Sunday, April 12, 2009


Spring is bursting out with all its promises of hope, and Easter comes with promises of forgiveness, while the Holy Day clashes with the Masters and my memories of Marilyn Monroe!
by Charlie Leck

What a complicated Christian Holy Day is Easter? John Updike tries to tell us that all our efforts at faithfulness are wasted if the stone before the tomb was not literally moved aside through the power of God alone. My goodness! That is the height of literalism and I'm disappointed that such a beautiful poem could so miss the point of Easter. But that's okay, because the entire fundamentalist Christian movement around the world misses the point, too. These devout people are so busy clammering about the miracle that they miss the miracle.

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality
that in the slowgrinding of time
will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linens
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
—John Updike, “Seven Stanzas At Easter,” 1964

Isn't this a gloriously beautiful day -- this Easter Sunday -- to those of us who call ourselves Christians? This is our special day -- our special weekend. And on this particular morning it is as lovely right now as is possible. The sun is shining, it is warm and there are only gentle breezes blowing.

"I thank THEE most for this amazing day!" [e.e. cummings]

So what about this Easter Story
The story of the cross is central to everything we believe -- that the love of God is so beautiful and spectacular that it forgives us the immensity of our failures to be obedient. The message of this weekend is that nothing in all creation -- not even death -- can conquer the love God has for us.

Love is more powerful than evil! Love is more powerful than hate! As Saint Paul wrote: "...nothing in all creation..." can defeat the Love of God for us.

When I am desperately in need of forgiveness, I turn to the cross. I am not a literalist; yet, I believe I can find forgiveness at the cross when I can find it nowhere else.

I learned only this week of something utterly stupid I did in my senior year of high school. For some reason, on his graduation photograph in our school yearbook, I wrote something about a good friend being a "drunk." Why? Fifty years is too long ago. I don't know. One would think there was some relevant event that caused me to write that. And one would hope that I was being, or trying to be, humorous. Did it have to do with a school play? A joke in some class? Some humorous incident between us? I don't know. I just wrote it and this "friend" has carried around a resentment of me because of it for fifty years. Did you get that? For fifty years! And I just now find out about it. I have tried to approach him for forgiveness and apologized with all my heart. So far, nothing! What else can I do? I can think of nothing else than turning to the cross and laying before Christ my earnest confession and plea for mercy. I want to sleep again. I want to be relieved of the weight of embarrassment. I want to restore the friendship. This is what Christians do at such a moment.

The act of the cross is so incredible and so beautiful that it will always stand at the heart of Christianity. Some fundamentalists say that the cross only finds its meaning in the resurrection. I don't think so.

I think the events surrounding the cross may have been historical. They became sacred events, but they began as fundamentally real and historical ones.

The events surrounding the empty tomb and the rolled back stone have less basis in history. They became part of the early church's liturgical creations.

As a young man, I became acquainted with the writings of Albert Schweitzer. I remember reading the entirety of his book, REVERENCE FOR LIFE, to my mother as she lay ill. In graduate school I was introduced to his book, THE QUEST FOR THE HISTORICAL JESUS, and I was amazed by it. Schweitzer took the entirety of the gospels and tried to separate what was clearly historical, what may have been historical and what were creations of the early Church as a part of its writing of liturgy for worship. There is no evidence available that could lead us to believe that the resurrection was a historical event -- or even that it might have been one. There is plenty of evidence to indicate it was a remarkable creation of the early Christian community as a means of exclaiming its faith.

Does it make the faith less, as Updike says? To me, no! The man, Jesus, is even more powerful for me when I think of his suffering and his sacrifice without any assumption of a release from it a few days later.

The cross is a story of suffering and forgiveness. Period.

For me, it doesn't make Easter any less powerful. The power that was Christ lives on forever, because nothing, not even death, can still the love he had for us. Nothing in all creation can do that.

Today I looked at a delicious on-line collection of wonderful photographs of Marilyn Monroe (Life/Getty Images). Wow! What a chick! I almost forgot. Later I'll join my family over on the shores of beautiful Lake Minnetonka and we'll dine together. I'll sneak away for long minutes to see how the Masters golf tournament is going. What a day it's going to be.

And tonight, I think I'll finally sleep well again because I have turned this stupid high school mistake of mine over to the only person who can lighten my guilt -- to Christ himself.

Easter is a powerful time for Christians. What a day!

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