Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter 2014

Twenty years ago when I was a University Chaplain in California, I was having coffee with a student who asked some questions about religion. He said. “Why would I bother with (1) something I don’t see, that is packaged (2) in a language I don’t understand,  and (3)  concerns something over which I have little or no control? It just doesn’t seem logical!”  I said, “OK,I’ll try to answer that, but first let me ask a question: How’s your love life?” He said, “Why?” and I said, “Because religion is more like love than logic.”
So I want to talk, in light of our lessons, about three ways where this religious tradition might be true, where love might make, and meet and mend the world in every instant of our, of everyone’s life, and how a religion of resurrection, in Easter-time, might give light to this love in a world that's so full of logic. 
There are at least two ways to make the world make sense, and the tension here might be between “history” and “mystery”. On one side there is our 300+ year old enlightenment view of history, fact and figure which — in the last 60 or so years, with all the frayed edges and growing doubts in our post enlightenment, post modern world — seems to be breaking down a bit. For as our perception of the world grows larger and closer, there seem to be even more histories, what one man called a surplus of meanings, in ways can make the old strident, certain understandings break apart a bit. 
So here’s a way to break them apart further; sometime today look at life like you’ve never seen it before. If you do it right, you will be amazed! T. S. Eliot writes that, “History is a series of timeless moments,” moments full of their very own meaning, and in the end the meaning just might be a mystery where, “Your life is hidden with Christ in God.” 
The difference between History and Mystery is the difference between prose and poetry, and it’s important to recall that the words of this scripture and the witness of this tradition are not training manuals or engineering drawings; but poetry, music, choreography; action and words charged with meaning beyond themselves, pointing to something that is both too big and too close to be clearly looked upon, easily understood. 
The truth is that we really need both histories and mysteries; both reason and revelation about the truth and the travel involved in meeting life, love and death. But we need to take the chance that there’s a a reason, as well as some kind of dance within it all 
And the Scripture says the meeting comes when we see that the historical Jesus is the mysterious human face of God. And, if this is true, than the question is how do we live with this truth? And that goes beyond prose and poetry, moving us to living with the tension between fear and love. 
You may describe this differently, but in my own experience, fear builds walls, wants to be objective, not subjected; fear wants to be contained, even disconnected; fear (like the student in the cafe) wants its own way, what it can see, understand, control.
But love lives larger than that. By definition, love is outpouring, overflowing, openhearted; wanting to be incorporated: for Love wants to meet the beloved right where it happens, right in the middle of “the whole catastrophe” of life. 
And if Jesus is a picture of openhearted love living in everyday human history, then we move to the very heart of the tension between love and fear: it can’t get much better or worse than that! Because when you look into  light you see shadows, it shows up stuff that wants to be hidden, and if you come this way, walking the way of Jesus, you’ll see those two ways come together, in the time and place where light and shadow, chaos and new creation, revolution and resolution, move both towards crucifixion of the old time, and towards the wonder of a new life
Maybe this is just the very deep truth, the very rhythm of the cosmos: a universe of creative, crucified, resurrected, recalling love where we see the new self ”being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator,” and life moves, dances, beyond crucifixion and resurrection, “from God, in God, of God,” making and meeting and mending the world in the same momentum, pattern, breath. 
So if the Spirit meets us in the task of mending the universe, then the tension that might come here is between distraction and compassion.
There are so many ways to be distracted, and sometimes it can seem that the world is built that way! One book I like names three phrases that fit here: “What if,” “As if,” and “If only.” These distractions can take you to anywhere but here: as Eliot writes, “Distracted from distraction by distraction”. But to live in the love where the world might be remade, met and mended in a new way, means three new and radical responses to those noisy distractions. Instead of asking, “What if?”, asking “What is here?” Instead of living “As if;” just living, loving, looking exactly “As you are;” and instead of wallowing in “If Only;” taking care in a way that can only happen “here and now.” A pattern moving to embrace a present that takes you to a future built by grace and found in compassion, where love “is going ahead of you”
Three related words might fit here, closer to poetry than to direct pointing: (1), Enjoin, to urge yourself, others, the universe, in actions of love and justice; (2), Conjoin, to combine; and my dictionary gives the happy example, “an approach which conjoins theory and method.” (to walk the talk or, if you like, to dance the dogma), and then, simply (3), Joy, defined as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” As the Gospel puts it: they went “quickly, with fear and great joy.” 

So that’s one way to walk, even dance, into a life spent making, meeting, mending love; a threefold way of entering into the way God might live, die and love alongside of us in this large, mysterious, wonderful world; where resurrection might just happen anywhere, and where we can say, “Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!”

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