Elizabeth O’Connor, in Call to Commitment writes:
The world may be fearful and anxious and weary, but we are not weighted by that world. We are following One who has unfathomable resources and One who makes them available to us and who says, “You must set new norms for life so that people can see what life can be.” This is your task. Your primary vocation is to enter into covenant relationships with others who have also met this Christ–to be that new society into which others can be drawn.
Inspired by these words and the words of Jean Zaru in Ramallah, I feel compelled to write an Easter reflection. It has been barely been a month and a half since returning from the World Plenary Meeting in Pisac, Peru. Many Friends writing, and two just today, mirror my experience of continuing to feel inspired by our time together. I have a very full heart, reflecting the fullness of God’s presence in our time together. In The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, after the Grinch discovered the triumph of love over greed the narrator said, “His heart grew three sizes that day”, accompanied by a picture of his heart popping through grates of metal. Likewise, my heart feels so full it seems to extend beyond my body. This God-infused experience will hopefully buoy us up across time. The transformation many of us experienced in Peru needs to find us changed in unexpected ways.
Easter invites transformation, not only through the fullness of love, but from the place of the cross — transformation through the fullness of suffering with others, of risking all to experience all, of letting go of our comfort in order to give comfort, and of finding forgiveness over and over. It is perhaps the most perplexing paradox – and offers the greatest freedom.
Today we are hearing of the bombings in Brussels. Unexpected violence, adding to those incidences that happen with all too much frequency, adding to the suffering of so many people around the world who are displaced, disfigured, discouraged…it makes us weep. We weep for the incomprehensibility that even as human beings are wise and creative and resilient, we cannot as a human family make this life work for so many in the world. We can imagine it, but progress is all too elusive. What we imagine is quite simple really — for all children to know love, for all people to be able to work and provide for their families, for no one to go to bed hungry, and for the worth of each person to be respected. We see what can be – how does God give us hope?
As we reflect on the meaning of Easter, let us consider the cross and Jesus’ suffering. I have found the message of the crucifixion to be complicated and confusing. As a student at Earlham College, I questioned Tom Mullen and Hugh Barbour in my bible classes. Their brilliant responses failed to convince me of the meaning of the cross. But today, Jean Zaru’s message spoke to me:
Even as he carried the cross toward his death, Jesus spoke out to us. His words, his demands were so matter of fact, so persistent, that a brief or cursory response on our part is simply not enough. Much more is required. What Jesus wanted then and desires from us today is a change of heart, a change of direction in the quiet depths of our being.
The cross cannot be observed in objectivity or from a position of detachment. To be there at the cross requires our presence. To be present requires our involvement. … We are not to be content to engage in religion as an exercise for the improvement of our souls. Rather, we shall only truly experience the passion of Jesus when we are willing to be involved passionately in our world.
Life, God, our own conscience requires that we give all of ourselves to the experience of both suffering and of joy, as both are inherent in living a religious life. Even as God gave us life, so we return again and again to being recreated, for it is through God that we are made new. And it is by both letting go of our selfishness and engaging in the fullness of suffering and love, that we are set free from the limitations of our humanness.
Following the destruction of Coventry Cathedral during World War II, Provost Dick Howard made a commitment not to revenge, but to forgiveness and reconciliation. Raised out of the rubble, the Cross of Nails has become a world symbol of forgiveness and reconciliation. As we encounter the fullness of life – destruction and re-construction, loss of life and rebirth, suffering and forgiveness, I pray that we, as Friends and as the human family, may forgive and choose love over hate.
O Creator of All Life,
Bring us into the fullness that you know. Let us not shy away from suffering, but let us stand with all human beings who suffer. Help us move toward our own pain and ask for your help to heal and love us in all our fullness. We know you weep. We know you love us. Help us suspend judgement of each other and walk in love and compassion. Help us remember that those who seek to destroy are in pain.
Let us sink into you, O God, and live in a way that brings new life to the earth. Let us live what we imagine. Let us bring your love, your joy, your presence to this ailing world. Let us not be afraid, but let our lives speak in every kindness we show to another person.
It is in you, O God, that we have hope. We have one life. We have one world. Help us believe fully in the healing partnership we have with you. Let us live it now. Let us remember this Easter, that we are one with you, we weep with you and we sing for joy. Amen.