By Andy Wade
Like a river flowing to the ocean only to be evaporated, return to the sky, and fall as rain, all of life has a cycle. For each one of us, indeed for the whole creation, there is life flowing from the hand of God, navigating the landscape of life, death, and returning to God.
Last week we explored darkness and death. What a depressing and terrifying thing if that’s the end of the story. But we know it’s not the end. This week as we prepare for Resurrection Sunday, we delve into the reality of a vacant cross and an empty tomb.
These two contrasting images, death and life, swirl in my mind. So much of life can be understood as a running away from or denying the reality of death. Yet creation testifies that there is much more. Like the seed buried in the earth only to spring to life and emerge as a beautiful flower, so it is with us. We will die, but we will also rise again! In the Eucharistic liturgy of the Episcopal Church these words are recited every Sunday:
Christ Has Died
Christ is Risen
Christ Will Come Again
Even in the cycle of God’s salvation there is death and new life.
However there is another side to all of this. God placed us in the garden to till and to keep it. We are both part of creation and the caretakers of creation. To us belongs the profound gift and holy responsibility of ensuring the whole creation continues its God-breathed cycle of praise and worship through the act of living and dying and living again.
But “we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and we have left undone those things which we ought to have done.” Having imposed our lustful appetites for more onto creation, we have disrupted the sacred dance of creation.
It is a constant challenge to hold together the mysteries of death and resurrection. Our tendency is to emphasize one over the other as we craft a theology that makes us a bit more comfortable.
Yet it is precisely this balance we must hold in our hands each day. Wherever we look we see signs of both life and death. And, if we are paying attention, we realize that our actions also reflect the power of life and death in the whole creation around us.
Expectantly I wait for resurrection. And as I wait I notice that creation is crying out. Creation testifies against me as it desperately attempts to gain my attention. “While you proclaim resurrection”, creation accuses, “you crucify the very nature that God formed into life and entrusted into your care!”
That may seem extreme to some. But the seasons of earth are a gift from God reminding us that we are all part of this dance of life, death, and resurrection. The song creation sings is a prophetic song of worship. Each fall it reminds us that we too are created, we too will die and return to the earth. But in the spring it reminds us that resurrection is always just around the corner. New life will break through the muck and mire, first a shoot, then a branch, and suddenly before we realize it, a tree so large the birds make their home there.
What are the everyday signs of resurrection around you?
What are the normal reminders of natural death that lead to resurrection?
Where do you see abnormal death around you? How might creation be warning you to change your ways?