I pretended to be a Christian yesterday. I wore semi-clean clothes, put on a bit of eyeliner, and popped into a polyester choir robe for a few hours. As you all know, I love making music in groups, so when my friend Brad, the music director at Macalester Plymouth Church, asked me to help flesh out the Easter Choir, I jumped at the opportunity. I even recruited my dad to sit in with the basses.
Shortly after being confirmed as a member of the United Methodist Church, it occurred to me that I didn’t actually believe most of the Apostles Creed. This was a bit inconvenient, as we recited it with some regularity during services. The Creed basically stuffs all the impossible bits into a paragraph with the words “I believe” in front of it.
Immaculate conception. Virgin birth. Resurrection. Everlasting life.
From the outside, I’m sure we appear to be devout members of Our Lady of the Ice Rink. During the winter, Ace worshipped Sunday mornings in the outdoor venues, primarily Matthews Park, Langford, and Groveland. The Big E and I worshipped primarily at at the West Side Arena. Now, we’re at the Charles Schultz Arena.
The sermons I typically hear are: Work Hard, Play as a Team, and Discipline Matters.
I heard a different sort of sermon yesterday. The minister (a childhood friend of mine – gotta love this small town), began by recounting the events leading up to Easter. Crucifixion always throws me for a loop. I was in medical school when I first fully considered the physical meaning of crucifixion. Whose twisted mind thought this up? You nail someone through their flesh onto a cross. Gravity and the nails provide constant torture. And then you wait. The eventual causes of death are likely a vicious mixture of dehydration, exposure, and renal failure.
Yesterday, the children of Lahore, Pakistan were crucified.
How do we make sense of the senseless? What can we do to prevent further violence? How do we move forward into light and hope?
I don’t know. I don’t know.
My mind wandered during the sermon. Fascism, Brussels, the presidential election, WWII atrocities. No bunnies, no eggs, no unbelievable rebirth.
I loved Easter as a child, the church service in particular. I remember standing in the pew, the grown-ups’ towering height drawing my eye up and up to the dome of the church, the stained glass, the music. Awe. And a moment of belief. Re-creation is possible. The chrysalis hatches. The earthbound worm takes flight.
At the beginning of yesterday’s Easter service, a black shroud covered the cross. I stood at the back of the church, waiting to process down the aisle to “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” As a child, I knew all four verses by heart. A violin played the final piece of the prelude: Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending.” Children from the congregation flitted up and down the aisles, dancing, and at the end, as the doves flew from the sanctuary, the shroud fell from the cross.
The hairs stood up on my arms. I turned to my octogenarian alto buddy, Pat. ”Did you see that?” I whispered. She nodded sagely.
A moment of belief. Re-creation is possible. The chrysalis hatches. The earthbound worm takes flight.
When I set aside all the unbelievables and distill the Easter story into its most potent brew, here’s what I get:
1) Ride donkeys, not warhorses. Humility and peace are stronger than vanity and war.
2) Wash more feet. Build bridges across cultures. Be a love monger.
3) Stand not with the hateful crowd. Have the courage to speak truth, to witness for those who are oppressed.
4) Roll away the stones and come out of your tomb. Hope. Believe.
Re-creation is possible. The chrysalis hatches. The earthbound worm takes flight.