The following article appeared in the April 2019 issue of the Virginia United Methodist Church journal, Virginia Advocate.
I was listening to some of my favorite pieces of music – the Four Seasons by Vivaldi, The Prayer of St. Gregory by Alan Hovhaness and others. These pieces and others recognize despair and hope in the human condition. Listening to them lifts me up, makes my Spirit soar above the struggles and challenges of my day. The music sinks in and brings goosebumps to my arms. I shiver with joy and a deep movement in my soul. These pieces resurrect, restore and renew my Soul and my sense of being in the world. They inspire me to rise and bring the Spirit of the Goodness of God to others.
Easter is Resurrection, Grace, Hope and Promise. Easter is music that moves and dances and enriches, that reaches into the depths of our Being. Easter is Dance which moves our bodies to experience the Spirit of Joy. Easter is Healing and recognizing our faults and forgiving others (forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us). Easter is welcoming all into a circle of faith. Easter is Word which speaks to our inner sense of self, our True Self in and with God. Easter paints an image of Creation the way God intended it with harmony and actual peace. Where God dwells everywhere, in our hearts, in our minds and in the communities in which we live.
Though the Spirit of Easter is joy and hope and promise, what brings us to Easter joy and revelation is a trail of sweat, tears and anguish. Humanity’s angst. Our ability to treat others and ourselves with cruelty, despair and indifference. But, and this is a big but, there is the Resurrection! Life renewed, life anew.
When Christ Jesus rose, he appeared different to many. The two disciples on their way to Emmaus did not recognize him until he ‘broke the bread’ with them. Jesus appeared suddenly among the disciples gathered. (Luke 24: 36). They were startled and filled with fear. At the tomb, Mary Magdalene, (present in all four Gospels as the first witness of the risen Christ) thought he was the gardener. The Ascension brings us a Jesus Christ who, can physically rise from the group gathered and is “carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51). Perhaps the disciples’ initial hesitancy to know the risen Christ is true for us today. Do we recognize that Christ is risen so that we might live in goodness, and also recognize and live with his ministry of caring, inclusion and grace?
We need Easter. We need Easter each day, just as in a way we need Vivaldi, Bach, Hovhaness, Michelangelo, the Beatles and others. (I also enjoy the Moody Blues, as they often bring joy, fun, dance and compassion to my heart!)
Our theme this month is resurrection people. If we are to be a people of the resurrection, we need to experience what Christ is to us and for us. We need to look at the world with the eyes of Jesus.
Easter is the experience of the Divine in us and around us. It was not only about Jesus the man, it was to experience a sense of the Divine presence and to walk with the mind of Christ. In our Holy communion liturgy, we say together that the mystery of our faith is: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Might we add Christ is alive and Christ is with us. Those statements reflect a mystery that we cannot truly fathom, but our faith and practice of living in Christ give us a real promise of hope, comfort, joy and Life! We do not know what we might experience in our lives, but that assurance of the Presence of the Divine in Christ through Grace brings us this hope.
Our United Methodist Book of Discipline (2012, p. 51) declares that, “New birth (an awakening of a personal resurrection – my addition) is the first step in the process of sanctification. Sanctifying Grace draws us toward the gift of Christian perfection, which John Wesley described as a heart ‘habitually filled with the love of God and neighbor’ and as ‘having the mind of Christ and walking as he walked.’” Easter calls us to make a habit of loving God and neighbor and to walk as Christ walked. The prophet Micah knew about walking with God when he wrote that we are called “to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) The Resurrection brings this home, to our home (“That Christ may make His home in your hearts through faith.”—Ephesians 3:17). Christ rose to demonstrate in a very real way that we are loved by God, that we are to live in Christ and be nurtured and taught by the Holy Spirit. (John 14: 26)
The Gospel According to John writes of Jesus before the Crucifixion that “in a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, your also will live. On that day you will know I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:19-20) It is how we live in Christ, in ourselves and in our communities that brings guidance, hope and peace.
We live in a world in need of Grace. So, make this Easter season be the renewal we are called to, of our hearts and lives so that the presence of the Holy Spirit (embedded within the Father and the Son) will come alive!
Suggestions for further Spiritual awakenings:
The Faith We Sing – #2130 – The Summons – “will you quell the fear inside”; #2128 – Come and Find the Quiet Center – “clear the chaos and the clutter”; #2222 – The Servant Song – “we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.”
The United Methodist Hymnal – #289 – Ah, Holy Jesus – “Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee, I crucified thee”; #302 – Christ the Lord is Risen Today – “Soar we now where Christ has led. Alleluia!”.
This We Believe: The Core of Wesleyan Faith and Practice by Bishop William H. Willimon
The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence by Henri J. M. Nouwen
The Kindred Project at https://www.kindredprojectva.com/
Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation at https://shalem.org/