Happy Easter! This is a wonderful weekend of celebration for the entire Christian church. We’re celebrating the heart of our faith, and reminding ourselves that this “religion” stands on a verifiable historical reality: Jesus rose from the dead! But Easter has particular meaning for those of us who are engaged in the ministry of caring for God’s creation. Here’s why.
It is more than 10 years since I had a memorable conversation while on a business trip to Whidbey Island, near Seattle. Being there over a weekend, I was visiting a local church for morning worship. I found myself being greeted by a friendly guy just inside the door. We got past the “I’m so and so…” and “isn’t this weather great?” and landed on “So, what brings you to our area?”
That is when it got interesting.
“I work for a Christian environmental organization…” I said. There was a long pause. “Oh. … I didn’t know there was such a thing.” I can’t remember how the conversation went from there – what stuck in my mind was his reaction to my job and ministry.
I’ve had hundreds of such conversations since then. The shock-value of such an announcement is pretty much gone: The idea that evangelical Christians can be active in environmental stewardship (that’s what we called it then) or creation care is now well known if not always widely accepted. But the remaining question hangs over every such conversation: “Is ‘environment’ really a legitimate avenue for Christian ministry?”
This weekend – arguably the most important in the Christian year – is an appropriate time to revisit this question: Why do we do what we do?
And part of the answer is… Easter.
The other key events in the Church year and Christian history are also important to our motivation. Advent and Christmas celebrate the Incarnation: God entered this creation and became one of us, showing in that act that the physical creation is important and should be cared for. I gave an entire chapter to this in Our Father’s World.
Good Friday marks a critical, central event in redemptive history: The God-who-is-one-of-us allowing himself to be executed in love, for our sins, and so removing those sins and their effects. If Christmas shows the value of caring for and even redeeming creation, Good Friday shows how salvation became available for us, and through us, for the rest of creation. (See Colossians 1:19-20 and Romans 8:19-23)
Easter is as important, perhaps more so. Why? Isn’t Easter just a follow-on to Good Friday? Sort of a visible proof that Good Friday was more than just one more person falling to the Roman sword? It is that – but it is also far more: Easter is the celebration of Christ’s victory over sin and death, but what is amazingly significant is that by means of a visible, verifiable historical resurrection event, God’s ultimate spiritual victory is brought into our present, physical reality. Jesus did not die and ascend directly to heaven, departing this physical realm for an unseen spiritual existence: He died, was buried – and then rose from the dead in this physical world: Real life demonstrated in real time!
A couple of things follow from this: First, Easter as an historical fact stands as the cornerstone of Christianity. Remember Paul? “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (I Cor 15:17) Our faith stands on a verifiable hypothesis: Jesus rose from the dead, or he did not. If he did not, the entire edifice crumbles to nothing. But if he did…
Second, Easter is our motivation for living our faith out now, including our care for God’s creation now: The resurrection is future salvation breaking into this historical present. As Bishop N.T. Wright notes:
With the resurrection, a new creation has dawned, and in that new creation new possibilities are open before us. The resurrection is not the end of the story; it’s the beginning of the new one, precisely because Jesus is the first-fruits and the full harvest is yet to come. NT Wright Feb 2012
Why do we do what we do at Care of Creation? Because Jesus came (Christmas!) and by his very presence hallowed all of this physical creation; because Jesus died (Good Friday!) and in that great and ultimate sacrifice paid the price to remove and correct the stain of our sin that pervades not only every human soul but every corner of God’s beautiful creation; and because we know from the historical fact of Jesus resurrection (Easter!) that the work that we do now to heal this creation “is not in vain”:
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (I Corinthians 15:58)
Thank you for your partnership with us in this great work!