The hope of Easter.

Meditation on Creation

Written by: Rev. Edwin Arrison

Gen 2:7 The Lord God formed the human being from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, so that he became a living creature.

John 3: 16   God so loved the Cosmos that he gave his only begotten Son, that everyone who has faith in him may not perish but have eternal life.

Next week, on what is generally referred to as Ash Wednesday, some Christians across the world will start the season of Lent which lasts until Easter. We will press pause on the alleluia button for just over six weeks until we reach Easter, which is our day of life and hope.

On Ash Wednesday, priests will bless some ash and place it on the forehead of those who come forward, marking them with the sign of the cross. First we will say the following words: Dust you are and to dust you shall return. And then we will say: Turn away from sin and believe the Good news.

Turn away from sin. The color purple will be the liturgical colour for the season of Lent. This will be a reminder that we are in a season of penitence.

(If we wanted to, we could invent a new liturgical day here at Volmoed and call it Ash Thursday, and use some of the Ash from the recent fires to mark all of us, to remind us that we are dust and that we come from the earth and will return to the earth.)

This sign is a powerful annual reminder that we are dust from the earth and to the earth we shall return. But In many many ways, most of humanity have become disconnected from the earth, and it is reflected in the way we live and how we approach life. A friend of mine, Zanele Khumalo, says that we have still not recovered from our initial trauma as human beings, that of being disconnected from our Mother at birth, and we are constantly trying to fill that gap, mainly through projection.

Listening to some of the testimonies about corruption here in South Africa, one is left with the question: What is enough? How much is enough? Is there an enough? Can someone really steal a hundred million rand or even a billion rand of money meant for the poor? Can someone really be offered a R600 million bribe? Are we as South Africans aware that we are disconnected from ourselves, from our Creator, from others and from the earth, and that we are desperately trying to fill an almost insatiable gap to strive for what some of our friends have called “the American dream”? It sounds more like a nightmare if we see the effects of this.

This is what do we do to fill this gap. We consume. We destroy. We hoard. We push out the poor. The clock is ticking and if we continue on our current path, we will soon, because of our greed and our disconnection, not have fresh water and clean air. If we continue to destroy our oceans, we will soon not have fish to eat. If we do not wake up, the deserts will simply grow and creep upon us. Some of our communities in this country will become dirtier to the extent that we will not be able to raise our children in it.

Some of the things happening around us we call “acts of God” but they are not. It is what we have done. A mudslide in Cameroon or India is completely preventable, if only we would care for the soil and heal it. I can mention many more examples. We must stop abusing the name of God and call these acts of God and take responsibility for it.

This is a serious matter for everyone, not just for the abelungu, as Trevor Noah would have said.

If we contrast our current behaviour with the humanity as found in the Christ, we will see that the reconciliation that God desires for us, envisages for us, is deep, and that it is not only about reconciling God with humanity, or humanity with other human beings, but also about uniting us with the birds and the bees. God not only loved the human beings, God so loved the cosmos. Failing to see that and to become united with that, means that our disconnection to ourselves, to others, to God and to the Earth will only deepen and we will destroy ourselves.

We need a more creative spirituality and theology: Richard Rohr has reminded us that the first incarnation was at Creation and that the birth of Jesus was the second incarnation. The Gospel of John supports this view by connecting these two events with the opening words of his Gospel: In the beginning was the Word. We don’t see this connection and mostly disconnect Gen 1 from John 1. For our own salvation, It is time for us to heal this connection.

A few years ago, Pope Francis wrote a wide-ranging letter to the whole human family. He called it Laudoto Si, and it starts with these words: “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”. (This is a quote from Saint Francis of Assisi, a 13th century monk).

The Pope continues: This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters. (1-2)

Pope Francis was not the only one to warn us: Steve de Gruchy did that years ago when he called for an Olive theology; so did Wangari Maathai in Kenya, so did Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and Bishop Geoff Davies, Kumi Naidoo and many many others.

If we do not listen to these words and change course, our faith and spirituality will be meaningless and empty:

But thanks be to God for the hope of Easter, for another way is always possible. Thanks be to God who always gives us hope, who remind us that Good Friday never has the last word. Young children across the world led by a 16year old child called Greta Thurnberg are beginning to lead us. While statements have been made over the years, words on paper alone are no longer enough. Even small actions, while helpful, does not deal with the urgency of the situation. It is time to wake up our policy makers, to preserve what we have and to reverse our current pathway but if they refuse to wake up, we – the people – will have no option but to deal with this ourselves. This is a global crisis and Kairos moment, if ever there was one. It is also a moment of hope and opportunity.

Jesus took bread and wine, made from elements that come from the earth, from the soil and said: This is my body, this is my blood. St Paul then said: We are the body of Christ. We are what we eat. We become what we are called. That unity, the unity with all of creation, this reversal of our disconnection from the earth, is what will begin our healing and should constitute our spiritual journey for the way forward. Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, begin the work of healing within us, that we may be reunited with you, with ourselves, with each other and with the earth. Amen.

Gen 2:7 The Lord God formed the human being from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, so that he became a living creature.

John 3: 16   God so loved the Cosmos that he gave his only begotten Son, that everyone who has faith in him may not perish but have eternal life.

Next week, on what is generally referred to as Ash Wednesday, some Christians across the world will start the season of Lent which lasts until Easter. We will press pause on the alleluia button for just over six weeks until we reach Easter, which is our day of life and hope.

On Ash Wednesday, priests will bless some ash and place it on the forehead of those who come forward, marking them with the sign of the cross. First we will say the following words: Dust you are and to dust you shall return. And then we will say: Turn away from sin and believe the Good news.

Turn away from sin. The color purple will be the liturgical colour for the season of Lent. This will be a reminder that we are in a season of penitence.

(If we wanted to, we could invent a new liturgical day here at Volmoed and call it Ash Thursday, and use some of the Ash from the recent fires to mark all of us, to remind us that we are dust and that we come from the earth and will return to the earth.)

This sign is a powerful annual reminder that we are dust from the earth and to the earth we shall return. But In many many ways, most of humanity have become disconnected from the earth, and it is reflected in the way we live and how we approach life. A friend of mine, Zanele Khumalo, says that we have still not recovered from our initial trauma as human beings, that of being disconnected from our Mother at birth, and we are constantly trying to fill that gap, mainly through projection.

Listening to some of the testimonies about corruption here in South Africa, one is left with the question: What is enough? How much is enough? Is there an enough? Can someone really steal a hundred million rand or even a billion rand of money meant for the poor? Can someone really be offered a R600 million bribe? Are we as South Africans aware that we are disconnected from ourselves, from our Creator, from others and from the earth, and that we are desperately trying to fill an almost insatiable gap to strive for what some of our friends have called “the American dream”? It sounds more like a nightmare if we see the effects of this.

This is what do we do to fill this gap. We consume. We destroy. We hoard. We push out the poor. The clock is ticking and if we continue on our current path, we will soon, because of our greed and our disconnection, not have fresh water and clean air. If we continue to destroy our oceans, we will soon not have fish to eat. If we do not wake up, the deserts will simply grow and creep upon us. Some of our communities in this country will become dirtier to the extent that we will not be able to raise our children in it.

Some of the things happening around us we call “acts of God” but they are not. It is what we have done. A mudslide in Cameroon or India is completely preventable, if only we would care for the soil and heal it. I can mention many more examples. We must stop abusing the name of God and call these acts of God and take responsibility for it.

This is a serious matter for everyone, not just for the abelungu, as Trevor Noah would have said.

If we contrast our current behaviour with the humanity as found in the Christ, we will see that the reconciliation that God desires for us, envisages for us, is deep, and that it is not only about reconciling God with humanity, or humanity with other human beings, but also about uniting us with the birds and the bees. God not only loved the human beings, God so loved the cosmos. Failing to see that and to become united with that, means that our disconnection to ourselves, to others, to God and to the Earth will only deepen and we will destroy ourselves.

We need a more creative spirituality and theology: Richard Rohr has reminded us that the first incarnation was at Creation and that the birth of Jesus was the second incarnation. The Gospel of John supports this view by connecting these two events with the opening words of his Gospel: In the beginning was the Word. We don’t see this connection and mostly disconnect Gen 1 from John 1. For our own salvation, It is time for us to heal this connection.

A few years ago, Pope Francis wrote a wide-ranging letter to the whole human family. He called it Laudoto Si, and it starts with these words: “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”. (This is a quote from Saint Francis of Assisi, a 13th century monk).

The Pope continues: This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters. (1-2)

Pope Francis was not the only one to warn us: Steve de Gruchy did that years ago when he called for an Olive theology; so did Wangari Maathai in Kenya, so did Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and Bishop Geoff Davies, Kumi Naidoo and many many others.

If we do not listen to these words and change course, our faith and spirituality will be meaningless and empty:

But thanks be to God for the hope of Easter, for another way is always possible. Thanks be to God who always gives us hope, who remind us that Good Friday never has the last word. Young children across the world led by a 16year old child called Greta Thurnberg are beginning to lead us. While statements have been made over the years, words on paper alone are no longer enough. Even small actions, while helpful, does not deal with the urgency of the situation. It is time to wake up our policy makers, to preserve what we have and to reverse our current pathway but if they refuse to wake up, we – the people – will have no option but to deal with this ourselves. This is a global crisis and Kairos moment, if ever there was one. It is also a moment of hope and opportunity.

Jesus took bread and wine, made from elements that come from the earth, from the soil and said: This is my body, this is my blood. St Paul then said: We are the body of Christ. We are what we eat. We become what we are called. That unity, the unity with all of creation, this reversal of our disconnection from the earth, is what will begin our healing and should constitute our spiritual journey for the way forward. Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, begin the work of healing within us, that we may be reunited with you, with ourselves, with each other and with the earth. Amen.