Posted by: NCC Poverty Initiative Director | April 22, 2011

Good Friday is Earth Day

This post is featured with the permission of Presbyterians for Earth Care (PEC). It comes from their Lenten devotional, which was put together by  members of the PEC Advocacy Committee. Click here to access the full PEC Lenten Devotional.

Lectionary Scriptures: Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 31:9-16, Philippians 2:5-11, Luke 22:14-23:56 or Luke 23:1-49. The four gospel narratives for Good Friday are: Mark 15:13-39, Matthew 27:31-50, Luke 23:33-46, John 19:17-30

The Agony of Gaia, by Jeff Chapman-Crane

Will our churches be celebrating Earth Day this Good Friday? Many will see these as two completely different categories, and say to themselves, “Too bad Earth Day falls on Good Friday,” as they rush on past this observation to plan a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday service. Some of us, on the other hand, are struck by this image: The crucifixion of the earth on Good Friday.

This image reflects a metaphor that personifies the earth in the figure of the Messiah. But think about it. The earth nurtures and supports all of life, including our own, just as does God revealed in Christ, who sustains us. Derrick Jensen, a writer appearing in Orion magazine, has said that a perpetual growth economy is the “macroeconomic enshrinement of abusive behavior.” What he sees in the dynamic between abuser and victim is a loved one whose boundaries are not respected because the abuser feels he has exclusive rights and privileges over these boundaries. And the power behind this abuse? It is the power of entitlement. The abuser does not question his being entitled to the fruits of exploitation. Morally, most of us are aware of exploitation that is abusive to supposed loved ones. But we are blind to the collective abuse of humankind, and especially powerful nations such as our own. After all, the “exploitation” of “natural resources” has a positive connotation as part of our consciousness as Americans. Perhaps we are collectively blinded by the bright sun of our own triumphant optimism as an exceptional, God-led, people.
What has to happen for the abuse of the earth to stop? First we have to be able to see in the dark. The gospels of Mark and Matthew include three hours of darkness, starting at noontime, in their account of Jesus’ dying. Luke and John seem to have already moved to a triumphal tone, for they leave the darkness out of their narrative. The earlier gospels reflect that the earliest followers of Jesus still lived close to the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome. They lived their lives between the “now” of dark experience and the “not yet” of bright expectation in a way most of us cannot because of the protective veneer of American optimism and Christian triumphalism.
How can we begin to move away from our sense of entitlement as a people? The story of Good Friday helps us to begin to affirm the darkness as a basic dimension of a reality that we live out between the now and the not yet. We need time to acclimate to the dark and really see what is happening. Our present excessive exploitation of the earth can be seen as abusive, and must be limited and stopped. Good Friday, with its theology of the cross, is a theology of respect for the limits of creation. And, that means respecting the sanctity of the boundaries of the earth.
Prayer: Dear God, We may be at a time of sun down. Some see only the brilliant colors and declare their optimism. Day light will soon come once more. Others see fear and play to it with an anger that covers up fear. How do we pray in a time of darkness? Prayer is our leap of trust in the Mystery that is present in the deepest time, the deepest space. It is a leap that declares the benevolence in the creativity that we see in the grand beauty of the earth. We live between the dawn and the dusk. Hope remembers the colors of dusk, and envisions the sun rise that will come. In that vision, in that memory, may our work that joins with your work be blessed! Amen.

By: The Rev. John Preston, HR. Rev. John is a member of PEC’s Steering and Advocacy Committees living in New York, near Utica. Natural gas extraction in the Marcellus shale formation through hydraulic fracturing (also known as “fracking”) is an issue in his area
*The image above is a photograph of a sculpture called “The Agony of Gaia” by artist Jeff Chapman-Crane. For more information on the sculpture, click here. Jeff is from the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky, where mountaintop removal coal mining is an everyday reality.


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