3rd Sunday of Easter: Earth Day

Lectionary 1st Reading Psalm 2nd Reading Gospel
Anglican lectionary
Acts 2: 14a, 36-41
116: 1-4, 12-19
1 Peter 1: 17-23
Luke 24: 13-35
Catholic lectionary:
Acts 2: 14, 22-33
16: 1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

Sunday Readings

Acts 2; 14a, 36-41

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. “

“With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation”

It’s interesting that Peter doesn’t say “believe and be baptized” but rather ‘repent’.  What is repentance all about?

In the Old Testament there are two Hebrew words for repent- nacham which means – turn around, or change your mind. The second word is ‘sub’ which is used over 600 times in the Old testament and means ‘turn’ “return,” “seek,” or “restore.” You often see it in phrases like “to turn to the Lord with all your heart.”

In the New Testament is a better known Greek  word ‘metanoia’  which literally means “to change the mind.” It was a military term describing a soldier marching in one direction and doing an about-face, 180-degree turn.

Repentance fundamentally means to change your mind about something. It has to do with the way you think about something. You’ve been thinking one way, but now you think the opposite way. That’s repentance — the changing of the mind.

Repentance is a change in how I think that leads to a change in how I live. When you really change your mind about something, it will change how you think about it, talk about it, feel about it, and act about it. Repentance is a decisive change in direction.

The main causes of climate change, pollution and bio-diversity loss are sins – the sins of apathy, greed and selfishness. And we need to repent. As individuals and as countries. We need to repent for the greed of overconsumption that leads to piles of pollution, the sin of apathy that means that we fail to hear the cry of the earth and the suffering of our global neighbour.

It is time for a decisive change of heart, of mind and of actions.

And the amazing thing is that when Peter came with this challenging message of real change, people flooded to join the Jesus movement. how many people are hungry for real change – to see the church making a radical call on their lives. It is time for an about turn!

Notes by Revd Dr. Rachel Mash. The environmental Coordinator of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa She works with the Green Anglicans youth Movement which is taking off in Africa. She is also the secretary to the Anglican Communion Environmental Network and sits on the steering group of the Season of Creation group.


Luke 24: 13-35 The Road to Emmaus – an Eco-theological reading 

In this passage the disciples are walking – discussing their reality. They are heading in the wrong way – they are hoping to leave behind their hurt and disappointment.  As leaders and as a Church, we must understand that there is a context in which the people of God walk — a reality which makes the Earth groan and humanity cry out.

Jesus goes out to meet them, he approaches, and he joins the walk (v. 15).

Jesus does not merely observe. He is not passive. He is all about action and movement. He takes the initiative and joins humans in their walk, with all the anguish it implies. He cares about the path they have taken and begins to walk with them.

We cannot simply watch as humanity walks towards self-destruction. We must walk the walk, not stand by. We must draw near, be present in the day-to-day, because it is on that path and on this walk where must make our proclamation— in the hope of rethinking the direction in which we are heading, toward the right course.

But we are as if blind (v. 16).

The disciples do not recognize him. Theirs is a culture of blindness. What is it that prevents us from recognizing God as he is present on the road? For the disciples, it is possibly pessimism, the death of their leader, disappointment, the imposing force of the empire, and the inadequacy of their leaders. The master whom they love and have followed for years walks with them, but the reality is so bitter that they simply cannot recognize him.

But how can one see God amid so many signs of death? Why did God “abandon” creation to human stewardship? Global warming, droughts, hurricanes, deforestation, floods, extinction, hunger, pollution, etc. all cry, “God, where are you?” Others walk “blind” because they are unable to recognize God while walking amid these signs of death and pain. Others walk as if “blind” because they shut their eyes to the overwhelming reality of destruction. Others prefer to remain “blind” at the lack of commitment of their leaders, the refusal of corporations to abandon their polluting practices, the absence of empathy for all forms of life, and the reign of consumerism. Many choose not to see, and simply “escape” reality rather than bear it.

Jesus poses questions about everyday life (vv. 17-19a).

It is surprising that the first words of Jesus have to do with everyday life. Jesus does not enter the scene giving theological lectures. He begins by asking what the disciples are discussing as they walk. For Jesus, it is more important to ask about what happens while living life. Today it is the Church’s task to inquire first about essential plights — about the realities of hunger and death — because how can we offer the food of the Word where there is hunger for bread? How can we challenge a context that is foreign to us?

The answer comes: sadness, disappointment, hopelessness, and failure (vv. 19b-24).

When Jesus insists, the answer is both inevitable and hopeless: the disciples have simply given up and abandoned the project — “they are leaving.” It is the disappointment that comes from seeing hope die and their efforts vanish. Even the voices that had announced the good news are not enough for them anymore.

Today, the response of Earth and humanity is one of pain. The latest IPPC report  has presented dramatic testimonies and statistics — anti-life (and therefore, anti-kingdom) realities: floods, fires, droughts, thaws, hunger, and many more. The consequences of such realities affect most directly those whose plight is already harsh — the poorest of the poor, as well as other species of this planet.

He interprets the Scriptures (vv. 25-27).

Only after a reading of reality does Jesus teach its interpretation in light of the Word. The good news should be shared after understanding the context.  Life is the word of God. It is sacrament. The first book through which God spoke to humanity is life itself — creation. This is how Jesus understood it. This is why he was always concerned with the vital needs of those around him — their physical, mental, and social health, as well as their dignity. It is only later he illuminates reality in light of the Scriptures.

How does one communicate the Word in these times of environmental crisis? The opportunities are endless. The Church must strive to illuminate the times in light of the Scriptures through sermons, teaching, academic output, Sunday schools, and training centres for new church leaders and seminarians.. It is the task the Christian to unravel the God who speaks through and in the midst of the crisis we are experiencing. Today, Jesus tells us.

The interpretation of the Word motivates the welcome (vv. 28-29).

The teachings of Jesus and his interpretation of the Scriptures are so deep and powerful that they moved the disciples to welcome him, even when they still did not recognize him.

The time we live in requires prophetic words that denounce, as well as some that bring hope for those who suffer. The voice of religious leaders must be comforting to those who suffer and upsetting to governments, industrialists, and heavy polluters. Today, we need to summon and to elicit energy. There are too many voices that, while doing good, are still scattered. But, how can we also help to bring those voices together in  unity? We must be more creative so that efforts are not lost or made invisible in the sea of chaos.

The Word and the welcome lead to communion and recognition (vv. 30-31).

After interpreting reality, illuminating it with the Word, and motivating the welcome, the optimal experience is expressed in Communion — in the Eucharist. The memorial of the Lord’s Supper is the culminating moment that drives the koinonia. It is the fulfilment of Jesus’ prayer, “I ask… that they all may be one” (John 17:21a). It is obvious that there is still much to be done. As those baptized, we are called to join forces with the different churches and with all human beings of good will. The ecumenical spirit must also bring us together around this vital issue.

Our theological and ministerial work must lead to the recognition and encounter of the risen one. But our Easter is also the Easter of the Earth and of creation. “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God. … We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now” (Rom. 8:18-25). We must understand that our existence is linked to that of creation.. That liberation from human alienation and subjugation will lead to the liberation and redemption of creation. As the Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, exhorted his delegate team at COP26: Christ has become incarnate in the world because he loves it, and it was for the salvation of the world that he gave his life, “for God so loved to the world, that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16).

Finally, communion is also something that happens with the world. Today, the koinonia also happens with nature. When we speak about a “cosmic Church” we refer to our communion with Mother Earth. This communion will allow us to open our eyes and recognize the risen one there   — in the midst of this great Church.

The experience of the risen one drives us to action (vv. 32-35).

The experience of Jesus must move one to action. Otherwise, it is not an experience of Christ. What is the point of dwelling on the mystical if everything is crumbling down around us? The Reality-Word-Hospitality-Communion model inevitably moves us to praxis. The experience of life that Jesus Christ communicates causes us to face the “night” — that is, the fears, the difficulties, the destruction, and the signs of death. It strengthens us to act now! To do as the disciples who “that same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem.” If we believe that Christ is alive, then our hearts burn. And that burning should make us rise above our comfort and move us to walk intentionally by sharing the good news — to proclaim life amid destruction, prompted by our belief that life will prevail over death.

We must move, be shaken, and act. It is imperative that we substitute our practices with more responsible, conscious, and sustainable ones. This is what we are to announce today precisely where the drama takes place: on the road, where those who suffer both socially and environmentally are found — the empire of developmentalism and consumerism.

We must make our proclamation in places where leaders impose extractive policies, where industrialists exploit and pollute, where field workers and Indigenous people are displaced, and where jungles are ravaged and rivers polluted. It is important to announce that life can still prevail. That we can still respond to our calling to be stewards of creation and co-caregivers of the planet and of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.

Let us get up and return to Jerusalem!



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Revd Richard Acosta Rodríguez

Richard Acosta Rodríguez is a priest at the San Benito Mission in the Diocese of Colombia; he is a university professor and has written several books and articles in the field of Biblical Ecotheology. He is a professor at the Center for Theological Studies of his diocese, is a member of the Oikos-Episcopal environmental reflection team and is editor of “Sermones Que Iluminan” in Spanish.

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