During Eastertide (the season following Easter), we celebrate the joy of salvation in our lives. A question many of us consider during this time is: What does it mean to be saved? For centuries, the Christian tradition largely conceived of salvation as the liberation of the human soul from the body to an otherworldly existence (heaven) after this life. More recently, however, theologians have reminded us that in focusing on the soul and neglecting the body, we are denying a major tenet of Christianity: that Jesus raised from the dead not just as a Spirit, but in his body! Therefore, Jesus’ bodily resurrection reminds us that salvation for us is also bodily, earthly, and available to us in the here and now! You’ll remember that when Jesus met Zacchaeus, he said, “Salvation has come to you and your family today!” That is true for us, too! The season of Eastertide, then, gives us the opportunity to ask ourselves: “What does it mean that I am saved today?”
As we contemplate the saving work of Jesus, we might also ask what its implications are for the non-human world. For example, what does resurrection, new life, and salvation mean for the shrinking forests, the melting polar ice caps, the polluted Long Island Sound, and the red fox being squeezed out of its natural habitat in our neighborhoods? The book of Romans reminds us that “all of creation groans in labor pains” awaiting its redemption. The earth, too, and the trees, and birds, and fields anticipate salvation! But does that mean that we should sit idly by and watch God’s good creation be destroyed in the meantime? Isn’t it our task as disciples of the resurrected Jesus to promote life and salvation in all its forms—from giving the hungry person something to eat to caring for the land and ensuring that it, too, remains fruitful?
In his agrarian and theological poem titled “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” Wendell Berry urges us to:
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias…
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts…
As we consider what salvation means for us, for our community, and for the earth, I hope that you’ll contemplate where God is calling you to bring new life. Are you being called to bring new life into your workplace? Into the life of a friend who has lost a loved one? Into the heart of a child who isn’t receiving the love she needs at home? Into the forests? The Sound? Your own backyard? This Eastertide, as you contemplate what salvation means for you personally, socially, and ecologically, take steps in your life to bring the love of God to the world and to “practice resurrection.”