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April 24, 2011: “The Spirit of Spring, Easter-Passover Sunday”



Pagan Rites!













Mother Earth!

Father Sun!



O Thank You! Art Severance

     All we know for sure is that Spring has come; plants are seemingly returning to life, resurrected, as it were. They tell me that this has been going on for quite a while. Rejoice, it is Spring and the earth seems to come back to life, with beautiful colors and wonderful smells, and best of all Chocolate Easter bunnies and jelly bean eggs!

       What makes things grow in Springtime, to come back to life?  One little girl, who might have attended one of our Sunday Schools, but whose parents must have been gardeners, was asked that question at a children's story at church, and she responded, "God does it, but fertilizer helps!"

        But think of the mystery of the seed, the bulb that lies in the ground and in Spring knows that it is time to push up the leaves and flower. How does it know to do that? What creative essence is inside the seed? Is it any wonder we say, "rejoice, the plant has risen?" Or that religions from ancient time have worshipped the circle of life in plant, animal, and human being which add up, in a kind of cosmic mathematics, to the Divine, the Holy, The One, God, Goddess, Jesus, Mother Nature? Religion became a way for ancient peoples to try to make sense of the world, to express the mystery of life and death, of weather, and especially of the changing of the seasons, with each change developing, evolving into religious holiday, rites, celebration, always tied in to nature, agriculture, even fertility in land and womb!

     Spring is the resurrection, which means coming back from the dead, which it looks like the earth is doing, and eventually like religions thought gods and goddesses did, Christians think Jesus did.  But science tells us that humans do not come back from the truly dead, and the plants aren't really dead, but what they call dormant, hibernating, in a way.

      A UU minister named Mark Harris says people don't come back from the dead, but lots of things seem to come to life surprisingly.  He says, "At Easter time Unitarian Universalists celebrate the many resurrections of the season. We celebrate the glories of the earth when birds take to the wing and crocuses force their way through the crust of snow to announce the arrival of spring. We celebrate the untold number of courageous individuals and groups who have sacrificed their lives to liberate others from oppression and create a more just and loving world. We celebrate the ability of the human heart to overcome terrible personal tragedy or handicap and affirm once again the ability to love or excel when many others would have given up all hope. Easter celebrates the times of witnessing, experiencing, and creating the resurrection of human life.'

     We look for a meaning to life, even to Spring, and for many of us that meaning is relationships, love, and working together to make the world a better place. One of colleagues, Rev  Davidson Lohr talks about Easter as the existence of a "God-seed" within all of us that blooms in Springtime; it's another way of talking about the story of Jesus, when he is called the incarnation of God, God within him, and yes, he said, with us as well if we will but nurture that seed with love and justice. Jesus was one of the world's great 'God-seeds,' and the seed never dies if it is planted in fertile soil or just one loving heart.

        In the Spring of 1990 I made a "pilgrimage" to Concord, Mass. I toured the Concord UU church, Ralph Waldo Emerson used to attend, and which celebrated its 350th anniversary a few years before. I saw the homes of where Emerson and Louisa May Alcott had lived, then visited the graves of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau all in one old cemetery. I went to beautiful Walden pond. I traveled back in time. transfixed by the majesty of a warm spring day. Make no mistake about it; it was a religious pilgrimage. It was a deep spiritual experience. It was as if those people were still alive because their writings are, and have made such an impact on millions of people in the last 150 years, our Unitarian ancestors never died.

The flesh and bone is long gone- but the spirit, the essence, the message, the love, the teachings,- they live on, resurrected each time they inspire us, each time we feel their transforming power.  This too is what Easter is about, that love does not die but is resurrected each time we love and are loved. Death is a change in relationship, a cessation of bodily functions. That is not to say that we shouldn't grieve the dearly departed. We not only should, but absolutely must for our psychological well being.

        The advertising slogan 'Come Alive with Pepsi' lost something when it was translated into German: "Come Alive out of the Grave with Pepsi,"or in one slavic country where it became, 'Pepsi Brings your ancestors Back from the Grave.'  You've heard it said that you lose something in the translation, and so we lose something in the translation of the Easter Story if we simply ask, "is it true or false?" For most of, we lose the meaning if we're forced to only take it literally because it doesn't make sense when viewed through the eyes of modern science. But religion is NOT about science, it is about mystery and spirit and what I call the religious dimension.

     Gandhi said that even if it could be proved that Jesus never existed, the Sermon on the Mount would still be true. His teachings on love and justice are universal and we need to hear them today more than ever! Love one another, Love your neighbor, seek and you will find, treat people like you'd like to be treated, house the homeless, feed the poor, take care of the widow, don't worry so much about tomorrow, and God is within us. We have a religious responsibility to behave lovingly in our relationships in family, friends, school, work, and play.

     The transforming power of love and the Good will never die, and Easter, the spirit of Spring , reminds us that we are a part of the process of life, the interdependent web of all existence.

        So come all you who are heavy laden and lay your burdens down in this beloved community. Here you are all welcome, all loved, all important.

Amen and Shalom