Turn Aside and Look: Eastering Up

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There is a fragrance in the air,
a certain passage of a song,
an old photograph falling out from the pages of a book,
the sound of somebody’s voice in the hall
that makes your heart leap and fills your eyes with tears.

Who can say when or how it will be
that something easters up out of the dimness
to remind us of a time before we were born and after we will die?

God himself does not give answers. He gives himself.
~Frederick Buechner from Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale

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“Let Him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east.”
― Gerard Manley Hopkins

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All changed, changed utterly:   
A terrible beauty is born.
~William Butler Yeats from “Easter, 1916”
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It has been a slow coming of spring this year, seeming in no hurry whatsoever.  Snow remains in the foothills and the greening of the fields has only begun. The flowering plum and cherry trees finally have burst into bloom despite a continued chill.  It feels like winter at night yet the perfumed air of spring now permeates the day. Such extreme variability is disorienting, much like standing blinded in a spotlight in a darkened room.

Yet this is exactly what eastering is like.  It is awakening out of a restless sleep, opening a door to let in fresh air, and the stone that locked us in the dark rolled back.

Overnight all changed, changed utterly.

He is not only risen.  He is given indeed.

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Between Midnight and Dawn: His Flesh and Ours

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Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6: 8-10

 

So what do I believe actually happened that morning on the third day after he died?
…I speak very plainly here…

He got up.  He said, “Don’t be afraid.”

Love is the victor.  Death is not the end.  The end is life.  His life and our lives through him, in him. Existence has greater depths of beauty, mystery, and benediction than the wildest visionary has ever dared to dream.  Christ our Lord has risen.
~Frederick Buechner

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Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall…

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.
~John Updike from “Seven Stanzas at Easter”

 

Since this moment (the resurrection), the universe is no longer what it was;  nature has received another meaning; history is transformed and you and I are no more, and should not be anymore, what we were before.
~Paul Tillich

 

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Our flesh is so weak, so temporary,
as ephemeral as a dew drop on a petal
yet with our earthly vision
it is all we know of ourselves
and it is what we trust knowing
of Him.

He was born as our flesh, from our flesh.
He walked and hungered and thirsted and slept
as our flesh.
He died, His flesh hanging in tatters,
blood spilling freely
breath fading
to nought
speaking Words
our ears can never forget.

And He got up,
to walk and hunger and thirst alongside us
and here on this hill we meet together,
–flesh of His flesh–
here among us He is risen
–flesh of our flesh–
married forever
as the Church:
a fragile, flawed
and everlasting body.

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During this Lenten season, I have drawn inspiration from the new devotional collection edited by Sarah Arthur —Between Midnight and Dawn

Listening to Easter — Hear the Bells Ringing

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Hear the bells ringing
They’re singing that you can be born again
Hear the bells ringing
They’re singing Christ is risen from the dead

The angel up on the tombstone
Said He has risen, just as He said
Quickly now, go tell his disciples
That Jesus Christ is no longer dead

Joy to the world, He has risen, hallelujah
He’s risen, hallelujah
He’s risen, hallelujah

Hear the bells ringing
They’re singing that you can be healed right now
Hear the bells ringing, they’re singing
Christ, He will reveal it now

The angels, they all surround us
And they are ministering Jesus’ power
Quickly now, reach out and receive it
For this could be your glorious hour

Joy to the world, He has risen, hallelujah
He’s risen, hallelujah
He’s risen, hallelujah, hallelujah

The angel up on the tombstone
Said He has risen, just as He said
Quickly now, go tell his disciples
That Jesus Christ is no longer dead

Joy to the world, He has risen, hallelujah
He’s risen, hallelujah
He’s risen, hallelujah
Hallelujah
~Keith Green

a stream of people walking up the hill this morning for Easter Sunrise Service on our farm
a stream of people walking up the hill this morning for Easter Sunrise Service on our farm
Some of the worshippers at our 2014 Easter Sunrise Service on our farm hilltop
Some of the worshippers at our 2014 Easter Sunrise Service on our farm hilltop

“Let Him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east.”
― Gerard Manley Hopkins

Too often, the bright light of Easter morning dims over time
as I return to my daily routine.
In mere days,
the humdrum replaces the extraordinary,
tragedy overcomes festivity,
darkness overwhelms dawn.

The world encourages this,
I don’t muster enough resistance.
I climb right back into the tomb of my sin,
move the huge stone securely back in place,
and lie there waiting for rot to settle in.

I am not alone. I have plenty of company with me behind the stone.

The stone is pushed aside,
the burden shouldered,
the debt completely paid.

How can we allow the light to dim?

He is risen.

We are eastered beyond imagining.

Watering the Sheep

Resurrection Window at Church of the Holy Spirit, New Jersey

 

2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they (the women) were on their way to the tomb 3and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.

Mark 16:2-4

1 Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples. 2 There he saw a well in the open country, with three flocks of sheep lying near it because the flocks were watered from that well. The stone over the mouth of the well was large. 3When all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone away from the well’s mouth and water the sheep. Then they would return the stone to its place over the mouth of the well.
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“Look,” he said, “the sun is still high; it is not time for the flocks to be gathered. Water the sheep and take them back to pasture.”
8 “We can’t,” they replied, “until all the flocks are gathered and the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep.”

Genesis: 29: 1-3, 7-8

15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

John 21: 15-19

Giant stones were used to seal and protect something valuable and precious, whether it be a well in an area with little water, or the dead body of a troublesome crucified prophet who had predicted He would rise three days after death. In the gospels’ description of Easter morning, the rolled away stone is always front stage, representing the overpowering of the natural by the supernatural, the breaking of the Roman seal rendering it futile, the dawning of a new life penetrating the darkness of death forever.

However, it represents something even more–it is the rolling away of the stone, too heavy for one man to move alone, in the Old Testament story of Jacob that allows all the gathered flocks to be watered at once from the well.   On this one day in history, the ultimate Good Shepherd has rolled the stone away so that we shall never again go thirsty, or hungry, shall never again be lost, or without protection.  The darkness of our former life of sin is cast into the light.

Once the stone has been rolled away, the seal of sin is broken and we have no excuses.  The sheep must be cared for.  All sheep.  All flocks.

He said, “Follow me.”

And we shall.

Lenten Reflection–Letting Go


Forgiveness is letting go of a bell rope. If you have ever seen a country church with a bell in the steeple, you will remember that to get the bell ringing you have to tug awhile. Once it has begun to ring, you merely maintain the momentum. As long as you keep pulling, the bell keeps ringing. Forgiveness is letting go of the rope. It is just that simple. But when you do so, the bell keeps ringing. Momentum is still at work. However, if you keep your hands off the rope, the bell will begin to slow and eventually stop.
Corrie Ten Boom

In just two weeks our Chapel family will begin observing Holy Week. Before the Sunrise Resurrection Sunday worship on our farm hilltop followed by a service inside the church and Easter brunch together, we gather for a soup and bread communion supper on Maundy Thursday and a Tenebrae (Shadows) Service on the evening of Good Friday. At the end of the somber Tenebrae service, our steeple church bell tolls, the bell rope pulled repeatedly as we sit within darkness in the sanctuary. This knelling of Christ’s death resonates in our own bodies. It is unmistakeable, hearing the pealing of our guilt and shame reverberating out for all to hear.

When the bell rope is released, the bell continues to ring a few times but then quiets itself. We sit in ensuing silence, aware the debt we could never pay on our own had been paid in full for us. We have been forgiven, the tolling of the bell now ceased, and the toll of our sin reconciled.

God has let go of our debt, freeing us from the shadows where sin had trapped us. We are able to then stand and walk out, redeemed by a flesh and blood God suffering in our place.

In the morning of the third day, we hear Him say our names from the empty tomb. Forgiven, all guilt and shame let go, we rise from our shadows to answer His resonating call.

Chapel Bell Tower