Green Jesus

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Chris Sunderland – Theologian

Chris Sunderland writes: I have a chequered history. Research science; vicar in tower block estate; frustration and a sense of Church’s need to engage creatively with the society; research in theology; and now running EarthAbbey.

 Chris Sunderland – Theologian

How was Jesus in touch with the natural world?

The gospels suggest that Jesus’ own spiritual life was nurtured through an intimate relationship with creation. Like several other biblical characters (Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist), Jesus chose to go to the ‘wild place’ in order to centre on the divine, struggle with his own inner life, and find a strategy for the future. Meditating on the plants and animals of the earth was a principal means through which he received the pictures and visions that supported his memorable teaching. He saw his own body as part of the web of life and spoke of his death as a mysterious opportunity. He said ‘Unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit.’

What do you think was green about what Jesus said and did?

I want to try to follow what the first Christians thought about Jesus as they reflected on his life and his relationship with creation. For them his death and subsequent resurrection” title=“resurrection”>resurrection gave him an exalted status. They imagined him as existing before everything was created. They saw him as the ‘wisdom’ of God helping to form the creation and the means through which the world, its people and its creatures would be transformed. This implies that Jesus cared deeply for the whole creation as well as for the human beings within it. Similarly the belief in a bodily resurrection earths that event into some sort of continuity with this created order. Paul was clear that both people and animals would have some sort of bodies in a renewed creation and he longed for this to happen. At the heart of this hope was a vision for the world as it should be and a process of healing and reconciliation that included the animal world. In the book of Revelation we see a picture of ultimate unity and peace with the ‘lamb’ upon the throne, surrounded by four living creatures, who stand for the whole created order, caught up with the great mass of people in worship.

How concerned are you about the state of Planet Earth
(on a scale of 1-10 where 1 = not worried at all! and 10 = extremely concerned)?

10. This is the big one. Nothing like this has ever faced the human species. All our development work in the Third World stands threatened by climate change. The Western consumerist vision must be replaced. It is a profound challenge and, at heart, a spiritual one. It really matters how we see and feel about the world. If Jesus’ incarnation had occurred today rather than two thousand years ago I believe that dealing with climate change would be at the top of his list for the establishment of the rule of God in the world. We must find a better way to live with the earth and its creatures. Shalom.

What practical things do you do to help the environment?

I am a largely unreconstructed hypocrite on whom issues about climate change and the environment have recently dawned. I reckon climate change to be about the most important issue ever to have faced human beings and yet I am caught up in addiction to petrolife like almost everyone else around me. I am making some first steps toward lifestyle change, like changing my office base, getting my bike out and deliberately cultivating my own interest in the natural world. I am also working to bring climate change to others attention.

If you were a plant, what plant would you be? And why?

I think I am some sort of desert plant, using every means at my disposal to get in touch with water. This reflects my perception of the spiritual barrenness of so much of Western society.

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About this module

We asked a number of Christians in different professions some questions about Jesus’ green credentials and how they follow Jesus today, in the light of environmental impact, climate change and all issues green.

We also asked them what plant they’d be, hence the images to the left.

We would still like to hear from a: Walker, Flower Arranger, Organic Restaurateur, Farmer, Vet, Architect, Travel Agent and any other relevant professionals. Contact one of the editors if you’re interested.

Categories: Lives, Interviews,


Module contents

arrow Introduction and index

arrow Evan Cockshaw – Astrophysicist

arrow Richard Chartres – Bishop

arrow Dave Bookless – Ecologist

arrow Chris Sunderland – Theologian

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