The communion liturgy, remembers the creating, redeeming, and life sustaining work of God, in the world. Specifically, we remember Jesus’ body and blood, given and shed for us in the bread and wine – and that it was during the Passover meal, with the sacrifice of an innocent lamb, and the deliverance and gift of freedom given, that Jesus also liberates us – and in the remembrance and presence of the gift, we eat and drink the meal of blessing, so that, we are freed from our bondage to sin and death, and saved and made alive, in Christ. And that it is not only us, singing God’s praise, but all creatures, and all creation, “with sun and moon and stars,” as Psalm 148 declares, sing too! It’s a song that reflects our high calling to care for God’s creation! Can we do this? Be this?
Earth Day began with idealistic dreams on April 22, 1970, under the initiative of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. Hoping to give legislative birth to Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” the Environmental Protection Agency came into being, and soon after, the passage of the Clean Air and Water Acts, that some say have saved hundreds of 1,000’s of lives, and, at the time, gave the 99%, protection, if not voice, in its caring for creation.
Originally, the passage of that legislation was a bipartisan effort, under a Republican President. Opposition, however, has only increased over time and coalesced into a movement whose success is bank-rolled by an emergent oligarchy – a caring for the 1%, more than creation, kind of movement. And so Earth Day will be another stand off resulting in no action – at least for climate change. Protests will run into the buzz saw of well organized climate deniers, who have bought and paid for, our elected leaders. There is an Earth Day celebration going on the National Mall in Washington DC as we speak, famous bands entertain, and speakers enlighten. And the Earth Day website urges us to join the “campaign for communities,” offering hundreds of suggestions for connecting up with people and resources to make a difference in your community. But who will speak for the earth as a whole, as our mother, who alone, silently, continues to pay the price for our sins of excess, as carbon emissions, among many other pollutants, continue to climb beyond safe limits? The Opposition is kicking her butt, if you’ll pardon my French, and winning!
Peter and John were familiar with the Opposition, and suffered for it – willingly suffered for it, if you take the book of Acts at face value. Joyfully, almost! Going to prison for it, but making friends and continuing to spread the good news, under guard! Before being arrested, however, they intended to come to a prayer breakfast, if you will, at the temple. Having recently baptized 2,000 new members, and agreeing to share “all things in common,” they “sell all their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need,” but they never make it to their prayer meeting. On the way, they run into a man on the street, paralyzed from the waist down.
Every day someone helped carry the man to the street corner near the temple so he could put out his hat to beg for some change, to eat. Unfortunately, Peter and John don’t have any cash on them. They gave it all away - donated everything to share with their church community! But, they do stop and, do what they can. Peter and John say to him, “look at us,” as they “stare” at him intently. And looking up, he expected the usual handout. But Peter said to him, “I don’t have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk!” And taking him by the hand he helped him up, and his feet and ankles were made firm at the same time. And “he jumped to his feet,” it says, “and began to walk, and went with Peter and John into the temple where he was “dancing and praising God.” [The Message trans.] Others recognized him as the one they had passed outside everyday, and they were “astonished and amazed.” “And the man threw his arms around Peter and John,” it says, “ecstatic.”
When the leaders of the temple began to grumble and complain because the crowds were getting the impression that Peter and John had special powers, Peter begins his now second speech, in Acts. “Why do you wonder at this… as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk?” Don’t look to us, look to the power of Jesus, the servant of humanity, and the "Author of life.” He did this.
And this healing, was what got them thrown into prison! Bad men! Healing someone! Bringing to life that which was dead! And making a useful citizen out a man paralyzed from birth! But, that is how Opposition works. March for peace, and you get thrown in jail. Bring light to the darkness of our society, and you become a target. Opposition to the realm, and Spirit of God, is strong, and ever alert, to intimidate, shame and disappear!
But Peter and John were undeterred, and didn’t falter in prison – think Nelson Mandela, in our times. The light of Christ, and the gift of life in the resurrection, had enlivened them. Peter and John, who before the resurrection, couldn’t give speeches if their lives depended on it, now become a font of good news. Peter, the one who curtly denied Jesus three times, and John, the one who wanted special privileges from Jesus when he came into his kingdom, now speak with the same power as their servant-teacher, had. Though uneducated, they speak passionately from the heart. They laugh in the face of the Opposition, being alive in Christ, beyond fear!
As gospel-story, we see in the raising of the paralyzed man, how Peter and John see through what holds him down, and into his need to be re-created, not just given a hand out. In standing up to the opposition, they reject the way of privilege and self-preservation. The Author of life, writes us, more than a book, giving us the gift of life itself. We see in Jesus’ death and resurrection the way of life beyond death, not just heaven, but the understanding of a servant-vocation, and the freedom to live authentically, which we might call, the way of no fear – or faith. In Jesus, the Author of life, there is no death. Which is opposite of, the way of the Opposition, who desperately seek to hang on to their life, and so, sadly loose it.
Easter teaches us that “death has lost its sting.” In Christ, we banquet with the crucified, living one, singing with the saints, who are alive to us now, and with all the creatures, with sun and moon and stars. In this song, earth day can begin. Creation, put in it’s rightful order, is no longer our servant, but we serve it, and its Creator. For death no longer has dominion over us!