15 April 2010

Meditation: "Easter Fools"

"Why do you look for the living among the dead?" --Luke 24:5

"God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength." --1 Corinthians 1:25

"I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, and then you grow wings." --William Sloane Coffin

*****

Dear Friends,

My experience of Holy Week (just a couple of weeks ago!) this year was similar to past years. It was a very busy week--I preached four times in eight days--and as Easter Sunday approached, I felt so tired and run-down, I wondered if Easter morning really would feel for me like a celebration of new life made possible through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And as in past years, despite my own fatigue and what feels like spiritual poverty, Easter Sunday morning energized me and filled me with joy and hope and gratitude and LIFE. God is good!

The week following Easter, I came across a thread of comments posted in response to a newspaper story about recent scholarship on the resurrection. About 2/3 of the comments were dismissive and even downright disparaging of Christians who would find deep meaning in celebrating the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. The comments ranged from mild--"Easter is really a pagan celebration co-opted by Christians"--to caustic--"Christians who believe in the resurrection are out of touch with reality and delusional."

My first reaction was, honestly, to become defensive. But upon further reflection, I realized that those who would question the validity of the Easter message of life rising out of death--well, they have a point. Listen to the news and read the paper and the stories have little to do with life and much to do with death--war, violence, crime, abuse, disaster. When we take a clear-eyed look around the world, we have to admit that it is much easier to identify those places where death appears to carry the day.

But this is where I can't help but choose to believe something that appears to be foolish to those who cannot bring themselves to believe it. I suppose I am an Easter Fool. For I choose to believe that death does not and will not have the final word. I choose to believe that those places where I've seen new life arise out of the ashes of death are not the exception, but glimpses of the Good News that "He is risen indeed!" And not only do I choose to believe it, but I choose to do my best to LIVE it, too, by not giving up on lost causes, by seeking to find the light of God within people whose actions are detestable, by praying fervently for peace and justice to come to even the most hopeless of situations.

This is what "Easter Fools" do. They affirm, with their lips and lives, that no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary, Jesus Christ is ALIVE and because he is alive, we are, too.

How about you? Are you an Easter Fool? It isn't always easy to be the fool, but in my experience, this kind of foolishness is a wellspring of hope and love and LIFE!

And that is an awesome gift to celebrate during this season of Easter.


Prayer: God of New Life in Christ, thank you, thank you, thank you for the Good News that Jesus is risen! Grant us the courage to be Easter Fools, embracing and nurturing LIFE wherever and whenever we have the opportunity, all in your name. Amen.

01 April 2010

Meditation: "Sorrow"

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" --Mark 15:34

"Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.'" --Luke 23:46

"Laments, the most frequent category among the psalms, begin with a cry to God expressing anguish, suffering and abandonment, list reasons for the suffering, plead with God for release and end with petition or praise. Laments give voice to suffering with the plaintive realization that alienation and suffering can be placed before God. The psalmist clings to God at that very moment of God’s absence. The earliest accounts of Jesus’ suffering and death embody the theology of lament, and in [Matthew, Mark, and Luke] the final words of Jesus are from laments." --John R. Donahue, SJ


***

Dear Friends,

Two acquaintances bump into one another on the street. One asks the other, "Hey, how's it going?" and they reply, "Oh, I'm doing fine, thanks."

Except they aren't.

Turns out their heart is heavy with grief over the death of someone dear to them. And this sorrow has only intensified a medical condition that gets worse with stress, leading to constant discomfort. They're worried about their children and don't know if they will have a job next week.

But when asked the question, "Hey, how's it going?" who wants to be the downer, the whiner, the complainer? So the brave face goes up, the sorrow gets swept under the rug, and the silent suffering continues.

A couple of years ago, Newsweek ran an article entitled, "Happiness? Enough already!" The gist of the article was that we live in a society that is obsessed with "happiness." And living in such a society can be pretty hellish for those who are not feeling particularly cheery or superficially happy or who are even--gasp!--experiencing deep depression. We're quick to throw medication at what sometimes is quite an ordinary human emotion--sorrow. Don't get me wrong--I know very well that there are circumstances when the help of modern medicine is entirely appropriate and exceedingly helpful. But, by and large, we don't know what to do with sorrow and so we don't do anything with it--other than try to get rid of it or think there's something wrong with us for feeling it in the first place.

I'm thinking about this today because tomorrow is Good Friday, the day that Christians mark the crucifixion and death of Jesus. And it seems to me that, of any day in the year, sorrow is an entirely appropriate emotion to feel on Good Friday. We see Jesus, unjustly accused, scorned, beaten, and killed--and it should affect us. Rather than suppress it, sorrow is one way we are supposed to feel when we consider the suffering and death of Jesus. Rather than try to explain it or theologize it or understand it--just this one day, let's just feel it. And perhaps shed a tear while we're at it.

A wise woman I knew, responding to someone who apologized for shedding tears while recounting a very sad story, said, "There is no need to apologize for your tears. They are a sign of your humanity."

Indeed. Tears, sorrow, grief--they are signs of our humanity. God help us if they are not our response to the suffering and the pain and the tragedies that are an inevitable part of being human.

If on no other day of the year, on Good Friday let us lament and feel the sorrow of a world that, if we could ask it, "How are you?" would have to honestly reply, "I'm hurting."

Blessings on your week,

Jeremy

Prayer: Compassionate God, sometimes--in the midst of our pain and sorrow--we wonder where you are. Help us to place it all into your care, trusting that you do not forsake us. Amen.