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Susan Ito trying to do it all: reading writing mothering spousing daughtering working living

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Practicing Resurrection

I decided not to go to church today. I was looking for something that I knew I wouldn't find: the wise and comforting words of two ministers who left our church years ago. A husband and wife team, Rob & Janne Eller-Isaacs, left California for Minnesota in 2000, and church has not been the same for me. I loved them for their intelligence and their humanity, and the way they never failed to use poetry or literature in their sermons. My favorite sermons were their Easter sermons; they spoke to me in a way that broke me down and lifted me up. I always wept, and came away feeling eager for life. I knew that if I went to my Oakland church, they would not be there, and I was afraid of feeling disappointed.

So I googled their classic Easter sermon, "Practicing Resurrection," and lo and behold, there it was. Sometimes I am so awed and grateful for technology. I didn't need to go anywhere today. I sat on my bed with my wet, just-showered hair, and wept with happiness to read these words. Many Easters ago, I was a sad and broken person. Rob and Janne said these words, or something like them, from a borrowed pulpit in downtown Oakland, and I have never been so rapt or so transformed by anything I've ever heard in a church. Reading them again, it made me realize that I've come a long way from that broken place. I'm grateful, and I'm glad.

Thank you Rob and Janne. Your words echo with me on this gray and drizzly Easter.

Without death, without an awareness of the brokenness and dark, lonely places in life, there can be no full or deeper appreciation of the deeper message of this season. Those of us who have known the dark, lonely places know that life will assert itself again, as it always does. You might think this holiday is just about bunnies and chocolate eggs. But for those of us who have known pain and suffering there is a deeper and more powerful significance to these days.

Most every religion has a story about resurrection. When most of us think about resurrection, we think about the resurrection of Jesus. But resurrection occurs all around us all year long. It is occurring outside as we sit together. Something died this winter. As the cycle of life moves us forward, we let another year go by. As it passed, we let go of all the unfulfilled dreams and promises that we had imagined at the beginning. Gone forever are the chances you didn't take, the old possibilities you wouldn't try, the new leaves you didn't turn over, and the dozens of ways large and small that you stayed smaller when you should have become larger. But those have died with the dying of the cold, harsh winter. Dreams spring eternal; so we get up try again.

Resurrection comes in many guises, in the shape of relationships revived and renewed, of exploring neglected talents, of pursuing interests that long lay dormant, of finding new strength and possibilities in your own life. For others, it comes when courage touches your heart and hope reaches your soul; when you engage the world as a challenge and opportunity, when you are realistic about your capacities and capability and you let humor into your far too serious life. Resurrection is about saying no to self-imposed limits and yes to seeing the abundant simple beauty in this one, sweet life.

Thomas Wolfe wrote in You Can't Go Home Again: "Pain and death will always be the same. But under the pavements, trembling like a cry, under the waste of time, under the hoof of the best above the broken bones of cities, there will be something growing like a flower, something bursting from the earth again, forever deathless, faithful, coming into life again like April." (okay, at this point, sitting in the church, I would be totally bawling)

I'm talking about resurrection of your heart in the midst of pain, of your spirit in the midst of despair and deception, of your soul in the midst of loneliness and confusion. I'm talking about the daily miracles of hope without which we would not live, but only survive.

So when you see the signs of spring and Easter again today, remember that they are but reminders of the flower growing up through the cement and that life really is more powerful than death. And that if we open our eyes to the signs of life, we will see that they are everywhere around us.

Remember that your will to live is more powerful than death and that you practice resurrection throughout your life. Practice it today.


Blogger melanie said...

That's wonderful; it's what sermons at church should be. And that's cool they used text other than the Bible. Thank you for sharing.

ps. I didn't go to church, either. I thought about walking to this one by my house, down the street, but I kind of did a long lazy Easter Sunday as well.

Sunday, April 16, 2006 2:46:00 PM

Blogger Bustopher Jones said...

Thanks for that, Susan.

Sunday, April 16, 2006 8:36:00 PM

Blogger Scribbling Mama said...

After Katrina, it took me a long time to realize the essense of this sermon. Spring down here is not what it is in the North, where I grew up. You don't really get that feeling of renewal and rebirth after the long hibernation. But this year, it's different. We are eagerly watching the trees bud, hoping the trees that looked dead after the flood will come back to life. And if flowers can shoot up through the sidewalk, then let's hope New Orleans can spring back to life after months of governmental mismanagement and neglect.

Friday, April 21, 2006 12:28:00 PM


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