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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Easter 2014: What do you believe?

4/20/14


Alleluia! Christ is risen...

Rachel is walking up the path into Central Park. She is using her walker. Her man Joe, dog walker, guardian and traveling mobility assistant is with her. She doesn’t see me at first. I call out to her. Joe gives me a jaunty See you later and is on his way. We walk up to the bench across from the emerging foundation stones of All Angels church and sit. This year, I have the feeling it will be the two of us.

We sit and talk. If my mother would have seen me in jeans on Easter….she says and shakes her head. It is sunny. Cool. Breezy. People playing with their dogs in this wonderful free space of pre-9 am leash free time. We talk about our cats. And children.

And after we have talked, I say the words. We share the communion, the bread. And grape juice. I’m starting to feel cold. Shiver a little. So I walk with her. Slowly. Back to her pace on 87th street. It is Easter. Allleuia, Christ is risen.

                                                             * * * *

Pastor Bob, Ralph, Elizabeth and Andre
Ralph and Elizabeth are already there when I get to the church. They are ready to start rehearsing the service. He with his viola. She the piano. Joe and La Toya have moved their stuff to the north door. But they need to be all the way gone. I’m worried about Andre. Pat and Larry show up for one last round of cleaning and I tend to the steps and sidewalk. Soon enough, Andre arrives. And Pat and Larry are arranging the flowers.

And the people come. Not so many as Christmas Eve, but they come. And it’s good. The music is great: Ralph and Elizabeth playing the classics. Andre on How Great Thou Art and Ralph Vaughn Williams Easter from 5 Mystical Songs and Amazing Grace. Roselyn the journalism student is here. Her master’s project is completed. But she keeps coming.

A cab pulls up and it is Mim. She has come, too.
Pat and Larry

We read these words from Matthew. In Spanish and English.

1After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.4For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.7Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

And now it’s my turn.

Easter. Resurrection…or life after death…it’s big these days…

There’s the TV show….Resurrection, butt an quick look says,  not what were about.

And the movie, Movie Heaven is for Real”  detailing .a 4 year old’ s visit…and return. His evangelist father tells the story. I guess it’s always good to know.

Then we have the dark side, like the zombies of Walking Dead, or the ongoing popularity of vampires…

I think it has a lot to do with our times. How do we read the times? It’s hard for a lot of us.  We’re in a  middle class that is much harder to hang on to. We are filled with Anxiety. Cynicism. I go to the ball park, see all the private, restricted areas, know that it’s a necessity of the day, but mourn the loss of the democratic experience a trio to the ball game used to mean. And this discussion is Non-partisan…Last year a collection of classic free market republicans from the Manhattan Institute critiqued the luxury city model as untenable.

Marsha and Mim
In times like these, We love anti-heroes like Walter White and Breaking Bad. By the way, Bryan Cranston, Walter White,  is now playing LBJ in All the way on Broadway. It’s another reminder of how things have changed. Both in terms of how an accidental president, as he called himself, could actually envision a war on poverty and how politics used to get done. I can’t imagine those kind of personal relationships among opposing congress people anymore.

But we’re here to talk about resurrection. Do you believe in it? Well how do I mean that?
1.     In the classic sense, Jesus was dead and brought back to life, rose physically from the grave and was lifted up to heaven? And that does take belief because no independent verifications, no cell phone shots, instagrams, tweets or you tube postings. No likes. The earliest possible times for the gospels to be written were at least 40 years after the fact.
2.     Do we believe it in the sense of Archbishop Romero? Just days before he was martyred,  Romero told an editor of the Mexican magazine Excelsior: I need to say that as a Christian I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the people of El Salvador…If they manage to carry out their threats, as of now, I offer my blood for the redemption and resurrection of El Salvador. If God accepts the sacrifice of my life, then may my blood be the seed of liberty and the sign that hope will soon become a reality. May my death, if it is accepted by God, be for the liberation of my people, as a witness of hope in what is to come. You can tell them that if they succeed in killing me, I pardon and bless those who do it. A bishop may die, but the Church of God, which is in the people, will never die.”
3.     Or in the archetypal way that  every spring the earth comes  back to life and so this story goes to the heart of life
4.     Or more personal, like when my grandmother died? She had descended deep into Alzheimer's. This classic Scots-Irish lady who never swore, greeting me with streams of obscene invective. And in doing  her funeral, I felt her loving arms, the warmth with which she held me.  How she was restored to me?
What do you believe?

Christians are not the only ones to think about this.
* Jewish tradition--- in the messianic age---thee would be resurrection. Bodies were buried with their  feet towards Jerusalem
* Muslim believe in a resurrection at the end of time
* Both believed in a paradise, like the Garden of Eden, where the righteous would  chill with God until that day.

But what do you believe? 
Arcadia and John R. And Marc.

I see it all the time… in our Interfaith Assembly I have met people who have  recovered from 15 years of homelessness and addiction…people whose lives are returned to them… it is a basic truth…

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who taught us the magic of reality, said:
tellers of tales who, like me, are capable of believing anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to undertake the creation of a minor utopia: a new and limitless utopia wherein no one can decide for others how they are to die, where love can really be true and happiness possible, where the lineal generations of one hundred years of solitude will have at last and forever a second chance on earth".
Maybe we  shouldn’t read the Bible until we have read Marquez.

Leila and Berik
We know this much. Something  happened. And you and I here are all the proof we need…

Julia Esquivel of Guatemala at the peak of that country’s genocide wrote:

They have threatened us with Resurrection
because they will not be able to take away from us
their bodies,
their souls,
their strength,
their spirit,
nor even their death
and least of all their life.
Because they live
today, tomorrow, and always
in the streets baptized with their blood,
in the air that absorbed their cry,
in the jungle that hid their shadows,
in the river that gathered up their laughter,
in the ocean that holds their secrets,
in the craters of the volcanoes,
Pyramids of the New Day,
which swallowed up their ashes.
They have threatened us with Resurrection
because they are more alive than ever before,
because they transform our agonies
and fertilize our struggle,
because they pick us up when we fall,
because they loom like giants
before the crazed gorillas’ fear.
They have threatened us with Resurrection,
because they do not know life (poor things!).
That is the whirlwind
which does not let us sleep,
the reason why sleeping, we keep watch,
and awake, we dream.
…it is the earthquake soon to come
that will shake the world
and put everything in its place.
No, brother,
it is not the noise in the streets
which does not let us sleep.
Join us in this vigil
and you will know what it is to dream!
Then you will know how marvelous it is
to live threatened with Resurrection!
To dream awake,
to keep watch asleep,
to live while dying,
and to know ourselves already
resurrected!

Sometimes I can feel it, taste it believe it, that strong…but resurrection can be scary …it is safe in the tomb. Out there, you have to face what hurt you before and be willing to be hurt again. You have to be willing to lose again. You have to be willing to love again. 
Leila brought painted eggs

There is the gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Son House, who sang:
Christ came on Easter morning
Mary and Martha they went down to see
Go tell My disciples
To meet Me in Galilee

Tell my disciples to meet me in Galilee…if we are willing to risk it, to go there, Christ is already out there ahead of us….waiting.

What do you believe?

The service ends with Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Leila has brought beautiful pained eggs for us all.

One for Don
We divide up the lilies to be delivered to homebound and elderly people. John R will take one to Rachel.

It has been a beautiful Easter.


Alleluia. Christ is risen.
Beautiful


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