Paul E. Jackson
University Congregational Church
Sunday, April 27, 2014
The Palm Sunday palm leaves have been tossed out, the hidden eggs have been discovered, lots of candy was eaten, the sanctuary was filled with tremendous music of the Jenkins’s Gloria and scented lilies lined the front of this beautiful room. Over 270 people filled this space to hear Robin’s message of hope and joy found by “Surviving Resurrection”.
And now—here we are. After Easter. After the build-up to Holy Week, there’s just nothing too exciting in our Christian calendar, is there? We’re certainly not that into Eastertide, which is the liturgical season we find ourselves in, so—how do we fill our days and our Sundays until next winter’s Advent season?
I must admit that I always feel a little blue after some major event in my life has finished. I have just completed 6 weeks of intense rehearsal as I was directing the Forum Theatre’s Man of La Mancha (which runs today and next weekend) and then last Sunday I performed with one of the best choirs in the state, Karl Jenkins’s Gloria. Needless to say last Monday I was a little blue. And Tuesday. And Wednesday. Finally by Thursday I was feeling a bit better about things and by this morning I’m almost ready for the next thing.
We are post-Easter people here. As Robin reminded us last week, you can’t have the resurrection with going through the crucifixion. And we can’t have Sunday without going through the rest of our week. We have obligations and duties and responsibilities to work through each day. Everyone present in this room has met the obligations necessary to get you here. That’s a remarkable achievement and one we should all be proud of. There are too many people who can’t make life work for themselves. Some chase all manner of “things” so that they might know some happiness. They overindulge in drinking, or gambling, or sex or shopping or any other of the myriad distractions that we all face and that can consume our days. Others are so filled with anxiety about financial matters, or relationship matters, or the paralyzing guilt of some past error, that attending church is the furthest thing from their minds.
They are trapped on Golgotha hanging from a cross. And they see no way out of their misery and pain.
Those of us who are part of this intentional community know what peace can be found in this room. What strengthening of our spirits can come from our dear fellowship and worship together. What glorious transcendence that can occur when listening to the music made by this choir and our guests. What powerful words of inspiration and encouragement we can take from Robin’s messages. That’s Easter. That is the coming through. That is the bright dawn when we are renewed and free from the chains of bondage that crucify us.
In Paul’s Second letter to the Corinthians he writes “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” I’ve spoken before about the natural force of entropy. That each of our bodies, from the moment we’re born to our last breath, is in gradual decline. This is a fact of life. Our bodies are fragile, yet resilient. But nevertheless, we are all in decline. And Paul tells us that even though we are “wasting away” our “inner self is being renewed day by day”. Our inner self being renewed. For some of us, Sunday is THE day we focus on renewal. Others of us have different habits and rituals for the care of our souls. But each of us has a responsibility to our inner selves to do something to renew our spirit. To lift us out of the doldrums we occasionally find ourselves in. We all know self-help therapies to rejuvenate and invigorate our spirits. A shopping trip. A visit to an art gallery or theatrical production. Or a trip to the movies. Or maybe we just need a day at home in our pajamas with a cup of tea or cocoa and the couch and put everything else on hold. All of the actions I presented earlier about drinking and eating to excess and too much sex or shopping or whatever–these become vices when they are out of balance. Our good friend, the Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers, son of our founding minister, has written an excellent book on finding the virtue in the vice. If you have never read this book, I encourage you to do so. I picked it up to read for this message today and I found this quote of particular interest: “None of us can ignore the basic human condition or pretend that we have been granted some special exemption from it. We are born selfish, and our entire journey is spent thinking mostly of ourselves. From a squawking bundle of need in the crib to our brittle and dim-eyed dance with death, we live mostly at the center of our own universe. Left unchecked and untreated, selfishness is the real mother and father of all human sin.”
When our selves consume all of our intentions and our focus. When we can get out of our “selves” and into this something that is bigger than us—when we can allow our egos to be subsumed by a greater, worthwhile whole, then we can begin the work of building the kingdom of God envisioned by Jesus and encouraged by Paul of Tarsus and our early church mothers and fathers.
Easter people know this. Easter people also know that too many remain stranded on Calvary. Trapped in the crucifixion of selfishness.
And Easter people know what it takes to make it through to Easter morning. How to push through or hold on or take up our mats and walk.
The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson writes:
Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day,
and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt, crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a
begin it well and serenely,
with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.
This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays…
Too many Christians live like we only have faith on Sunday. Too many Christians attend church on Christmas and Easter and miss the connection to be found in between those celebrations . Too many Christians don’t connect with their God until there is a “help me” moment. Easter people live with consistent and persistent hope Sunday through Saturday. Easter people know that the dark night of the ‘Help me” prayer is always replaced with the bright hope of the “thank you” prayer. And Easter People pray the WOW prayer often: with the constant sense of wonder and joy that this world can provide each of us.
Each day can be sacred. Each breathe we take can be a “thank you, thank you, thank you” of overwhelming gratitude for another day on this planet. Another opportunity for us to impact our little sphere of influence, for us to make our little share of this world just a bit better, just a little kinder, just a bit smarter and just a bit more meaningful.
This is the challenge. To face each day with courage and determination and intentional love. With kindness and humility and a heart and mind eager for the next thing. For whatever may come after Easter.