Renewal: Easter and Spring

I had a friend once, a passionate Christian who called me each Easter morning to declare, “The stone is rolled away and the tomb is empty. Hallelujah!” There were times I envied her certainty. And I honor today those who celebrate such Easters, for in a liberal church, with a living tradition, we are all entitled to our paths to the holy and the worthy.

It’s been a very long time since I was a Christian. The theology of someone dying for my sins, someone already a god and so already immortal, did not make logical sense to me. Even the theology of Jesus in solidarity with the vulnerable and the oppressed, tormented at the hands of rulers of a dominating empire, that was not satisfying.

I never could understand how Jesus’ resurrection might apply to how I should go about living my life, doing the work of justice.

And resurrection from the dead never seemed to meld very well with the re-emergence of spring—plants are not dead and then come back to life. They were never dead in the first place. An earth based theology has us connected to dormancy and emergence, sleep and rest and fallow times which then yield forth new abundance. But first there is always the rest, that is essential. Flowers and leaves are only part of a plant’s life. The roots are always there doing the underground work, in soil and stone, of feeding, even when all is cold and quiet above. Water nurturing the silent endurance. Water in the earth, water in our bodies connecting us all, knitting us together with all.

And it is a matter of renewal, making new again, that is really the metaphor of spring. What was cold and dry and dusty is ripe and green and juicy again. Now when I considered applying last spring to your interim ministry position, some of your documents said that you wanted to resume a path of renewal. And I wondered what that might be. I knew you had endured the pandemic like every other institution in the world. And then a beloved minister departed, earlier than you might have expected, yet not so unusual. So, though it is your loss, you are not alone in the loss and grief which scoured us all. Though you endured, you suffered. In language that not all of you appreciated, you had “no money and no people and no minister.” In some senses that was true. Still, something had to happen.

Something needed to rise up out of the stony ground.

But you were not and you are not rising from the dead by any means. Oh, there has been quite a bit of consternation in the congregation. Much more conflict than most wanted. Some of you know what I am talking about. Some of you don’t know. Some of you don’t want to know. I understand. It is sometimes easier to go along as if everything is just fine. I understand if you want UCM to be a place of respite from conflict and consternation in other parts of your life.

The conflict among us at this time, however, is a natural part of the interim process, new shoots pushing up out of the ends of old wood and up through compacted soil. It is a time when a people look around and wonder how things get done and why they are worth doing. It is a time to ask who has authority to make decisions and why. It is a time to remember that staff is hired to take on specific responsibilities, how good, faithful work doesn’t make everyone happy but it does maintain part of the liveliness of the congregation. It is a time to remember how we agree, how we covenant to speak to each other, to abide with each other, to respect one another as part of a community with a religious calling. This is hardly an easy process, but it is a necessary one, one you rightly invited. Now, feeling uncomfortable sometimes means some folk want to try to stop the momentum, but time moves in one direction for us.

You can’t shove the djinn back in the bottle. The stone is rolled away, and there is no dead body to find.

So, let’s go back to “no people no money no minister.” Well, you are the people. You have money and the means of bringing in money—maybe not as much as you want, but isn’t that always the case. And you have a minister. And I am here to support your renewal, your moving into the next phase of your life as the Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga. We all need to be resurrected into hope, faith, and trust, into peace and its many blessings. We need to be resurrected into justice, courage, and connection. We need to be resurrected into generosity, compassion, and open-heartedness, into healing and love. Today, may we be resurrected.

Hail the Spring in all her green glory! The sleeping seeds awaken, the sap rises. Everything is renewed. Within us and around us, new life is blossoming; within us and around us, the promise of spring has come. Yes, let’s actively seek renewal. Let’s get our hands a little dirty in the pursuit of right relations with each other and the larger world. Let’s embrace the difficult and worthy work of building a community that operates differently, operates by principles and values rather than by extraction, domination, and demonizing. Let’s build our community in concert with the earth and its ways.

Oh, earth, forgive us and accept the seeds of our good intentions.

Thank you and accept this water of our sweat and tears, signs of our effort. Embrace our effort, filter and trickle it into streams, finally reaching the sea, only to continue, as the cycle of water moves the journey into the air and upward toward our sun. Oh, brilliant, giant sun, shine down on our little earth, upon our heart-felt effort as we honor acts of renewal. Yes, let’s really get our hands a little dirty, allowing the good microbes to energize our endorphins. We can plant and give a medium of living to these seeds, receive the goodness and return it. And if you can’t take the plant with you, give it to someone. Giving and receiving, by this we continue living. May it ever be so.


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