Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Meditation on Easter (and Ashes)

The Revised Common Lectionary readings for Sunday, March 31, 2013:

Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 65:17-25

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (24)

1 Corinthians 15:19-26 or Acts 10:34-43

Luke 24:1-12 or John 20:1-18

The Narrative Lectionary readings for Sunday, March 31, 2013:

Luke 24:1-16

Optional reading: Psalm 118:17, 21-24 or 118:22

Our Lenten journey comes to an end with our arrival at Easter. But what do we do if our mood has not caught up? How do we celebrate Easter when we still have the taste of ashes in our mouth?

You may find the words of the men in the glowing clothes resonating: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Maybe you feel somewhat tomb-bound yourself. Maybe you’ve resisted, but you still find yourself having a morose March, full of melancholy, a spring of sadness instead of new growth. You see the snow falling across the country, winter invading a new season, and you can relate.

It’s good to remember that the miracle of Easter involves actions done to Jesus, that old definition of passion.

Part of my Lenten discipline has been to read my way through Show Me the Way: Readings for Each Day of Lent by Henri J. M. Nouwen, and he has this interesting discussion of the passion of Christ and its relevance for us: “It is important for me to realize that Jesus fulfills his mission not by what he does, but by what is done to him. Just as with everyone else, most of my life is determined by what is done to me and thus is passion. And because most of my life is passion, things being done to me, only small parts of my life are determined by what I think, say, or do. I am inclined to protest against this and to want all to be action, originated by me. But the truth is that my passion is a much greater part of my life than my action” (p. 125, originally part of The Road to Daybreak).

If resurrection can come out of passion, then maybe I can shift my attitude towards the passions that I suffer. God can take something most horrific and turn it into redemption. And happily, my moroseness is not caused by anything horrible.

In some ways, that’s what makes melancholy difficult. It’s easy to understand why I feel Ash Wednesday intruding on my Easter during years when I’ve watched loved ones struggle with disease, in years when hurricanes have ravaged the landscape, in years of job loss. It’s harder to understand my emotional landscape when I can’t point to much that’s specific that’s making me blue.

If we've heard the Easter story and the Holy Week stories again and again, we tend to forget the miraculous nature of them. Or maybe we’re just subdued, too shy or scared to run out of our gardens to tell everyone else what we've seen, what we know.

Now is a good time to remember the promise of Easter: death will not have the final word. Even if we’re feeling beaten down by sorrow, like the women who came to the tomb to dress the body, we have the promise given to them too. We are not the dead. We will not live forever in the tomb.

Remember we are a Resurrection People. Commit yourself to new life. Celebrate the miracles.

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