Easter blessings all.
Now let’s get to work.
Once a week I am doing a video reflection for the Second Congregational Church in Londonderry, VT which I attend. This is today’s reflection. This is what I wrote. The video link is below. Easter blessings one and all.
Today, I thought I would share with you portions of a poem written by Wendell Berry, an American novelist, poet, environmental activist and farmer. This is from his poem Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
I particularly like that last line.
Now that we have celebrated Easter,
Like the disciples of Jesus,
The question becomes how will we live it.
How will we practice resurrection now that we have experienced and celebrated it?
Where we are and how we are.
And also tomorrow with whatever tomorrow brings.
I leave you with this prayer.
Remind us of strength, O God.
The strength to care.
The strength to share.
The strength we can lean on.
When we find life hard or challenging or painful.
Remind us of grace, O God.
A grace which heals.
A grace which opens us to hope.
A grace which meets us in the midst of each day
And turns our lives in a new direction.
Remind us of Your dream, O God.
A dream of swords into plowshares.
A dream of a table large enough for all.
A dream of a time and a place when and where
All are named and welcomed as sisters and brothers.
Thy kingdom come.
Remind us of gratitude, O God.
For love which sustains.
For food enough.
For who we are and for who we are called to be.
If you wonder about Easter…
About what happened or didn’t happen.
If you wonder about Easter
And what it means
And why it matters
There is this.
From the writings of William Stringfellow.
“In the face of death, live humanly. In the middle of chaos, celebrate the Word. Amidst Babel, speak the truth. Confront the noise and verbiage and falsehood of death with the truth and potency and efficacy of the Word of God. Know the Word, teach the Word, nurture the Word, preach the Word, define the Word, incarnate the Word, do the Word, live the Word. And more than that, in the Word of God, expose death and all death’s works and wiles, rebuke lies, cast out demons, exorcise, cleanse the possessed, raise those who are dead in mind and conscience.” (from An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land)
In the end, Easter is about vision and courage.
Vision to see the world as God sees the world.
And courage to live that world into being.
I know Easter is just another Sunday.
One of 52 each year.
But it feels different.
That given the heartbreak with which so many live to the violence which screams at us from the news to he absolute craziness of the world around us, that there is a vision and a hope which might keep our lives from spinning completely out of control. And, which might, in the end, save us. A promise that life – yours, mine, ours, theirs – might be different. Better.
For a moment all of it almost seems real.
We can almost see it.
Almost believe it.
Then, Monday comes.
And we wonder if what we felt in that moment was real.
Real enough to make today different.
Real enough to make us different.
That is what we are left to decide.
And, April Fools Day.
Where should I start? Let’s try this.
Jesus. Wait. Wait.
Or not Jesus?
I think I should stop right there.
But my intuition tells me that somewhere in this complicated, startling, life and world turned right side up story is some sort of divine joke and God is laughing at the wonder of it all.
So, on this Easter/April Fools Sunday, I add my welcome as we gather this morning to celebrate Easter…beyond bunnies and baskets and decorated eggs.
As I read and reread and thought about what I wanted or needed to share with you this morning about Easter and about the message and meaning of the resurrection, I found my attention and imagination pulled in two different directions. The first was this. The realization that instead of this being one story – whether you read the resurrection narratives as something which happened to Jesus or something which happened to the disciples – the accounts of the resurrection, in fact, tell two competing stories. And you and I are left to decide which story will be normative for our lives.
The first story is one we know all too well.
It is a story about power wielded by violence and intimidation and fear.
All in the name of peace.
Rome with it legions of soldiers.
And, the roads of the Empire lined with crosses used for executions.
And, the Emperor named and treated as a god.
With those who had having more than what they needed.
And, those who did not, never having enough.
This story is not unique to the Bible.
It is the story of Empire which has been reenacted countless times in human history.
The Assyrian Empire. The Babylonian Empire. The Roman Empire.
The Inquisition. Nazi Germany. Syria today. The Philippines today.
Jim Crow. Segregation. The Ku Klux Klan. The Alt-Right.
We know it.
We live in it.
Its headlines fill the news.
Then there is this story.
The story of Jesus.
Who healed those who were broken.
Who fed those who were hungry.
Who welcomed those who were forgotten and pushed to the edges.
Who challenged the power and the story of the religious and political elite.
Who lived the reality that the circle which encompassed God’s children is larger. As a colleague said, “Moving the margins until there are no more margins.”
He said things like…
Blessed are the peacemakers.
Do not judge.
Treat others as you would like to be treated.
Be compassionate as God is compassionate.
Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.
Blessed are those who are gentle, but strong. They shall inherit the earth.
And, as crazy as all that sounds given the world as it was and is some people actually believed him. And began living that way.
On one side is the cross and the power of the Empire.
On the other side is the stone rolled away and the tomb that is empty.
On one side is the finality of death.
On the other side is the women meeting Jesus in that cemetery and disciples running for their lives meeting him on the road to Emmaus.
One one side are the guards sent to protect the tomb falling over like dead men.
On the other side is Jesus who was dead experienced as being present and alive again.
And, like countless others before us, we are left to decide.
Which of these two stories will you use to shape the narrative of your life?
Let me ask that again.
Which of these two stories will you use to shape the narrative of your life?
And, my second pondering about the Easter story is this.
What came first?
Or, the stone being rolled away?
I think we often assume the resurrection came first.
Jesus ready or already gone when that entombing stone is miraculously pushed back. But, what if that not the case. What if Jesus remained dead until that stone was removed? If that is true, then what about today? I ask because I believe if the Bible contains any truth at all, it is never just about then, but also about now. And never just about them, but also about you and me.
So, back to the question.
What if Jesus remained dead until that stone was rolled back?
Then what does that say about today in all those places where Death still reigns?
And, violence still rules.
And, fear wraps itself around their lives strangling life until it is no more?
In Sandy Hook?
In New York City?
Any and all places where Jesus is still dead?
If so, who will roll away the stone?
So, here we are…
My prayer today for all of you…
For all of us…
May whatever stones still entomb be rolled away that new life might emerge. And may the promises of Easter turn your world and our world right side up.