The whole point of Easter is that God has decided to give birth to a new heaven and a new earth. The question is this: are we observers of a charming tradition or are we going to be pulled into the new with this event?
This icon from Chora monastery shows Jesus with wide, full feminine hips, accentuated by the waist cincture. As Jesus pulls humanity from sleep, he simultaneously steps from the almond shape of the female birth canal – that overlap of two circles of heaven and earth. This image is about life being made new by a new birthing. And when it is at its best, the church is an agent of midwifing.
What is hard about Easter, for me, is that I tend not to want things to be made new. The systems I have formed for my life are the ones I know. Learning new systems is hard work. It requires change and I am an Episcopalian precisely because it is a religious expression which avoids change like the plague. And yet, making all things new means that change is what happens. And what our brothers and sisters in Buddhism remind us is that the only thing which does not change is the reality that we can always and only expect change. Fighting our changes by doing battle with them in our thoughts is what causes so much of our suffering.
What a tragedy for us to encounter something so startling as Holy Week and Easter, only to return to the same old life with its same old addictions and its same old regrets and its same old hatreds and its same old vices and its same old systems. And don’t be tempted to assume by “vices” I mean the standard things like booze and sex. No. I mean judgments, unkindness, divisiveness, indifference to suffering, clutching possessions or money or status. never forget that the best dressed, most prim and proper lady with gloves and a had or the most successful and moral gentleman may be Christianity’s worst sinner simply because, though they have not engaged in the standard list of vice in bars and brothels, may in fact be one of the faith’s worst sinners simply because they withhold kindness or clutch moral pride like a dead baby in a gorgeous baptismal gown.
This week I will move my home from one neighborhood in Denver to another. It will be hard work and yes, it is annoying to have to move. But a move affords change. It forces one to ask every single possession – things, people, relationships, jobs, friendships – a question: “Do I still find joy in you, or have you served your purpose so that I may let go of you and be taken to something new?” In this past two weeks I have given 2/3 of my clothes away by doing this exercise with each piece of clothing. I have given away 70% of my books by doing this exercise. I have given away, or mailed to my family’s next generation, 1/3 of my possessions by doing this exercise. I am even doing this work with my list of friends and my list of grievances and my list of regrets and my list of desires.
As Jesus pulls us from the sleep of sin and death in Easter, we simply must ask the question “What is different now?” In our churches, in our families, in our addictions, in our Rule of Life, in our lives – what needs to die with Jesus? And what needs to be given life to with Jesus’ resurrection? This is not about Spring Cleaning. This is about letting God make all things new.