Unitarian Universalist minister and satirist, Christopher Raible, has written a parody of some of our hymns in a little book called, appropriately enough, "Hymns for the Cerebration of Strife", because the old hymnal was called ?Hymns for the Celebration of Life.? This is his version of the Easter hymn, "Lo, the Earth Awakes Again":
Sing an Easter hymn in season, Alleluia!/Even if we have no reason, Alleluia! At the Vernal Equinox,Alleluia!/Imitate the orthodox, Alleluia!
Dresses up in the latest fashion, Alleluia!/Sing of praise, but not of passion,Alleluia!
Sing of bunnies, bees and birds,Alleluia!/Sing an old hymn with new words, Alleluia!
In the Cross of Christ we'd glory, Alleluia!/But we don't believe the story, Alleluia!
For our sins Christ can't have died, Alleluia!/In them we're well satisfied, Alleluia!
There is a difference in the air now that Spring is here, indeed, there is a difference in the ground, in our very blood and bodies! This last week the weather has been wonderful, like a blessing, hasn?t it? I mean, if we believed in that sort of thing. It?s like there has been a rebirth, a resurrection a, well, an Easter!
The word Easter comes from the old English goddess of spring, Eostre, whose symbols were the spring hare or rabbit and that other symbol of fertility the egg! Notice how we have kept some of those ancient symbols alive even if we have no idea how or why. It is like the story of the minister who held up one of those big plastic eggs for a children's story and asked who could tell him what came inside this? One of the children, more knowledgeable than the others said,?pantyhose!?
So today, Easter, is arguably the most important day in Christianity, which teaches basically that JEsus was crucified, buried, and three days later was resurrected, or rose from the dead, taught for 40 days, then ascended into heaven on a cloud to sit on the right hand of God, and that He died to save us from our sins. And that because of that, if we believe in JEsus and accept him as our savior then, we will have everlasting life in heaven, and will not die. What I want to argue, very briefly this morning, is my interpretation that Easter is really a message and a matter of life or death, but that it does not have to be seen only as a supernatural event, nor do we have to be saved from any original sin. Easter is a a Spring event and therefore very much a natural event! However, since we began using words, we have always found symbolism and myths or stories to teach our young as well as the rest of us who learn better that way as well! In some ways, Easter, I want to argue is a way of thinking about the life and death of all of us, not just the life and death of Jesus, one of the world?s most profound and deeply spiritual teachers whose life and spirit touched the lives of his followers in such an incredible way that one of the 5 major religions of the world grew up around his words, actions, and life, as well as myths, church traditions, and perversions of the same, of course! Part of the meaning of Easter is a continuing memorial service for Jesus and his teachings of love being the answer and seeking being an important religious dimension! One of the meanings of the resurrection, I want to suggest, is that it is continuing as long as celebrate Easter, even we who are interpreting it perhaps vastly different than the traditional Christians (notice, I said, perhaps!). Because it is important to remember there have always been many interpretations of the resurrection.
My colleague, Rev. Mark W. Harris wrote: ?Celebrating Many Resurrections:?
"Is the resurrection real? If we believe in a creative power which shatters the icy tomb of winter with the life-giving miracle of spring, we have seen a resurrection. If we believe in a creative power which moves tens and then tens of thousands of people to cry against the injustices of society, enabling the downfall of hatred and prejudice, then we have created a resurrection. If we believe in a creative power lying within each human breast which enables us to break the bonds of personal pain and know the hope of new tomorrows, then we have experienced a resurrection."
In some ways it is like celebrating the memories of our loved ones who have helped make us who we are, who are part of who we are, who are, in some ways resurrected IN us as part of us us, especially the part of us that loves them and remembers them and lives as they have taught us.
In his book, Living Buddha, Living Christ, Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, writes:, ?In Christianity, you have to believe in the resurrection or you are not considered a Christian. I am afraid this criterion may discourage some people from looking into the life of Jesus. This is a pity, because we can appreciate Jesus Christ as both an historical door and an ultimate door... When we look into and touch deeply the life and teachings of Jesus, we can penetrate the reality of God. Love, understanding, courage, and acceptance are expressions of the life of Jesus... With the Holy Spirit and Kingdom of god within him, Jesus touched the people of his time.... For me, the life of Jesus is his most basic teaching, more important than even faith in the resurrection of faith in eternity... When we are in touch with the highest spirit in ourselves, we too are a buddha, filled with the Holy Spirit and we become very tolerant, very open, very deep, and very understanding.?
In the Spring, we see the resurrection or rebirth of the earth from the seeming death of winter, the bare trees, the ground covered with snow, the bitter cold; it feels to us what death must feel like. Then we get weather like this past week, the plants start to bloom, the robins return, we begin to think about planting gardens or new flowers. So nature reminds us of the cycle of life and death, doesn?t it?
One of the children?s stories that Halcyon, Our Director of Religious Education, and I were looking at was titled, First Snow by Helen Coutant about a Vietnamese Buddhist approach to death, where a young granddaughter overhears that her grandmother is dying and she doesn?t know what that word means, so she asks her grandmother. She tells her to go outside as it gets ready to snow and she must learn for herself what it means. The family has moved from Viet Nam to America. The granddaughter thought it had something to do with the coming snow, because it seemed mysterious to her, since she had never seen snow but didn?t why. When the snow finally comes, a single snowflake lands on her hand she wonders if this is what dying means.
?But as if that thought had made a change, the snowflake shrank. ?Comeback, oh please come back!? Hardly had she said this than the snowflake was gone. A tiny drop of water rolled down into her hand. Lien stared at her palm, at the drop that was just water. Then it, too, began to change. It seemed to expand in the sunlight; perhaps it enclosed another world, like the paperweight on hr father?s desk. ?Look, grandmother,? Lien called, running toward the house. But as she moved, her hand trembled and the drip of water, lighter than sunshine rolled off. It fell to the ground and was gone.
?Oh,?cried Lien, going down on her knees. Searching for the beautiful drop she scraped away layers of dead and frozen leaves. Her fingertips stung from the cold. But she continued to look until something poked against her palm. When the water had fallen, a tiny pine tree now stood up in the sudden light. No bigger than her thumb, this little tree already smelled of deep rich forests.
At that moment lien thought she understood what dying meant. The drop of water had not really gone; it had only changed, like the snowflake, into something else. ?You will change, too,? Lien spoke to the tiny tree,?but not yet.? Carefully she covered the little tree with its blanket of leaves?
Then she runs back in the house to tell her grandmother that she knows what dying is... The author tells us that the Buddhist believe that life and death are bit two pars of the same thing.
The Jewish religion doesn?t teach much about heaven or hell; indeed, even the Christian scriptures and the teachings of Jesus don?t give us much detail. From all the stuff we hear today, you?d think it?s all spelled out in the Bible, but it?s not in the Bible! It was all made up by various people over a long time and is still being made up or interpreted. But think about this: Jesus doesn?t die, and what we really mean is the wonderful teachings about loving one another and seeking truth, and the sermon the mount, which many people think should replace the Ten Commandments in courtrooms, doesn?t die when we celebrate Easter and he is resurrected each year that we talk about the story- not literally, but in the story! He is changed, just as our grandmother is changed, from human flesh and blood -to memory and story- to part of us!
Easter (from Blessing the Bread, by Lynn Ungar)
What I want to know is simply this:/Who rolled away the stone? Did Jesus, reviving from the touch of Judas? kiss/Turn miracle to muscle on his own?
Or did some savior of the Savior move the rock/To let life enter from outside ?
Resurrection as a sort of picking of the lock
That separates the bridegroom from his waiting bride?
Perhaps the stone itself got bored/With waiting for a happy ending to the story, And rolled itself away to set the body it had stored
Upon the royal road to new life and eternal glory.
You might say it does not matter,/But when you are waiting in the dark
A person wants to know if Life is company or caller,
The friend you trust to seek you, or the waiting spark.
Every Spring we are reminded by the beauty as well as the cruelty of nature of life and death, of sunshine and storm, flowers and floods. So people we love die and we want to know why or where they go-part of it remains a mystery, of course, but part of it we know is change. The resurrection is the part that stays with us, that never dies.
My friend and colleague Scott Alexander, shared this story in his sermon about Easter entitled: Eastering ?Easter,? says Scott,? is a decision. A decision of the human heart. A brave and beautiful decision to live- fully, recklessly, courageously- even in the face of death and despair. .. Yes, of course, Easter as a verb! Easter as a... decision of the heart against crucifixion. Easter as the process of a human being moving against death, moving against meaningless, isolation, negation and despair... I easter-You easter-We easter, together, by means of the resurrection of the spirit we bring to birth in our battered trembling hearts... Go ahead, do some eastering. No matter what befalls, afflicts, limits, pains or confounds you. Roll that stubborn rock away from whatever entombs your heart.?
How shall we Easter? How shall we decide to live our lives? One of the reasons that Jesus became a great religious teacher was that he taught with an inner authority that was unusual; indeed it was one of his teachings that we all have that inner authority to seek, to love, to be one with the holy, with who some call God, with Love. Let love be the doctrine of this church and service our prayer and may we truly love one another and ourselves. May we work for justice and peace in the world, explore spiritual dimensions, and spread love. Happy Spring, Happy Easter
Amen, Peace, Shalom, (Peace in Hebrew), Assalaamu Alaikum(may Peace be upon you in Arabic), Abrazos a todos (Hugs all around) Namaste, (A Hindu greeting the divinity with me greets the divinity within you) Blessed Be, and one more blessing that I adapted from the Spanish long before I went in to ministry. ?Vaya con Dios? is Spanish for Good-bye, but literally is ?Go with God,? So I adapted it to say ?Vaya Con Su Dios, ?Go with your idea or interpretation of God.?
Peace,Love, Shalom,Salaam, Blessed Be,Namaste, Abrazo a Todos,Vaya con su Dios