You don’t really have to ‘crane your neck’ to see the parade of bikers for our Bike For Real event, I admit. It’s not quite a “critical mass” yet! But I did look long and hard, and proudly, at the list of sponsors who donated in honor of our bikers, whose gifts will benefit Care For Real, our Edgewater food pantry. We’ve had more than three times as many pledgers as bikers, and, it’s not yet too late to make a donation today! And so I’m ‘craning my neck’ to see the finish line of our fund-raiser. We have over $350 pledged so far, not even counting two more checks that have been promised for today, and one next weekend, of unknown amounts. Maybe we can reach $500! If I could only see into the future!?
St. Paul says, “For the creation waits, craning it’s neck to get a better look at what is coming down the road, for the revealing of the children of God.” ‘Craning it’s neck’ is a literal translation, anyway, of “eager expectation.” For “the creation itself,” Paul continues, “will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Paul introduces this rather unusual ecological belief into his letter to the Romans, describing redemption, not only of humans, baptized into the triune God, and, life in the spirit, but the redemption of all of creation! “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now,” Paul summarizes, “and not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” In addition to ‘craning our necks,’ according to Paul, we wait as eagerly, and uncomfortably, as a woman ready to give birth any day, any moment now!
In this very last letter of Paul’s that we have, we hear an incredibly seasoned and well thought out theology, an ecology of redemption, for all of creation. God has sent the Son into the world to save us, that by lives of service, just as Jesus lived for others, we might be freed from a life of sin and death. That is, saved from a life of living only for ourselves, a way that can only endanger healthy lives and life-giving relationships, our own and others. “Choose life,” as Paul has said before, “and live.” And so just as Jesus was sent by God, for us, Paul opens up the invitation to a wider vista, an invitation to “the great project, the global and cosmic dimension of salvation.” [N.T.Wright] We are ‘craning our necks’ to get a better glimpse of the very dawning of the Son’s redemption. As followers of Jesus then, we live in the “now, but not yet,” of the realm of God’s promise. We live at the overlap of the ‘old and new creations,’ and we strain ‘our necks’ to see, ‘crane’ intently to be part of, the life of service to others that helps to inaugurate the Spirit of Jesus in the world, and indeed to transform all of creation under the just and healing rule of God’s children.
St. Paul, a thorough-going Jewish student and scholar, has come to know Christ’s redemption, not only on the human plain for himself and other humans, but in terms of the “new heavens and new earth” that the prophet Isaiah ‘craned his neck’ to foresee. [Is.65:17, 66:22], as well as in the creation story in Genesis, that teaches how we were ‘made in God’s image,’ and have been given responsibility as ‘stewards’ and ‘care-takers’ over God’s creation.
Just as we have learned from the bodily resurrection appearances of Jesus, and from the John’s image, which he ‘craned his neck’ to see, of the new Jerusalem coming down, to transform the old, in the book of Revelation, that the world and everything that God made is not to be discarded, but will be redeemed, so we understand God’s continued intentions for blessing and redeeming the world. The Left Behind images of the destruction of the earth are the exact opposite of this very Hebrew and New Testament belief. God means to redeem bodies and planets, sun and moon, birds and all creeping things. God will transform us and the world, not blow it up. That’s what Paul has taught us to ‘crane our necks’ to see. We are again, and still, the care-takers of creation, and one another.
So, Paul does a surprisingly impressive job, of laying the basis for “greening” our society, our economy and world, in a ‘care for creation’ theology that we are having to relearn now, in these days, again.
Which brings me back to Green Week! Biking is just a small gesture, an individual decision most often, but when multiplied, increases the reduction of our carbon footprint. It’s just one way to be “green,” and be good stewards. In other words, to care for God’s creation, to ‘crane our necks’ toward the realm of God whose aim it is to transform this world and make it whole again. Or, in the words of Bishop Tom Wright, “if the world is to attain its full beauty and dignity as God’s liberated new creation, a beauty and dignity for which the present evidences of God’s grandeur within creation are just a foretaste, it will not do to regard beauty, and its creation and conservation, as a pleasant but irrelevant optional extra within a world manipulated by science, exploited by technology, and bought and sold in the economic marketplace. Christians must be in the forefront of bringing, in the present time, signs and foretastes of God’s fresh beauty to birth within the world, signs of hope for what the Spirit will yet do.”
Creation is “groaning in labor pains” for God’s transformation, even as mother earth is in distress from our excessive carbon emissions. But whether you believe we are the cause of global warming or not, the availability and price of oil on which so much of our economy and lives depend has become a national security issue. So either way, we must come together as a “critical mass,” and ‘crane our necks’ now, down the road toward the new fuel that will be ours, and the planet’s, new life. The age of oil has peaked, and we have less and less of a secure grasp of it’s production and delivery. But, we can go green, be it for security, for money, for jobs; or for God’s good green earth. God’s future is calling us today, here in this “urban green space,” in our nation and world, to ‘crane our necks’ and see what’s coming down our own road, and I’m betting, it’s a hybrid, or a bio-diesel, or maybe even a bike!