Years ago, my artists friends put on the most beautiful Easter service. Five white banners stretched out over our worship space, like a hand of blessing. A huge branch of red manzanita created an arbor, adorned with ribbons that fluttered in the breeze from the open door. The band played and the room pulsed as bodies jumped up and down singing:
“The kingdom is a colorful party. Come on in!”
I miss that part of Easter. I miss celebrating hope like that – with a community, within the pulsing heartbeat of something larger than myself.
I miss believing in a literal resurrection. It was thrilling, to believe in something so big. To feel like there was that much focused power in one person. It was like Narnia, only I was allowed to hold on to it as fact, long after I was too big to hide in the wardrobe.
I was having dinner last week with a good friend. Someone with a truly brilliant mind, and one of the most gracious people I know. He has a firm belief in the divinity of Jesus – where as I see Jesus as a Great Teacher. My friend has a firm belief in the literal resurrection – whereas as I see the story as a truth-bearing myth.
“What is the point?” my friend said, “What is the point of calling yourself a Christian, without the resurrection? It’s where all the meaning lies.”
The thing is, I do still have the meaning of the resurrection:
Death does not win. Life continues. There is reason to hope.
Unfortunately, the culture of my birth doesn’t see that as enough. And those branches that do … well, they don’t have rock concerts for Easter.
I keep pushing gently on my originating culture. I keep nudging Christianity in the ribs. “Hey, remember me? I’m part of this family too. Skootch over! Make room!” So far there’s no room in the pews for me. There may never be. And for the most part I’ve made peace with that. Still, I keep holding my umbrella high over my head, like a tour guide in a crowded cathedral, saying “Over here! My group, over here!” Just in case someone else wants to sit with me.
For now my family and I, we are a little bit adrift. Easter is more to us than colored eggs and chocolate rabbits. (Though, um, YUM!) We want to do the egg hunt, we want to eat jelly beans. And we’d love, Love, LOVE to put on our dresses and sandals and go somewhere. Somewhere where we could be with our tribe, where we could have a colorful party, where we could open the door wide and welcome people into new life.
We don’t have that yet. But we do have our own treasured traditions – born in the abbey, shared with friends abroad, and brought back home packed in colored straw.
We celebrate Passover, and remember where our Jesus-y story came from.
We hang porcelain eggs hang on the Easter tree, connecting to our deep earth-y roots that tell us, “Life returns! Spring bears it anew!” (Even when it seem winter is always coming.)
We create paper ornaments with our own emerging beliefs. These record for us our history —the oldest ones in the girl’s wobbly handwriting talking mostly about Jesus, the newer one’s full of images about Spring and hope.
Rooted. Authentic.Creative. These are the goals of our (re)new(ed) traditions – rooted in our history, authentic to who we are today, creative enough to grow with us. We have come to love these habits, these symbols. They have become our traditions—the ones our children will talk about with their children. The ones that anchor us in the truths we value most. In these small habits – a meal with matzo balls, a tree with eggs and images, and yes, colored eggs and chocolate bunnies. In these things we have come to own our own story. We have come to hope.
What about you Magpies? What will you do to celebrate this holy week? Are your traditions, well, traditional? Or do you celebrate with a relig-ish remix? Do tell! Your stories help us find our way.