Easter as an everyday experience has a great deal to make it appealing to me. Principally, I think that one of the fundamental qualities of our faith is the development of relationships. I would suggest that this is true of all faiths that point to the ancient Jewish faith as a part of their origin and use what the Protestant Christians call the Old Testament as a major resource in their faith. In the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, God instructs us to love our neighbor and to take in the stranger. A much greater emphasis is placed on taking in the stranger if the simple number of times that we are told to take them in counts. We are most likely to find God in the acts or words of the stranger. In both relationships, that of self to stranger or to neighbor, we realize a variety of things. Often we discover God’s blessing or desires when we take in the stranger. When we concentrate on loving our neighbor, we realize our selves and others. In both types of relationships, there are discoveries made which important to us.
Easter is an everyday experience for those who need a personal relationship with another, which is all of us, for we are social animals. Relationships establish our place within community. They give us a sense of belonging and an identity. We know we are somebody because we are valued as a part of the whole. We live into our community when we become accountable to each other. Relationship establishes our accountability as a part of the present community. Resurrection is the light which enables us to see one another more clearly in the here and now. Any offer of eternal life is God’s offer; something that may be hoped for but nor realized in this life time. Bishop Charleston’s view of Easter and the Resurrection certainly offers us a great deal to think about. I for one am grateful for this offering. It gives me a broader and more hopeful way of thinking about this event in our lives.
I am aware that this past Sunday was Pentecost, but I think that it is important to spend some time discussing Bishop Charleston’s understanding of Easter and resurrection before we go much farther along. My discussion is based on Charleston’s book The Four Vision Quests of Jesus. Bishop Charleston is a Native American who spent years looking for the connection between his Native faith and Christianity. His understanding of Easter, the heart of the Christian faith, is that it is an everyday affair in which we form personal relationships that free us from violence and establish freedom and love for each other. Resurrection opens our vision so that we see each other more clearly in our everyday relationships. Something that the day of Pentecost brings home for we are divided by our differing languages.
We think of God as the great transformer, but in what ways do we transform ourselves and our world? Is God the only force of transformation in our lives? I have asked for my life to change and then waited and waited. It finally dawned on me that nothing was going to happen until I did something. We may say that God brings about change in the world or the church or the family or a person. But it is not until we are joint change agents that something is going to happen. Once we decide on a course of personal or communal action, we have a supporting agent in our actions. We can not leave all actions of change up to God.
Yesterday, I listened to a group of graduating students talk about their school experiences. They were sure about their participation in group activities that affirmed them including their life at Saint Peter’s. What happens to those students who are not lucky enough to find groups of people at school or church? I recall that one of the students talked about how important crying was. This person was silently supported by at least four others, not all of them from the same school. Tears release the tension caused by frustration, anger, disappointment, and inability to understand. Tears are not normally accepted in our society, especially for males. Yet there are times these students seemed to be saying when they are very important. I suspect that they were supported by at least one or two groups to provide the release of tension that was advised. I raise this issue because of the increasing student violence in our nation. The perpetrators appear to be students who have no groups to support them. They are isolated, loners who are filled with anger to point of rage and express a state of hopelessness; a great contrast from the students we heard on Mothers’ Day. The Bishop-Elect of Colorado said in an e-mail after the recent shootings in Colorado: “It is the call of the Church to be communities of hope…hope in Love and the gift of life. I pray that our communities of faith will have to courage to address not only the pain within their congregations, and also the communities outside their doors…” I share this hope and the hope that, with God’s grace, we will have the wisdom and strength to address the vulnerable both within and outside our community who need to know hope.