Now What

Mark 16:1-8

“The Resurrection is not a single event, but a loosening of God’s power and light into the earth and history that continues to alter all things, infusing them with the grace and power of God’s own holiness. It is as though a door was opened, and what poured out will never be stopped, and that door cannot be closed.”[i] These beautiful words, penned by Megan McKenna, represent an important understanding of why were here today; why we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ every Easter.

Remember now, resurrection is more than mere resuscitation! It’s about transformation! It’s about having faith in what’s possible even when others are convinced that it’s impossible. Resurrection is about having the courage to love others even when they don’t love you back. It’s about showing compassion even when others are heaping judgment.  A living resurrection is about having the ability to live in peace even when others are being violent and to work for justice even when others are working for wealth. A living resurrection is finally a call to respond with gentleness even when others are reacting with rage. It’s a calling to trust that a life well-lived, even if it’s short-lived as in the case of Christ, is preferable to longevity without virtue.[ii]

This is the on-going resurrection that McKenna espouses.  When she writes that resurrection is an on-going event and that God continues to alter all things in our world today, she’s making the case that God is still-present, still-creating, still-speaking, and, in a very real way, still being resurrected in the world today. Or, as in the words of Pope Francis, “Jesus is the everlasting ‘today’ of God.

But, does this mean everything is perfect? Of course not.  The Peaceful and Just Reign of God isn’t complete yet. But we are being called as individuals to participate in bringing it about.  And we are being challenged as a community of faith to be a part of ushering in this new life, this Peaceful Reign of God, this “new spring” of existence.  But what might that look like in real time?

Well, I wrote an article recently in which I held-up the virtues of the Latin word, “viriditas.” I came across this term while reading a devotion[iii] about Hildegard of Bingen, the medieval Christian mystic, who often referred to this concept in her writings. Now, viriditas is best understood as “the greening of things from the inside out.” Spring, of course, is the first thing that came to my mind when I heard this definition.  I mean, think about butterflies leaving their cocoons, or the sap running in the maple, or the burgeoning leaves, as the chlorophyll begins to push forth from deep within the tree causing the “viriditas” of the leaves. It’s the perfect descriptor.

Viriditas, however, has a deeper theological meaning as well.  All throughout the season of Lent, we’ve been like those dormant trees; frozen, leafless, gray. And it’s during this season, this winter of introspection and hopefully change, that we anticipate the viriditas of Easter. We await once again the spiritual resurrection that follows our metaphorical death. We expectantly look for signs of a new spring as humanity and creation respond to the mystical Divine energy as it’s once again unleashed on the world. And it’s from somewhere deep within our being that this viriditas of the spirit; this resurrection of life; this greening of our on-going faith, emerges. Just like the cycle of the seasons, viriditas reminds us of the cycle of life.  A cycle didn’t end at a fixed point of time 2000 years ago on a cross, or in a tomb, or even with a single resurrection event. “But the loosening of God’s power and light into the earth and history continues to alter all things, infusing them with the grace and power of God’s own holiness.”

“Now, that’s nice and very theological,” you might say, “But Now What?”  “What difference does this concept of ‘greening’ make in the real lives of real people who are really struggling?” Well, consider some of the problems we face as a nation and as a global community. There’s war and terrorism, on-going violence against woman and marginalized communities; violence in general.  We face the horror of unchecked genocide, of extreme nationalism and the underlying racism that fuels it.  Across the globe hopelessness and poverty and hunger plague humanity, and of the ever-intensifying threat of global climate change poses are very real threat to our very existence.  These are the seemingly lifeless branches on our global tree.

But what if these branches aren’t dead? What if instead, they’re simply sleeping? That would mean somewhere deep within the tree of life the chlorophyll is gathering, waiting to push forth the leaves of change; the spirit of resurrection. My friends, God is still-speaking, still active, still living in the world today and God, the Spark of the Divine, the very breath of God, is within all of us, all of humanity and all creation. What does that mean?

It means, that as a community of faith, we are being called to take seriously the challenge of the gospels; to share the love of God, the compassion of the Christ, and the unity of the Spirit with all humanity and all creation. It means we are being invited to be God’s representatives; God’s hands and feet and God’s heart and voice in the world today. Where might this greening of our faith; this viriditas of our being, take us? I don’t know, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to find out?

I would like to leave you today with a poem simply entitled Spring.

God’s fragile mystery of resurrection; yours is the over-flowing beauty of young oaks’ filigreed foliage, of pendant ash flowers and the fiery emergence of poplar leaves in all their wet-eyed wonder. You are nature’s embryo, a silent exaltation of all that is soft, tender and beautiful; a golden effusion of love and heaven, of stillness and freshness, the Spirit’s greening time, when Earth’s rebirth foreshadows our own. Each spring approached with joyful reverence becomes an epidemic of mystery and resurrection; an epidemic to which through God’s grace we shall succumb![iv]

May you have a happy and blessed Easter Day! And my prayer for you is that you may experience and participate in the process of ushering in God’ Reign of Peace, Christ’s resurrection of Love, and the Spirit’s viriditas of Justice for all.  May it be so. Amen.

 [i]  Megan McKenna.  And Morning Came: Scriptures of the Resurrection. (www.ucc.org/samuel) 2018

[ii] Bret Meyers. Easter Encouragement for the Journey. (www.progressivechristianity.org) 2018

[iii] Molly Baskette. Viriditas (www.dailydevotional @ucc.org) 2018

[iv] William L. Wallace. Spring. (www.progressivechristanity.org) 2016

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