Faith Works 4-22-17
Healing and wholeness start somewhere
Easter weekend is perhaps the most joyful celebration in the Christian calendar. Christmas is full of happiness and good feelings, but somehow I see and hear and experience more pure unadulterated joy among the worshipers at an Easter service.
James Lileks made an interesting point in his namesake online blog that, in pop culture, Christmas seems to always be in danger, but Easter not so much. Just as emotions are always vulnerable to the events of the hour, Christmas feelings can be swept away by tragedy or crisis or even sheer frustration and disappointment. So we get the fictional narratives of someone (Jack Frost, Burgomeister Meisterburger, Scrooge, the Grinch) trying to take the holiday away.
Easter? It's not even clear anyone else wants it. You don't have animated or musical or variety show specials on TV, and who was the last pop star who put out an Easter album? Easter décor is spring-influenced, to be sure, but Spring as a season is an inexorable force, pushing weeds through last year's mulch and sprouting all over where we don't even want it.
So too is resurrection. Whether you call yourself a Christian or not, a seeker or a skeptic, a non-theist or Ron Reagan, Jr. militant atheist, there's something about the force of the story we worshipers just "lived" through that carries you along. Crisis and sorrow and set-backs don't hold the story back because they are part of the story itself, up to and including the crushing loss of death. How you feel about the proposition that death is not the final word probably says something about the faith commitments you carried into the weekend, but it's a story that has washed many a questioning heart right into currents that flow into an ocean of belief.
"Christ is risen!" "He is risen, indeed!" That call-and-response have been a part of Christian Easter observances in church and on the street for millennia, and they echo still in our ears the week after. Culturally, we move on past Easter even faster than stores take down the Christmas decorations late on Dec. 24th, but in worship churches still have a bit more to say about the journey we assert Christ Jesus made from life into death into life.
And that's a journey that, with no lack of faith in those promises for myself, I'm in no hurry to take. The idea of Heaven, of eternal life, of resurrection hope for us all, doesn't mean the reality of this world is made less meaningful in that light. What it does do, for me at any rate, is make that heavenly light shine out from within things in this world, in ways I don't always stop to see. The connections, the history, the heritage of objects and institutions and traditions and artifacts, which are alive today in ways I might miss if I'm not open to a sense of life that's not just of the moment, more than merely material.
So I welcome the idea that God isn't finished with me yet, that there is a purpose and meaning to my life that might be a bit bigger, a whole lot wider and deeper than my senses and recollections can hold onto. I appreciate that even my failures and shortcomings might be a part of learning and development that goes beyond my own three-score and ten, or maybe another ten or twenty if I am so blessed. I could live to be a hundred, yet not exhaust the complete understanding that might yet be mine.
Which is why I believe that the best path to inner peace and personal integration is through a wider world view that goes even beyond this world. One's faith and practice of spiritual discernment and direction takes us both beyond immediate concerns, but also helps us look back at those worries with healthier perspective.
Belief in a life-to-come isn't a distraction from this life when it gives you confidence to try and fail, to seek and not always understand perfectly. Hope in a God who loves you isn't so much the "opiate of the masses" as it is a way for any individual lost in the crowd to find a joy that endures, without buying a drug to provide it for a passing moment.
All of which is why I would love to see you all at the community meeting to be held next week at Newark High School on Wednesday, April 26, at 6:30 pm. Together, we can see past today's problems and identify some practical reasons for hope right now. Come join us!
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about your source of living joy at email@example.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.