By The Rev. Sherry Crompton
Easter Sunday – April 24, 2011
“Is it true?” Is it true? This is the question that Karl Barth, one the great theologians, says brings people to worship. Is it true that God lives and gives us life? Is it true that God not only established a routine, what we call the laws of nature, but that one day God broke the routine and somehow raised Jesus from the dead? Is it true that something so extraordinary happened on that morning that we can only rebuild our lives on its foundation? Is it true?
Too often we see individuals and communities get caught up in endless cycles of suffering and mutual victimization. In some situations the suffering may be romanticized, theologically and psychologically, and seen as the essence of life, when in fact it is the essence of death. In the midst of such suffering people will often look to Jesus as the one who will help them have less death or at least to make this suffering tolerable.
Contrary to trivial and popular western understandings of reincarnation as a way of immortality, Buddhists actually see reincarnation as a curse. Reincarnation is the never ending recycling of patterns of suffering. For Buddhists what is required in these situations is not reincarnation but enlightenment – a radically different way of seeing and being in the world. For Christians this is resurrection, where the old ways dies and new life bursts forth.
This is the Easter message of resurrection, of new life. It is not a message of tolerating misery or of having less death. The Apostles were called to be witnesses of the resurrection. Crucifixion does not create community or bring people together, it causes disciples to scatter, it is resurrection that brings people back together in community.
Resurrection requires a radical surrender or letting go of that which is not working, especially our ego attachments to our way of seeing the world. Rather than let go of our understanding and see things the way God’s sees them we struggle to get God to bless our understanding.
What we need is resurrection not reincarnation and that requires that we as a people have courage to let our old ways die rather than getting our way. The Christian way does not ignore suffering or crucifixion. In the midst of suffering we find the seeds of new life and in the midst of death, we find those qualities such as love and delight that will never die for they are of God.
Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers, was recently interviewed on NPR. “So what does this season — so much about rebirth and redemption, but also sacrifice — mean to Lamott? And when asked how the meaning of Easter has changed for her over time, Lamott describes an experience that changed the meaning of the holiday for her:
“When I was 38, my best friend, Pammy, died, and we went shopping about two weeks before she died, and she was in a wig and a wheelchair. I was buying a dress for this boyfriend I was trying to impress, and I bought a tighter, shorter dress than I was used to. And I said to her, ‘Do you think this makes my hips look big?’ and she said to me, so calmly, ‘Anne, you don’t have that kind of time.’ And I think Easter has been about the resonance of that simple statement; and that when I stop, when I go into contemplation and meditation, when I breathe again and do the sacred action of plopping and hanging my head and being done with my own agenda, I hear that, ‘You don’t have that kind of time,’ you have time only to cultivate presence and authenticity and service, praying against all odds to get your sense of humor back.”
“That’s how it has changed for me,” Lamott continues. “That was the day my life changed, when she said that to me.”
Lamott explains that she will spend this Sunday following through with her usual Easter traditions:
“I’m going to go to my little church, and we will have a huge crowd of about 60 people. And I will cry a little bit … out of joy, and then I will go home, and I will have 25 people — 15 relatives and about 10 riffraff, i.e., my closest friends — and we will sit down and we will eat, the most sacred thing we do.”
With God, there is no yesterday or tomorrow; all is now. When we celebrate the Holy Eucharist, communion, remember what Jesus said: “When two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst” He is here, among us; we just can’t see him. There is room at the table, room for everybody who ever followed Jesus, or ever will, until he comes again in glory to wrap things up. There is still time to join the Apostles, to join Mary as she says “I have seen the Lord!”. It’s going on now.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen, indeed. Alleluia!
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