Easter Reflection

I thought the purpose of this blog would be as an outlet for my academic interests. My interest in studying American religion often has an overlap with As many can tell by the relative lack of posts, I am either not interested in my academic pursuits or I have nothing to say. Part of the problem for me is that I don’t trust myself with my writing. Kelly J. Baker is helping me with this problem. If you do not know her, please follow the link and read her “Cold Takes” about writing and life. Anne Lamott (you can follow her on Facebook) also helped me with some of this after reading her book Bird by Bird. I have this quotation posted as a transparent sticky on my desktop:

You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because in the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating. (112)

When I write I doubt that what I have to say has worth. I also take too long to get pieces out for the blog format. The 24-hour news cycle works against my sense of caution and precision. But today was different.

This past week the Church observed Holy Week, which leads us to Easter and the story of  resurrection. I must confess that I am not an observant participant to the events of Lent or Holy Week. Our congregation offers food on Maundy Thursday and it’s easier to feed my children there than to cook at home. We have instituted foot washing as one of the practices of this worship service. After taking the elements by walking down front (a rarity among Baptists), we are invited to sit on one of the first pews and take off our shoes (another rarity). Second confession: my feet stink! My wife often points this out, but she does not need to since I can already smell them when I take my shoes off. They stink. So taking off shoe and socks in the sanctuary to have minister kneel down over the stinky feet is not one of my life goals. But there I was, shoes off and that night the stink was worse than normal, with my feet exposed and the water pouring over them. Pat dry, place the socks and shoes back on, and return to our pew. I know the routine, but that evening something struck me as different. I felt refreshed. Perhaps I was open to something different in the remainder of the week and weekend after the brief wash off. Perhaps I was ready to write about my stinky writing.

Two friends prepared me for the resurrection story this morning. One posted in a blog earlier in the week about the long darkness of losing a child, and one spoke in Sunday School (yes, we still have one of those for adults) about the disappointment of taking a risk in ministry. Nikki Hardeman wrote about the words of Jesus on the Cross—”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—in light of the continued grief of losing a son early Christmas morning several years ago.  With both a clarity of purpose and a grit that fails to make sentimental a grief so raw that it demands an accounting from God, Nikki spoke of the power of lament. LeAnn Johns spoke this morning about her journey in ministry, its disappointment, and coming out on the other side. Taking the risk to start an open and affirming congregation in Macon, LeAnn poured herself into the work. A gifted minister, LeAnn was sure it would succeed. {Edit: In the wake of the congregation’s closing} Her calling is clear but not in that setting. LeAnn wondered if she had actually heard God’s call correctly. She did but it didn’t look like she had hoped. She has also written about this experience.

This morning in Sunday School we read the tomb scene from the Gospel of John where the male disciples run off and Mary stays behind crying. Jesus approaches her in the tears and announces his resurrection. In the crying from deep pain, God approaches. We are too ready for pretty dresses and happy endings so we focus on Sunday morning, even on Maundy Thursday. A people who worship a savior’s death should never look past the pain and suffering of ourselves or others.

Sitting in the sanctuary this morning, listening to a choir sing powerful anthems and praying prayers of resurrection, our paster, Scott Dickison, preached about “You Can’t Scare Dead People.” Using the tomb scene from the Gospel of Mark, Scott reminded us that “missing bodies are alarming” and created “terror and amazement” for the women who went to the tomb early on Sunday morning. The oldest editions of Mark suggest that the gospel ends with the word “afraid.” The opposite of faith is not doubt it is fear. The women overcome their fear by telling their story of resurrection. As Scott told us, “Easter is not Easter until you tell your story.” I am grateful Nikki and LeAnn told their stories, painful as they may be, as they work to see God’s presence in loss and suffering. We are a resurrection people but that means we must be willing to think about the suffering and death we will endure. We must also be willing to share our those stories so that we can bring the fear into the light.

My feet still stink but so does the political season; I’ll take my feet over that mess. Fear appears to drive us too much. I am ashamed of taking off my shoes to let another person wash them. We fear loss: job, family, plans, expectations, strangers. The Easter story means we don’t have to live in fear. I know that fears will continue to drive me—come back soon and see if I have posted another entry—but I am grateful I live in communities that tell their stories and allow me to share mine as we attempt to find God’s mercy, even in the tears.

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