The other day I found a few bulbs that were left over from the children’s bulb planting project in early Lent. I had soaked the bulbs for a day or so several weeks ago to make sure that they had enough moisture to properly sprout, but they had not been touched since. To my great surprise and wonder, they had sprouted.
The bulb is a symbol of Easter. What appears dry and lifeless holds the potential for growth. Those bulbs sprouting without being watered and without soil said to me that the force of life will not be stopped by what we think is necessary for life to emerge.
The bulbs had sat in the meeting room that housed AA and Ala-Non Meetings, Sunday School, The 49’ers Choir rehersals – just to name a few of the groups that gathered in that time period. AA and Al-Anon are groups that help each other to come out of the tombs of additction and co-dependence and find new life. The 49’ers bring life with their energy, exuberance and the gifts of friendship and song. Our Sunday School children are filled with life as they grow in faith and experience a loving God.
God’s creating and re-creating power is all around us. This is the Life-force of Easter, the force that “broke the bonds of death” as the early church described it; and that brings us from our dying places into times of rising again.
My friend’s daughter has a fear of monsters in her room at night. Finally, after a bad night, she said to her daughter “You know, God’s love is stronger than monsters.” The daughter replied, looking incredulous “It is?” Her mom said” Yes, it is the strongest thing in the whole wide world.”
This mom proceeded to ask the 7 year old what she could do to remind herself of this in case she woke up and was scared again. The little girl decided that she would draw two strong arms, with flexed muscles, and a heart.
At church on Sunday, I talked to the children about Holy Week and Jesus death on the cross. He was killed because he broke the rules and the people in charge were not happy with that. He died, but his love did not die. It just got stronger and stronger.
This is the paradox of Good Friday and Easter. The monsters of betrayal and fear of change; the mob mentality that went from welcoming a messiah to crying out “crucify him”; these creatures of the power of death tracked Jesus through the last week of his life to the cross. In the end, it was the strong arms of life-giving love that rolled away the stone from the tomb and the stones of fear from the disciple’s hearts.
We each have our monsters. They may be imaginary, they may be real. Abuse, addictions, worry, debt, poverty, greed, are just a few. Monster doses of radio-active fall out are leaking from the nuclear reactor in Japan. This contamination is making its way around the planet. It is rumoured that Japanese government officials are more concerned about keeping people calm than telling the truth about the high levels of radiation being emitted from the plant.
Let us pray for wisdom and courage for the leaders and scientists who are trying to end the nightmare at Fukishima.
May the strong arms of divine love give you courage to face your fears.
Helena Guergis, Conservative candidate for the riding of Simcoe-Grey, held a press conference yesterday in which she released the RCPM’s final conclusions in their investigation about her alleged involvement with drugs, prostitution and fraud that got her removed from the Tory Caucus in 2010. The investigation clears her of any involvement, and also reveals that the allegations were made by a Toronto private investigator without any evidence.
What most impressed me was not her black turtleneck, silver cross and the photo op with her baby, but her refusal to engage in mudslinging against Stephen Harper. Basically she said that she was holding the press conference to be accountable to her constituency who wondered what had happened. She also pointed out the flaws in the system that allowed one person to make allegations that cost her her reputation. If it happened to her, it could happen to anyone. ( see CBC.ca website for actual statement)
We will never know what the whole truth of the matter is. Politics is a dirty game. What I do applaud is that she took the moral high ground in not giving back to Mr. Harper what she got. In the interview she did not give the reporters sensational lines.
Helena is riding to her personal Jerusalem. Whether she wins her seat back or not, I believe that she is facing the powers of death head on by standing up for herself. What powers of death am I talking about? The power of rumour and malicious gossip; smearing another’s life in the media; of judged guilty before being proved innocent. We know that malicious gossip, and judged guilty before being proved innocent happens every day. Just look at the tabloids. Just look at the bible.
She is riding to her Jerusalem.
Last night my daughter and I rode to a local playground. I was on my bicycle and she on her scooter. As I rode along the dusty street, I was delighted to see that the snow was almost gone from many of the yards. Patches of ice still lingered here and there on the sidewalk where residents had not shoveled, or in the shadowed areas where the sunlight had not been able to penetrate.
What really caught my eye were our shadows. We were riding east, and so the setting sun on my back cast a very long and thin shadow. It got me thinking about the shadow of the cross.
It is a few days before Palm Sunday. This is the day in which the gospels tell us that Jesus rode into Jerusalem in a deliberate act of resistance against the powers of death. It was a kind of street theatre, a flash mob of sorts, but not orchestrated.
It was a kind of spontaneous parade in my mind’s eye. One of those instant “maybe it’s a mob and maybe it’s a demonstration” Middle-East kind of things that we have seen happening on TV these past few months as people protest against repressive governments. It’s a “maybe he’s our Messiah and maybe not but let’s show those **** Romans that they do not have total control and we want our freedom.”
And from Golgotha, from the hill where Rome punished thieves and criminals; that hill from which Rome exerted its authority with public torture and brutality; the shadow of the cross cuts across Jesus path.
The sun’s rays are brutal in Jerusalem. Women cover up in the Middle East for more than religious reasons. The sun beats against the dry earth.
The “Holy Land” is a violent, repressive place in which people struggle for freedom. It is also a place of deep joy, of promise, and of life lived in the midst of the shadow of death.
In 2004 I spent a few months there as a part of a peacemaking program called the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program for Palestine and Israel. I learned about the numbing, rage producing, conflict creating power of violence on people’s psyche and their lives. I also witnessed the power of boundary breaking, risk taking, life affirming intentional acts of non-violence in the struggle for peace and freedom between Palestinians and Israeli’s; and within each of those communities themselves.
I believe that one of Jesus’ life-gifts to us was the power of intentional non-violent resistance as he saw his ministry through to the end.
The cross cast a long shadow on Jesus’ life path that Palm Sunday, and it casts a long shadow ours.
Will we join the resistance and struggle for freedom from the powers of death and oppression? Will we make space for the Divine power of life-giving, risk-taking, freeing love in our lives?
Where is the cross casting its long shadow in your life or in the world? How does it make you feel? What is your response?
Wednesday April 13, 2011
Rev. Laura Sundberg has
been in ministry at St James for the past 12 years. This is my first blog. Let
me know if you find this remotely interesting or inspiring, it is a two way
conversation as we meet the Holy.