Resurrection takes place at Ground Zero. . .
I saw a cartoon some time ago that shows two cows standing on their hind legs and each of them is holding a very festive looking Easter basket full of colored eggs and jellybeans and various foil wrapped chocolates, and one of the cows, chewing a huge clump of something, says to the other cow,
DON’T EAT THE GRASS. . . IT’S PLASTIC!
We seem to worry more about a plastic Christmas than we do a plastic Easter. I haven’t checked this out with local law enforcement officials, but I lived in the Sierra Foothills for twenty-two years, and I’m pretty certain that it was at least a misdemeanor there to own an artificial Christmas Tree.
Also, every year somewhere around the first of November, you can hear people everywhere lamenting how Christmas has become so commercial and that we’ve lost the Reason for the Season.
But I believe it’s very possible to have a plastic Easter as well. It’s very easy to lose a big part of what this day can mean for us.
I think we distort the message of Easter; I think we make Easter a bit plastic whenever we reduce this day to the celebration of a single event that proves once and for all that there really is an “afterlife” – when we see the Resurrection only as a kind of staircase to heaven when we finally buy the farm… kick the bucket… or breathe our last.
Jesus saw so much promise in THIS life…. all of his teachings held lessons about how to live THIS life…. Jesus’ whole purpose seemed to be wrapped up in his utter determination to bring God into the presence of people living out THIS life.
All of this makes it very hard for me to believe that the crowning event for Christ, the Resurrection on that first Easter, didn’t have everything to do with THIS life, OUR life right here in the present moment.
In the Gospel, we were told that the very first thing that the Resurrected Christ did upon rising was to go back to Galilee; he went home.
The angel, sitting upon that huge rock that once blocked the entrance to the tomb, said without hesitation, He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him. He went back home, back to the familiar places of his life.
If you want to see Jesus, you must go home; you have to find him right in your own backyard. He doesn’t hang out with Angels and other celestial beings. . . he hangs out with the likes of you and me.
The reason it is so important to make clear that Resurrection isn’t something that only awaits us far down the road, is because death isn’t far down the road either. “Breathing your last” isn’t the only death there is. Death isn’t just about termination of biological function at a time we hope is distant. We experience death all the time, right in the middle of our living, but you already knew that didn’t you? You’ve already lost a loved one, you’ve witnessed fractured relationships, unwanted separations, unwarranted and irrational hatred and bitterness, a positive biopsy, personal pain of all sorts and conditions.
I think it was Woody Allen who said, I don’t mind death so much, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.
But we are there when it happens aren’t we? – All the time. . . every time. When Jesus stepped forth from that dark tomb and headed home, we were given an eternal reminder that God has literally built Resurrection into all of creation.
Have you heard about St. Paul’s Episcopal Chapel? It is the oldest building in continuous use in Manhattan. It was completed in 1766, and it was where George Washington said his prayers after he was inaugurated.
St. Paul’s Chapel just happens to be located directly across the street from Ground Zero where the Twin Towers once stood. When those towers collapsed on that dark day, the little building called St. Paul’s managed to survive. Not a single stained-glass window was broken.
Fr. Daniel Matthews, Rector of both Trinity Parish, Wall Street and the little chapel, tells the story about how, when the nation was called to a day of prayer, he called the engineers who take care of their buildings and asked them if they could ring the bells at St. Paul’s at noon.
The engineer on the other end, whose name was Mike Borrero said, Fr. Matthews, I’m sorry, we can’t possibly do that. You can’t imagine what it’s like down here. We just can’t do it.
About an hour later, he called back and said, Guess what? We got in the church. Crawling up the wooden bell tower, I saw an iron bar. I picked it up and crawled to that bell, and beat on the bell 12 times, while Jim held the flashlight so I could see.
When I got back down, they told me that all the police officers and firemen, and all the volunteers heard the bell, and when they did, they took their hats off and stood in silence, as if to say, The Lord God reigns, even in this hell.
Ground Zero can represent a lot of places in our lives. I’ve had my darker moments in life. . . my moments of death, how about you? Looking back, I can say this for sure, there were those times when I went it alone, relying on my own prowess to bring back the light in my life. There were times when I chose to remember to practice what I preach, and to even say out loud to myself, The Resurrection is Real!
THOSE were the times when the dawn came much faster for me, and with much more brilliance.
I’ll never forget the Peanuts comic strip where Lucy is in the outfield ready to catch a fly ball. As it was coming toward her, she almost had her glove on the ball, but then she began to remember all the times she missed the ball. . . and she dropped it.
She says to Charlie Brown, I almost had it, but then my past got in my eyes.
All of us have some past in our eyes, but Easter means we always have a future. . . there is no checkmate. . . there is always one more move.
Whenever we are in the middle of one of those ground zeromoments, we need to listen for the bell. We need to rub the past out of our eyes just long enough to look around for that angel that sits on the rock, who proclaims to us with such certainty:
He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to all your familiar places; there you will see him.
ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN!
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