Saturday, April 10, 2010

Out of an Empty Tomb

What would it take for any of us to experience a resurrection, to come down off the cross and emerge from the tombs of our lives? “Life” observed an old friend of mine “is the tomb”. We are surrounded by finitude. There is only so much time to fill, only so much money to spend, the people we love die or they go away and our days are, more often than not, filled with sorrows punctuated by happiness. It was the Buddha who said, “life is attachment, and with that comes sorrow.” What would it take to emerge from the tomb and feel the sunshine on our faces once again?
Life can only come from death. One depends on the other. Only from the renewed earth do tulips rise to a warming sun, only from the ashes does the phoenix rise, only from the tomb does Jesus walk. Only from death comes life, physical or otherwise. Think about those new directions that your life took after some failing in another; the death of the loved one, a divorce, losing your job. The good news is this: Each of has an Easter waiting. It’s not reserved just for the holy, or even the courageous. Each one of us has the power of resurrection, right here and right now. Today, one of you is feeling the pain of a separation, today one of you is struggling with the demons of addiction, today one of you is feeling numb after seasons of meaningless labor, today, more than a few of us are feeling the chill of winter’s sorrows. We want to feel spring but it’s so hard!

What stands in our way? The stones of doubt, control, and fear. One of us must face a life of new choices but feels powerless to move. The stone of fear. A marriage seems stuck and while others have suggested how to get it going again we resist. The stone of control. We feel anger at a loved one for an almost unspeakable hurt. We know we need to forgive but how? The stone of anger. We need to make a decision about our future and soon, but what if the path we are considering is the wrong one? The stone of doubt. But even when these stones are rolled away some of us stay in the tomb, empty save for our fears of stepping out. It is not always easy.

But with hope, trust and love we can always try.

With Grace and Grit, John

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Great Expectations

Palm Sunday.

What were the people expecting that fateful day in Jerusalem? The messiah. Since the time of the great Kings of Israel and Judah, Saul and David and Solomon, the Jews had fallen into despair. Here were a people imprisoned literally by the Roman occupation and spiritually by a God as foretold by the prophets they would suffer for their wavering faith. This lone man, Jesus of Nazareth, held their promise of freedom. He defied authority, by proclaiming a New Kingdom of God, proclaiming the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Had not the prophet Isaiah proclaimed that one would be sent who “would be used by Yahweh to give light and salvation unto the world’ (Isa. 49:6), just as Jesus had done? Had not Isaiah said one would come “to liberate the suffering” (Isa. 61:1) “to guide the thirsty to water” (Isa. 44) and to “set all people free” (Isa. 42:7)? All as Jesus had proclaimed.

The coincidences were just too much for a people poor, hungry and enslaved. Their spirits ached for a new message, a new beginning, a new hope. The people wanted to belief in a savior, even though Jesus spoke of a different kingdom, they saw him as the savior for them now. Jesus, perhaps expressing his own darkness, knew he would die for the message he was bringing to the center of power. His expectation was death.

So perhaps it is for all of us. We elected Barrack Obama on the same message of hope. We placed upon him the mantle of a savior. And then, as with all leaders, we realized that he was not a savior, but a human being dealing with a complex and fractured world. Jesus would die in this story of Holy week. For a while we thought our dreams of a president who could deliver had died as well. A part of them has. We are all, I think, a bit disappointed in what he has been able, even willing to do to alleviate the ache of so many. But with the passage of Health Care Reform, as imperfect and inadequate as it is, we have some our dream back. The new loan principal forgiveness program announced by the President last week is yet another bright ray. Perhaps some relief is coming.

Not a moment too soon. Because just as those ancient Hebrews who placed such faith in Jesus on Palm Sunday knew all too well, economic injustice is the status quo of empires; Roman or American. Our poor, grow poorer every day. Our families, indeed even some in this church, have lost jobs, most certainly income. The minimum wage is still woefully below a living wage. We have so far to go. And yet our hope is strong. We still have Great Expectations. Easter Sunday always follows Good Friday.

With Grace and Grit, John