I have a deep and abiding interest in the intersection of ecology and theology. It has characterized my whole ministry. So, it should come as no surprise to you that I look for every opportunity to “spread the Gospel” that the redemption of God is not only for human souls, but for body, creation, and all of it. The worship committee has helped introduce a “Season of Creation” reprieve to Ordinary Time in September for the past couple years—and that has gone swimmingly. But it also makes sense to celebrate God “For the Beauty of the Earth” when “All Things [are] Bright and Beautiful” as the old Celtic song we sang this past Sunday goes. If our attention to Celtic Christianity had anything to impart for us, it would probably be this—that the whole creation joins in the praise of God. That might be a little more apparent in the Spring, when things are new and fresh and green, when the dogwoods and redbuds are in bloom, and the tulips look about as vivid and vibrant as ever. Perhaps the lectionary committee that developed the “Season of Creation” not only chose September as the time of year to celebrate as a break in the long slog through Ordinary Time, but because in much of the world (such as Oklahoma) it is a time when the “Earth groaning for redemption” is apparent. It is dry and brown and hot in September, so that aspect of non-human yearning for God’s grace is most evident.
But the Spring is the other side of the coin. Earth shakes off the frost, and new life comes forth. It is a literal and physical embodiment of the Paschal message we celebrate at this time of year. Some Christians get kind of bent out of shape about the correlations made between the Pre-Christian symbols of the Germannic Pagan celebration of Eostre, a Spring-time fertility goddess, being so pervasive in our celebration of Christ’s Resurrection at Easter (all the rabbits and eggs and chicks, and the like) but I’m not really bothered. Springtime evidences the miracle of new birth and renewed life in and of itself. “So what” if the people who populated the world where Christianity had not yet arrived to tell the story of Jesus had come to that conclusion on their own and spoke about it in different terms? As Paul would say, I think this is simply a matter of the Gentiles having the “law written on their hearts.” The renewal of the Earth is non-human creation praising the Life-Giver.
Some wrong-headed Christians think celebrating Earth Day is some kind of Pagan Earth-worshipping moralism. Obviously, I disagree. Earth Day is when the secular culture’s attention is on the planet and its condition. It is an opportunity for Christians to proclaim the Gospel that is Good News for all of Creation and for us to acknowledge that as the Bible says, Earth itself proclaims the Gospel—and in the Spring it is fragrant and lovely.
Addendum: I finished this before hearing of the Boston Marathon Bombing that occurred on Monday afternoon. After ensuring that my sister and brother-in-law (who live in Boston) had not been spectators at the marathon, I gathered news like many of us—and what I saw and read disturbed and sickened me. It caused deep distress when I saw that one of the dead was an 8 year old boy whose face reminds me of my own son, who had been at the finish line to watch his father. His 6 year old sister lost a leg in the blast, and his mother is being treated for a brain injury. Oh God, reach out with your strong arm and comfort these people. Tuesday morning, I read a comment on a post I had shared on the church Facebook page about children’s books about God, in which Kristin Ruff recommended a story I hadn’t heard called “Old Turtle”. What a beautiful and poig-nant story, and a reminder, especially in light of the horrible events at the Boston Marathon, that much devastation is wrought “because the people could not remember who they were, or where God was.” I pray for that day when we as a species on this planet will “hear that voice like the growling of thunder, but as soft as butterfly sneezes: ‘Please Stop!’”