Resurrection and the Earth: Is it Certain or Swift?
Easter 3, Common Lectionary Year A
Isaiah 40, Luke 24:13-31
©2020 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones
I grew up on the western edge of the Pennines (a moorland ridge that dissects Northern England.)
It’s a part of the world where Spring arrives slowly, and some might also say, uncertainly,
as winter would often return with more than one last brutal gasp, stripping apple blossoms and flattening daffodils.
When I was 11 or 12, our Geography teacher gave us a project to prove to us that Spring,
though slow, was still certain. She had us choose and visit one piece of land twice a week over a six-week period, and to keep a journal of the changes we saw in the landscape.
I choose a nearby copse (a wooded glade nestled between a golf course and a farm).
What started out as tedium (it was cold, everything was bare, brown, boggy)
transformed, bud, by worm, by frogspawn, by bluebell, perceptibly, certainly, but not flamboyantly or swiftly into a verdant Spring. I felt like I was its only witness, privy to some sacred secret of resurrection,and I was hooked!
I remain ever grateful for Miss Baker’s project, as it taught me an attentiveness
to creation’s subtle but certain resilience, that has enriched my physical, and my spiritual life immensely.
This year, Spring here in Montreal
it feels like a Derbyshire Spring,
fitful, uncertain, and slow.
The flurries and biting wind this week
made fun of my gleeful unwrapping
of the deck furniture last Monday,
and the daffodils and maple tree leaf buds have
held themselves tight, freeze-framed, holding tight and still until the warmth signals their safe emergence.
It’s as if our ecosystem has joined forces
with today’s Scripture to say to us
human mortals this year,
“Hold on! Wait!”
Wait while a Coronavirus makes its global journey,
while empires show their crumbling underbelly
in the rush to reopen “the economy” at the
certain expense of apparently disposable lives,
while the deformations of the human psyche cause
untold mayhem and harm for twenty two families and a province and nation,
and while we wonder, how will we, will we emerge whole from this protracted lockdown?
“Hold on. Stay tight-budded a little longer.
Don’t rush, prematurely, to a swift return to normal, (there’s no such thing)
but wait, for the planet’s sake,
for a more certain, Resurrection.
Resurrection where life?transformed?
is life filled with the energies of a Divine Creator.
The HOLY ONE who, rather than treating her creations
as commodities, cherishes them,
as a shepherd would hover
over birthing ewes in the pasture,
as a Rabbi, walking alongside the griefs and disappointments of our life,
telling us over and over and over again
every story we ever knew, and many we’d forgotten
of the breath of life over brooding waters,
taking its sweet evolutionary time to create
the wonder that is our little blue planet,
and the cosmos that enfolds it;
stories of children birthed like beacons of hope
into the barrenness of exile and grief,
of springs, slow but certain, following long winters,
of homecomings after exile,
of liberation from lock-down,
of returns of the prodigal,
of leaven raising the loaf,
of seeds on good soil,
of an economy of God where the wealth is shared with all, especially the widow, the alien,
the stranger, the orphan.
We would be foolish, I think,
to expect that such resurrections,
true, transformative resurrections, are swift.
These resurrection stories all of them, tell us to wait.
We need to learn the patience of what Isaiah called
“waiting on the Lord,”
waiting for God’s life
to transform the deadened places of our living.
Waiting, I’ve discovered is awful (!),
unless it becomes, as Miss Baker taught me,
to the slow, subtle signs of Resurrection’s
Maybe like many of you in this lock down season,
I’m learning to walk, when before I drove;
and in so doing, I see my neighbours,
feel the earth under my feet, hear her sounds,
smell her earthen odors, find my place within it.
I’m learning to wait 24 hours for a sourdough to rise
(there being no quick rise yeast,
or supermarket bread);
and in so doing, I deepen my gratitude
for the gift of nourishment by simple food.
I’m nurturing tiny vegetable seeds,
watching the dark, damp earth, day after day,
for that almost imperceptible disturbance of soil
just before the first tip of green growth pierces through;
and in so doing, I re-learn the sure, certain
of time and season.
We’re all, I’m sure, becoming attentive to,
and grateful for the compassion shared among strangers.
We’re slowly, certainly re-learning
that the life of God on earth is most evident
when God’s children value the life of others,
of all creatures,
more than we value the commodities
and numbing conveniences
which shield us from recognizing God’s Risen Life.
If it takes us a long, slow time to re-learn
the certainty of God’s continuous
Resurrection in the life of the Earth,
then let us take that time, and use it wisely.