Texts: Acts 3:12-19; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36-48
We sometimes take this resurrection for granted. The miracle of each new dawn or of the spark of new life in each bud and blossom is lost on us. We’ve come not only to expect it, but to depend on it. God’s world, constantly renewing itself, is what sustains us, provides us with clean water and nutritious food and oxygen. We read in scripture that God has given us the responsibility to tend and nurture this world of God’s, but rather than stewarding it in God’s name, we have begun to exploit it for our own gain.
In the lifespan of our world, human beings have been around for a relatively short time. When speaking in terms of millions or billions of years, our activities and our effects on the world around us barely register. Until now. The scientific community is beginning to recognize that we have entered a new geologic epoch--a new stage in the life of our planet. They are calling it the “anthropocene,” from the Greek word anthropos, which means “human being.” In essence, we have reached a point in the history of our planet where human activity is beginning to have significant, lasting effects on the planet itself. Our presence is measurably changing the climate, the composition of our oceans and our atmosphere, even the geologic formations of the crust as we build and mine and drill and dig. While politicians and corporate spokespersons cast aspersions on the science behind these events, the reality is that we have begun to affect the health of our world.
If nothing changes, in my lifetime we will face a shortage of water as aquifers and reservoirs are drained to irrigate crops. We will face a shortage of oil that will not be solved by new mining technology. We will encounter shifting climates and altered growing seasons and different patterns of rainfall. These things are the result of our thirst for cheap energy, our appetite for non-sustainable food, our demand for our own independence and luxury at the expense of the needs of our global neighbors. They are the result of our belief that the Earth’s resources are endless and ours to use as we please.
For some Christians, these problems are non-issues. They believe that when Christ returns, the old heaven and the old Earth will pass away, so we don’t need to concern ourselves with caring for creation. Others may argue that God created the Earth for us to use as we please, and commanded us to “fill the Earth and subdue it.” These attitudes use God to justify our disregard of the Earth’s gifts and our overuse and abuse of the resources with which God has entrusted us.
That’s why I think it is a misnomer to call this new era the anthropocene. The cause of the problem here is not humanity, but sin; what we are doing not only harms the world that sustains us, it is an affront to the God who created it. More than just the consequences of our own individual choices, this sin is a systemic evil that infests our whole society and culture.
This new epoch would better described as the harmartiocene. Harmartia is the Greek word for sin; it is human sinfulness that is damaging our world. There are those who do not believe we have the power to affect creation; however, we have seen over just the last few decades how untrue this is. Scripture records how, from the very beginning, sin has been marring the goodness of God’s creation--that is what is happening now.
In the letter of 1 John, from which we read today, the Elder writes that Jesus Christ was revealed to us to take away our sin, and that in him there is no sin. The very sin that threatens the health of our world is the sin from which Christ has come to save us. The Jesus we meet in the bible does not justify our appetites for resources at the expense of the world. The Jesus of scripture teaches us to love and serve and even to lay down our lives if need be for the good of the whole human community. This is the Jesus, who when he was raised from the dead, proved to his friends who he was by showing them his hands and his feet: the same hands that touched lepers and performed signs of God’s kingdom, the same feet that took him to dine with sinners and face down Pharisees, and ultimately, that brought him willingly to the cross.
To know Jesus, to have experienced the risen Christ, is incompatible with a life of sin that harms other people or damages God’s creation because Jesus and sin are mutually exclusive. By revealing himself to us, Jesus takes away our sin and purifies us, just as he is pure. He comes among us, even now, and continues to open the scriptures to us --just as he did with his disciples in the gospel reading--showing us a new way of life, a resurrected way of life, a way of life called the Kingdom of God where we understand God’s word as good news for all creation, and we live in communion with our planet rather than in dominion over it. This is accomplished among us, as Luke says, through repentance, which leads to the forgiveness of sins.
We need this forgiveness because, as we are seeing, our sins have lasting implications. Even in his resurrection, Jesus bears the wounds of his crucifixion. The harmartiocene epoch is real and it is affecting our planet. The good news for us is that God has the power to overcome sin and the damage it causes; we know this because Jesus Christ, though crucified, was raised from the dead. Alleluia! Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!]
Just as on that first Easter morning, all creation bears witness to God’s enduring work of resurrection. The Elder reminds us that even now, even as we are sinning against the author of creation, God’s love for us is so great that God claims us through baptism as God’s own children. Through our own resurrection in baptism, we have experienced the risen Christ, we know the one who takes away our sin. We live, therefore, as children of our Father, the Author of Life. Even now, God is using our lives to help bring about new life and forgiveness of sin.
Christ identified himself to his disciples with his hands and feet. In the same way, we make him known to the world with our hands and feet. We proclaim his resurrection with the signs we perform in God’s name and wherever we go, we go bearing the good news of the God’s love which saves us and heals us from sin.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] Thanks to him, death does not have the final word. We are children of that promise, children of the living God. Through us, God’s love is at work saving this world from the sin that strangles it: from over-consumption, from climate change, from the neglect and the abuse and the destruction of the harmartiocene epoch. We are a part of that. God is working through us, because we are people of the resurrection, children of God. Alleluia! Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] This is good news not only for us, but for all creation.