First Fruits of Creation

Breaking of bread at Emmaus

By Rachel Mash

This year, the first week of Easter and Earth Day coincide. In light of this, and of the urgent call to ecological stewardship by Church leaders throughout the world, this week’s devotions will concentrate on the relationship between Easter and creation.

A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 24:13-35

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Meditation

The story of the road to Emmaus is a strange one! Cleopas and his companion set out on the seven-mile hike to Emmaus, discussing the tragic events in Jerusalem. Jesus joins them, and they share their deep disappointment with him. How excited they had been to see the response of the crowd as he entered Jerusalem, believing that he was the Messiah, the one to redeem Israel from political oppression.

Strangely, when Jesus joins the discussion and explains why he had to die, they don’t recognize him. So deeply disappointed are they that they dismiss visions of angels as fake news; they do not see the risen Christ even when he is right there speaking to them.

Perhaps their disillusionment isn’t the only reason for their disbelief. The risen Christ is truly different from the Jesus they knew before. Somehow he can walk through walls, appear and disappear. But he is absolutely not a ghost! He has the same body, but somehow in a different form. As they say in Thailand, he is “same, same, but different!”

He is the first fruits of renewed humanity.

Just as Jesus was restored and renewed, the rest of creation has also been reconciled by his death and resurrection. But we often cannot see the first fruits of this renewal, for our eyes are dimmed by disillusionment and despair.

As we look at the state of our beautiful blue planet, oceans full of plastic, the most vulnerable suffering from climate change, beautiful species going extinct — can we dare to understand that the Christ, the first fruits of creation, has already risen?

Jesus’ death and resurrection mean there will be a renewal of the whole earth order. Death has been overcome.

Jesus’ resurrection and victory over death is the cornerstone of redemption, both for humankind and for the whole of creation. The first fruits of creation are beginning to shoot forth, and we work toward the vision of fully restored human beings dwelling on a fully restored earth.

Without this hope, there is no Christianity.

The Rev. Dr. Rachel Mash is the environmental Coordinator of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. She also works with the Green Anglicans Movement and is the secretary to the Anglican Communion Environmental Network.

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