Benediction Online

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter is the Gift that Goes on Giving

This week I bumped into a friend at the gym. She told me with excitement that she has finally found a spiritual path that meets her needs. With its focus on meditation instead of rules it allows her to be fully who she is – without all the guilt that she grew up with in the Church. I am thrilled for her that she has found a path that allows her to be truly herself. But at the same time I am saddened, because she has not heard the gospel of Jesus. She has heard a false gospel; one which says that she is guilty, again and again.

The good news of Jesus Christ is that we are NOT guilty as charged – rather, we are deeply loved by God and invited into a new relationship with the divine.

Now I want to be clear. There is a place for guilt. When you hurt someone else, or when you offend against society it is appropriate to feel guilty.   None of us is perfect and when we fall short of our full potential we need to make amends to those we have hurt. But we don’t have to live with an existential sense of guilt. Because God loves us and God is just waiting to welcome us into her arms.

That is the essential message of Easter. Even though we – not you and me personally – but we, humanity, rejected and turned our backs on Christ, doing the worst we know how to do – killing him with a painful death – he came back. Jesus came back to the very people who hadn’t been able to stay awake with him, the very people who had denied that they knew him, and he forgave them. Even as it was happening, Jesus forgave those who were crucifying him. He didn’t want them to live with guilt – he wanted them to be forgiven – to be free to live their lives as they were created to. Because guilt keeps us tied to the past and saps our energy as much as resentment and anger.

God is longing for humanity to be reconciled with God and to live in harmony with her and with each other. When Jesus rose from the dead he showed that the sin matrix has no basic power. The worst that humanity could do to God has already been done. There is nothing worse that we can do. And Christ forgave those who did it.

So too we can be forgiven, we can be set free from our deepest darkest fears, we can be set free from all those things that plague us, because they have no power when confronted by the risen Christ. All the things that separate us from God have been vanquished. They still seem real to us but they have been emptied of power. The only power they have is the power we continue to give them.

Miracles happen. But often healing takes time. Mary standing in the garden in her grief did not recognize Jesus. Often we are unable to recognize the Spirit of God moving in our lives and our hearts and minds because we are numbed by grief or guilt or anger and resentment. But she is there. Even in the darkest times when, like Mary, everything we have hoped for seems to have died. Even then God is standing next to us, calling our name.

And like Mary, when we hear that voice, however quiet it seems, we respond, “Teacher” we respond with joy and amazement that God is speaking to us. And every time we answer “Yes teacher, yes” and move toward God, God moves toward us. God is speaking to us and God wants us to flourish – God wants us to be fully fulfilled humans – God wants us to have abundant life and to be able to be the people we were created to be.

This abundant life is not something to be hoarded. When the Hebrews were wandering in the desert eating manna, if anyone took more than they needed it rapidly became foul and inedible, full of maggots. The life that God gives us is to be shared. “Do not hold on to me” Jesus says but go and tell my brothers that you have seen me. Abundant life is given to us so that it may be poured out in service to God, to each other and to the whole of Creation.

The amazing thing about this abundant life is that the more we share it, the more there is! Easter is God’s gift that goes on giving and giving and giving – not chocolates or bunnies but the one thing we all long for, whether we know it or not, the one thing that feeds our souls - peace and reconciliation with God.

It seems that my gym friend has found this through her meditation practice and fellowship. It doesn’t matter what path we take to God, and how many times we turn back or think it’s the wrong path and decide to go cross-country… When we ask for God’s Spirit to work in our lives and when we dedicate ourselves to being where God would have us be, doing what God would have us do, and saying what God would have us say, then the abundant life which is growing inside us wells up and overflows and we cannot help but run and tell our sisters and brothers, our acquaintances in the gym and our friends on Facebook, "I have seen the Lord".

Alleluia, Christ is risen!


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