Easter and the Laws of Nature
My friend Sarah just finished a month long detox diet called “The Whole 30.”
The idea of the diet is for 30 days to eliminate from your system
foods that cause inflammation, hormone imbalance, and digestive problems.
The idea is that once your body has had these foods out of its system for 30 days,
you can naturally set the ‘reset’ button.
The diet is supposed to change your metabolism, your overall health,
even your emotional relationship with food.
It sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
Except when you read the fine print.
Because for the Whole 30, you are supposed to give up a long list of things:
including sugar in any form, artificial or natural
all grains, all dairy, even all legumes.
You give up not only unhealthy foods, but also many staples.
I don’t think I would be a good candidate for the Whole 30—
I remember when I was nursing, I cut out dairy, hoping it would make my baby less colicky.
It didn’t, and I was hungry all the time.
Plus I love beans and rice, good bread, and a little honey on my greek yogurt.
I think I would have to change the laws of nature in order to complete the 30 days.
That’s what struck me about the OT reading for today.
It contains the image of the peaceable kingdom, where the wolf and lamb eat the same food,
where the lion eats straw.
In the new heaven and new earth that God is creating, the laws of nature are fundamentally changed:
carnivores eat meat no more.
And not only that, in this new creation, there is no more weeping or distress
no untimely death
no invading armies who take your home and eat the produce of your fields.
The new heaven and new earth is a place of blessing,
where predator and prey, oppressor and oppressed, sit down together in joy and plenty.
The laws of nature, changed.
Looking around at our world today, we sure could use a dose of the peaceable kingdom.
But in order for that new creation to come to pass, you’d have to change the laws of nature.
It has become commonplace, you could say natural, for political candidates to devour one another
low blows and cheap shots, slandering each others’ character, shouting over the other, calling names.
It has become commonplace, even natural, for people to take up a gun or a suicide vest
and inflict harm and death on innocent people.
It has become commonplace, even natural, for people young and old to overdose on opioid drugs.
It’s as if destruction is in our bones, and you’d have to change our entire diet to root it out.
But that is exactly what the Easter story claims.
The women come to the tomb early that Sunday morning to find it empty,
with the grave cloths neatly folded, and two men in dazzling white telling them that Jesus is alive.
The women run to tell the disciples about this surprising chain of events
but the disciples know the laws of nature:
death only goes in one direction; it is a permanent condition.
They call the women’s words an idle tale.
But Peter goes to the tomb, hoping for something beyond the laws of nature.
And what he finds makes him think that perhaps death is not a one way street after all,
In the resurrection death has become a door and Jesus’ tomb the opening to a new way to live.
It makes me think of something my colleague Pr Tim Oslovich has said on more than one occasion:
“The 21st century is less violent than any other time in human history.”
I hear him say this, and I think about what I see in the news.
Is it possible? Can you resurrect any hope from the senseless shootings and bombings?
I feel like the disciples thinking the resurrection was an idle tale.
But Pr Tim is a smart guy, so I researched it on the internet. And here is what I found out.
Despite graphic violence in Syria, Nigeria, Iraq and Afghanistan-
the majority of the places in the world -- even with terrorist acts-- have become much safer since WWII.
In WWII, 300 out of every 100,000 people were dying violent deaths every year.
Now that number is in the single digits.
On top of that, the homicide rate in developing countries and the US continues to declining steadily.
And it’s there’s good news beyond less violence.
The 21st century offers quality of life to many who were previously shut out.
Girls are being educated in many places where they used to spend their days hauling water,
and in this country women can work in any field, where a few generations ago
they could only be nurses, secretaries, and teachers.
The number of out of school elementary aged children over has been cut in half since the year 2000.
The number of people living in extreme poverty has been cut in half in the same period.
Organizations like the United Nations, non-profits, and non-governmental organizations
have worked together with unprecedented success reducing poverty
and providing access to education and safe drinking water.
There is much more to be done, but we must keep telling these stories of hope,
for they remind us that we can work together to make positive change.
We gather today to proclaim that Jesus’ resurrection has altered the laws of nature
and that God is changing our hearts.
We are no longer predator and prey, terrorist or victim, conquering army or vanquished enemy.
We are wolves and lambs, eating at the same global dinner table.
That means that we need to change our diet.
We need to cut out entirely any bigotry and hatred that makes people into enemies.
We won’t consume cynicism and despair,
but instead we will bulk up on hopefulness and determination
so that the latest bad news deter us
from feeding the hungry, visiting the lonely, and demanding a responsive, mature government.
When we feast on this resurrection diet we find that we do not need to fear
not the changes in the world or our lives
not even death
for like Jesus, there is no enemy that can ultimately destroy us.
Our life with God.
The resurrection means we live with one foot in that new creation now,
we taste a portion of the peaceable kingdom today
and we trust that eventually Jesus will get both our feet to his feast.
And until then, we live as peacemakers
as builders and planters of a new reality
with new laws of nature
where you don’t need a diet or a degree or a particular ideology to be included
where no one needs to force their way in,
because there is a place and room enough for everyone.
Jesus is living.
May his resurrection come alive in us.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.
Pinker points out that during World War II, the human population lost 300 of every 100,000 people each year. During the Korean War it was in the 20s, before dropping into the teens during the Vietnam era. In the 1980s and 1990s, it fell into the single digits. For most of the 21st century it’s been below one war death per 100,000 people per year. psychologist Steven Pinker The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
According to an analysis of data from the world’s 20 most lethal wars last year, at least 163,000 people died in conflict. That compares to just under 127,000 in the 20 worst wars the previous year, a rise of 28.7 percent.
That’s a pretty disturbing spike by anyone’s terms. And if you look at the first few months of 2015, the violence doesn’t seem to be waning.
What’s even more worrying is that this seems to be part of an ongoing trend that now goes back eight years. According to the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), global violence — as defined by a range of measures from conflict deaths, to displaced persons, to homicide rates — has been rising since 2007.
Conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, not surprisingly, top the list of highest casualties, with their confrontations with Islamic State and Taliban — as well as, of course, the ongoing fight in Syria between government and opposition supporters. Nigeria’s battle with Boko Haram has sent it rocketing up the list to number four. If Sudan and South Sudan had remained united, their combined death toll would push them to the number three spot, above Afghanistan.
Of course, all this data shows is that a handful of the world’s more violent war zones are getting worse. In the developed world, by contrast, death by violence continues to fall. Indeed, British crime statistics have continued to slump despite a recession and fewer police officers.
Even within the larger wars, an increasingly small group of people — particularly the members of elements like ISIS or Boko Haram — are doing a larger amount of killing. While 20th century wars saw much of the general (male) population mobilized and fighting, today more people seem content to sit on the sidelines.
Yet even with the recent spike, things aren’t as bad as they were in the 1990s, when conflicts in Africa, the Balkans and elsewhere were killing tens if not hundreds of thousands of people a year. Geographically, today’s violence is very patchy. The countries I’ve highlighted reflect a relatively small proportion of the world’s surface or population. Reuter’s Peter Apps