Our Story

Romans 6:3-11  | Psalm 114 | Luke 24:1-12

This service, unlike others in so many ways, captures as much of our Christian story as it can, which is why it is longer and why I’ll keep this brief. We move from creation to the empty tomb in one fell swoop, and what do we do with that? Do we leave this place like we’re clicking the remote, getting up from our seats saying, “Well, that was nice”? I dare say that if you are fully engaged throughout this service, for at least a moment, your heart and soul are stirred. For if anything is true about what research claims about cellular memory, these stories are written in our hearts, so to speak, or at least in our cells. So the story of our ancestors, of the Hebrews, of the women, of the apostles, of Jesus are all part of our story, very much a part of who we are. This story of ours isn’t meant to be kept in the dark.

We know for ourselves what is real, what is true. Like I shared last night, I’m as skeptical as anyone when laying claim to what is really real, but when something grabs hold of us and speaks to us like nothing else we’ve ever known, we pay attention. As our Christian Education lecture series says through Prof. Bart Ehrman, what happened in the past might not be counted as history, as what can be proven with evidence and supported with scholarship. The exodus and Passover are taken as history, the raising of the dry bones not so much. The person of Jesus of Nazareth, even his crucifixion under Pontius Pilate, are history, but his resurrection leaves historians in a quandary. Perhaps it has you in one, too. What exactly are we celebrating this Easter? Jesus’ houdini-an act of rising from death and fleeing the tomb?

What we celebrate this Easter Vigil is the light of life coming from even the darkest of times. It’s why we start from creation, for the ultimate void to the generation of life. It’s why we remember the Exodus, the liberation from oppression and despair. It’s why we aren’t afraid to talk about death, a most natural part of the life cycle. It’s why as Christians we remember our baptism, because it is one way that we die to ourselves, giving ourselves over to life in Christ. We are given new life, new birth. It’s not a coincidence we celebrate this in spring, when everywhere we look, new life is rising from the darkness of the earth or from branches that looked all but dead.

Maybe like the disciples, you think this resurrection hope is an idle tale, an opiate for the masses, giving false hope to make people feel better about the nightmare of life in this broken world. Chances are if you’re here, that’s not your perspective, but we all have days when we’re not our most optimistic. I have days, too, when I wonder if all that I work for and strive for is worth it.

But even in death, there are things we do, making arrangements, preparations. A few take care of this, like the women going to the tomb; it’s usually the few who were closest. And we can close that chapter of our lives, or we can reflect on what it means for us that one we loved so much has taught us things we’ll spend the rest of our lives processing. But what if we were the women at the tomb, and what we expected to see wasn’t what we faced? What if what we thought was the end of the story, the death of our Teacher and Lord, wasn’t so? What if we then remembered, after being prompted by another, that Jesus had actually told us this would happen, that he would rise again? Wouldn’t we tell others?

And wouldn’t they in their despair question us, write us off as crazy or making up idle tales?

But love is a strong thing. Even after death, don’t we hope for a sign from our beloveds that they aren’t truly gone from us, even if it’s in our dreams? It’s blessed Peter, isn’t it, who acts first and thinks about it later. Peter, who had denied Jesus three times and regretted it deeply. He gets up and runs to the tomb. Now, according to this gospel, he doesn’t immediately go back and credit the women, apologizing for not trusting them at their word. But he goes to his home, his place of safety, and we end with him in amazement today. When we think we know how the story ends, we can tune out or fall into our habits and routine.

But this story doesn’t end. It goes on. The devotion of the women, the discerning of the disciples, the searching for themselves for the truth, the questioning, wondering, and amazement: all this is ours, too. All this is fuel for our hope that life triumphs over death, that light prevails in the darkest of times.

If those of us here tonight have to be reminded of the hope of our story, how many others who aren’t here could us a few words to remind them that they are part of our story, too? For the love of God that couldn’t be held in a tomb certainly isn’t just for us but is open for all the world. Our story is nothing less than a love story, radiant with the light of Christ, written upon our hearts.

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Love and Loss

My
mom is a neverending song in my heart of comfort, happiness, and
being.  I may sometimes forget the words but I always remember the
tune.
 

~Graycie Harmon


Recently on my FaceBook profile, I wrote in my status that I wished we could talk about that which we most feared.  I wrote this because lately I have wanted to talk to people about death, even their own, but haven’t felt that it is socially acceptable.  Who am I even to feel I have the right to ask them about what might very well be their greatest fear?

But if we can’t speak truthfully and honestly to each other, what right have we to call each other friends?

I hope that I never let that opportunity to pass me by again.  I hope I have the strength to put what is most important first because it hurts to feel that I didn’t say what I was led to say,  that I stifled a responsibility — even if it’s just known between God and me.  May I be so open not just with friends but with my own family as well.  I must teach by example radical love, a lovingkindness that will leave an impression unmistakable, unforgettable, yet so subtle as to be felt without words and blatancy. 

We do not know the number of our days.  We may not know until the very end when our work here is done.  In that simple knowledge, we live our lives.  In that knowledge, we trust that every moment we share is significant, that we have work to do, even if it’s just offering a smile of maternal love, an assurance to a friend, or accepting that we do not know but surrendering ourselves to that which is Good.

May Wendy‘s soul rest in peace, her love surround her husband and boys, friends and family.

The best conversations with mothers always take place in silence, when only the heart speaks. 

~Carrie Latet


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If I Weren’t Here Tomorrow

If you’re a new mother, you might not have had time to consider it.  With each passing day, though, the enormity of a mother’s responsibilities sinks in, and sooner or later you’ll wonder what would happen if you weren’t here tomorrow.

Maybe the thought will come out of a desire to leave, to get out of dodge, so to speak;  you just cannot take it any more.  You might relish the thought of others suddenly realizing how much you do, what hard work it is, while you live it up somewhere, anywhere else.  When and if you decided to come back, maybe you wouldn’t be taken for granted anymore.

Then again, maybe someone near and dear to your heart has died.  You can’t physically say anything to that person anymore, let alone give them a hug and a kiss.  Looking into the eyes of your babe and/or children, you realize just how brightly they shine.  Hopefully you realize how each moment with them deserves to be cherished.

Even still there are other reasons for contemplating your own mortality.  The truth is that we don’t live forever.  On a cellular level, we live and die every moment.  But perhaps you’ve discovered an illness, been in a nearly fatal accident or simply have to make out a will.  Do you feel your stomach twist, the tears sting?  The fact of our mortality is nothing to deny or run away from.  We accept it for what it is, nothing more, nothing less, and we live in each moment fully.  Ideally, anyway.

So, if tomorrow comes and I’m not here, my family can see my home and realize I was too busy with the kids to get the dusting done.  My husband can see how important it was for me to have my journal and numerous writing projects.  I don’t have anything physical for my friends to know how important they are to me.  I suppose that serves as a reminder to be sure to tell them how much I enjoy their company, their companionship on my journey.

Undoubtedly, without me the world will keep spinning, the kids will keep growing and the laundry will get done by someone eventually.  But I’m the only one who can offer sweet whispers of mother’s love to my children, and when I’m gone, that’s what I want them to remember.

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I Died Last Night

After a particularly grueling day of parenting, my husband and I enjoyed several minutes of drowsy pillow conversation, quietly over the babe nursing/sleeping between us.  I vented.  We pondered and wondered how best to discipline, how best to exemplify the behavior we hope for them to embody.  We fell asleep before any epiphanies.

I know I am dying.  Sitting up in bed, I see it in my husband’s face.  Our younger sonmoon.jpg lays his head across my tummy.  While I’ve been strong up till now, as I run my hands through his unruly hair, my resolve breaks; my heart aches.  I love him so much.  No.  I’m not ready to die yet.  The bright white light comes.  No.  I need to see my older children first.  They have to know, have to hear me tell them I love them.  They’re here.  It’s okay now.

I awoke with that sense of breathlessness near panic.  I wasn’t dead, no matter how real it had seemed.  It was a short dream for me, one who tends to have the epic variety, but its strength and clarity remain with me still.

I’m not proficient at dream interpretation, but I’ve experimented enough myself and have been with others enough to know that dreams speak to us in ways we might not otherwise understand.  I’ve been fortunate to be in groups to facilitate dream work.  At a meeting recently, one of my spiritual teachers was there, too.  We had been in a dream group together, and I admire her immensely.  “In dream symbology, what does it mean when you die?” I asked her.  “Usually it’s the ego,” she answered.  (We could have been asking each other about the weather.  It’s good to have friends you can talk to without the small talk.)  It clicked into place, as it will when you get your right understanding of a dream.

I had fallen asleep wondering how best to deal with my children.  I must have offered my query to the Divine, for it was received and answered.  To best relate to my kids, I have to get out of the way and let love lead.  That doesn’t mean I am a pushover and let them run wild.  Kids need boundaries for what is acceptable or not, and there are consequences for inappropriate behaviors and actions.  What’s important, though, is that I shouldn’t completely freak out just because something isn’t done the way I think it should be done.  These kids may come from my womb, but I believe they’re designed by and for God.  Heaven forbid I mess that up.

So I’m grateful for this dream that reminds me to let go and to love as if this were my last moments.  It sounds so simple.  The lesson is so easy.  It’s the homework that’s hard.

The other morning, not long after my dream of dying, my husband told me that when he awoke the older kids to get ready for school, they both said the same thing.  “I had the most wonderful dream.”  I wonder what lesson they were given.  May they remember their dreams.

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