140420 – A New Harmony

Easter Sunday Reflection

As most of you know my father passed away last week and his funeral was just a few days ago, so getting into Good Friday head space was not hard for me this Holy Week. My challenge has been how to move through that and get to Easter morning while I’m still feeling the darkness and the weight of the cross. At Friday morning’s service I reflected on the importance of staying in that space of dying for a while, because until we live the dying we cannot begin to live the new life.

That was a great message for Friday, but now it’s Sunday and we’re all shouting out and singing that ‘Jesus is Risen’ and new life abounds, but I’m just not there yet. Or at least I wasn’t there until I read this quote from Philip Newell who writes beautifully about Celtic spirituality. This really helped me find a way to talk about Easter this year. Here’s the quote:cross-colours

“The risen Jesus shows the disciples the marks of crucifixion in his hands and side. The resurrection story is not about the wounds being undone. It is not about the suffering being smoothed over. The wounds are deeply visible. They are part of the new beginning. They are an inseparable part of the new beginning.

“Jung says that wholeness is about ‘integration…but not perfection.’ It is about bringing into relationship again the many parts of our lives, including our brokenness, in order to experience transformation. It is not about forgetting the wound or pretending that it did not happen. It is about seeking a new beginning that grows inseparably out of the suffering.

“As the Scottish poet Kenneth White writes, this is not ‘any kind of easy harmonization.’ It is not about returning to a simple unspoiled melody. It is about seeking a new harmony that fully recognizes the experience and the depth of our brokenness.”

John Philip Newell, A New Harmony (pp.98-99)

I really like that.

Easter Sunday does not erase what came before and produce a clean slate.

Easter Sunday does not ignore what came before and pretend that it didn’t happen and we’re starting fresh.

Easter Sunday transforms what was – it takes our ‘dying to’ something, which is hard and painful, and transforms it into Something More, something with God more centrally infused, something Sacred.

Jesus is resurrected and appears with his wounds still visible, not Photoshopped away like a supermodel.

Easter is not magic, it’s renewal.

Easter does not forget what was, it transforms it into what will be, into new life.

Easter does not eliminate all our mistakes and our dischord and our out-of-tuneness but rather it takes our mangled melodies and orchestrates a new harmony in us, if we’ll let the Spirit work.

If you’re a musician and you’re performing and you mess up a passage you don’t stop and throw up your hands and quit. You take a deep breath, you acknowledge that your music was imperfect, you let it go, and you move on in a renewed harmony with a renewed sense of purpose.

A new harmony – not an entirely new song, but a renewed and revitalized music that turns the page and with the help of God’s renewing Spirit inspires you to continue to make the music you were meant to make.

I’m grateful that a month or so ago we made the decision to begin today’s service with the choir cantata, not only because it was lovely, but because it reminds us all that we don’t just get to walk in and have an Easter party without living through the whole story, including the hard parts.

We don’t live forever in Good Friday’s darkness, but neither do we live forever on Easter Sunday’s mountaintop. To be honest, most of the time we live in between. Holy Saturday feels the most familiar – we’ve lived through the hard stuff but haven’t quite fully embraced the new harmony yet.

David Giuliano, a former Moderator of the United Church, said this about our Saturday spirituality. He talks about the hope that we lay claim to as we await our own sense of resurrection. He said: “Holy Saturday hope is much more than optimism; it is a choice for tomorrow against the evidence of yesterday.”

A choice for tomorrow against the evidence of yesterday.
That choice is for new harmony, even as the sour notes of yesterday’s music ring in our ears. And that new harmony is what we turn ourselves toward this morning. That new harmony emerges as our stones roll away from our Friday tombs and we embrace the gift of God’s Presence that moves in us and stirs us to resurrection. Like Jesus our wounds are still visible, not forgotten, but they are not the final word, a new harmony resounds, a new day is born.

As we rejoice and celebrate the day that the Holy Mystery we call God wondrously and inexplicably raised Jesus into a new harmony we ourselves are reminded that this promise is also ours for the claiming. It is more than optimism or wishful thinking – resurrection is a choice for tomorrow against the evidence of yesterday.
Resurrection is the song we sing.

Alleluia, Christ is risen! The heavens resound with God’s new harmony!

May God’s new harmony resound in your life too.

Amen.