for myself when I look at the on-going news reports of the growing climate change and unusual severe weather events.

The tomb represents our groundedness with the Earth. It is the primal matrix of the soil from which we evolved. In Genesis, we were named adamah, earth creature because we came from the soil. We were bound to the soil. Dr. Daniel Hillel, a soil physicist, notes that humanity is associated with the soil:

The ancient Hebrew association of man with soil is echoed in the Latin name for man, homo, derived from humus, the stuff of life in the soil. This powerful metaphor suggests an early realization of a profound truth that humanity has since disregarded to its own detriment. Since the words “humility” and “humble” also derive from humus, it is rather ironic that we should have assigned our species so arrogant a name as Homo sapiens sapiens (“wise wise man”). It occurs to me, as I ponder our past and future relation to the earth, that we might consider changing our name to a more modest Homo sapiens curans, with the word curans denoting caring or caretaking, as in “curator.” (“Teach us to care” was T.S. Eliot’s poetic plea.) Of course, we must work to deserve the new name, even as we have not deserved the old one.

Jesus, like of all us, is tethered to the earth, and through our embodiment, we are tethered with Jesus in the tomb when we die. But we know that we join God’s Christ, alive and part of the mystical body of Christ. We know that existed in the biosphere, he breathed oxygen as we do, he ate food as we do, and many other actions we commonly do.

And the resurrection is the promise that all life has a future in God, not just us. God is calling us and all creation to communion with God’s self, in ways for us inconceivable. Yet God communicates that history is not predetermined but an open future.

Easter, then, is God’s victory over it all. The life, death, and resurrection of Christ is the decisive for all of us—the world, all life, the Earth, and the universe. What happens to Christ raised from the tomb will happen to all—transformed into resurrection life. Easter reveals the fullness of the matrix of all life with God; it is the web of grace that links all life, human and other life and the Earth together. That web is God’s Spirit, the Spirit that pulsed new life and energy into the risen Christ.

Creation is all interconnected bodily together through the Spirit. Creation is not just the beginning of the universe, it is the on-going evolution of cosmic and biologically processes, the coming of the incarnate Christ—now dead but risen to the new life intended for all—and the Spirit the navigator subverting all human distortions and destructiveness of life. That last point I hold on for dear life as I engage in Earthcare and fighting for the Earth and all life. It is too easy to become overwhelmed emotionally, loose hope when you see on daily basis human arrogance and human denial, exploiting the Earth recklessly, contaminating the waters and ground water, polluting the atmosphere, raping the mountain tops by harvesting coal, undoing the EPA just trying to protecting human well-being from human created diseases and cancers, greed and short term profit over the expense of all others.

Human violence, self-centeredness and callous disregard for other life, and exploitation of the Earth and the community of life will not be the last word. The crucial issue of God’s incarnation, death and resurrection, reveals the seamless web of interrelationship of all life. At the intersections of this seamless web of interrelated life is God’s incarnated Child. The incarnate risen Christ weaves the web of interdependent life into his body. And the divine community of life and unconditional grace will have the last word. Resurrection, Life, Greenness!
We are all interconnected and interrelated. We are all siblings, human and other life. We are together in the body of Christ. Diarmuid O’Murchu, Irish priest and writer, envisions:

When you weep, we weep When a tree is felled prematurely, an animal in pain because of crazy experimentation, a teenager rebelling authority, a couple at their wit’s end trying to make a relationship work, an African woman burying the last of her seven children because of AIDS, a Peruvian farmer seeing his last piece of land swiped by a transnational corporation, we too feel the pain, the helplessness, the rage the cruel injustice.

What becomes stressed by Easter is that God’s ultimate act of compassion is Christ, his life and death, and then the resurrection. All the efforts of God at creating; incarnating, interrelating with us, all life, and creation; reconciling and sustaining and spiriting us to new birth and new love—all this is the outpouring of God’s unconditional love for all creation. It links us together in solidarity with all others. This the web of grace within we were created and within which Christ’s resurrection strengthens us together with the universe. God became human and materials so that humanity, all life, and the universe would become divine.

God will be victorious over human violence, greed, and selfishness. God will have the last word. I hold onto to this hope with all my faith and commitment though I see such human foolishness and arrogance.

The Resurrection of Christ is also about the transformation of the universe. Jesus’ resurrection is the hope that defies all hopelessness—even the hopelessness of Earth caregivers and activists. God proclaims that the relational matrix of the divine community of life outpouring an unconditional love and invitation to participate in that flow of love. On Easter, God announces radical inclusiveness. Nothing that we imagine as inclusive is inclusive enough for God. There will be no more outcasts: not any human, no other life, nor the Earth herself. Everything falls into God’s matric of interrelating graces. All creation! We now belong to the reign of God’s inclusiveness. God cares, and invites to care for all and to proclaim the hope of a new belong for all. We all belong to God.
God will not abandon creation and all life, but will continue to be presence to creation and all life and weave them continuous into a matrix of interconnected grace.

Christ’s resurrection was a wakeup call to his disciples, birthing a movement of compassion, forgiveness, peace-making, love, non-violence, radical inclusiveness, and extravagant love. It a wakeup call to God’s green grace that flows from the heart of divine love, birth in creation, thriving in evolutionary chaos and organizing life into more complexity, incarnating God’s self, and re-embodying in ourselves and all life, listening to the invitation of love at the end of this journey of all towards God.

Alleluia, God will triumph over all: climate deniers, fundamentalists, human exploiters, politicians committed to undo any efforts to stop climate change. God will be victorious.

Easter Message: Easter: Gardening as Spiritual Practice for Earthcare

for the message with pictures of our church garden: clik on http://www.scncucc.org/voices/2015/03/ucc-conference-church-life/easter-gardening-as-a-spiritual-practice-for-earth-care/

Rev. Dr. Robert Shore-Goss

“…or speak to the earth, and it will teach you.” — Job 12:8

Gardens have been sacred spaces for many religions. For Islam, there are three gardens: the garden of Creation or Eden, the gardens of this world, and the
Paradise garden at the resurrection of the dead. The Buddha was enlightened in a grove under a Bo tree in Bodhgaya, and he preached his first sermon ever in Deer Park. Japanese Zen Gardens have become a familiar landscape in American botanical gardens. The etymology for the ancient Avestan (Persian) word “Paradise” (pairidaēza) means orchard or a hunting park.

The Jesus movement became an urban movement within three years after the death and resurrection of Christ. It forgot its garden and rural roots and when it was propelled into an imperial religion under Constantine, urban Christians stood against pagans (paganus, Latin for rustic or country-dweller). Christians as they expanded throughout Europe during the late Roman period and in the Early Middle Ages cut down the trees of sacred groves of competing indigenous religions. It forgot that Jesus’ burial tomb was in a garden.

I love our church garden, it is surprise in an urban setting with desert landscape and indigenous California plants. I sit in the garden for prayer each day, often with my companion dog Friskie. He loves the garden fragrances and enjoys chasing the birds eating the bird seed. The garden teaches me about abundant life, the language of grace. I share this reflection with you at Easter as a time to re-covenant ourselves as individuals and churches to Earth-care and environmental justice, for me the Earth is one of God’s gardens.

The first truth about gardens is that they are created; they are relational. In Genesis 2, we have the primal myth about God and gardens. It is metaphorical history that speaks about a grace relationship between God gardens, and ourselves. Unlike the first chapter of the priestly account of creation in Genesis 1, where God speaks creation into existence, the Yahwist poet communicates that God didn’t speak the garden into existence but knelt down and fashioned a garden it out of dirt and placed our primal ancestors in the garden to live and care for the garden. It was a graced God’s space, but we alienated ourselves from the garden. This is perhaps more true than myth about contemporary humanity in the last two centuries as we have further disconnected ourselves from nature and gardens. For myself and many of the congregants, our garden is God’s graced space, and it grew of our decision to make the Earth a member of our church and our hope to restore our connection to the Earth. We have a remarkable garden in the urban space of North Hollywood. It is landscaped with flowers and indigenous California plants but also includes vegetables that we harvest and share with church members. Our folks tour the garden before to witness the latest blooms and sit in the garden to talk after service.

Our garden is truly a gift, literally because every plant has been donated by members, by stakeholders using our facility, and even by strangers. Gardens are gifts of natural beauty, with an abundant network of life. Gardens are works of art intended to be enjoyed. We co-live with them and participate in them whether as gardeners or visitors. We have a relationship with a garden whether we cultivate and care for the plants or are a visitor meditating and enjoying the garden.
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I have watched our church gardener for years, tenderly caring for each plant, watering, pruning, planting or transplanting, fertilizing, mulching, or enjoying. It is his spirituality, and he communicates with and listens to each plant. Our gardener is a member of our pastoral team, and he takes seriously that he has a pastoral responsibility to the Earth since we made the Earth a member of our congregation. He listens to the plants in the garden and is attentive to their needs. I commented to him several weeks ago how much his listening skills and compassionate care for congregants have matured with remarkable attentiveness and kindness to church members. I attribute this growth in pastoral skills to his listening and attentiveness to life in the garden. The garden has provided him with a pedagogy of listening and care, transferable also congregants.

The second truth about gardens is that they create a holy place where the sacred and nature come together. I experienced profound truth that God loves gardens and creates gardens. Dorothy Francis Gurney writes, “One is nearer God’s heart in a garden/ Than anywhere else on earth.” Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw also observes, “The best place to seek God is in a garden.” How many of us find now God in our own gardens, church gardens, botanical or urban gardens, or the wilderness gardens of the Earth? I treasure my daily prayer time in our garden, often spent with companion dog.

Early Christians grasped the depth of meaning of the garden scene between the risen Christ and Magdalene. They understood that God is a gardener, for God began the gardening process of creation, and God the Gardener is lost in a kind of revelry or enjoyment on the Sabbath in Genesis. Since the garden is so lovely and so interesting, there is no other place that God wants to be, for God wants to attend to the garden and the gardeners. God’s hands are dirty from garden care fashioning and creating. In the poetry of the book of Genesis, God the Gardener takes clay, breathes into clay, and fashions the first earthling–adamah. Dr. Daniel Hillel, a soil physicist, observes that the feminine Hebrew noun adamah indicates humanity’s origin and humanity’s destiny. In other words, we are tethered to the Earth from beginning of our lives to the end of our days. This is a profound truth of earthly embodiment and foreshadowing our destiny to return to the Earth until we resurrected from Earth tomb as plants arises from the soil.

Of note in Genesis 2, God takes human beings and places them in a garden, and it is paradise because it is the place where humans can walk, talk, and intimately meet God in a graced space, and we can enjoy the beauty of the garden together. Hillel writes,

The ancient Hebrew association of man with soil is echoed in the Latin name for man, homo, derived from humus, the stuff of life in the soil. This powerful metaphor suggests an early realization of a profound truth that humanity has since disregarded to its own detriment. Since the words “humility” and “humble” also derive from humus, it is rather ironic that we should have assigned our species so arrogant a name as Homo sapiens sapiens (“wise wise man”). It occurs to me, as I ponder our past and future relation to the earth, that we might consider changing our name to a more modest Homo sapiens curans, with the word curans denoting caring or caretaking, as in “curator.” (“Teach us to care” was T.S. Eliot’s poetic plea.) Of course, we must work to deserve the new name, even as we have not deserved the old one.

Gardens provide not only a Sabbath delight to God but also to ourselves because they are created space for intimate encounters that have been made fragrant to the smell and pleasurable to our senses. We have two primary relationships to a garden—actually as care-taking or as visitor invited to take care and preserve the garden. God loves and takes delight in gardens whether it is the immense garden that we describe as universe or the smaller Earth garden named Eden. And I understand this mystery as I and others sit in our meditation garden to pray and meet God or meet Christ each other in the garden while we share refreshments and conversations on a Sunday morning.

Czechoslovakian writer and gardener Karel Apek writes the following in his lovely book The Gardener’s Year. He describes a gardener, but I want you this Easter to imagine that he is speaking about God the Gardener.

I will now tell you how to recognize a real gardener. “You must come to see me,” she says; “I will show you my garden.” Then, when you go just to please her, you find her with her rump sticking up somewhere among the perennials. “I will come in a moment,” she shouts to you over her shoulder. “Just wait till I have planted this rose.” “Please don’t worry,” you say kindly to her. After a while she must have planted it; for she gets up, makes your hand dirty, and beaming with hospitality she says: “Come and have a look; it’s a small garden, but —– Wait a moment,” and she bends over a bed to weed some tiny grass. “Come along. I will show you Dianthus musalae; it will open your eyes. Great Scott, I forgot to loosen it here!” she says, and begins to poke in the soil. A quarter of an hour later she straightens up again. “Ah,” she says, “I wanted to show you that bell flower, Campanula Wilsonae. That is the best campanula which —– Wait a moment, I must tie up this delphinium . . .”

In the above description, I enjoy the delightful image of God as a female Gardener, poking, tilling, fussing, watering, fertilizing, and tenderly caring and fussing over her garden with a wonderful hat. As I earlier claimed, gardens are pure gift. We receive them as networks of abundant life, and they are places of life-giving beauty—splashes of color, designs that still our soul, and intoxicating scents that incite enjoyment. They still storms of raging emotions for a few moments, and they center us on beauty of life and the one who has graciously given life. For myself, our garden teaches me about God’s grace, it is a convergence of the scripture of the natural world and our written scripture. It speaks of resurrected life of Easter grace and God’s beauty.

Now Golgotha, the place of the skull, where Jesus was crucified and others were murdered by the Romans, was not far from the garden tomb, where the crucified Jesus was laid to rest. Golgotha was near the garbage or refuse heap of Jerusalem. In reflecting on our garden, I have grown to understand Golgotha as composter, a place of death where God uses the compost of Jesus to raise Jesus up from the garden tomb and bring new life to the Garden of the Earth.

On Easter morning, Mary Magdalene stood weeping outside the empty tomb in the garden, and she found no emotional peace in the garden. She spoke her emotional anguish and grief to one she thought was a worker in the garden. Jesus appears to her in the garden, symbolic of Eden resurrected and restored to a new fullness and the cosmos yet coming to life fully within God. She recognizes the gardener as her Teacher only when he calls her by name.
What Easter morning proclaims is the good news that, out of destruction and death, Jesus rises from the earthen tomb as the new Adam or resurrected adamah from the soil. God the Gardener, who planted a garden in Eden and then raised Jesus to new life in a garden, is still at work creating life and beauty in our world. No wonder at the empty tomb in the garden did the risen Christ appear to Mary Magdalene as the gardener. Her mistaken identification of the risen Jesus as the gardener bears much prophetic truth. Jesus, in fact, is the Gardener who transforms our lives now and finally and becomes at the same time the ultimate Garden where we meet the God of life anew and profoundly.

Magdalene’s inclination is to touch or to cling onto Christ. She reaches out to cling to Jesus, but Jesus tells her that she cannot continue to hold on this way as his resurrection transformation is not completed until his body becomes transformed from one plane of existence into the entire eco-system. The resurrection of Jesus is not only the radical transformation of the crucified Christ but the “green” transformation of all things in God. All things become divinely interconnected through the risen Christ as he described himself to his disciples at the Last Supper as the vine connected to the branches and Abba God is the vine-grower or the gardener. (Jn. 15:1-ff.) This strengthens the irony of Magdalene’s mistaken identity of Jesus as the gardener. The risen Christ now assumes the divine position of being God’s garden and the Gardener at the same time. Ultimately, what gardens and Christ’s resurrection have in common is the gift of abundant life. The sense of gift is the heart of the Easter experience–bringing surprise, abundant life, hope, and emotional peace and tranquility.
Magdalene and the other disciples were called to follow in the steps of the Christ the Gardener. They were invited to participate in the important job of co-creating and co-participating, co-creating, and co-living with the Spirit in giving life to the garden and bringing that garden to the fullness where God intends. As gardeners, Christians co-create gardens to help others find and meet God.

But God’s garden, the Earth, is dying, and human beings are responsible for killing the garden through our impact on climate change. Our reckless greed for fossil fuels and reckless exploitation of the Earth’s resources at the expense of other life has jeopardized God’s garden. One of the contributing causes is humanity’s disconnection with the Earth; we have separate ourselves from the web of life. We are separated from gardens and need to reconnect with gardens as intimate part of faith experience.

The most urgent need of today and the next decades is the transformation of humanity to reconnect intimately with our garden the Earth. Our arrogance has led to a radical disconnection and alienation from the Earth, and we have ravaged, exploited, and damaged the Earth garden and its life. We as Christians need to foster a gardening spirituality that not only connects us with our foundational experience of Easter but overcomes our arrogant separation from nature by learning to reconnect reverently to the web of interrelated life. The key to human immersion is to re-discover the wonder, enchantment, and beauty of God immanent in the natural world. I have witnessed as people fall in love with nature, they will fight for what they cherish and love.

Thomas Berry, a Christian eco-theologian or self-described as a “geologian,” points out that humanity must learn to listen to the language of the Earth. Natural phenomena—plants and other life—have their own language, and the natural world resonates with the voice of the Creator and Gardener. Just as the gardener in my church learned to listen to the voices of each plant and the birds in our church garden and just as I sit attentive in the garden, listen to the voices of the Earth in the garden and pray. I discover the resurrected Gardener who teaches me what Thomas Berry describes as “wonder-filled intimacy” with all life and the planet Earth.

All human resources are required to heal, nurture, cultivate, and restore health to God’s garden. It is the fundamental revelation of Easter that we follow Christ as disciple gardeners. We create gardens and cultivate and care for gardens, for gardens are on a spiritual quest. Human beings have sought the Garden of Eden as place where God and humans once co-lived. But God has promised us something greater—what God intended with the garden of the universe and the Garden of Eden—is to create them into a cosmic resurrection garden—where we walk once again with intimacy God in the garden.

We in the United Church of Christ are called to be healers of the wounds of the Earth—making amends for our sins of consumptive greed and for placing our heads in the sands. It starts with a personal conversation and mistaken identity that began on Easter Sunday when Christ appeared to Magdalene in the Garden and invited us to participate in God’s mission of gardening the Earth. Easter is about gardening the Earth and nurturing life on the Earth for God. One of my favorite quotes that I will conclude my Easter Garden reflection:
When crated the earth, God “made room” for us all and in so doing showed us the heart of divine life, indeed all life, is the generous and gracious gesture. As we Garden, that is, as we weed out the non-nurturing elements within us and train our habits to be more life promoting, we participate in the divine life and learn to see and feel the creation as God sees and feels it.

Help commit yourself and your church this Easter to become gardeners of the Earth for Christ the Gardener and re-covenant your congregation and yourselves with the risen Christ and the garden of the Earth. You can do so by forming an Environmental Justice team in your congregation, join or create Environmental Team in your Association and/or Conference, and definitely connect yourself and your community to the Environmental Ministries of the United Church of Christ. Explore the denominational Environmental Ministries website. (http://www.ucc.org/search_results?q=environmental+justice) Take a virtual tour that is explore the site and its multiple levels of resources, play with the site, led the Spirit and your curiosity direct yourself. I did and that, and the Holy Spirit brought me into the UCC by the wonderful resources and documents that I discovered as a gardener of the Earth. Make sure your conference website and church website has listed environmental justice resources and interconnections. Let the Spirit help you discover as Mary Magdalene did that Easter is the celebration of God’s Garden and risen Christ as the Gardener.

God Loves Gardens

Resurrection can be confusing, amazing, startling, and life-changing. In this morning’s gospel, it is Mary Magdalene that discovers the stone rolled away and the body of Jesus gone. She runs to inform the Beloved Disciple and Peter who run to the tomb to find it empty with face napkin neatly folded and the burial clothes strewn all over the tomb. As they leave, Mary remains at the tomb weeping.

Mary looks into the tomb to see two angels in white–one sitting where the head of Jesus was laid to rest and the other at the feet. They ask her, “woman, why are you weeping?” Magdalene’s responds, “They taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Mary’s epiphany vision deepens with her longing. The narrative possibly alludes back to the Song of Songs 3:1-4, where a dark skin woman searches for her male lover, asking the city guards if they have seen her lover. Magdalene’s longing to find the human body of her Lord within a garden furthers my ecological reading of the narrative. Magdalene’s yearning for her Lord is shared by green Christians who identify the body of Christ with the Earth.
Jesus’ resurrection from the garden tomb is reminiscent of Jesus’ parable, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth, it just remains a single grain, but if dies, it bears much fruit.”(Jn. 12:24) The contrast of the parable is falling into the earth and barrenness with the seed dying and bearing fruit. Death and life are co-mingled in the tomb, but the God of life brings the fruit of resurrected life in Christ.

In one of the beautiful scenes of mistaken identity, Mary Magdalene’s epiphany deepens into a christophany of the risen Christ.
Supposing that the risen Jesus is the gardener, Magdalene pleads, “Sir if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” What if in her misperception of the garden christophany of the risen Christ, Mary spoke prophetically that the risen Jesus is indeed the gardener. Jesus just could not be standing in the garden to be mistaken for the gardener. Was he weeding the garden or tending the flowers in some way? Was he appreciating beauty of the spring flowers in bloom? Eco-theologian Edward Echlin writes, “Mary’s initially mistaking Jesus for the gardener is a profound irony with many connotations. Jesus, in fact, is the Gardener, the New Adam, as the open side on the cross intimates, Master of the garden earth, the One in whom, with whom and under whom all human gardeners garden.”

Jesus appears to her in the garden, symbolic of Eden restored to a new fullness and the cosmos coming to life fully within God. She recognizes the gardener as her Teacher only when he calls her by name. She is the disciple that Jesus predicts in John 16:20 who will “weep and mourn” and have pain turned into joy. Her inclination is to touch or to cling onto Christ, but Jesus tells her that she cannot continue to hold him in this way as his resurrection transformation is not completed until his body becomes transformed from one plane of existence into the entire cosmic eco-system.

The resurrection of Jesus is not only the radical transformation of the crucified Christ but the “green” transformation of all things in God. All things become interconnected through the risen Christ as he is the vine connected to the branches (Jn. 16:1-ff) and God is the vine-grower. This strengthens the irony of the mistaken identity of Jesus as the gardener. The risen Christ now assumes the divine position of vine-grower and or gardener.

Resurrection is the final green event, a transfiguration of all things—an incarnational ripening and greening of human life and the cosmos. For John’s community, there was no doubt that what God was doing for the whole cosmos and humanity had been done to Jesus in the dark hours before Easter dawn within the tomb. In other words, gardening is a resurrection activity of God’s Spirit, for what God did to Jesus, God has been doing from the beginning of time—saving and bringing life from death. God calls Jesus back into God’s life to green the world. In other words, God harvests Jesus from the tomb and brings him to life everlasting.

What is Easter really about? Easter is about relationality– that is connected or interconnected with all life. God reveals that everything in the universe is interconnected and will flourish with divine life. God reveals to us that life and death are interrelated. Jesus is the lynchpin between the interrelated process of creation and redemption. Jesus is God’s gift of interrelated love that unites all and brings flourishing to life.

Certainly, Easter is about gardening. God raises Jesus from death in the garden tomb. Coincidentally, Jesus is not only the gardener but also the garden. Think about garden. A garden is not a single plant, for it is a garden because it is a collection of plants—diverse from desert landscape and succulents to rose bushes and trees to herbs and other plants. It includes water features and provides sanctuary to other life and new life with the morning dove and her two offspring born on our rain barrel. Our garden is a network of living plants which together flourish and bring us beauty, but most importantly it is experienced as a gift. Every plant in our garden is a gift, and the garden is a gift from human sweat and labor—mostly, Gregoir’s.

A garden surrounds the tomb where Jesus was laid to rest. There is no coincidence in the confluence of garden and tomb. They are both gardens, for the tomb is the soil from which God brings Jesus to life. I am reminded by the seeds that Celia planted several weeks ago in the planters and then labeled the seeds. Those seeds within days broke from the tombs of the soil, sprouting initial leaves and buds. For what a garden gives to us a sense of gift, that communicates growth and life, and together abundant life

In the Genesis story, our primal ancestors are placed in the Garden of Eden. It is there they encounter God their creator, it is there they sinned and hid themselves from God in the evening behind the bushes aware of their sin. Our evolutionary fall from the garden has been a catastrophe for us as a species because we hide ourselves from God so many times by disconnecting ourselves from gardens. Author Carolyn Merchant in her book—Reinventing Eden—writes about the human search for Eden is “perhaps the most important mythology have developed to make sense of their relationship to the Earth.” And I would add to “God” as well.

The nature of human sin has been to hide from God by abandoning our connections to the Earth for an exaggerated self-centeredness and consumerist greed to dominate and enslave nature and Earth. After all, all creation was made for humanity. Is creation all about us? Or is creation about God wanting to sharing love with life? But God has instilled a grace in our very being, an instinct and desire for gardens. This search for gardens or the Garden of Eden is the heart of our spiritual quest as human beings. I admit we have some wonderful local gardens such as the Huntington and Descano Gardens and botanical gardens in many cities. However there are too few gardens and too much pavement.

Often the gardens we Americans create is to pave over the Earth, build buildings and malls everywhere, and leave room for an occasional square with a a few plants and trees. It reflects our spiritual impoverishment and our fall from the quest for gardens. Our American gardens promote consumerism, profit, and greed without constraint. Greed and profit communicate something very different from gardens, for gardens are truly places of grace. They are places of gift and grace, for they communicate something that we humans need to experience and re-experience—that we belong to the garden, and God’s garden is in our blood. Gardens offer us the gift of abundant life, beauty, and grace.
Gardens teach us to return to the Earth’s as a living and magnificent garden. Gardens teach us devotion and reverence to life. They help us fall in love with God.

Resurrection is the cosmic green event, a transfiguration of all things—an incarnational ripening and greening of human life, all life, and the cosmos. For John’s community, there was no doubt that what God was doing for the whole cosmos and humanity had been done to Jesus in the dark hours before Easter dawn.

Easter unites the self-empting nature of God’s love in Jesus, it is God’s vulnerability in Jesus, suffering, and laying down his life for us on the cross, but Easter reveals that God is about new life, joy, and transfiguration. The cross of Jesus is caught with suffering creation groaning for resurrection transformation. In other words, gardening is a resurrection activity of God’s Spirit, for what God did to Jesus, God has been doing from the beginning—saving and bringing life from death. God calls Jesus back into God’s life to green the world. He comes to life sprouting from a tomb in a garden as the vines on our pergola.

Magdalene and the other disciples were called to follow in the steps of the gardening Christ. They were invited to participate in the important job of co-creating and co-living with the Spirit in giving life to the garden and bringing that garden to the fullness where God originally intends. Gardens are certainly places where heaven and Earth meet; they are spiritual portals to grace and recognition of God’s gift of abundant life to us.

Cultivating, nurturing, watering, and fertilizing and enjoying garden are means to assist the garden to flourish collectively and become a means of discovering and rediscovering God’s call to enjoy and appreciate the gift of abundant life.

But our garden, the Earth, is dying, and human beings are responsible for killing the garden. All resources are required to heal, nurture, cultivate, and restore health to God’s garden. Humanity has precipitated in its drive for overconsumption and reckless disregard for long-term consequences of carbon emissions to the atmosphere have impacted our fragile eco-systems with global warming. Climate change harms gardens.

Resurrection is about gardening the Earth and nurturing life on the Earth for God. Early Christianity scholar Elaine Pagels notes how the first generation of Christians shocked the ancient with the counter-cultural lifestyle. They cared for babies, often disabled, and left on hillsides to die. They raised these children as their own. Christians brought food and medicine to prisoners and slaves in the Roman mines, they fed the poor. They were known for their loving-kindness. What if again we Christians as a resurrection people were known for our loving kindness to the poor and homeless, but also expressing that loving kindness towards life and the Earth. Christians were known to transform strangers into brothers and sisters. Could we follow in St. Francis’ footsteps and envision kinship other life and the living systems of the Earth?

Resurrection is God’s crazy wisdom, God’s mad condition of exuberant giving to us without any condition; it is the madness of Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God and his table fellowship. Jesus wanted the people around him to flourish and grow in their intimacy with Abba God. It is about the flourishing of grace just as the Garden tomb becomes place for us deepen our understanding that grace will flourish as we reconnect to Earth.

Living Easter is about living the flourishing of gardens, humanity, all life and the Earth.

In a poem by Erich Fried, understand that living Easter is the antecedent.
It’s nonsense, says reason.
It is what it says, says love.
It’s a disaster, says logic.
It’s nothing but pain, says fear.
It’s hopeless, says commonsense.
It’s what it is, says love.
It’s ridiculous says pride,
It’s foolhardy, says prudence.
It’s impossible, says experience.
It is what it, says love.