"... the Word was enfleshed; it made its home among us, and we saw its glory as befits the Spirit's only son, full of grace and truth."
*Gospel of John 1.14, Christian Bible
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When we see beyond our coarse interpretations, we discover the less tangible and magical situation in which we actually live.
*Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel. The Logic of Faith: A Buddhist Approach to Finding Certainty Beyond Belief and Doubt.
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Easter is, essentially, not a day
for Easter cannot be located in time
even as Easter cannot be located in a religion
the word 'Easter' pointing to something
that can happen anew in any moment, anywhere
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It was a chilly Easter '98 morning beside the local Methodist Church, in south Georgia USA. Peoples of different Christian sects had assembled in the dawn to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Many were standing, a few sitting. Behind the lectern stood three crosses with a purple garment hanging from the center cross.
I was host pastor and hiding behind my typical ambivalence. My persona said one thing, my heart something else. Gathered were small-town people who attended Bible-believing fundamentalist and conservative churches. They had arrived to celebrate faith in the physical resurrection of Jesus and hope in the resurrection of their physical bodies at a Second Coming. I had long ago lost, somewhat against my wishes, the beliefs of my childhood. To me, much of my childhood religion was associated with the earliest stages of cognitive development, that of children, to be grown through but often retained into adulthood in unquestioning fidelity. My own heart-wrenching exploration into philosophical and religious traditions had torn from my clinging clutches traditional ideas that had been cozy certainties from my familial and faith heritage. So, you can see my ambivalence. There are other places, many, I would have preferred to be on this early Easter morning, and one was in bed still sleeping.
Another local pastor, from a fundamentalist church, was prepared to deliver the sunrise message. Ironic because less than a year before I had departed from the same sect, one in which I had been raised and been a minister for twenty-two years. The time for the message arrived and the minister positioned himself behind the lectern. I smiled politely while sitting on a folding chair - the persona still intact. After all, what was I to do? Stand up and expound on the nature of matter and how such makes a future resurrection of our flesh illogical, if not impossible? "After all," I could say, "how could the body resurrect after it decayed and some of its decomposed flesh was eaten by a worm that was dug up by a fisherman that was put on a hook that was swallowed by a fish that was in a pond somewhere?" - terrible grammar, but I think you see the conclusion. Or was I to expound on the witness, both by science and religious mystics, that there is no future and, thus, the Christian resurrection is an existential-mythical event that transcends human perceptions of a space-time continuum - that is, Easter is real, always now, as an Eternal happening, so, if anything, more real than any historical happening past or future can be. But back to the story, for I am getting ahead of myself here.
I sat hoping without much hopefulness that I would hear a meaningful message that could evoke from us memories of the resurrections of our lives and the knowledge that resurrection is always the surprise of new life within springing up in the old, worn, outdated, and drab - and sometimes the painful losses of life. I was hoping, but not expecting.
Soon, I saw, after the speaker began, that I was present to listen politely to this kind man go on and on affirming the physicality of the resurrection of Jesus and our own future and fleshly resurrection. This would occur when this Jesus would come back in the air and take all the Christians to heaven above.
But something changed on that Easter morning. I began to feel the cool breeze blowing across my face. A Zen moment had begun in mind and heart; Kronos time - our usual, sequential sense of time - was vanishing before Kairos time - timeless, here-now. The linear, everyday perception was transformed into the ripeness of sensing oneness with the Eternal Now. I began to move my hand to experience the sense of the moment: the beauty of the flowing trees clothed in new green and blown by the wind, the singing of birds, the flight of a large black fowl over the sky, the feel of the ambience on my body.
In those moments I connected with the Word that transcends word, and the freedom of what Jesus referred to as Spirit. Jesus had embodied this Word: the Greeks called it Logos - Eternal Reason - the Jews called it Dabar - the living thing, or event, spoken and enacted by Spirit in our midst. The Word was incarnating a lively sermon for me on this cool Easter morning.
Resurrection was happening that morning, and so much more than my heart could receive or tell of what was received.
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Easter is, as that morning, a continual arising of the Word. Easter happens, everything is reborn moment-to-moment. With each moment what we call the present dies into what we call the past, and we receive the birth of possibilities never before known and in eternal freshness. The possibilities of Easter, untouched by time, are always new, death and rebirth of one seamless Whole.
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This morning, over 20 years from that Easter morning in Georgia, I enter a little room in Maine. I see the familiar circle of chairs. I see the familiar faces of the small group in the Brunswick Quaker Meeting. We greet. I sit. Soon, we relax in the Quiet, doing what the early Quakers referred to as sinking into the Seed. The Seed many Quakers would still see as referring to Jesus, as Christ. Other Quakers would not make such a Christian confession. Here, in the Silence and over the next 50 minutes, a couple of persons briefly share from the Silence of what they discern the Light wishes them to speak. No reference is made to Easter, Jesus, Christ. And, here, Easter happens. Easter will happen where persons gather to celebrate Life and affirm hope, even as Easter happened, though differently, beside that little church in Georgia years prior.
Grace and Peace to All
*Move cursor over pictures for photographer and title.
*(C)Brian K. Wilcox, 2019