March 29, 2020
From the Rev. Dr. Brenda M. Pelc-Faszcza, Pastor
Breathing Easter Ahead of Time
This week, when the calendar still says March, I’ve seen some trees already budded out. The daffodils at church started coming up quite a while ago. It is still March, so, this is weird -- the trees are a good month early. It’s been unseasonably warm all winter, leading to the early signs of spring, and that’s been weird. But, of course, nothing matches the weirdness of this pandemic experience we’re all in now. Just about nothing feels normal. Not for you either, you say? I hear you.
Years ago, I came across the phrase “breathing Easter ahead of time.” I can’t for the life of me remember right now the source of the quote, but that phrase has stuck with me. The author was writing about how, in the midst of the challenges that sometimes hit in life, we need to allow ourselves to glimpse what’s ahead, to anticipate it in a hopeful way – not in a head-in-the-sand way, not as a means of avoiding what we need to deal with, never as a means of denial-instead-of-truth, but in the sense of remembering that there is life beyond the present struggle. And always to remember that everything is held in God, whose heart is love.
This is the faith that we keep together as Christians in Holy Week, which passes from life through death to new life, through darkness to light, through the brutality of a cross to life that transcends all brutality. Even when we are passing through the days of Holy Week, as we soon will be, dwelling in the part of the Jesus story that makes us cringe, or weep, or wonder where God is, we are already glimpsing the story beyond, remembering that there’s more… after Thursday and Friday, there’s more… breathing Easter ahead of time.
And actually, though we may not often think of it this way, we do the same thing in the journey through Advent to Christmas. There’s always the pink candle in the Advent wreath, for the third Sunday, in contrast the other three purple ones. Historically, its meaning has been to allow us a glimpse of joy just a little ahead of time, before we are yet to Christmas, while we are still making our way through the patient, reflective, waiting days of Advent…. a little respite from what the purple means, a chance to breathe Christmas ahead of time. As though God knows we need a little foretaste to live on.
So our faith aims to keep us grounded both in reality and in hope… and tells us that these things are not mutually exclusive, as though we could have only one or the other. Faith asks us to carry both, to do both: to tell the truth about our present circumstances, and, at the same time, to remember that there will be life beyond this, a bigger story for this world than just this present moment with its burdens and fears…. and lets us glimpse it now, lets our hearts live on it now. I know how much we all need that in these days, a faith that life will go on and a remembering of our sacred stories that bear witness to this, that have always, through the centuries, borne witness to this.
I keep returning to the voice of Paul, in Romans:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor
principalities, nor things present nor things to come, now powers,
nor height, nor depth, not anything else in all creation will be able
to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
Or, as these verses are rendered in The Message Version of the Bible:
I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead,
angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or
unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love
because of the way that Jesus has embraced us.
As stressed as I myself have sometimes felt in recent days by the current state of things, and with no way of knowing when this will all be behind us, when I haul myself back to this faithful voice and this trusting perspective, I get re-grounded, re-centered, and renewed. It picks me up and strengthens me for another day. It’s like, well, breathing Easter ahead of time.
Here is a beautiful piece of music, that’s been sung in our church: “You Are Mine,” by David Haas. May we all take its “Do not be afraid” to heart.
Holding you all in thought and in prayer,
A Prayer for Today
may we feel your strong presence in the midst of our fears,
your centering love in the midst of all that feels right now
so disrupted and abnormal.
Help us to be strong, brave and present,
to our families, neighbors and friends,
to our communities, our country and our world,
alert to the ways that we can help and serve and care.
Help us to cherish the bonds of our connection all the more
while we cannot be physically gathered,
to cherish the deep and abiding ways in which we remain together.
And help us to see our way through this present crisis
with compassion and with hope,
as we pray especially for the safety and well-being
of all those providing essential services right now
and who don’t have the option of staying home –
the health care workers, the grocery store workers,
the pharmacy staffs, the utilities workers and all others --
and for the strength and wisdom of all leaders who are making decisions
on behalf of all of us.
Spirit whose creation has given us – early -- the buds and shoots of spring,
through all that changes and all that abides,
help us to be those whose own spirits can breathe Easter, ahead of time.
In Christ’s name and spirit we pray, Amen.