Sunday, March 23, 2008

Redeeming Easter

Didn't think I was having spring fever, not really.  Probably because of the trip to hot, hot India plus being so busy that the weeks have been running together, like one of those night-time photographs of a freeway, where all the carlights are blurred into long streaks.

But I've got it now, boy, and how.  We woke up this morning to a skiff of snow on the ground and, for the first time in months, I felt downright surly about it.  I mean it's Easter, right?  Buds on the branches and dew on the crocuses and everything?

That's such a lie.  I don't think I've ever really associated Easter with spring, or with anything, for that matter.  Easter has been such a non-event, for forever.  As a kid, it pales in comparison to Christmas, right?  And tights in spring are so itchy, so wrong, bound up underneath those Easter dresses.  I've even spent Easters in the near past cursing them for being just another way to sell candy and cards.  And then there's the whole Jesus dying for our sins and then rising again thing.  I mean, totally implausible.  A holiday for dupes and religious nutjobs.

But this isn't the whole story, I don't think, and today I had some healing around the Easter bit, and am thinking about embracing it, the whole egg-dyeing kit and caboodle.

Surprisingly, despite the taste of boredom and cynicism in my mouth around the idea of Easter, the memories I do have of it as a kid, for the most part, are good ones.  My favorites were when I would stay at my Dad's house for the holiday weekend, and his wife Gloria would haul everybody's ass out to some cold hill outside Nampa for sunrise service.  I don't remember for sure, but I can bet you a million bucks I hated getting up that early on a Sunday--I was an inveterate sleeper-inner (still would be if it weren't for my varmint offspring).  But I have fond memories of sitting huddled on a blanket, watching that sun rise, singing "Nearer My God to Thee" or "Onward Christian Soldiers" with a bunch of other shivering people.  Everyone seemed happy, and I liked feeling as if something momentous was happening, like I might actually have some religious bone in my body calling me to Christ in a meaningful way.  That bone never actually materialized, but it felt sometimes on those hills like I came close.  Plus Gloria always made biscuits and gravy when we got back to the house.  Yumma.

I know, I know.  It's easy to be cynical about the commercialization part of it.  Easter's often on the tail of Valentine's Day, and I don't know too many twenty-somethings who feel super-gracious about that holiday every year, so there's probably some conflation between the two going on.  Having kids seems to redeem all of the crap around these holidays, though.  You get to create something new for them, and in doing so leave a bunch of your old baggage behind.  I liked filling up the kids' easter baskets with books and chocolate and other little treats.  We didn't spend much, either.  We had saved the baskets from last year's Easter, when nana and papa sent them, and I went to the kid consignment store for fillings, good as buying stuff at Target.  I refrained from wasting money on a bunch of plastic crap, but did get some chocolate bunnies and cookies.  Addie had a field day with the whole thing.

[Aside:  I'm having some guilt about my and my kids' chocolate addictions, but that's fodder for another post.  Let me just say that the words "child slavery" make the chocolate taste a little less good].

Anyway, the best thing about this Easter was going to unchurch for a little tune-up.  Because of a crazy string of travel and weekend commitments, I hadn't been in over a month, and I've been feeling it (see the last post on being an uncontrollable grump).  Given that I got about three hours of sleep last night thanks to the kids taking turns waking up every five seconds and Eric being out of commish because of a sinus surgery, I almost didn't go.  But thank the ungod I did, because it kicked ASS. 

The church was filled to overflowing--literally--and I ended up sitting on the floor in the foyer with about a hundred other people.  But it didn't matter.  The choir was big today, bigger than I've ever heard them, and they rocked the George Harrison and the Italian opera and I got chills from how beautiful it all was.  The good Dr. Roger delivered a talk on reading into the metaphor of Easter, a time of recommitment to values.  It's not about reading the story of Jesus literally, he said, it's a teaching story Jesus (as teacher, not son of God) used to remind us that it is only our beliefs that stand in our way, and only our beliefs that can set us free.  Rising from the dead is about refusing to be afraid of death, about using fear as a partner in our movement forward and not a mountain in our way.  So Jesus threw death off like a cloak, refusing to be diminished by it, just to say, "See?  What do you have to be afraid of?  That's just little old death over there!  Now watch, while I move this big-ass rock out the way!  Damn!"

And this is how we should live!  We should use this moment to recommit to our values, to throw off stagnation and fear.  To recommit to what we really value.  And then he, Dr. Roger, got really going like he gets sometimes and I got so fired up.  Because he said you know, we sometimes forget what we value and we serve other things, like money.  He said the United States was doing just that right now.  The Dalai Lama has been exiled from Tibet for over fifty years, he said, due to the brutality and human rights violations in China.  We in the United States have the power to do something, as we've done elsewhere, and yet we do not because we wish to continue trade with China.  To exchange our dollars for their goods.  And aren't we better than that, he demanded?  Aren't we as Americans better that to turn our backs in this way?  (Phew.  Glad I didn't buy the plastic eggs).

Oh, man.  I sound completely crazy, I know.  But, my God, sitting there in that sanctuary, I felt like my heart was going to burst.  I cried through the whole talk, and I sang loud, loud, LOUD during all the songs, and I clapped my hands and I danced at the end, and hugged people and shook hands.  Because there was just some healing that happened there today, around Easter, and that deserved some rejoicing.

So I'll feel a little differently next year about this holiday, I think, and will reflect on Jesus's rising not as a reminder that I am cloaked in some sort of sin, or as evidence that some religious folks in this country are completely crazy to think it's all true and evidence that Jesus is the only way, truth, light, whatever.  But as a reminder that we all get to recommit, to take our hands from our eyes and see again.  There's always that amazing grace.  Easter bunnies, crazy, rock-throwing, death-cloak-shedding Jesuses, crocuses and all.  Bring it.  I'm ready.

Kay.  I can't resist.  This is from one of my favorite websites (Jesus of the Week).  It's supposedly the image of Christ.  In a dog's ass.  All I can say is God is everywhere.  Tee.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my god/dog. That is the best. I saw the Jesus! I wish I could have joined you for Easter, but K and I had stayed up late dancing and then had to get to a brunch and I was afraid that with the crowd and everything we'd be late. Plus, I was planning to hit one of the black churches, but I didn't pull that off either, remembering that they go 2 hours and we'd surely be late. Damn; now I feel pangs of regret, but I'll definitely listen to Roger's sermon online. Beautiful post, Juje.