Monday, May 15, 2017

Easter Day: God Knows its Real!

God Knows Its Real!

I like that turn of phrase; "God knows its real!  We use it to describe something so deep, so profound, that the thruth of what we say is self evident not just to those around us, but deep within our own personhood.We use the expression to affirm and to comfort one another in the whole range of human experience. 
On this Easter Day we read of Mary's tears! God knows they were real. Jesus had been crucified. God knows that was real. Then they put him in the tomb. And now early on the third day, the women went to the tomb to do the ritual preparations for burial. So far, so good. All far too real, God knows. Then the stone was rolled away. The body taken. "Where have they taken him?" She asked the gardener, the indignity of grave robbers added to the grief. She didn't recognize him right away. Who can recognize Jesus right away? Jesus is right here in our midst and in the lives of those we meet along the way. But we are slow to see what is right in front of us and slow to understand. Reports began to arrive. He has been taken away! Then there was a good deal of panicky running around. This whole passage has the sound of reality to it. Then finally, there was the sudden dawning of the existential moment. Oh my God! The Resurrection; just like he told us it would be! The Easter Proclamation. It was an existential recognition. Jesus Christ is Risen today! Alleluia!. 

It is an existential statement out of the depths of our human experience. The compression of the whole range of human emotion in Holy Week plumbs the depths of the universe of human sensibility. God knows there's suffering. The memory of the Boston Marathon bombings is still with us four years on. God knows that's real. And yet, the Richards family will dedicate a new park at the Children's Museum in honor of their son Martin who was killed in that attack. The resilient hope of humankind and the children of faith take the place of loss. Underneath all of our loss and sorrow there are still as ever, the Everlasting Arms.
The recent cruelty of gas attacks on innocent children in Syria. The suffering and death we share. The angst we know about in the plight of those children who die in warfare and who become refugees and then are not wanted because they have no home of their own in their own land or any other for that matter. God help us! God knows this is all too real.

God knows the suffering of Jesus on the Cross is real. But what of his resurrection? What of this day. Can we give as much credence to the existential cry of the first Christians who said; "He is Risen!"? God knows; sometimes yes, sometimes no. 
For Mary her tears gave way to her next cry; "Christ is Risen; the Lord is risen indeed!" This is an existential cry we share with her in the hope that our faith and her faith are one.  Mind you her faith was born out of the very real doubt that she could believe her own eyes. Neither could the disciples believe it until they saw it with their own eyes. After all, in a male dominant society who could trust the ravings of a hysterical woman? Surely, she is seeing things! This whole business of death and resurrection; tries our senses and defies our common sense.
God knows that's true. And yet at the death of a loved one what do we say; "O they're in a better place now. They're in God's hands now. We Celts sometimes say; they're on the other side. God knows there are many ways for us to say it; we hope against hope. 
Down through the ages we have been known as The Easter People, because of the existential way we greet this day, this Season, and life itself. The first words with which we greet one another on this day are those first existential words: "Alleluia Christ is Risen. The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!" These are the first words in every language with which Christians greet one another the whole wide world around.
Greek – (Khristós Anésti! Alithós Anésti!)
Latin – Christus resurrexit! Resurrexit vere
French – Le Christ est ressuscité! En verité il est ressuscité! or Le Christ est ressuscité! Vraiment il est ressuscité!
Old English – Crist aras! Crist soþlice aras! (Lit: Christ arose! Christ surely arose!)
Middle English. Crist is arisen! Arisen he sothe
Hungarian – Krisztus feltámadt! Valóban feltámadt!

This existentialist cry at the nexus of life and death is somewhere at the heart of our Easter proclamation.  God knows that's true. The mystery of being and non being baffles us, like it did Hamlet:
"To be, or not to be, that is the question:
To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there's the rub,
for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
when we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
must give us pause."
In the face of the human doubt and despair we cry the tears of Mary's sorrow,  the exclamation of her unbelieving eyes, and then the Gospel cry of Mary's joy.

God knows this is all real!
Since that day we Christians face down every assault of the Absurd with the Power of Christ's Resurrection. Whether it is the death of a loved one or the wholesale dread of war, The Paschal Mystery is not our way to die but our way to live. In the face of human violence, we proclaim the Way of Jesus Resurrection. 

You see, eternal life doen't begin with our death, it begins with our Baptism. When we die with Christ, we are raised with him. We die a death like his in order that we may live a life like his.
That life is characterized by a recognition like Peter's. "Aha, now "I truly understand that God shows no partiality". As blessed Paul was to state the new understanding, when you are in Christ the is no longer Jew or Greek (nor any other racial or ethnic identity), there is no longer slave or free (nor is there any other class identity based on wealth or poverty) there is no male or female (Good Lord, neither is there any other identity based on orientation, for heaven sake). This is because we are all one when we are Baptized into the Person of Jesus Christ our Lord, and him Risen from the Dead. And friends here we greet one another this Happy Easter Day all of us Risen with him in a life like his because of this very Baptism we all share. 

To be sure there will continue to be dreary and dreadful days ahead, but they needn't overwhelm us. The darker the days are the more work we have to do. I once served as Chaplain of the Police and Fire Departments in Methuen, MA. At a special banquet to honor the heroic work of the men and women in Blue the Chief leaned over to me and said; "You know Father, we better not do too good a job, because then both of us will be out of work!" 
"Not to fear my friend," I replied. "There is no end in sight nor is there any known cure for Sin."
In fact, as our professor of Theology used to quip in Seminary; "Sin is the only doctrine in the Christian Faith we can prove". All you have to do is pick up the morning paper or watch the news. And there it is; the sad chronicle of human sin.
All other Doctine you must take on Faith.

This Day of Days; this Queen of Christian Festivals we now proclaim the Victory of Jesus over the wickedness of Sin. Now are we forgiven. Now are we Raised from the Dead. 

God knows its real!

Alleluia. Christ is Risen!

The Lord is Risen indeed. Alleluia!

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