Easter Week Reflections

Posted: 12 April 2012 in Faith and Life

Warning: Christian Theological Stuff Ahead.  Not for All Tastes.

Reflection 1: What if we really DO live in “The Matrix?”

I sat there with the others, singing the songs, hearing the scripture, taking in the sermon and then taking part in the Eucharist.  It was all the same but something we sang or that someone said brought me up short.  Sort of made me choke.  I thought I might cry.  The story was the story of a people–us, all of us–who have lived our whole lives in a world that is not the world for which we were “made.”

Maybe it came to me in a statement that said that the Cross was God’s way of making things right.  Of bringing about the reconciliation of all of the created order.  Of making everything whole.  Of defeating the distorting powers of our own quest for autonomy (more on this below).  It came to me that if this was true (and if the full force of what happened on the Cross and days later in the tomb had not yet been finally realized), then none of us gathered in that place had ever experienced the world the way it was meant to be.

At best we were living out our alienation with small glimpses of what things could be (will be?) like.  At worst we were living in a distorted reality from which we had no power of our own to escape.  Like Neo–did we feel such pain all the time because we had never used our muscles (our being) in the way they (it) were intended to be used?

Was the Cross–as the minister said–the hinge on which history turned?  Was it the “pill” that offered us the chance to wake up and see the world as it really is so we could get about living into the reality of what it was supposed to be?

Reflection 2. The Price of Autonomy

My mind has drifted to C.S. Lewis’ short novel The Great Divorce. It is the story of a bus trip from the outskirts of hell to heaven (a very Platonic kind of heaven).  In the book hell is an enormous town–but it is empty.  All its occupants have packed up and headed out to destinations unknown–away, always further away.  Always more deeply alone.

I have lived the autonomous life.  Made my way through to the success that can come (only) by leaving behind the strictures of a small minded hometown.  I have found a way to talk about community while never actually submitting to it.  I have learned to value my family while always reserving the right to keep it at arms length if it was “cramping my style.”  I have never submitted to the divine in any practical way (though I have kept God nearby to help out in times of need).

Easter is the story (at least partly) about people in hell being led out of that place. I never understood what that meant.  Then I thought of Jesus seeking out those who had moved so far away from the outskirts of hell that it would take light years for them to return to town (as Lewis portrays the distances involved).  I thought of Jesus taking the time to come to people when they had become thoroughly aware of what their quest for autonomy had wrought in them.  I thought of Jesus making that trip to welcome me back into relationship now that I had drunk the dregs of my choice to be free.

I am tired of the imprisonment of my autonomy.  Easter is the door of my freedom-jail flung open.

Reflection 3. The Sociology of the Cross

Why did Jesus die? How do Palm Sunday’s “hosannas” (save us), turn into mob-screamed demands to “crucify him?”  How can that all fit so nicely into one week?

Fear.

Organized, incited, created out of whole cloth.

When I was little (and not so little), I was taught that Jesus had to die because God demanded it. In that telling, neither those nasty Jewish leaders, the duplicitous Herod nor the hapless Pilate had any real choice in what they did.  They were all bad people of course (not saved like us) but they did what they did because God had ordained it so. Later (much later) I wondered at these cardboard cut-out figures who stood in to play the bit parts in God’s big plan of salvation. Why did God need them at all (except to make a better story).

Later still I realized something about power and now I know that Jesus died because a whole lot of people were afraid about what might happen if someone did not stop this guy.  Kind of funny actually because he had pretty much made it clear that he was not going to fight this thing AND his “army” was a bunch of peasant fisherfolk and some other statistical outliers in the broader scheme of “important people”.

But the things he did and said alarmed the leaders who were intent on holding onto whatever scrap of power they so tenuously held in their grasp.  They were afraid, and fear makes fear and they played the fear card and got to keep what they wanted (see autonomy above).

They drew images of mushroom clouds, and weapons of mass destruction and deadly terrorists under every rock… Oh wait, that was much later.  Same bullshit though.  Same fear mongering.

And like us, the people then bought into the fear and sought refuge in the protective arms of the nation (Jewish, Roman, American, whatever).  Fear sent an innocent man to die.  The nation played its hand and showed its true desire–to be God to these folks–and executed the only good man.

Reflection 4. That Damned Resurrection

I can’t get past this one.  There is no way around it.  This thing cannot be discussed in rational terms.  If I say I actually believe this happened in time and place–I mean really happened–then I am as nuts as, oh, I don’t know, Rick Santorum or those tea baggers or other whacko fundamentalists out there.

I don’t want to be them.  I want to be the reasonable, oh so cool, cigarette in hand, good fitting blazer, Steve Jobs brilliant, dispenser of wisdom to adoring undergrads, PhD, globetrotter who everyone nods and says “Oh have you met ____?  He is so awesome!”

You get the picture. But I can’t be that. Because at the end of the day I choose to believe that this “hinge of history” event actually took place. Ah dammit… there I go again claiming my autonomous right to “choose” to believe.  No, I am compelled to believe.

It makes no sense but it makes total sense because this story, this narrative is the only way I can make sense of my lostness and the hope that I find never leaves (though, admittedly it gets buried pretty deep sometimes).  It is the only way I can understand the yearning I have always had.  It is the only way I can describe the conviction that I DO live in “The Matrix.”

And I am not going to waste my time trying to lay out some rational argument about how I know it really happened.  I can’t.  I won’t.

I can only try to live into the logical outcome of the narrative created by that incredible event that changes everything.  I don’t like it because it doesn’t let me be the oh-so-cool-and-rational-person I want to be.  The person who is free.

I am not free.  I will never be free again.  I am a servant to the one who will make all things new and there… is… nothing… I… can… do… about… it.

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