For the last two years I haven’t posted on social media on Easter. Intentionally.
I went through a season in my Christian walk where I was deeply disturbed by the American tradition of getting dressed in pretty clothes and going to church, and then posting it to social media as a way to honor the most significant part of the Christ story.
A day that symbolizes the greatest sacrifice, unlimited forgiveness of our enemies, and the death/resurrection story paired with cute family pictures just didn’t align for me.
In fact, I didn’t go to church those two years because for me, in the season of my walk I was in, it felt forced and artificial. I’m not someone inclined to do things just for how it looks to others.
This year felt different. My soul yearned to go to a church service. I felt drawn to visit a new church I haven’t been to before. A divine encounter in the grocery store that led to an invitation to join someone there this morning confirmed for me I indeed was supposed to go.
And then this morning, I sat in church and a couple tears streamed down my face. It was a beautiful experience at St. Peter’s Episcopal. The priest’s words struck a cord so deeply in my soul that he helped to rewrite for me what I see when I look at the cross.
Forever more, when I look at the cross I will see a symbol of unity. I will see a reminder of a man who sacrificed his life to say “we are all the same.” In a world where humanity craves labels, division and us vs them, he said “no more.” His life of breaking these barriers made other people so uncomfortable that they killed him.
For 7 years I have been going through deconstruction and reconstruction. For those of you who have never heard those terms, it’s simply vocabulary to explain a very normal process of the faith experience. Many people go through a period of time where they doubt, question and maybe even walk away from a faith experience they were handed. The foundation rug on which they built their truths gets ripped out from underneath them. And then, over time, a new foundation is set. One that they choose, they set, and is their own.
I went through five years of deconstruction. My faith was a house of cards that others built for me. One by one, the answers I was being handed did not add up and a card would come off. Eventually the stability was gone and the house of cards fell. That season was very dark, lonely and frustrating. Eventually, I discovered new paradigms that helped me lay a new foundation, one that made space for all the colors with which I now could see.
For two years I have been reconstructing that house. It’s been a very healing, restorative and hopeful experience. The priest’s message today felt like the last two cards coming together on top. This new lens through which to see the death and resurrection gives me so much hope for Christianity, a faith I heavily considered walking away from just a few shorts years ago.
Because I could never do justice to paraphrasing someone else’s words, I asked the priest for a copy of his message. This is the excerpt that spoke so clearly to me. I chose to share it on my blog for mostly selfish reasons. I would like to be able to return to these words on days I need to hear them again. But I chose to share this experience publicly in case there are others out there for whom these words could also bring healing.
May grace and peace be with you. Today and always.
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An excerpt from the Rev. Barry P. Kubler’s message on April 21, 2019 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Plant City, FL:
So, on this Easter morning we ask the same 2000 year old question, “what does the resurrection mean for us?” And Holy Scripture answers us. It means that through Jesus, God has conquered the powers of sin and death. It means that those who follow Jesus now have a new message to proclaim. No longer do we speak of the separation of people and of the death that separation brings. Now we speak of unity, of fellowship, of eternal life and peace.
Peter’s world was turned upside down by the resurrection of Jesus. The laws and rituals that formerly set his people apart from all others had been abolished by the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. Peter had begun to learn what Paul would proclaim as the central truth revealed to him by God. That, “in Christ we are all children of God through faith …” There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, we are all one in Jesus Christ.
In 21st century language that gospel would sound like this. There is no longer American or Russian, Jew or Palestinian. There is no longer citizen or undocumented immigrant, there is no longer Republican or Democrat. There is no longer straight, or gay, or transgendered. There is no longer a millionaire or someone living on a meager subsistence.
And let me be clear. I’m not talking about political and philosophical differences over ideas and methodology. I’m talking about every Christian’s responsibility to uphold their baptismal promises.
My friends, when we say, Alleluia, Christ is Risen, we are acknowledging that all the barriers that formerly separated people have been abolished. Christ’s resurrection replaces division with unity. Christ’s resurrection challenges us to replace distrust and the fear of others with understanding and love. And the word resurrection does not just imply the good news of life’s victory over death. It also recognizes the challenges of overcoming the barriers, the fears, the distrust and the alienation that separates us from others.
I know that in my own life, there have been times when I have found it difficult to face the embarrassment of my own prejudices. I’d prefer to think that I have none. However, that would not be the truth. The hard truth is that all of us fear something in the other. We fear what is different, what is unknown. And acknowledging our fears my brothers and sisters is the first step in overcoming them.
I have learned through uncomfortable conversations that fear is at the root of every ‘ism,’ from classism to racism. Fear is at the root of any evil that separates us from one another. And I continually learn that the only way to overcome fear is not to deny it, but face it, squarely and honestly.
One way to do that of course, is to listen to those who are different. It is in that listening that we will find the ability to replace ignorance with understanding, distrust with confidence, despair with hope, problems with opportunities, and fear with love.
And there you have it. A Resurrection faith is above all the faith that God has done, and is doing, a good and new thing in life – and we have an opportunity to participate in it.
Martin Luther finally came to that understanding. He realized that God was doing a new thing in him. When the old understandings failed, God gave him a new understanding. Scaling steps on bloody knees didn’t have the redeeming value Luther once thought it had. But what does, according to the revelation Luther received from God, is faith in the name of the one who saves us.
Like Luther, the Apostle Peter’s old understandings failed him. But God’s revelation provided him with a new understanding, a new faith, a new word of grace. Today, Easter Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, the good news is that that same power and grace is available to us.
So, my friends, let me ask you this question. Did you come here this morning asking, “Who knows if it is really true?” If you did, I would suggest to you that the answer to that question might be found in asking yourself if you are willing to risk listening for something new, as Peter and Martin Luther encourage us to do. Are you willing to risk the loss of old understandings that you might feel the power of God working in you, affirming the new thing God has done on this day through His Son, Jesus Christ?