“I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” -Jesus (gospel from Sunday, April 30th)
“I am the way, the truth and the life.” -also Jesus (Gospel from Sunday, May 7th)
The other day, a friend noticed the tattoo I got a little over a year ago, on my left inner arm. It proclaims, to me, and to anyone who happens to catch a glimpse of it—choose Life. It’s from a passage in Deuteronomy that goes something like, “God put before me two choices… life and death. Choose life, that you might live!”
It struck me deeply this morning that this is what this Easter, and every Easter is all about—choose life! It also struck me as curious that in our common church practices we give a lot of energy to Lent—give something up, make sure you pray, do good things for others, fast. Go into the darkness we are told, to prepare for the light. But then the light comes and we celebrate it big on one day—Easter Sunday—and then kind of forget that Easter continues. We’re good at focusing on the sin, but what about the celebration? What about the continuous outpouring of abundant life? Easter is ongoing! Easter is the reminder of how, in the life of Christ, we are called to live our entire lives—in celebration, in freedom, in great joy, in LIFE. And not just some of us, the special ones or the rich ones or the ones who happen to be playing the game right—ALL of us, especially the smallest, the lost, and the hungry.
This life, this light, this totally inclusive love is radical—especially in a world in so much need of love and life, and in a Church that often forgets to embody the very purpose of Easter. Yet it remains that we, as Christians, are meant to be Easter people—people of ever-expanding life, love and joy.
I remember once at a particularly difficult time in my life, I was struggling with a sense of deep personal failure. Depression was rearing its dark head. I said to a new roommate (that circumstance and struggle had already made a trusted friend)—“What if this despair I feel takes over? What if it becomes me?” He looked at me and simply said, “Impossible. Jesus made that impossible. Despair is never the end of the story.”
Despair, darkness, is never the end of the story. Love, joy, life IS! This is what Easter tells us.
Jesus was giving us a hint of this every time he spoke of the kin-dom of God. He insisted that the Kin-dom of God is here, now, inside of us and among us. It is a place right here and now, a place meant to be lived abundantly. It is the intersection of heaven and earth, of the unity between God and Jesus and US. It resides in the center of our hearts and becomes real in all that we do, in the choices that we make towards life. It takes believing in the full possibility of our humanness, in and through the greatness of God. It’s the ongoing relationship of human and divine, earthly and heavenly beings. It’s a place of justice and goodness, a place within and among all of us where we can ask for what we need and it is given. It is a place where guidance is available, help is on the way, all the time. It is a place where we know, beyond a doubt, we are loved and we are made to love. It is a place where life really is eternal, where those we have “lost” are in constant communion and communication with us all the time, ready to help, ready to love, ready to intercede. It’s the reality that we are never, ever, alone and there is nothing we have to (or can really) do on our own. It is a place of true abundant life—not the abundance of things necessarily, or at least not more than we need—but an abundance of goodness, of possibility, of beauty, of guidance and of joy.
Here’s the thing—it is not some place far away, only accessible ‘after’ we die. God’s time does not work as our time does. It is HERE, NOW, somehow overlaid onto, in and through this reality. All we have to do is see (even want to see!). All we have to do is ask. Maybe we do have to die to get there—but only die to the ideas and beliefs that keep us from this limitless connection. Die to the lie that the culture of death is somehow stronger than the message of life and love that is all around us. Die to the lie that “this is all there is” or the big one in religion that we are “only” sinners, somehow bound to a suffering of our own making. Die to the lie that we have to earn it, or that this life is a worthiness game. I believe Jesus already destroyed all that, leaving us with this truth: we swim in the waters of resurrection! We truly are Easter people. We are made for rising, for LIFE, for incredibly great joy.
This, truly, is cause for celebration. Not just for a day, but for the rest of our lives. Anything that keeps us from this joy, keeps us small, is not of Jesus. Anything that tries to put the expansive love of God in a box or set of rules and keep the ever-present kin-dom of God somewhere far away has forgotten the true Christ, the true meaning of Easter. Easter, the Life of Christ, is about freedom. Joy. Expansive Love. LIFE. Right here and now. For ALL.