Ecological Stations of the Cross: #7 – The tomb of mass extinction

Ecological Stations of the Cross: #7 – The tomb of mass extinction April 8, 2023

In this final installment of the Ecological Stations of the cross, we remember that Jesus was laid in the tomb. Today we mourn mass extinction which is leading to ecosystem collapse.

red fox in charred forest
Image by wirestock on

[This resource is part of the EcoPreacher 1-2-3 series that helps preachers and congregations address environmental issues in their sermons and ministry.  The Ecological Stations of the Cross is made possible through support from the Interfaith Center of Sustainable Development with editing assistance from Rabbi Yonatan Neril.  You can access all the reflections as a full booklet here.]

Scripture:  Matthew 27:59-61

59So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

Reflection on the tomb of mass extinction

Once Jesus breathed his last, that was the end of his earthly life.  There was no return from the collapse of his bodily systems deprived of oxygen once he was crucified.  The tomb held his lifeless body as the women looked on, mourning the death of their rabbi, their friend.

Our planet is currently in the midst of a mass extinction event.  Species are going extinct faster than in any of the previous five mass extinctions.  As humans raze natural habitats for mining, farming, and habitation, vulnerable species are also suffering from the effects of global warming that is happening too fast for them to adapt.  Added to all of this is the pollution, overhunting, and overfishing that are decimating birds, animals, and aquatic life to a tipping point of disaster for this planet.

Scientists are warning us: “A biodiversity crash may be the harbinger of a more devastating ecosystem collapse.” Thus, conservation efforts today must focus not only on endangered species but also on preserving their habitats, sharply curbing fossil fuel emissions, halting the production and pollution of plastics, and restoring natural lands.  We must stop this planet from becoming nothing more than a tomb.

Prayer of grief

God, our comforter, come to us in our time of grief.  We mourn extinct species like the ivory-billed woodpecker, bridled white-eye, Mariana fruit bat, and northern white rhinoceros. Move us to protect those species that are still alive but threatened, such as the amur leopard, orangutans, gorillas, tigers, porpoises, turtles, and elephants.  Fill our hearts with compassion that embraces our fellow humanity and extends to our Earth kin.  Bless the scientists and activists working to protect life on this precious, fragile Earth.

God in your mercy, hear our prayer.

endangered species
Endangered species collage

After the Ecological Stations of the Cross: take action!

As participants in the Ecological Stations of the Cross conclude their time with this ritual, it is appropriate to have materials available for ways they can take action and respond to the eco-crucifixion.  Here are just a few ideas:

Read also:

Grieving Extinct Species on All Saints Day

The Pietà of a Mother Orca: Carrying the Grief of an Eco-Crucifixion

The Last Rhino, Good Friday, and the Preachers’ Silence

Resurrection Sermon for an Earth-kin Congregation

Leah D. Schade

The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade is the Associate Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky and ordained in the ELCA. Dr. Schade does not speak for LTS or the ELCA; her opinions are her own.  She is the author of Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019) and Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015). She is the co-editor of Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019). Her newest book is Introduction to Preaching: Scripture, Theology, and Sermon Preparation, co-authored with Jerry L. Sumney and Emily Askew (Rowman & Littlefield, 2023).

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