Luke goes to great lengths to describe the physicality of the resurrected Jesus. He seems to appear out of thin air, and the disciples assume he is a ghost, an apparition of some kind. He tells them to look at his hands and feet; to take in the fullness of his flesh and bones. Even in the disciples joy and astonishment, there remained some doubt and uncertainty that this could really be the resurrected Jesus. It is only when Jesus asks for something to eat; when he joins the disciples at the table, in the intimacy of this familiar act, that they truly recognize Jesus. It is then, that Jesus “...opened their minds to understand the scriptures…”, and prepared them for what was to come next.
These resurrection experiences plant seeds of curiosity. If we were in the disciples sandals…
Would we have believed right away, as the women did?
Would an abandoned shroud and an empty tomb assured us, as it did for Peter?
Would we have been filled with a holy curiosity as the two disciples on the road to Emmaus were?
Would we have recognized the resurrected Jesus at table, in the breaking of the bread, over the intimacy of a shared meal?
For that matter, what does resurrection even look like?
In the here and now of 2021, a year into a global pandemic...
How do we recognize resurrection?
Within creation? Within our community? Within our own lives?
What are the resurrection experiences that we need to lift up and hold onto?
I believe there have been at least two shared resurrection experiences which have emerged from this global pandemic, and there are likely many more.
The first resurrection experience was the gift of noticing what happens to the earth when humanity slows down our almost frantic level of busyness and productivity. When the global lockdown began, and travel restrictions were put into place, there was a very sudden slowdown of economic activities.** It resulted in reduced fossil fuel consumption, and as a result, reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Initially, there was a reduction in our consumption of resources, and a decrease in our waste disposal, which reduced pollution and improved water quality. There was a reduction in transportation and industrial activities, which reduced noise pollution and improved air quality. The lockdown also reduced pressure in tourist destinations, which reduced pollution and promoted ecological restoration.
For a brief moment in time, our planet was able to take a breath; the kind of breath that comes from resurrection. She could feel in every inch of creation the way we had slowed down our consumption, the way we had paused our abuse. And for those watching the images of clear city skylines in their newsfeeds, we found images of our planet we had never really seen before. This unique moment in time did not undo all of the permanent and irreversible harm we have done to this fragile earth, our island home. What it did accomplish was to demonstrate just what is possible when we are determined to stop something. It showed us what we are capable of when we stop putting consumerism and capitalism before the needs of the planet which we so casually plunder.
The second resurrection experience born of the pandemic was the rather sudden, yet abundant, gift of time.For many of us, this was the first time in our lives we really slowed down, and quite literally went outside and smelt the roses, watched the birds, and discovered what silence and slowness can do to restore our souls. This last year has pushed many of us to tend to our inner lives in ways we could hardly have imagined a year ago. It has resulted in people’s faith growing, evolving, expanding. We find ourselves living into a more sustainable rhythm, and as vaccines bring a greater sense of normalcy with each passing week, the question becomes--will we maintain this resurrection experience in the months ahead?
How many more signs do we need, how many more wounds do we need to touch in the body of the Risen Christ, to believe that resurrection experiences are made possible if we can just slow everything down. Slow down our way of life, our consumption of the planet. Slow down our way of being, our constant push to be more productive.
There are any variety of ways we might continue to engage in a slower rhythm. One ancient practice, from the beginning of creation, is practicing sabbath. This idea that one day, each week we will stop and rest. Walter Brueggemann has written extensively on the impact of sabbath. In his book, Truth & Hope, he writes that, "Sabbath is a disciplined, regular enactment of the conviction that our life is pure gift and not achievement, that our identity consists in who we are before God and not what we do in the world."****
A group of environmental activists and religious leaders have picked up on the wisdom of practicing sabbath, and seen the extensive impact practicing sabbath can have on the planet. This radical idea gave birth to the Green Sabbath Project in 2019.***
A group of radical thinkers asks us:
“Is there nothing you can do about the environment?”
“Nothing may be one of the best things you can do.
One day every week. Do nothing.”
The Green Sabbath Project asks those committed to the project to choose one day a week that you will set apart as a day of rest. By doing nothing one day each week, you will be giving a gift to the planet and to your own sense of well-being. Knowing the rhythm of sabbath rest and work can be a foreign concept in today’s world, they make some suggestions on how to engage in rest and in work on their website:
On our days of rest, they say to us:
During the rest of the week, they say to us:
Practicing sabbath is the most meaningful spiritual practice I have ever experienced, and honestly, it is the easiest. The weekly practice reminds us of our proper place in the order of things--we are but one of many creatures within creation. The world will not stop spinning if there are emails in our inbox, or if a text message goes unanswered until tomorrow, or if a chore gets put off one more day.
This week, I invite us to reflect on the practice of sabbath and the impact it can have on the earth, our society, and our own inner life. What other resurrection experiences might be born from practicing sabbath? Amen.
*All taken from Luke 24:1-53
** The facts in this paragraph are drawn from an article: “Environmental effects of COVID-19 pandemic and potential strategies of sustainability” by Tanjena Rume and S. M. Didar-Ul Islam, published in Heliyon in September of 2020, available on the National Institute of Health website.
****Walter Brueggemann in Truth & Hope: Essays for a Perilous Age
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