Today’s scripture passage is Psalm 149. It is about praise and joy. It encourages us to sing a new song. Indeed that is what Easter is all about.
Lent challenges us to look squarely in the face of mortality and death, to sit with our grief, to hear, “from dust you have come to dust you will return,” echo week after week. Death plagues each of us and Lent is relentless in calling us to examine it. We all die a thousand deaths on our way to our last – our bodies remind us of this as we age – our dreams die – our hopes – our ambitions – our relationships – a thousand deaths from minor disappointments to major train wrecks along the way to a final death.
Jose Ortega Y Gasset, Spanish liberal philosopher and proponent, along with Nietzsche of perspectivism (the philosophical view (developed by Nietzche) that all ideations take place from particular perspectives and thus there are many possible perspectives (conceptual schemes) in which judgment of truth or value can be made) wrote:
“To live is to feel oneself lost-he who accepts this has already begun to find himself, to be on firm ground. Instinctively, as do the shipwrecked, he will look round for something to which to cling, and that tragic, ruthless glance, absolutely sincere, because it is a question of his salvation, will cause him to bring order into the chaos of his life. These are the only genuine ideas; the ideas of the shipwrecked. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce” (The Revolt of the Masses).
“To live is to feel oneself lost . . . shipwrecked.” This is just what we’ve been facing for forty days. Forty days walking with the reality of death. Death is necessary. Some things about us need to die. Some things that have died need to be left. Death always brings grief. But this does not have to be the end.
In fact, it would be unbearable if Lent lasted the entire church year. We’ve come, this morning, to the end of Lent, not to the end of mourning and grief, not to the end of looking realistically at our lives and our deaths, not to the end but to a new beginning.
Easter invites us into resurrection, new life. Just as death is a process always at work within us, so too is resurrection
Easter invites us to bring life out of death. Yes, we did a thousand kinds of death on the way to our final one and NO that is not the end of the story. We also live a thousand rebirths, a thousand resurrections, a thousand chances to face the difficulties of life without giving those struggles the only say.
The women come to the tomb expecting death and decay. They are prepared for death. They have spices; they have stone faces; they are ready to face the death shroud. They do not find what they are looking for. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?
Why do you look for the living among the dead? This question has been walking with me as I prepared for today. How much time, worry, and anxiety do we give trying to find life in what is dead? We comb through the remains searching for the dream, the hope, the options and we come away with decay on our hands but no life. Can we walk away from what is no longer life-giving? Let’s walk through our grief and do the work we need to do but let’s keep walking. There is new life. There is hope. What is living? Where is the life?
There’s a Russian Easter tale, how it was that the wonder of Easter entered the heart of the world: Mary, Jesus’ mother, stood weeping at the foot of the cross on Good Friday, and Jesus wept for her, too, as he died. And every one of her tears became a beautiful blue and yellow Russian Easter egg as it touched the ground, and everyone of his tears became a deep red egg. At the end of the day Mary picked up all those eggs and put them in her apron, but as she was carrying them away she tripped, and the eggs spilled out of her apron and rolled down the hill of Golgotha, and into the streets of Jerusalem, and they kept on rolling, even to the far corners of the earth, and on Easter the children of the world found them, and they instantly knew about the tears, the love, the suffering, and the life within it all.
Lent is not enough. Easter is not enough. Together: the tears, the love, the suffering, and the new life make up our path as we follow Jesus. Perhaps we’ve focused too much on the pain and death and not quite enough on the new life. Let’s give Eastertide the same level of energy we give Lent. Lets spend the next * weeks looking not for the living among the dead but looking for the living among the living, the new life, the hope.
This is not easy. It requires practice.
Wendell Berry encourages us to do just this in Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” (The Country of Marriage):
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.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice. Practice resurrection. Practice new life.
Practice Easter. It is my hope that this Eastertide booklet will help each of us practice!
-Rev. Laura Mayo
Copyright (c) 2014, Covenant Church