Mid Week Faith Lift
April 15, 2020
The Freedom of Easter
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
~Viktor E. Frankl
What a powerful statement that is, and what a challenge that is because it asks me to step up and suit up and be all in, totally invested in what life is asking of me. Here I am again, at the computer, on Tuesday, watching the cats play outside my window. Facing once again, my own resistance to what is. I don’t want to be all in…I just want to check out and stay out. I don’t want to write this talk because I don’t know what I can say to you that is at all worthwhile. I don’t know what I can say to myself that is at all worthwhile in the face of all that is. It is that kind of time for all of us. And for me, it is a bit like the original Rocky movie, I keep running up the steps of the Philly art museum hoping this time, I’ll make it! Whew! We are in this for a long haul…not a quick fix!
Every year at Easter, I encounter some version of this struggle because in Unity we really don’t believe that Jesus died for our sins or that he rose from the dead and was re-embodied so that we would know that there is a heaven and eternal life. We don’t believe that our main goal is to get to heaven with Jesus. We don’t teach that, so Easter is something else for us. We don’t believe in a 3-tiered Universe with hell below us, earth where we are now. Then there is heaven above us as place out of this world where there is no suffering. In that model, heaven is a place we aspire to where we will be re-united with our loved ones. Maybe there are some we would rather not see again.
I don’t believe that was the main point of the Jesus story. There is a dimension of life beyond life, a reality that is greater than what we know right here and now, and I believe that was at least a part of what Jesus was trying to teach us. We can glimpse that reality when we truly, truly love one another. He kept emphasizing the power of love to heal and transform us. And his point, over and over again, is that we do have access to that greater reality that is our True Self, right here and now. He was embodying an evolution in consciousness that our human selves have yearned to grasp while not always finding our way to that. His message was to awaken us to the power of our consciousness and how when we are awakened, everything changes for us. Love becomes our first impulse rather than our last resort.
Last week, at the start of Holy Week, the message was about “necessary suffering” and the transformative power of that kind of suffering. We are in a time of collectively leaning into that with courage and tenacity. We are all being asked to suffer, but some are not at a point in consciousness where they can do that, so they inflict pain on others to get rid of their own pain. While that may be our human impulse, it was not the message of Jesus. His message was to awaken, connect to your higher self, your Higher Consciousness and then engage all the human aspects of your life through that higher love.
Jesus recognizes that we are not able to do that, however, and he is grateful when we can “get it.” This is how he says it in Matthew 11:25-27
Jesus Thanks His Father
25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
When you do that, then as Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30
28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
How can this be, especially right now in this time of what seems like endless suffering? We struggle to make it bearable be trying to find a higher purpose and meaning in it. But we do that at great risk of missing the essence of all of it, of missing it completely, just like we as humans really missed the point of the crucifixion/resurrection story of Jesus. It is not about the afterlife, it is about how we live right here and now, on earth in this human/divine journey. How do we roll away the stone of our entombed heart?
While on the one hand, we are brought to our knees because of the necessary suffering which brings us to an awareness that we are not important, and yet Jesus says, “Rejoice because your name is written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). We are important not to ourselves, not self-important, but important to the unfolding of creation that is the ever expanding Universe of which we are a part. We are a part of that expanding consciousness; that consciousness of heaven of which Jesus constantly speaks. We are a part of creating that love energy that is God in expression.
The crucifixion/resurrection story is the story of creation continuously re-creating itself. It is the evolution of consciousness that continues to teach us that we are called to love in spite of the pain, to rejoice even in the midst of suffering. It is the possibility of new life, a new way of showing up in life that is present in every death, in every spring. If we never let go of what is, we will never realize what could be. You cannot make an omelet without breaking an egg. And sometimes the whole carton falls on the floor, causing suffering. And yet we continue to make omelets and seek joy.
Richard Rohr said it this way in his Tuesday, April 7, 2020 meditation:
We need a still point in this twirling world of images and feelings, especially in a time such as ours. If we are tethered at some center point, it is amazing how far out we can fly and not get lost. The True Self, "our name in heaven," is our participation in the great “I Am.” It is what Peter daringly calls the “ability to share the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). This True Self is characterized by contentment, an abiding low-level peace and happiness. Every now and then it even becomes pure joy.
What the crucifixion/resurrection story tells us is that live itself keeps seeking life. It keeps renewing and expanding. When we allow life to live us, to grow us, to expand us, then we find the path through the suffering, the laughter through tears, and the life seeking life that we are. It hurts, it is frustrating, it is confusing and at times makes no sense at all. It is just life, calling us to an ever greater expression of love. We want to make meaning out of it, to see a bigger picture, but often, most often, we have to just keep on living even when that is not available to us right now. People and circumstances are not at all what we want them to be, and yet, as Frankl said, we choose our response, which is our path to freedom. I like to think of it as freedom from dead ends!
Meister Eckhart, a 12th century German mystic talked about life and living this way:
“If anyone went on for a thousand years asking of life: 'Why are you living?' life, if it could answer, would only say, 'I live so that I may live.' That is because life lives out of its own ground and springs from its own source, and so it lives without asking why it is itself living. ”
― Meister Eckhart
And so too, do we, keep loving, keep serving, keep risking, because that is our path to growth and freedom. When Jesus died, his disciples and closest followers were heartbroken and longed to see him again. They had felt a great, great love and it now seemed to be missing. They now had to find that great, deep love within themselves and in each other and that is a scary path because you can get hurt. But the resurrection story is a story of love….of how we love and love and love again, even when we get hurt and we don’t want to. And if we are alive, we have all been hurt, even crucified. And yet we live, because we embody life’s longing for itself.
I want to end today with a poem that Jim Trenberth sent me. It is by Kamilah Sayeed and it goes like this:
Pain is the price of love.
We agree to pay it whenever we
open our hearts.
Every hello comes with the knowledge
that one day there will be a good-bye. Every
first kiss comes with the certainty that
there will one day be a
And yet even though we knew all
love ends in sorrow….even though we
know that price….we pay it.
We pay it again and again and again .
We pay it because it makes life worth living.
We pay it because love….love is always
Blessings on the Path & Happy Easter!