Having spent the last three weeks traveling and babysitting 12 grandchildren, I have not had the time or energy to even think about the holy days under my feet. Holy Thursday passed by as swiftly as the road under our tires as we headed home to Minnesota. Good Friday…barely a thought…although a spark of a thought entered my mind at 3 o-clock in the afternoon that this is traditionally the time Jesus died…or was it? It has been a long time since I have participated in Easter rituals. On Saturday, strangely, I felt like I was in a tomb. Was God working on me even though I was doing nothing intentional to plug into these days?
This morning, Easter Sunday, I decided to greet the sun, a ritual that was a part of my regular prayer practice but has slipped away in the last year or two. I thought, “How neat it would be if I were doing this with a community,” but alone was good, too. There was a thin strip of opening between the grey earth and the purple cloud cover. The sun peeked through red and quiet, then tucked itself under the cover. I prayed my usual prayer: “God below me, behind me, beside me, above me, within me, and before me.” Within me…it was Jesus.
I wanted to blog about Easter but did not know the words. I went to Facebook and found my son, Chris, had written a blog he named “Rising from the Dead is Impossible”. I read it. I liked it. Chris is searching for the meaning of rising, which is good. What I really liked, though, is that he took ownership for his faith. “This is what is true for me right now,” he might have said. This is a wonderful place to be. For those who want to get into an argument, it takes the wind out of their sails. This way of expressing one’s faith is also open to change in the future. People who have serious crises of faith come from a place where they are sure of what they believe. Never be sure. Faith us about the unknown. The UNKNOWN! If we knew everything, we would not need faith.
Chris was pondering the idea of Jesus’ physical rising from the dead. The struggle with this tenet of faith is in my past. Strangely, I did not start out believing in a physical resurrection. Somehow in my early days, I intuited that Jesus did indeed rise, but it was a spiritual rising, not physical. I was in my early thirties when I discovered that those in my religious community believed in the physical rising. It was a shock to me. Why hadn’t is seen this before?
I can tell you what my thinking was before I was introduced to the physical resurrection idea. I had had an experience of Jesus when I was in my mid-twenties. It happened in the presence of a loving prayer community and had all the earmarks of a conversion. In other words, for those who think conversion experiences are necessary for salvation, I qualify. But the experience for me was internal. Jesus was somehow present to me in a way he had not been before that moment.
Here is the thing: Jesus’ physical resurrection was absolutely meaningless to me. My rationale was that it was his rising spiritually that made it possible for him present to me two thousand years later. I mean, what in the world difference did it make that his body came forth? And, if you read the stories, it wasn’t quite the body he died in anyway. Something was the same because the witnesses recognized him but something was different, too. (Think Mary at the tomb and Thomas’ doubt, and the two travelers who broke bread with him.) But the idea that Jesus was spiritually risen had tremendous relevance to me, because it was a spiritual experience that I had that day of my “conversion”. I did not experience his risen body, but his spirit. Over time, I came to associate the Holy Spirit as the risen Lord. Holy Spirit = the Spirit of the Christ within.
This self-created theology of the resurrection of Jesus works for me today. All theology, after all, is simply man’s way of trying to figure out what is beyond knowledge. Any emotional/spiritual growth I experienced in the 40 years since then, I attribute to the spirit within me growing as I, or my ego-self, diminishes. I believe surrendering to the Spirit is what God wants for me.
Happy Easter. While it is a Holy Day treasured by all religious people, I have found that the idea of spiritual awakening, overcoming “sin”, and growing in the capacity to love…this is inherent in all religious teachings. Understanding this, my “Happy Easter” is for all.