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.
I know I am jumping the gun.
But, that is one of the hazards of my job.
Moving through Holy Week at the same time needing to think about and to get ready for Easter. As I try to find my way, here is what I found myself thinking about this morning.
What came first?
Or, the stone being rolled away?
I think we often assume the resurrection came first.
Jesus ready when the stone is miraculously pushed back.
But, what if that not the case.
What if Jesus remains dead until that stone is removed?
If that is true, then what about today…
Is Jesus still dead?
If so, who will roll away the stone?
This morning I invite you into a conversation.
About where you see it and experience it.
About where and how in your life you “practice” it.
A conversation about hope.
About new life.
About that moment when, for you and others around you, the Kingdom of God is right here and right now.
As a prompt and to give you a moment to think, several brief reflections on resurrection. First, something I wrote this week for my blog.
The headlines are harsh.
Describing a reality I read about.
But do not know.
The tomb is real.
The bombs are real.
The fear is real.
The ruthlessness is real.
Yet, somewhere a stone is rolled back.
Just a bit.
And life pushes its way out.
Into the harshness of the headlines.
Refusing to bow down.
Or to be silent.
Or to hide.
Do I feel it?
Or see it?
But not always.
But it does not depend on me.
Beyond my seeing
It is there.
And these two reflections which Leslie Mott, our Coordinator for Spirituality and Practice, used in our Spirituality groups this past week. The first is a few lines from Wendell Berry’s poem, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.
So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute.
Love the Lord.
Love the world.
Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.
And, this…. (I am not sure where this is from.)
“Once in a parish mission when I was studying this scripture with a large group (Luke 7: 11-17/Jesus raising a young man who had died), someone called our harshly, ‘Have you ever brought someone back from the dead?’ I had been saying that life happens when we are interrupted, and that some of the most powerful acts of resurrection happen to the least likely people; that we are the people of resurrection and hope, called to live passionately and compassionately with others, to defy death, to forgive, and to bring others back into the community, to do something that is life-giving, that fights death and needless suffering. And then this challenge from the back of the church.
My response was ‘Yes.’
I went on to say, ‘Every time I bring hope to a situation, every time I bring joy that shatters despair, every time I forgive others and give them back dignity and the possibility of a future with me and others in the community, every time I speak the truth in public, every time I confront injustice – yes – I bring people back from the dead.”
- Where/when/how do you bring people back from the dead or see them brought back from the dead?
- Where do you experience Easter?
- Where do you experience hope or forgiveness or welcome?
[Here we had a 10 minute conversation about where we see and experience Easter.]
And, to wrap up, two additional reflections…
John 21 (read the entire narrative yourself)
But here is what strikes me about this passage.
After the experience of the resurrection, whenever and however that happened, the disciples returned to Galilee, where they had lived their entire lives, and went fishing, which they had done their entire lives. It was there where they lived each day that they met Jesus. Maybe the same is true or can be true for us.
I had a second letter (the first letter was written to the children and shared earlier in the service) in my empty Easter basket this morning.
Dear Bedford Presbyterian Church,
Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place.
And, it makes a difference.
Today, I would like you to remember this.
Easter is, not Easter was.
You know the story.
For Jesus, it was all about his understanding of what he knew and named as the Kingdom of God. That understanding…that vision of what your life would be like and our life and world would be like if God were in charge and not a Prime Minister or President or a Dictator or any type of leader you might like to name. And, for Jesus that Kingdom was not about someday in the future or someday after you die. It was about here and now amidst the challenges and wonder and hardships and joys of life as it is. It had to do with loving God and loving your neighbor with your neighbor being the stranger in your midst and not just the person who lives next door. It had to do with treating others the way you would like to be treated and treating others they way they would like to be treated. It had to do with those who Jesus knew and named the least of these being invited to the banquet and included in the circle of the community. It had to do with knowing it and seeing it and living in it which he did. And, all that got him killed. Crucified. Stone rolled into place in front of his tomb.
Which brings us to today.
Doesn’t it make you wonder?
With whatever happened as those followers of Jesus experienced the resurrection, you would think by the time they finally wrote something down, which was 30-40 years after Jesus was killed, they would have gotten their story straight.
But that didn’t happen, did it?
Matthew has an earthquake and an angel sitting on the stone and guards keeling over. Mark has everyone so scared and disconcerted they don’t say anything to anyone. Luke has two angels and disciples fleeing Jerusalem trying to get to safety in Emmaus. John has doubting Thomas and the disciples hiding behind locked doors. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Christian community in Corinth, which is actually the earliest of the witnesses to the resurrection describes resurrection as a seed falling to the ground and then growing into something much more.
Maybe the fact they didn’t merge their stories into one story tells us something. Maybe it tells us that this is not the most important part of the story. Or, at least, the whole story. Each of them described the resurrection in their own way in an effort to communicate their understanding of what it meant more than what happened. And, even though each account is different, they do agree on two things.
First, something happened.
Something which transformed their lives moving them from betrayal and denial and being scared to death to stepping out and speaking up and living in a fundamentally new way. Doing what they had seen Jesus do even though doing that and living like that is what got Jesus killed.
And, second, the story doesn’t end in that unknown cemetery.
No one remained there. No one lingered in the cemetery applauding and cheering for Jesus and saying “Isn’t God great!” The moment in the cemetery is immediately followed up with instructions. Marching orders for those who experienced the resurrection and those who chose and choose to follow Jesus. Verbs in the imperative voice. Go. Teach. Care for. Break bread. Feed. Make disciples. Bring God’s Kingdom close.
Which brings us to today.
And, to you and me.
We are now left to decide if we will trust the story.
Even with all the headlines in the news.
MOAB bombs on Maundy Thursday.
Suicide bombers on the doorsteps of churches.
Maybe, even in defiance of the headlines in the news.
We are left to decide if we will trust the story enough to risk living inside it. Trusting that all those glimpses and glances of hope and beauty and truth and life which punctuate our lives are not aberrations. Not some blip on the screen. But, instead a sign. A symbol. A window onto how life really is and how it is meant to be. Trust that in the grand scheme of life…in God’s grand scheme of life that kindness and compassion and longing for and working towards the justice and peace and sufficiency wrapped up in the words and vision of God’s Kingdom come is both life itself and the way life is intended to be. Trusting, that when all is said and done, life is stronger than death.
So, if you want proof of the resurrection look around.
Or better yet, look in the mirror.
The witness to the resurrection is not what happened in that cemetery.
The witness to the resurrection is you and me when we trust the story enough to live it. When we walk out the door and not just look at, but see our neighbor. When we treat the other the way we would like to be treated if we wore their shoes. When, in the midst of the craziness and complexity of life, we keep our eyes on hope and walk in the direction of justice and peace.
It is Easter Sunday morning.
You know the story.
Now, can you trust it?
Trust it enough to live it?
Yesterday was Easter.
On a normal Monday I am tired.
On the Monday after Easter, I am even more tired.
I sit here wondering what one is to do on the day after resurrection?
It took so much energy to get to yesterday.
All I want to do now is take a nap.
And, do my best to enjoy it.
Or, hide somewhere until my energy returns and I figured out what comes next.
But, it doesn’t work that way, does it?
Today is the day I have.
The only day I have
And to be