Sunday, April 09, 2023

A memorable Easter

I've been upset with our interim minister lately. She's been pushing us to give up our church building. She says we're "too attached to an edifice," that we spend too much on upkeep,* that the Sunday School is too cramped ... Yadda yadda yadda. I don't care. I love this building. Our congregation has been worshiping on this spot since 1909. It's sacred to me. Besides, she's a short-timer who will move on sometime this spring, when our new full-time minister formally accepts the offer that's been tendered. So just shut up with this "edifice" talk and let me worship where I feel closest to God and community.

I'm being unfair, I know. We were a mess when our previous minister was canned. As a congregation, we were divided about his dismissal. Some thought he was insensitive to church employees and guilty of neglecting the administrative part of his job. Others felt dismissal was too severe a punishment for infractions that had nothing to do with stewardship. Our interim minister did a very good job of calming the waters and bringing us back together as a congregation. 

And she's good on the holidays. Her Christmas Eve sermon resonated with me. It was an unconventional musing about what she'd do if an angel appeared before her. It was warm, funny, and made me feel closer to her because what she imagined she's say to the angel sounded quite a bit like my personal conversations with the God. 

Today, for Easter, she talked about the Resurrection in a highly original way. She began by comparing/contrasting the discrepancies in the Bible. Matthew, Mark, and Luke seem to contradict one another on how many women came to the tomb, to whom Jesus first appeared, etc. She said, and I heartily agree, that these details shouldn't distract from the message: Christ rose. 

Instead, she said, she wondered how the Resurrection felt to Jesus. He'd spent three days away, three days in the realm of the dead. Was He confused upon His return? His wounds hadn't healed -- after all, He let Thomas touch them -- so was He in pain?

Resurrection must have been uncomfortable for Jesus, she reasoned. So we should expect it to be difficult for us when we reinvent ourselves, emerge from a bad patch, come through the rain. The important thing is that we maintain our focus on love and compassion, even as we navigate our new paths. His example is there for us to learn from.

Maybe because it's Easter, but I suddenly feel lighter. I heard the 1982 song "You Are" on the radio today. It was one of "our" songs, popular during the good times in my long, complicated relationship with a tortured man. I avoided this song because when I heard the refrain, "... and I'd do it all again," I felt it was mocking me. In real time, I felt I had no choice but to love that man and once I committed to him I had to stay. If I loved him enough I could heal him and us. My devotion and loyalty were rewarded with cruelty and violence. 

Yet today when I heard "... and I'd do it all again," I didn't feel angry, or rueful, or foolish. I felt like it no longer matters. It was half a lifetime ago. Yes, this relationship changed me, even damaged me. But I came through. I had my personal rebirth today, too, so I can finally forgive him for what he did, and forgive myself for all I accepted and how long I stayed.

It feels good.

*OK, that one's valid.