Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Community of Hope

Reflection for Easter Sunday

by Alonzo Johnson

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:1-18, NRSV)

In 1979 the Church Rock Uranium spill marks one of the most destructive environmental disasters in our country. Due to a dam failure, over 1,000 tons of radioactive mill waste and radioactive tailings were dumped into the Puerco River contaminating its groundwater. The contaminants traveled 80 miles downstream to Navajo County, Arizona and onto the Navajo Nation.  Even decades later, the Uranium Tailings spill is still listed as one of the the largest in the United States.

Among the organizations actively connected to the region is the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE.).  MASE is a grassroots organization comprised of several groups working together to remove the uranium contamination and prohibit future mines in the area.  Participants include Acoma and Laguna Pueblos, community people in the affected area, Navajo Nation, the Post 71 Uranium workers and ranchers who have been affected by the uranium mining industry. In recent years, with the help of the Presbyterian Committee of the Self Development of People (SDOP), who establish partnerships with self-determining communities to promote justice, awarded a grant to MASE to help with raising public awareness activity and keeping old, abandoned mines from re-opening.

The John text shows us that the risen Christ turns a group of scared and confused disciples into a community of hope despite the risks. The work and advocacy of the Multicultural Alliance reminds us about the power of Easter, a power where empty tombs can influence the advocacy of empty mines. We are also reminded that we must take part in God’s resurrection power and be willing to “roll away stones’’ with our witness so that people may find life in the power of the empty tomb. The empty tomb is much like a river empty of toxins and pollutants - it is alive and life-giving! Easter reminds us that the Earth as part of God’s good creation is alive and life-giving. The activism and advocacy of alliance members are examples of what it means to be a community of hope despite the risks.

Prayer: Holy Creator thank you for showing us that death and hopelessness does not have the last word in our world. As members of Christ’s body and your good creation, show us again what it means to take care of the earth and all that is in it. Like clean and fresh waters, revive us again and show us that God’s power is active and redemptive in all situations. Loving God, In this season of new life, remind us to empty our lives of the dross and the toxins that prevent us from fully experiencing your transforming power. Amen.

Rev. Alonzo Johnson is Coordinator for the Self-Development of People Program (SDOP) of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Rev. Johnson has 25 years of experience in urban, youth, education, creative arts, and social justice ministries.

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