Easter, Relig.ish Style

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.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Kimberley McGill April 2, 2012 at 3:18 pm

This post moved me into tears.
I am mostly Buddhist, but honor my Christian roots and have borrowed and shaped into my own some Basic pagan philosophy. I have been more welcome in Buddhist and Pagan groups than in Christian ones. That makes me sad. I participate in a Buddhist group regularly (and for some Buddhists I am too ecclectic even just within the bounds of Buddhism itself!) – but it’s not like having a grand celebration to go to on Easter morning.
Like you, we have reshaped old traditions into our own and created new ones. I feel fortunate to be part of the flock over at Flock!

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Rachelle April 2, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Thanks Kimberley. I like having you in the Flock too!

Buddhist-Christian and NeoPagan-Christian are the two most comon hybrids that I hear about from my Magpie Girl readers and Flock folks. It’s intriguing to me to see how many people — especially women — are forging new unions for themselves. A great deal of that desire for broader and more flexible faith-practices has to do with living in a more global culture, and recognizing that the same truths dancing in a thousand places. It’s good to be noticing those things with you!

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renee altson April 2, 2012 at 5:02 pm

thanks for this post. i’m a UU and we have flower communion instead of easter stuff. everyone brings flowers in, everybody takes (different) flowers home. my favorite service all year.

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Rachelle April 2, 2012 at 5:55 pm

That’s beautiful Renee! I think the UU is flirting with me a little. :) ‘Twas good to see you at Soularize. Are you by any chance going to be at Inhabit in two weeks? It’s always great to see you IRL!

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Jason Carroll April 2, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Rachelle, I really respect your desire to keep the meaning of Easter for you and your family, but honestly, I think you are still missing the point of resurrection. It isn’t “Death does not win. Life continues.” It is “Death does not win. YOUR life continues.” Countless cultures and mythic tales affirm your recognition of the life cycle, dying seed become new plants, the cold of winter yields to the life of spring and so on, but none of them sees that the individual survives beyond its own life cycle. The whole point of Jesus’s resurrection is that the beloved believer is resurrected with him too. You, Rachelle, survive. You, Rachelle, are given eternal life. You, Rachelle, are precious enough in his sight to merit victory over death. Each individual is a unique and marvelous creation that God will not surrender to death. You are not a butterfly, or a supernova (as lovely as they are), you are an Image bearer! It is no coincidence that Lazarus is beloved of Jesus, or that Reepicheep gets his tail back. That is my hope and I do not fear the weight of that glory. (Sorry if I sound preachy, I would never mean to hurt you and you’re always welcome at my fire.)

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Rachelle April 2, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Hi Jason!

(Magpies, Jason is a friend from our seminarian days at Regent College, a transdenominational postmodern graduate school in Vancouver, B.C. He’s bright, and passionate, and caring–and a whiz-bang historian as well.)

That’s a beautiful sermonette Jason :-), and I’m touched that you would write me such a lovely, heartfelt message.

I don’t believe in a literal resurrection or a personal afterlife–in part because “countless cultures and mythic tales affirm [my] recogniztion of the life life cycle…”. My experience of chronic illness has shaped my theology around healing-and-the-afterlife as well. Because of this, my interpretation of the resurrection is much different than yours. I love that you have so much faith and passion. It would be nice to think that I (we) survive in our current conciousness/personhood after death. There’s a part of me that wishes I still had that conviction. But for me, there’s been a great theological shift and there’s no reversing it, even if sometimes I long for that comfort.

Someday, it would be nice to sit around the same fire in real life! Much love to you and the family!

-Rachelle

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Jason Carroll April 2, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Thanks Rachelle, you are always so kind to me and I love you much for it! And I love your Flock, too. I nearly lost my own faith at one point, so I understand where many of you are coming from, and it is hard for me not to hope that you might find it again (though I would never think or expect you could go back to the churchy stuff). I guess I still believe that I will laugh with much joy to see you when we meet at the Table.

Jason

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Rachelle April 3, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Thanks Jase. I’ve still got my faith, it just looks different now. If there’s a table, I’m gonna assume that “love wins” and we’ll all be there. Save me a seat!

Warmth,

Rachelle

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Prime Sarmiento April 3, 2012 at 1:09 am

Ah traditions. Catholic, Filipino – our family will celebrate Easter the traditional way… go to church, participate in the Easter vigil, watch the a short program on Jesus Christ’s resurrection, get some flowers, then have lunch in a resto with the whole family.

I love reading your post on Easter esp this: “Death does not win. Life continues. There is reason to hope.” – It reminds me why I like what Easter symbolizes – new life, new beginnings, hope.
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Rachelle Mee-Chapman April 3, 2012 at 8:23 am

Prime – I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have strong Catholic ties. I love how you honor your family traditions — and how you’ve made your faith your own. May your Easter be harmonious and full of hope.

Warmth,

R

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Rachelle April 3, 2012 at 4:40 pm
El April 3, 2012 at 3:59 am

I must be honest, I’m with your friend Jason on this one. I don’t like religion – all the rules and condemnation and looking down on people instead of the love I believe we were called to – and most churches make me want to cry a thousand tears, but I still need a resurrected Jesus.

That said, I also believe in a God who is love and he’ll sort out all the life after death stuff in a way that reflects that. He loves you and every other person on this big, wide world of ours (not to mention all those who have walked this journey before us and will come after us!) and it’s that unconditional love that I wish the church would do a better job of living every day instead of trying to squash our questions and uncertainties.
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Rachelle Mee-Chapman April 3, 2012 at 8:23 am

Thank you El. I’m so glad your beliefs are core and genuine to who Y.O.U. are!

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Tess Giles Marshall April 4, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Rachelle, what I love about your fireside is the warmth and openness of the discussions that take place around it. x
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Rachelle April 7, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Thank you Tess! I need wise souls like yours to help me grow in my capacity to be both clear and kind, gracious and firm. You inspire me!

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Sarah April 5, 2012 at 7:16 pm

I admit I feel fairly lost when it comes to traditional Christian holidays. The idea of going to church tomorrow (Good Friday) and reliving the gory details of Jesus’ death does not appeal to me. And when one doesn’t believe that Jesus died for our sins, the meaning is stripped down quite a bit and all I see is the violence. What’s the point in all that?

I’ve been feeling this urgency to find something new, a right fit spirituality that works and I can delve into. But the truth is, it’s not that easy. And I think I’m ready to accept the confusion and “lostness” and just sit with it and know that something beautiful will grow in time.
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Rachelle April 7, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Mmmm..that’s such a good recognition to have Sarah. There is a time in the searching where one just needs to sit with the vast space and wait. I’m proud of you for noticing that, and for honoring it.

Warmth,

Rachelle

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Rebecca Dallin April 6, 2012 at 8:24 am

So, two things (one to hold in each hand):

1). You are soooo brave to say those things out loud. Likely there are a lot of people still in the pews that are thinking them and need to know they are not alone. Please don’t stop being brave because…
2). Those of us who have a faith made of metaphor, story, tradition, and “the Big Good Thing” are out here and we have no pews to sit in, either. Your blog touched me in a meaningful and personal way, as I imagine it touched a lot of people. I still consider myself a Christian, but not in the way I used to see Christianity or Christians as a whole, and when you post things like that it gives me hope that maybe the next wave is coming, and maybe someday I’ll again be sitting someone’s porch at Easter (or Passover) with a number of other believers, singing home-made hymns to music of a hand-held guitar.

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Rachelle April 7, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Rebecca,

I hope you have someone lovely to spend Easter with. (We are at my parents.) I miss our porch-ish-ness of Monkfish Abbey. I wish my head would stop this pain nonsense so I could have enough strength to host a in-real-life gathering again. For now, we have a coffee date, and I will hold on to that with both hands today.

Love,

R

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