Happy Easter! Today is Easter Monday - I am remembering a few years ago when I took Jeff and Julia to the White House Easter Egg Roll. I got up at 5:30 and got the train downtown - I was one of the last in line to get tickets, but I had them in hand by 7:30. I spent the day reading a book by the Reflecting Pool, enjoying the sunshine and flowers, until Jay brought the kids down at about noon. We spent time with the Easter Bunny, played on the White House lawn and came home with our White House eggs. It was a great day!
Yesterday was lovely. A friend and I went to Julia's church - her first Easter service and she did great! Jay was playing bells at our church. Jeff, Vianne and Parker came for our Easter luncheon - Parker in his little Easter shirt and bow tie. Have I told you how CUTE he is?
I've also been remembering my Dad. We always went to church on Christmas Eve, and I almost always made it home, but one year I was working in the ICU on Christmas Eve, and that was one of Dad's favorites. The regular organist and music director was very ill, so there was a retired organist - and I do mean retired - who was filling in. When it was time to sing Joy to the World, she launched into a rousing rendition of Up From the Grave He Arose. Dad laughed about that for years afterward.
I have to tell you the truth about Easter for me, though. I alluded to it in my last post, but I don't really get it. I understand the grief of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, but the joy of Easter? Christ, risen from the dead and death defeated? I'm reminded of a story from the Jack Tales when Jack managed to trick Death into an old sack, and no one could die which created all kinds of misery. Also zombies.
I imagine myself going to the tomb on Easter morning and finding it empty. That would add to the grief - not only have we lost our Rabboni, but now his body is lost too! The angels tell the women not to be afraid and Mary sees a man that she assumes is the gardener. She asks where Jesus' body has been taken, but when the man speaks her name she recognizes Jesus and goes to hug him, but Jesus stops her (John 20:11-17).
I don't know what I would feel if my loved one was suddenly alive. Anger that someone had botched this and pronounced the person dead when he was still alive? Probably. Fear - I saw you dead and how could I have failed you like this? And massive confusion - how could this have happened, and what is going on? I'm just not sure that joy would be the first emotion I would feel.
Knowing what I know about the process of dying (ex-ICU nurse here), I think the people who loved Jesus and took him down from the cross could be pretty sure that he was dead. And if he wasn't, when he revived he wouldn't look like his old, healthy self. Unless something miraculous was going on, which, of course, Christians believe is exactly what was happening.
Anyway, death defeated. OK - I figure when I die there are three choices. Hell - but as I've said before I believe that God's love and mercy are so vast (because God alone knows our secret selves that are buried beneath illness, pain, trauma, and dysfunction) that hell is a pretty sparsely populated place. I believe that God knows that as often as I fall short I am trying to be the person I am called to be, so I don't worry much about going to hell. I hope to go to heaven and be reunited with those I love - including dogs and cats - and be able to spend a lot of time in nature without heat and humidity and biting insects. Also there will be a library where I can look up and find the answers to mysteries like what happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke and who was Jack the Ripper? The third choice is that neither exists and when I die there will be oblivion, in which case I won't know because I will be dead.
I won't know the truth until I get there. What does it mean that death is defeated and we have the promise of eternal life?
That is why Easter is confusing to me - I don't know exactly what I am supposed to be joyful for. It occurred to me that at Christmas we are anticipating and celebrating the birth of a baby, which is something that we have all experienced, whether we are parents, aunts, uncles, friends or siblings. Or pet owners. We know what it is to celebrate a baby. At the other end of the spectrum is death, and while we might celebrate the life of the deceased, we still grieve. And I don't know anyone who knows anyone who knows someone who has risen from the dead - except Jesus - so we don't have a framework for that.
This morning, though, in the Verse and Voice devotions I get each morning from Sojourners, Clarence Jordan wrote this:
The good news of the resurrection of Jesus is not that we shall die and go home to be with him, but that he has risen and comes home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, prisoner brothers with him.
Now this understanding of resurrection is something I can understand and get behind. It isn't that I will be with Jesus when I die, but that Jesus isn't dead and is still here, with me and with you and with all the other people who are suffering, because Jesus knows what it is to suffer (see "crucifixion").
I learned a new word last week: liminal. Liminal means in between, or transitional. A liminal space is the time between what is and what is yet to come. The example I found somewhere was of a school, just at the end of summer vacation. The building - the school - is ready to go so it is, but the kids haven't come, so it isn't yet school. I joke that it is the undefined space between my right brain (creativity) and my left brain (logic), because both are there but neither is as defined as I'd like. I feel like I am just on the cusp of creating something artistic but can't quite make it happen because logic says it is too hot, too expensive, too hard. Sort of like a word on the tip of the tongue.
Holy Saturday as we now understand it is liminal space. On that first Saturday there would have been grief at the loss of Jesus, horror and trauma surrounding the way he died, fear surrounding what would happen to Jesus' friends, and confusion - what was this really all about if he was just a man after all? Those were all real emotions because of course on that day the resurrection hadn't happened yet. Now we know that Holy Saturday - the day between Jesus' death and resurrection, is only part of the story, and not the most important part. The emotions his friends felt would be replaced the next day by joy. We know the joy that is coming but isn't yet on Holy Saturday (with caveats as I have written above).
Liminal space describes the Kingdom of God being now and not yet.
Hallelujah - Jesus is risen! God's kingdom has come and death has been defeated! But then why are so many people still suffering? Because God's kingdom isn't here yet.
I asked my friend Janet, a pastor, about this once, during my time of questioning and doubt (I wrote a little about that here ). It was Christmas, and she said that she saw God in the rows and rows of bicycles that were in a hall somewhere ready to go to underprivileged kids for Christmas. She and her husband had purchased a set of bunk beds for someone who asked for bunk beds. God - not yet in that there are still underprivileged kids, and God - present with us in the generosity of the people who bought the bikes.
I think we need to lean in (what does that phrase even mean, anyway?) to this liminal space. Clearly there is work to do to bring the kin-dom of God to everyone. And I mean everyone - the people of all skin colors, the people of all lands, all languages, all faiths or no faiths, the poor, the sick, the lame, the hungry, the thirsty, the imprisoned, the creature and the human, and the earth. All of God's creation. God's kin-dom won't be here until no one has too much and everyone has enough (and no one screams "Socialism!"). Jesus is in this space.
And God's kin-dom is here already, in the healers, the seekers, the teachers, the givers and the receivers. God's kin-dom is here in the activists and protestors. The truth-tellers - even when we don't want to hear what they have to say. God's kin-dom is here in the women, the people of color, the oppressed - all those that stand up and say, "Enough! I deserve better!" God's kin-dom is here in those who are advocates, the ones who say, "Enough! They deserve better!" and the allies, who cry, "Enough! We deserve better!" Jesus is here, in this space.
The phrase "liminal space" is new to me, but I think I understand. The baby that is conceived but not yet born. The house built but not occupied yet. The garden planted but not sprouted. The season begun according to the calendar but not the weather. God's kin-dom here, but not yet come.
I am a liminal space, too. Born but not yet into my heavenly body. Older but not yet old. Grandmother to one but not yet to others. Christian, but not yet Christ-like. Knowledgeable but not yet knowing. Seeing, but not yet un-blind. Hearing, but not yet understanding.
Jesus is resurrected and is right here. Not dead, not in heaven, right here, where he sits at the right hand of God. Except he isn't really sitting - he is so very busy! Healing, teaching, feeding, watering, gardening, cleaning, exhorting, prophesying. Jesus is right here with us to make things right. Jesus is right here, right now, to bring the kin-dom of God to us on earth, even as Jesus manifests God's kin-dom already here.
In Julia's sermon yesterday, she referenced God's unstoppable love. She said that neither the Pharisees, the Romans, Judas' betrayal, Peter's denial, the cross, or the grave could stop Jesus' unstoppable love. I like that image - nothing can come between us and the love of God:
38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
We are made in the image of God, but not yet complete. We are not separated from the unstoppable love of God, but some of us do not know or feel that love. We are in a liminal space, and Jesus is here, with unstoppable love, whether we know Him or not.
Brown, Julia. "Sermon." Salem UCC, 4 Apr. 2021, Dover, PA. Speech.
Image. "An Empty Tomb." Joy! Digital Christian Portal. https://www.joydigitalmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/an-empty-tomb-713x509.jpg. Accessed 5 Apr. 2021.
Jordan, Clarence. "Voice of the Day." Verse and Voice. Sojourners. 5 Apr. 2021.
“Liminal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liminal. Accessed 5 Apr. 2021.