The resurrection is a pretty extreme application of our monthly theme of “ReVIVE.” It would be a little hokey, in fact, if we were trying to be literal about it. But, the resurrection story of Jesus is interesting to me not just because Jesus walked out of a tomb and through walls, freaking everyone out along the way. The story is fantastically and naturally and wonderfully and simply relevant because the pattern of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection follows a pattern found in everything. It’s a pattern of Love.
Life simply does follow this pattern: Life: Death: Grief: New Life. It’s built into nature. It’s built into transformation. It’s built into the stories we tell. It’s just the way it is. Love is all about What Actually Is, not what we think it (or at least the “other”) should be.
LIFE. It begins with life, regular good life. Life that you hope would and should, honestly, go on forever. A lover who understands you and sees you and laughs at all your jokes. A family you made all on your own with children and a house and holidays. A healthy body that can do anything: look hot in your new jeans, climb mountains, cry at happy movies, move furniture for your friends. A job that uses your skills and challenges you in just the right ways, bringing in more money than you really need.
GOOD FRIDAY. And THEN something happens. The lover who betrays you. The children who move away and stop talking to you. The body that won’t stop hurting long enough to make it to the market much less the mountaintop. The job that gets cut out and never really materializes again. The car accident, the violence, the loss, the ending. Everything you thought life would be….isn’t. Good Friday comes in a variety of ways….almost never welcome.
HOLY SATURDAY. Followed by an emptiness, a grief, a silence. A wondering what you did wrong. A confusion. A loneliness. Sometimes we try to skip this step, this Holy Saturday, and we want to climb right into whatever can take us out of this pain. But when we try to force the end of the pain, it never leads into New Life. It is just Distraction or Denial or Delay. And it usually leads to Addiction. But, when we try to avoid the pain of Love lost, we miss something. We miss the actual resurrection. The pattern requires a time of emptiness, surrender. When you are in the clutches of grief, your priorities suddenly get rearranged. Urgent projects are suddenly rendered meaningless. People you used to think were important to you disappear and others who you never noticed, show up and sit with you. As you grieve, something shifts in you, a softening begins to happen.
EASTER SUNDAY. Only Mystery we sometimes recognize as God can bring about the new life of resurrection after a major loss. And while we don’t want to even think about “something more” when in the reckoning of loss and death, this is the only way through. All we can do is face the death and surrender to it, allow the emptiness so that we can receive whatever lies on the other side. When you do allow it, something new awakens in you. New gifts, new insights, new perspectives. Deeper connection with your soul. The new life will not bring back that which you lost. Your lost loved one will probably not be resurrected and revived like Jesus. But, new life does follow. Something expands in you …. a compassion, a kindness and tenderness you never knew before being thrashed open, and a deepened capacity to love.
My favorite book of 2018 is called Matter and Desire: an Erotic Ecology. In it, author and biologist Andreas Weber, with nearly swooning language befitting Song of Solomon, describes how all of life is actually grounded in this pattern of life-death-emptiness-new life and how it is Love. I like this kind of thinking. It’s spiritual truth told through a non-spiritual lens and language. Sometimes we forget that spirit and matter are not actually disconnected.
The logic of the living world, he says “relies on the fact that every species is dependent on another, that every act of taking is balanced by an act of giving.” The inherent relationship between predator and prey reveals a degree of intimate interconnectivity. The salad you eat require the lives of the carrot and beet to be taken. The giving of one life to continue to life of another is built into the system. “All matter,” he says, “can only be understood as the experience of being in relationship.” The world is not a series of singular autonomous separate beings. “Everything is a dynamic of interaction where one thing changes through the change of another.” And that change is a pattern of new life, surrendering to death, surrendering to new life.
I had to cut back the ferns hogging all the space in the front of my house this morning. They were not allowing the purple Easter-looking flowers enough sun to stand up straight. I didn’t kill them, but it felt like it. I’m not a gardener and so i have an aversion to cutting things back. But it was clear that unless I participate in the Pattern of Love, which in this case, was cutting off the still alive fern fronds suffocating everyone else, the new life of the flowers, longing to show up this Spring, was not going to happen.
It is good to celebrate Easter, new life, resurrection. But, the whole pascal mystery, the whole passion week is the pattern of Love in this sacred story, not just the Sunday part. The deaths come without my beckoning. The new life comes mysteriously and in ways I can’t contrive. The only part of the pattern where I actually have any agency is the part where I face up to the losses, accept them, grieve, and hold out my broken heart in a posture of vulnerability. It takes a lifetime, it seems, to trust the pattern of love in all things. All things. For the new and deeper life I seek, for the love I long to see awakened, what must I surrender? What is dying or already dead in me that is waiting patiently for me to grieve and feel and enter into emptiness so that I can be open to the new life starting to unfold within me? Dare we trust that in all things, the pattern of love is enacted in us and through us, to the whole world?
Come to the Easter Walk next Sunday, which honors the pattern of love weaving through the life, death, new life of our city and the story of Jesus.