Getting Real about the Mortality of the Earth, By Robert Saler
Excerpt: As I reflect back on that writing, I have become even more convinced that it is crucial for the homiletical rhetoric of creation care not to lose sight of this powerfully Christian gift of speaking of resurrection and God’s life-giving acts as occurring IN and THROUGH the reality of death, not bypassing it somehow either through silence or, worse, a kind of environmental “theology of glory” (as Luther would put it) that speaks as if we can somehow save the earth through our own acts of ecological righteousness—recycling, political activism, and so on. These works are in fact quite good and necessary, but they cannot without spiritual danger or activist delusion be part of a kind of implicit soteriological schema a) that denies the fact that the earth is as drenched in mortality as we are, and b) that places this false immortality somehow within our control such that we are shamed by the stubborn facts of death. As Luther saw, works-righteousness is its own kind of hell, and this applies as much to ecological works-righteousness as individual schemas.
Reflection on Psalm 51: 1-13, by the Rev Dcn Helen Hanten
Psalm 51 is a lament by someone who has sinned greatly, and is praying for cleansing. It is a psalm ascribed to King David, written when the prophet Nathan came to him, after David had taken Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, for himself. The story about how all this happens is found in 2 Samuel, just before the passage appointed for today’s Old Testament reading. David has been deceitful in getting Bathsheba pregnant, but has tried to make it appear that her husband has fathered the child, although Uriah has been away from home with the army the whole time. David has arranged to have Uriah killed in battle, and then takes Bathsheba to be his wife. A later child of this union will be King Solomon.
If this was, in fact, written by King David, it is hard to imagine a lament and guilt stronger than is expressed. But one important thing, he is not just asking God’s forgiveness for his sins, but also a cleansing of the heart. Verse 6 says: “You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.” And in verse 10: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” It is a prayer for a new way of thinking, a new way of being.
These verses form a model for prayers by those people who profess to care about, and care for the earth. It is not enough to say we have been careless in the past, and ask God’s forgiveness. It is not enough be diligent in adding up carbon credits and measuring tons of paper recycled. Our whole way of thinking about God’s creation as a sacred gift has to become the “wisdom in our sacred hearts.”
When this has happened, our own commitment as well as our teachings will help others understand the fragility of this planet Earth, our Island Home, and honor with thanksgiving God who has provided it.
Reflection on John 12: 20-33, by Nan Stokes
Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (v. 24)
Jesus used this metaphor of nature to explain his saying that those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Just as a seed has to fall to earth and die before it lives again, so we must give our life to produce the fruit God intends. In Psalm 51, the singer is asking God “to create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me”, so that God’s ways can be taught to the wicked and sinners will return to God. Indeed, in the passage from Jeremiah in the Old Testament, the Lord says, “For I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.” In the depths of Lent as we draw nearer to the Passion of Jesus, those are hopeful words to ones who are striving to lose their life and wondering how they can bear the fruit that will make a difference.