Now the green
from the buried grain,
wheat that in dark earth
many days has lain;
love lives again,
that with the dead has been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.
("Hymn 204," from The Hymnal 1982,
Copyright ©1985 by the Church Pension Fund.)
Renée: Here we are, we've come through the long journey of Lent, and we've arrived at the day of Alleluias. The day that is a witness that death does not have the final word, the day that assures us that life is eternal, the day that reminds us that God is bigger than we might ever have imagined. For two thousand years people of faith all over the world have joined to celebrate the meaning of resurrection, new life, reconciliation, peace, joy, meaning.
Bob: Hold it. Hold it. Time out.
Bob: I know you're not an early riser. You're not a morning person, but I think you might want to look at the daily newspaper.
Renée: Oh really?
Bob: I have to tell you that all that stuff you're talking about is very beautiful, and I'd be the last one to disparage Easter. But I have to tell you, the world is very messed up.
There's not a lot of joy, peace, and reconciliation.…I think we're in danger of sounding like we're sort of whistling Dixie. We're pretending.
Renée: I would agree that there is a lot of chaos and dis-ease in the world. You're right.…But in the midst of the chaos and dis-ease of the world, we can still count on the Kingdom of God. Sometimes we're tempted to either dismiss the prospect completely, or we think that we can only have the Kingdom life once we get out of this life and twirl up to heaven. In fact, we're living eternal life now.
That's really the surprise of Easter. We don't have to wait until we get to heaven to experience it. It is happening all around us. But of course, the problem is that because it is not fulfilled at every moment, we don't see it because of what's going on in the world. There's a chance that we could miss it by simply not being attentive and aware to the possibilities of reconciliation and peace and joy and all that language you're talking about, that you think may not be so accurate. I can understand that people might wonder, "Well, maybe Easter just really didn't work out somehow." But I think, Bob, that we really can see those moments of resurrection around us.
Bob: You make me think of Rabbi Kushner … a great student of Hasidic stories—Jewish stories that are very simple in appearance but hold profound truths. He was telling the story about how this man came to his Rabbi at Hanukkah and said, "I know Hanukkah is a season in which we are supposed to be looking everywhere for the presence of God and to feel that God is everywhere, surrounding us with love and blessings. But Rabbi, I have to tell you, this has not been a great year for us. The family is really in disarray, and my health hasn't been good. Instead of God being everywhere and surrounding us and blessing us, I have the sense that God is so put off by the terrible things that are going on in my life and in the world that God is actually hiding his face. I mean, he doesn't really want to see it. He is just hiding somewhere." So the Rabbi said, "Well now, wait a minute. Let's think about this logically. If you know that God is hiding, then God is really not hidden."
That's a profound kind of truth, the business about God hiding.If we know that God is there all of the time, then God really isn't hiding. It's like when we play the game of peek-a-boo with a little child. We put our hands in front of our face and the child gets all anxious, and then we take our hands away, and he laughs and cheers and so on. We haven't gone anywhere. We're still there, still the same person, and the fact that we were hidden to this child doesn't mean a thing.
Renée: That makes sense to me. The famous theologian Paul Tillich, once said, "that which is ultimately true is seldom obvious." If we dwell in faith, we know that the reality is only temporarily 'masked'--we can't be fooled into thinking that the absence of the reality is the truth.
It reminds me of the time that the Israelites were fighting the Syrians. Elisha, the prophet of God, had risen early and went out and saw that the Syrians had completely surrounded the city. The young man with Elisha was terrified and asked the prophet, "What they were going to do?" Elisha told the young man not to be afraid because there were more of God's hosts than could be numbered. Then Elisha prayed that the young man might have eyes to see, and when the young man looked up he saw that the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire. The horses and chariots were there all the time, but were masked until his eyes were opened.
It's like the words on a poster I once saw in the 60's:
I believe in the
sun even when
it is not shining.
I believe in love even when
feeling it not.
I believe in God even when he
(~A Jewish Prayer)
There are always circumstances in life that appear to be challenging God's presence, God's love, God's power. And yet, behind that mask, in the midst of all the world's suffering and turmoil, God's face is 'peeking out'—and when we catch a glimpse of God peeking out, our hope is strengthened, our trust is deepened, and we are energized and enthused to be a co-creator with God in opening people up to that kingdom life.
Bob: That's what Easter does, I think. It reminds us that there are these little islands in the midst of this vast sea of storm and rage and chaos. We read the paper and we say, "What's happening? How's it all going to turn out?" We don't need to know how it turns out. That's in God's hands. What we need to know is that there are these islands of calm, those moments of peace where real serenity comes to us. However that comes to you—whether that's with your family, or at your work, or in your church—find that place where you can see God peeking out. Those are Easter moments.
Renée: There are hundreds and thousands of Easter moments, and they're the signs and tokens of the promises of Easter that even though everything is not perfect yet, life is good. Resurrection is happening all around us if we have "eyes to see and ears to hear," even when bleakness stands very close. Those Easter moments are for us a way to witness God peeking out.
Copyright ©2003 Calvary Episcopal Church
Excerpted from a homily delivered at Calvary Episcopal Church, Memphis, Tennessee, on March April 20, 2003, Easter Sunday.