Midweek Faith Lift
August 19, 2020
Station 13- The Resurrection
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
All I can say to begin is that after the storm on Monday, we have all been living a Resurrection kind of experience, glad to be alive and well in the face of such destructive power of nature in 90 mph winds. As our front porch screen door just exploded with the pieces shattered on the floor, my heart rate went way up as Todd and I headed to the basement. I did not want to think of what that wind could do to me were I to be caught standing in the front yard in the face of it. Todd had just gotten home from a walk minutes before all hell broke loose, so to speak. Wow, it came without much warning or time to prepare. It was an epic storm, which we will be talking about for a long time! Right?
And why is that? Well, the truth is this storm put us right up against our own mortality in an intense and immediate way. As I watched it fling about the lawn chairs and wheelbarrow in the back yard and held onto the back screen door, I just stood there in awe as these huge trees bent to the earth but did not break. I was so grateful! I was grateful for our new roof, for not being by myself, for my loved ones and my church family, the new roof at church and on and on. I hopped on the 11:00 AM prayer call to say I was ok and to tell all to stay safe and then I headed to the basement. We texted our neighbors to make sure they were ok and they did the same. And I said the Prayer for Protection several times, like a mantra, as I watched the rain and the wind. I can’t say I really enjoy hurricane force winds, not so much.
But you know, this whole experience put me right in the middle of what this resurrection story as a Cosmic story is really all about. For eons and into the present day, humans have had fear, even terror about death, about their own mortality. One way to cope with that was to build the Great Pyramids as an immortality project for the Pharaoh, which the Egyptians believed, if they did it just right, the rest of the community could “participate vicariously in an afterlife.” It is why the British have long exclaimed “Long live the King or Long live the Queen!”
What the Cosmic story of the Resurrection of Jesus did was to create what psychologist Otto Rank called a “democratized immortality” which made resurrection available to everyone. It offered a release of fear for ordinary humans and was according to Rank “the most revolutionary idea humans have every come up with.” What Rev. Matthew Fox says in this chapter about Station 13, the Resurrection on page 130 is:
To believe in resurrection is to surrender our fear of death and the power that fear holds over us. It follows that one becomes critical of “immortality projects” and instead “lives in order to live” as Meister Eckhart teaches…theologian Thomas Aquinas taught that there are “two resurrections.” The first is waking up in this lifetime, and if you do that, you do not have to worry about the second resurrection.
What does it mean, this waking up in this lifetime so that we can live in order to live? One of the hardest lessons as humans that we have to lean into and take to heart is that of accepting change. It always has been and it still is! And the storm gave us a powerful and intense example of that. Right after it was over, what did we do? Everyone was outside, inspecting the damage, picking up limbs and starting the clean up. We wanted to see what had been damaged and if we could put it right, put it back to normal, a pre-90mph wind storm state. What would we have to repair or replace to return to our life as it was before the storm?
We were living out the difference between resuscitating life as we knew it and a true resurrection experience in the Cosmic sense as Jesus showed us. So what is the difference? Resuscitation is the resumption of an interrupted life. An example is someone who is brought back from a near-drowning who then returns to work, family and social life and resumes all the threads of her life. That is what we were doing when we cleaned up after the storm, perhaps making a mental note to buy a cell phone charger or a portable generator. We were resuscitating our life as we knew it before the storm, waiting for the power to come back on and looking for how to work around the changes, which were temporary.
Resurrection is a qualitative change of being, a translation to another plane of existence. That was the Cosmic message of the Risen Christ. Real, cosmic resurrection puts us right up against the question, “How do I accept change?”
That is a much more challenging, difficult and meaningful question. That is the question that the COVID 19 pandemic keeps giving us, and the Black Lives Matter movement. It is not a question we are particularly willing to engage, not for long as we have seen.
In a way, the relatively short-term impact of the storm was a relief because we could shift to a better story of resuscitation and of helping our neighbors clean up and get back to “normal.” No deep, profound, or deeply meaningful changes needed here! Just get the power back on and get on with life. It is kind of like the person who goes through a divorce without engaging the energy of transformation and then marries someone just like their previous spouse. Or the person who goes through “treatment” for substance abuse but “treatment” doesn’t go through them as we used to say in 12-step programs. I did begin to hear a shift in consciousness, though as the time wore on without the lights and the AC. The new phrase was “I don’t have electricity, but I do have power!”
Resurrection or true transformation requires much more of us than just going through the motions and picking up the pieces. It is a process of awakening and we note it in the stories of the “risen Lord” which is how the gospel writer describe Jesus in resurrection stories. It is like the stories of the Buddha when asked to describe himself after his experience of sitting under the Bodhi tree for so long, his response was to say “I am awake.” This is the Universal or Archetypal experience of Resurrection. I was blind, but now I see! We are waking up and we find our power!
When we awaken, what is it that happens to us? What is it that we see? Well, in 12-step language, we see our character defects, our limited thinking, our “stinkin thinking” that causes so many problems. In the pandemic, we see how significant our connections are to each other and how much a very simple thing, like wearing a mask matters to our collective well-being. In Black Lives Matter, we see our white privilege and how it has impacted the well-being of our black and Latina brothers and sisters. And here’s the thing, once we wake up and we see and hear the truth, we cannot “unsee” and “unheard” it. We cannot unsee the specter of the death of George Floyd as we could not unsee the beating of the 1965 Edmund Pettus Bridge marchers recorded by TV cameras. We cannot un-ring that bell of truth once we are awake and we hear it. Thank God!
Our question is how much a part of Resurrection are we? How unafraid of death? How willing are we to live fully and love fully and to act creatively? Matthew Fox poses these powerful questions to us as part of this exploration of the Cosmic meaning of the Resurrection story. What is true if we live life fully, we no longer live it vicariously on any level. We have the courage, or heart to not let fear take over but to feel the fear and live fully anyway, even in the face of great fear. We saw that for sure in the life of Congressman John R. Lewis. One of my favorite stories about his life is that he loved to dance and his favorite song was “Happy!” which I am sure kept him going.
There is no question that we are going to suffer and eventually die. That being said, what do we want in the meantime? We don’t want to tiptoe through life so that we arrive at death’s door never having really lived, never having really loved, never having experienced true joy. And the message of Jesus was to go forth and live life fully and abundantly. In one of my favorite scripture verses, John 10:10 we read, “I have come that you may have life and have it in abundance.” That abundance will bring all of life with all that it offers, both good and not so good, suffering and joy, peace and unrest…..all of life in abundance. Jesus does not say I have come that you may have only the fun things in abundance. No, because our joy is to experience all of it! The depth of our darkness, our suffering, and sorrow is the measure of the height of our joy, which is the abundance of life.
The crucifixion/resurrection experience of Jesus intensified the Cosmic nature of his message of love and forgiveness. And the new note in his post-resurrection message was to emphasize a Spirit formed”, Spirit-based community. In John 14:12 Jesus says, “ Very truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and in fact, will do greater works than these because I am going to the Father.” We will do greater things than Jesus because we are a part of a deeply interrelated spiritual community and we are connected and empowered by Spirit in all that we do.
With God as our Source, Love as our Power, we will live creative, abundant, expansive lives right here on earth. Unhampered by fear, we will recognize and awaken to white privilege and let go of it so that we can resurrect into a new way of living together for the common and greater good of all. We will live into a world where we each have our good at no one’s expense. We will begin to grasp the Cosmic expansiveness of the Universe and know that we are truly a part of this greater whole. As we lean into the suffering and death of the Pandemic, of our waking up to our capacity for inflicting harm and the deadly impact of hatred, we choose resurrection. And no matter what, we choose it again and again and again.
Blessings on the Path,
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis