More Than Nature
by Ajit John
Reading from Ephesians, 1:1-10
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Where I live, the pandemic struck in early spring. Easter in lockdown demanded I buy two pots of pansies for the front porch. One pot thrived well beyond Easter week. The other started to wilt within three days. I watered both and offered a silent prayer for the weaker one. By the third week of Easter I saw new blossoms on the once wilting pansies. Can this turning to life be a cipher for the resurrection? Is it not a gentle yet death-defying touch amidst nature’s brutal assault?
We should be careful about saying that nature restored indicates a triumph of goodness over evil, or of hope over despair. Too much can be made of the flower that cracks the concrete. Nature discloses within its own limited dimensions. It doesn’t ever give us the whole picture that we see in the resurrection of Jesus. For that, we need the scriptures to see what is true, to see that nature is itself taken up into something greater. And so we attend to the magnificent opening of the letter to the Ephesians.
When Paul wrote this introduction, he laid one phrase on top of the other because there was so little time and not enough space to contain so great a mystery. Paul was drawing out the meaning of the resurrected Christ for the creation and beyond it. I offer you a precis of Paul’s opening lines:
“The mystery of God’s will is set forth in Christ, who by his blood provided forgiveness of sins though we were undeserving, so that in love he could draw us inside his own life and gather things created and uncreated into the risen Christ.”
A thriving pot of pansies — indeed, the whole of nature — cannot manage such things. We need Scripture always, to locate our experience.
The Reverend Ajit John is an associate priest at St. Paul’s L’Amoreaux, a vibrant multi-ethnic parish in Toronto, Canada.