My day began with a dear friend tagging me on the above video; I’ll be honest, if this does not bring out both your inner child and your inner G, I don’t know if I want to know you.
I think the depth of Holy Week has just hit me. On Maundy Thursday, First Presbyterian–the congregation I pastor–and the Yellow Springs United Methodist Church, embarked upon our third year of walking the Triduum together, Thursday and Good Friday in body, and Easter Sunday in spirit. From the Agape Meal on Thursday to the Easter postlude Sunday morning, I felt very deeply the emotional journey. The YSUMC pastor and I both received Communion on Maundy Thursday along with members of our congregations, served by two pastors whom we each selected. My friend, a former Catholic priest and a current interfaith pastor, served at my request and it was wonderful to share that together. Good Friday was made incredibly special by the presence of a congregant who had been struggling mightily with his health, but who gathered his spirit to sing a rousing, moving version of “Take My Mother Home.” Easter Sunday, there were quiet moments of deep connection, both with people and with God, as our choir, two guest sopranos, and instrumentalists provided offerings from Vivaldi. There was cacophonous exuberance as we sang “Trees of the Field,” a congregational favorite (except among a vocal few), before moving into the friendship hall. It was a magnificent service.
A deacon and I then brought Communion to a devout Episcopalian who is laid up with a shattered leg. The Eucharist was administered after pizza (my Lenten sacrifice for the past seven years) and soda; the words of institution were sung by Ted Neeley of Jesus Christ Superstar fame. And, just in case you don’t know, he’s my friend. Yeah. He is. And not just in my head (anymore)!
So this Easter was a bit magical. With my piece having appeared in the Yellow Springs New, I really felt like a pastor to the Village, not just a pastor in a church. This, as I’ve written about before, is my ultimate goal. I don’t seek to win converts; I don’t even need to use Christian language to talk about God with people, I just very much appreciate being included in people’s spiritual conversations and deliberations. On Easter I gave Communion to a non-baptized Buddhist, and while I know that this could result in my being brought up on charges according to the Book of Order, I don’t care. It is not because I am looking to disrespect the tradition that I am in, it is just that I believe God has placed me in this position to be a pastor who can function both within the reasonable bounds of Presbyterianism and the parameters of a unique place like Yellow Springs. This person wanted Communion. Who am I, who is anybody to deny a child of God the sacrament. She was moved to come to the table, and I respected that by doing what I have been trained to do, administer the sacrament. There are people I know to be atheists in the pews, and I feel no less close to or spiritually responsible for them than I do for the more devout members of the congregation. Jesus did not give tests to somehow determine the worthiness of someone to have his time. Jesus just showed up and loved people. That’s what I am trying to do.
So God has been pretty amazing to me this week. I am now involved, in some way, with three different individuals who are incarcerated. The happenstance for each is different, but also private. With permission I write about my close relationship with Michael, but I don’t share details, of course. It’ll be the same with any others. But this is not a ministry I chose; it is one that has happened upon me, but has come to be very important to my sense of who I am as a pastor. Similarly, I currently have several, in-depth conversations going on through IM that range from theological inquiries to pastoral care. I feel like my Facebook page is a safe place for a wide variety of people to come together, talk about ideas, share concerns, post articles, and share a frighteningly deep love of Star Wars.
The first time I ever heard Wendell Berry’s famous poem “Manifesto” was when my brilliant pastor, Rev. Dr. Mike Castle used it in the Easter sermon that marked my dedication to being a Christian and, eventually, a pastor. And the line that Pastor Mike kept returning to was “practice resurrection.” An idea that, if you allow it, will infuse you with all the purpose you’ll ever need. Because that is what it boils down to. Not ascribing to resurrection. Not debating whether it is literal or metaphorical. It comes down to doing it. Getting it wrong. Perfecting one aspect before moving on to another. Being surprised about how resurrection can change your life. Your breath. You very way of thinking.
And if this doesn’t make sense, good. Perhaps it is a koan for you. Perhaps resurrection is not something you think of as practicing. Perhaps you need to first find a place where you can allow yourself to fail. Perhaps you need to see how resurrection is already suffusing one area of your life.
Because resurrection is the basis of Christian life. And I don’t mean Jesus’ resurrection. I mean, I do. But probably not the way that you’re thinking of it. Resurrection is seventy times seventy chances to be forgiven. Resurrection is allowing someone to see you, and being seen. Resurrection is that which allows us to say no to others in order to say yes to ourselves, and in so doing saying yes to God.
So in this Eastertide, I am grateful for resurrection. Even if it happens on the internet.