Readings:

Exodus 14:10-31, 15:20-21

Psalm 114

Romans 6:3-11

Luke 12:1-24

Reflection:  The First Fruits of Resurrection

When the women came upon Jesus’ tomb, they were prepared to find a dead body, carrying with them spices to treat the decaying corpse.  But when they didn’t find Jesus’ body there, they were reminded that Jesus had told them he would die and later be resurrected.  We can also hear tales of resurrection, but when we see death, be easily overcome by it.  We mourn, sob, lament.  They had been mourning for 3 days and assumed they would continue to do so.  But upon realizing Jesus had been raised from death into life, the women turned quickly to rejoicing and proclaiming this good news.

Like those women, we lamented on Good Friday the many ways we have actively and passively taken part in the degradation of the earth and its peoples.  We cried tears, sat in the muck and mire of devastating facts, and lifted up our voices to God and Christ for mercy.  We can find ourselves wallowing in those facts and find change an impossibility as we prepare spices for the earth’s dead body.

However, like the women, we are called to heed the reminder that creation renews itself.  We pave over the earth, but flowers still push through its cracks.  Without any work on our part, trees bloom every Spring.  God’s grace continues to flow through creation.  Creation speaks back to us, keeps us in our place.  The restorative power of God brings new, unexpected life to even the most parched patch of earth.  Upon experiencing this good news of God’s renewing grace, we must turn from mourning toward proclamation and participation in new life.

That we even recognize signs of new life is because they contrast with the persistent brokenness all around us.  Jesus’ new life is simply the first fruits of resurrection, of the new kingdom that God is bringing to fruition in the world.  Paul wrote to the Romans, “Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”  As witnesses to Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are to continually understand and die to our ways of destruction, so that we may walk in ways that lead to new life.

We ought never forget that seeds of God’s creative power have been placed within us for that new life.  And we are called to exercise our creative power in the world.  This does not mean we have the power to enact every wish we have for the world, but that God works in those seeds inside of us.  We may be just one little seed, but we hold hope in our God that we have fallen on good ground, that rain will come, and we will blossom into new life in the world.

And God wants every part of us.  Our whole selves – body, mind, and spirit – have been planted in creation.  And so our work should take root in creation.  God wants all of us – for the sake of the restoration of all creation.

Practices:

Celebrate signs of new life around you by eating a meal outdoors or singing joyful songs about creation like the “Johnny Appleseed” grace or “Hymn of Promise.”

Consider how you might nurture the seeds placed in your care for the good of creation, or how you might give yourself more fully to the flourishing of all creation.

Prayer:  Hymn of Promise

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

The Stations of the Cross are a longstanding ritual in Christian tradition.  To walk these stations is to take part in the final hours of Jesus’ earthly life, toward the cross, and eventually from mourning and grief to the joy of Easter.  These stations presented in this series intentionally depict the ways in which Jesus’ passion connects us to the suffering of creation.  Made from found objects, these nine biblically-attested stations were prayerfully created by students and faculty of Vanderbilt Divinity School.

In many traditions, there are fourteen stations that depict Jesus’ suffering and death.  There are nine stations depicted here.  Stations depicting Jesus’ three falls, meeting his mother, and the station depicting Veronica wiping Jesus’ face are not visually represented.  Rather, as you meditate on these nine stations, we ask that you always keep these events in view.

We recall in following his torturous path that we are all a part of his story, taking part in his suffering and inflicting wounds alike.  We take stock of the many ways that we have broken covenant with God and have acted selfishly, rather than in compassion and loving kindness toward creation.  To commemorate the event of Christ’s passion, the stations serve as visual reminders to incite us to grief, repentance, and redemption.

With each station, we ask that you consider a specific theme in ecological theology.

We encourage you to follow through these stations in this online format. Below is a list of all the stations represented here.  At the end of each station, there will be a link to guide you to the next station.

The first station: Jesus is condemned to death.

The second station: Jesus takes up his cross.

The third station: The cross is laid on Simon of Cyrene.

The fourth station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.

The fifth station: Jesus is stripped of his garments.

The sixth station: Jesus is nailed to the cross.

The seventh station: Jesus dies on the cross.

The eighth station: The body of Jesus is placed in the arms of his mother.

The ninth station: Jesus is laid in the tomb.

A final meditation: waiting for Easter.

(All station artwork was produced by members of the Vanderbilt Divinity community from found and reclaimed objects.  Liturgy adapted from St. Brendan the Navigator Episcopal Church, Stonington, Maine, 1993. The original version of this liturgy can be found at earthministry.org)

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests, with the elders and scribes, and the whole council, held a consultation; and they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him to Pilate. And they all condemned him and said, “He deserves to die.” When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called the Pavement, but In the Hebrew, Gabbatha. Then he handed Jesus over to them to be crucified.

Oppression

As Jesus was unjustly condemned, many people the world over are created to enjoy life, but are systematically condemned to death.

Oppression means to press down; to weigh heavily on the spirit and the senses; to feel mentally, physically, emotionally weighed down, bound, constricted.

Examples of oppressions are: racism, anti-semitism, classism, homophobia, ageism, sexism, ableism, speciesism.

When we prepare to repent of our sins of oppression, we ask ourselves: What diminishing lies have each of us been taught about others?

In the 20th century, we can name an appalling litany of oppressed peoples. Just to begin: Jews in Nazi Germany; Armenians and Azerbaijanis’ relations with each other; people of color in the U.S.; Tibetans in China; Mayan Indians in Central America Ethnic cleansing in Bosnia Palestinian peoples denied rights in the Occupied Territories of Israel. Kurds In Iraq. Cambodians in Vietnam. Catholics vs Protestants in Northern Ireland. Tyrannical regimes’treatment of their populations the world over.

Let us Pray:

Almighty God, whose most dear Child did not enter joy before suffering pain, and did not enter glory before being crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may with your people everywhere who suffer oppression and are deprived of freedom, find through the way of the cross the way of Life and Peace; through Jesus Christ, your Child, our Lord, Amen.

Kyrie eleison
Christe eleison
Kyrie eleison

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy

The second station: Jesus takes up his cross.

(All station artwork was produced by members of the Vanderbilt Divinity community from found and reclaimed objects.  Liturgy adapted from St. Brendan the Navigator Episcopal Church, Stonington, Maine, 1993. The original version of this liturgy can be found at earthministry.org)

Jesus went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called In Hebrew, Golgotha. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. Like a lamb he was led to the slaughter; and like a sheep that before its shearers is mute, so he opened not his mouth. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.

Disconnection from the Web of Creation

While Jesus carried his own cross on his way to death, we often remove ourselves from the web of life affected by our destructive ways.

“Once again, I learn the central ecological truth: that all things big and small are members one of another in the biospheric web. Now that I know, I feel implicated in a great wrong… ambushed by distressing news… involved in sins of self-indulgence.”
-Theodore Roszak, The Voice of Earth

“Whatever befalls the earth
befalls the children of the earth.
[Human beings] did not weave the web of life.
[We are] merely a strand in it
Whatever [we do] to the web,
[We do to ourselves].”
-Chief Seattle, 1854

Let us Pray:

Loving God, whose beloved Child, in willingly enduring agony and the shame of the cross, redeems creation: give us courage to extend our compassion and commitment to all creatures suffering and dying, who share our home, and to take up our cross and follow the Christ, who lives and reigns with you for ever and ever, Amen.

Kyrie eleison
Christe eleison
Kyrie eleison

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy

The third station: The cross is laid on Simon of Cyrene.

(All station artwork was produced by members of the Vanderbilt Divinity community from found and reclaimed objects.  Liturgy adapted from St. Brendan the Navigator Episcopal Church, Stonington, Maine, 1993. The original version of this liturgy can be found at earthministry.org)

As they led Jesus away, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross to carry It behind Jesus. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Natural Disaster

Jesus carried the heavy cross, and he fell. He carried the heavy burden, wrought in wood, and saw the eyes of his mother, weeping for him.

The earth shook and shuttered, and the walls came tumbling down; the ocean swelled, the sky dropped down from the heavens. If we could but hear the wailing of mothers whose children were lost, perhaps we would have known that their burden was of a kind too deep to bear. Perhaps we would have done more to help if we knew the true depth of those disasters.

The terrible pain that came that day has not gone away. The road to Golgotha is littered with the debris of fallen buildings, crumbling infrastructure, and still unsafe food and water. It is a road in many cities, all over the world. Their lives may never be the same again.

Taking up Jesus’ cross, Simon of Cyrene comforted Jesus—whose body is already broken—by taking up his burden for a time. Simon comforted Jesus’ mother, who saw her son’s burden lifted. Let us be your heart reaching out to those who grieve. Let us be your hands reaching out to lighten the burden of those still living.

We cannot know when or why disaster strikes. We only know that God weeps at the devastation of the earth and its children. God as told us through the ages, “fear not.” God, that you would whisper it again in our ears, and write it on our hearts, so that in the face of the next devastation, we may lighten the burden without fear.

Let us Pray:

Heavenly God, whose blessed Child came not to be served but to serve: Bless all who, following in his steps, give themselves to the service of others; that with wisdom, patience, and courage, they may minister in his name to the suffering, the friendless, and the needy, whether animal, plant, or mineral, for we are all bound together in the great web of life, for the love of the One who gave up life itself for us, your Child our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Kyrie eleison
Christe eleison
Kyrie eleison

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy

The fourth station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.

(All station artwork was produced by members of the Vanderbilt Divinity community from found and reclaimed objects.  Liturgy adapted from St. Brendan the Navigator Episcopal Church, Stonington, Maine, 1993. The original version of this liturgy can be found at earthministry.org)

There followed after Jesus a great multitude of the people, and among them were women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”

Overpopulation & the Suffering of Children

Where do we see the effects of overpopulation, the dread specter of children suffering from war, starvation, poverty? Bosnia; Somalia, the Sudan, Mozambique; Belfast, Ireland; Bangladeshi children; urban street children In India and El Salvador, Thailand, Rumania, Hong Kong, San Salvador, Lima, Rio De Janeiro, St. Louis, New York, and on and on and on.

“Children are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population living below the poverty line… 143 million poor children in U.S.; 5 million go hungry; 8 million lack health care of any kind.” “The slow, chronic violence of poverty takes an American child’s life every 53 minutes; guns kill a child every 3 hours and 30 children (a classroom full) every 2 days.”
-Marion Wright Edelmann, the Children’s Defense Fund

Let us Pray:

Teach your faithful people, O God, to mourn the sins of which it is guilty, and to repent and forsake them; that, by your pardoning grace, the results of our Iniquities may not be visited upon our children and our children’s children; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Kyrie eleison
Christe eleison
Kyrie eleison

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy

The fifth station: Jesus is stripped of his garments.

(All station artwork was produced by members of the Vanderbilt Divinity community from found and reclaimed objects.  Liturgy adapted from St. Brendan the Navigator Episcopal Church, Stonington, Maine, 1993. The original version of this liturgy can be found at earthministry.org)

When they came to a place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull), they offered him wine to drink, mingled with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And they divided his garments among them by casting lots. This was to fulfill the scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them; they cast lots for my clothing.”

Depletion of Natural Resources and Mishandling of Waste

Where do we witness the devastating depletion of our resources? Strip mining; deforestation; soil depletion through use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and defoliants; overfishing and overgrazing.

Around us are piled literal mountains of garbage in urban areas: they are testimony to the growing crisis in waste management. So are our rural expenses for trucking garbage to “transfer stations,” as our dumps become environmental liabilities.

The economic juggernaut roars on: wasteful commercial packaging of products in order to make them attractive to consumers; planned obsolescence of machinery in order to induce us to buy more and more and more.

Leaking 50-year-old nuclear waste storage tanks in northern Washington State and rusting tanks at the Love Canal are only two particularly frightening manifestations of the problem. Even here in Tennessee, coal sludge spills have emptied out into lakes, damaging ecosystems and forcing human residents away from their homes once in the midst of natural beauty.

We continue to overconsume fossil fuels and handle them carelessly despite knowing that they are limited in quantity. Our lack of stewardship is dramatized in oil spills like the burning Bosporus Strait and the continuing disaster on the coast of Alaska.

We willfully ignore the Four Laws of Nature:

  1. There is no waste in nature.
  2. Everything is connected.
  3. There is no such place as “away” (as in, “just throw it away!”).
  4. The Earth has limits.

(Waste Away Program, Vermont Institute of Natural Resources)

Let us Pray:

O God, whose blessed Child our Savior, body whipped and face spit upon, still gave up his clothes and finally his life for us: Give us grace to realize how we appropriate your gifts without prudence and discard them without a second thought, piling up want and sufferings for the future time. Grant us instead to accept less in the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Kyrie eleison
Christe eleison
Kyrie eleison

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy

The sixth station: Jesus is nailed to the cross.

(All station artwork was produced by members of the Vanderbilt Divinity community from found and reclaimed objects.  Liturgy adapted from St. Brendan the Navigator Episcopal Church, Stonington, Maine, 1993. The original version of this liturgy can be found at earthministry.org)

When they came to the place which is called the Skull, there they crucified him; and with him they crucified two criminals, one on the right, the other on the left, and Jesus between them. And the scripture was fulfilled which says, “He was numbered with the transgressors.”

War & Nuclear War

A landscape of horror unfolds around the globe: Iraqi oil fields burning; Bosnian cities starving; feuding warlords in Liberia; Somalia; the Sudan; Ethiopia; Sri Lanka; ethnic conflict In Armenia, Georgia & Azerbaijan; civil war In Mexico, Israel, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Peru, all across Africa.

Closer to home, a different sort of conflict, nonetheless destructive: drug wars across international boundaries, infesting our cities’ streets, corrupting our children and our impoverished families with crack.

Then, lurking in the back of our consciousness always, is the threat of nuclear proliferation: who’s next, North Korea? Iraq? Iran? And the big question mark: the fate of Russia and Eastern Europe and its massive nuclear arsenal in this time of transition and uncertainty and Instability.

Not to mention the “economics” of war: saving Kuwait’s oil fields and letting “ethnic cleansing” proliferate in the mountains of Bosnia and Croatia, letting tyranny decimate folk In Tibet. And our own unwillingness to face the closing of American bases and the deceleration of American weapons manufacture, for fear of the economic consequences to our own local folk. And still we go on, even in this “new world order,” with the testing of nuclear weapons and the generation of nuclear waste which must be stored, we know not how (and definitely not In OUR backyard!).

“As long as you do it to the least of these my children, you do it to me,” said Jesus in Matt. 25:40. And Jeremiah decried “crying ‘Peace, peace!’ when there IS no peace!”

Let us Pray:

Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your name. Amen.

Kyrie eleison
Christe eleison
Kyrie eleison

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy

The seventh station: Jesus dies on the cross.

(All station artwork was produced by members of the Vanderbilt Divinity community from found and reclaimed objects.  Liturgy adapted from St. Brendan the Navigator Episcopal Church, Stonington, Maine, 1993. The original version of this liturgy can be found at earthministry.org)

Jesus on the cross said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And when Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished!” And then, crying with a loud voice, he said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” And he bowed his head, and handed over his spirit.

Desecration of the four Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, & Water

“The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers; the heavens languish together with the earth. The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant.” Isaiah 24:4-5

In our hands is the fate of Mother Earth’s purity and welfare. How do we pollute you, Mother Earth? Let us count the ways:

For the desertification of farmland, Lord, have mercy!
For acid rain, oil spills, chemical dumps, Christ, have mercy!
For depletion of the ozone layer, Lord, have mercy!
For radioactive pollution: Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Christ, have mercy!
For pollution of lakes, rivers, oceans, with our own Tennessee mountains being stripped by coal mining, Lord, have mercy!

Let us Pray:

O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Child to the death of the cross, and by that Child’s glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to the destruction of our air, water, fire and earth, that we may evermore live in the purity of creation and the joy of resurrection; through Jesus Christ who lives and reigns now and forever. Amen.

Kyrie eleison
Christe eleison
Kyrie eleison

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy

The eighth station: The body of Jesus is placed in the arms of his mother.

(All station artwork was produced by members of the Vanderbilt Divinity community from found and reclaimed objects.  Liturgy adapted from St. Brendan the Navigator Episcopal Church, Stonington, Maine, 1993. The original version of this liturgy can be found at earthministry.org)

All you who pass by, behold and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow. My eyes are spent with weeping; my soul is in tumult; my heart is poured out in grief because of the downfall of my people. “Do not call me Naomi (which means Pleasant), call me Mara (which means Bitter); for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”

"What is Your Loss?"

Abuse

Abuse proliferates in all aspects of human relationship, physical, emotional, sexual, ritual. It occurs in the most intimate of relations, and in the most institutional. It takes place in all cultures around the world. It involves the objectification and exploitation of women, of children, of men, of animals.

Those who have endured abuse, even if they escape the abuse itself, live in a prison of shame: “Women in recovery from abuse led us in… prayer, announcing that a force that tried to separate us from Creation and our deepest selves,” and that temporarily committed soul-murder, would no longer hold sway over them. Mention was made of abuse that had “harvested shame.” Amidst a chant about sadness and crying and screaming came the pledge to “throw down the shackles of shame.” Some of the leaders had their faces painted for a skit depicting a mother abusing her child with questions like, “Why can’t you be just like everybody else?” and the child answering, “Just love me.” -Matthew Fox, Creation Spirituality.

The child Cosette, placed in the care of abusive innkeepers in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, fed on bread crusts and made to sweep floors, sings in the musical version of the story:

There is a castle on a cloud, I like to go there in my sleep; aren’t any floors for me to sweep, not in my castle on a cloud.

There is a room that’s full of toys; there are a hundred boys and girls; nobody shouts or talks too loud, not in my castle on a cloud.

There is a lady all in white, holds me and sings a lullaby; she’s nice to see and she’s soft to touch; she says, “Cosette, I love you very much!”

I know a place where no one’s lost; I know a place where no one cries; crying at all is not allowed, not in my castle on a cloud.

Let us Pray:

Beloved Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may take away the sting of the living death of abuse in all those who suffer such dire humiliation, that they and we may live as your children and your likeness, for your tender mercies’ sake. Amen.

Kyrie eleison
Christe eleison
Kyrie eleison

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy

The ninth station: Jesus is laid in the tomb.

(All station artwork was produced by members of the Vanderbilt Divinity community from found and reclaimed objects.  Liturgy adapted from St. Brendan the Navigator Episcopal Church, Stonington, Maine, 1993. The original version of this liturgy can be found at earthministry.org)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.