On This Good Friday

Good Friday and Easter Sunday is a time of renewal and rebirth for Christians—a time for spring (at least in the Northern hemisphere). Seeing as Christianity arose in cultures in the Northern hemisphere that makes sense. I struggle with the idea of intercessory prayer, virgin birth and a literal resurrection—though I’m active in the Methodist church. Like Dylan (Bob, not Dylan) said, “I contain multitudes.” We all do.

I do like the idea of renewal and rebirth though. This spring, a year into a pandemic and seeing some light ahead, feels especially springy. We’re not there yet, but I sure feel a need for a rebirth. I feel like my wife and I are going to have to relearn how to be social and go out in public. That’s a daunting task for us in normal times. We’ve been incredibly fortunate through all of this. This reminds me of a poem I like to revisit every spring.

A Purification, by Wendell Berry

At the start of spring I open a trench
in the ground. I put into it
the winter’s accumulation of paper,
pages I do not want to read
again, useless words, fragments,
errors. And I put into it
the contents of the outhouse:
light of the sun, growth of the ground,
finished with one of their journeys.
To the sky, to the wind, then,
and to the faithful trees, I confess
my sins: that I have not been happy
enough, considering my good luck;
have been inattentive to wonders;
have lusted after praise.
And then upon the gathered refuse
Of mind and body, I close the trench.
Folding shut against the dark,
the deathless earth. Beneath that seal
the old escapes into the new.

I wonder how this time will change us and what will emerge out of this cocoon of social isolation, political and societal disruption and upheaval, and possibly even environmental awareness awakening. Could it be a rebirth? Or, will we crave the known and comfortable and look backwards searching for a something seemingly simpler and safer (even if it isn’t really). I guess that depends on whose voices and experiences we listen to and use to gain wisdom. I hope it is a more diverse and broader set of voices we allow ourselves to hear and allow to then lead.

I read this today from an essay in Today’s New York Times by Esau McCaulley titled The Unsettling Power of Easter.

As we leave the tombs of quarantine, a return to normal would be a disaster unless we recognize that we are going back to a world desperately in need of healing. For me, the source of that healing is an empty tomb in Jerusalem. The work that Jesus left his followers to do includes showing compassion and forgiveness and contending for a just society. It involves the ever-present offer for all to begin again. The weight of this work fills me with a terrifying fear, especially in light of all those who have done great evil in his name. Who is worthy of such a task? Like the women, [who first discovered the empty tomb as described in the book of Mark] the scope of it leaves me too often with a stunned silence.

We are all worthy of the task and responsible to undertake it. And it doesn’t require doing it in his name, or any other leader’s or prophet’s name. We do it for ourselves and for our neighbors, for those we know intimately, and those we’ve never met and never will. And we do it for the four-leggeds, winged, and finned, and the life rooted firmly to the ground in a forest far away from where we might personally visit. This is my hope for this Good Friday.

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