Easter 2015 by Ken Dale
In her most recent book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, Barbara Brown Taylor shares the story of Jacques Lusseyran, a blind French resistance fighter who was not born blind but lost his sight at the age of seven when, during a scuffle with another child at school, he fell into the corner of his teachers desk. He lost one eye and the other was damaged beyond repair. In those days blind people were swept to the margins of society and usually became beggars. Not so for Lusseyran, whose parents refused to pity him or describe him as unfortunate. They wanted him to stay in the local public school and learn to function in the seeing world. His mother learned Braille with him and he learned to use a Braille typewriter. The school principal ordered a special desk for him that accommodated his extra equipment. One of his blessings was his Dad who deeply understood the spiritual life and told him, ?Always tells us when you discover something.?
Just ten days after his accident he made a discovery that entranced him for the rest of his life. He wrote, ?The only way I can describe that experience is in clear and direct words.? ?I had completely lost the sight of my eyes; I could not see the light of the world anymore. Yet the light was still there.? ?Its source was not obliterated. I felt it gushing forth every moment, brimming over; I felt how it wanted to spread out all over the world. I had only to receive it. It was unavoidably there. It was all there, and I found again its movements and shades, that is, its colors, which I had loved so passionately a few weeks before. This was something entirely new, you understand, all the more so since it contradicted everything that those who have eyes believe. The source of light is not in the outer world. We believe that it is only because of a common delusion. The light dwells where life also dwells: within ourselves.?
I wonder if there is a better description of the Easter faith we celebrate this day? At Christmas we celebrate in awe that God chose to come into this world in person. That paradox of Jesus being fully God and fully human makes absolutely no sense at all ? which oddly enough is exactly why I love it so much. In the events we remember during Holy Week in the passion story of Jesus ,we see God experiencing the darkest side of human experience. Yet, if we consider the whole story in the life of Jesus of Nazareth it is rather astonishing what we see of God?s love in that life. Yes, we see an amazing faith in the person of Jesus, who always places ultimate trust in God. But we also see what an amazing trust Jesus has in humanity as seen in his disciples.
At the Last Supper Jesus gave them a new commandment ? love others as I have loved you. My wife Kathy and I are the same age from the middle of March to early in May. Last month I was amazed at the challenge of finding a birthday card for her that was about her. So many of them would have been more about me. They said I love you because you understand me, you let me be myself, for the way you make me feel, and so on ? it was more about loving her for what she did for me. That is not the love we see in the life of Jesus. Jesus did not love his disciples for what they did for him as they didn?t do much for him except maybe cause some heartbreak. It seems they were always missing the point, grumbling, complaining, arguing about greatness. And at the end they betrayed him, fell asleep during his greatest hour of need, denied him, and abandoned him. He was mocked by all levels of people ? even one who hung from the cross next to him. On the cross he experienced the darkest point of being, crying out to God ?My God, My God, why have you forsaken me??
I have long loved Fred Buechner?s words about this moment in the life of Jesus: ?As Christ speaks those words, he too is in the wilderness. He speaks them when all is lost. He speaks them when there is nothing even he can hear except for the croak of his own voice and when as far as even he can see there is no God to hear him. And in a way his words are the words we all of us must speak before we know what it means to love God as we are commanded to love [God]. ?Though God is not there for him to see or hear, he calls on [God] still because he can do no other. Not even the cross, not even death, not even life, can destroy his love for God. Not even God can destroy his love for God because the love he loves God with is God?s love empowering him to love in return with all his heart even when his heart is all but broken.?
And there on the cross he died. This is God with us ? at the darkest of times ? this is how deeply the love of God for us is shared. God experiences our darkest ? even death itself. Jesus lived and died through that trusting, only by faith, in resurrection. Today we celebrate that victory! Today we celebrate a Light that the darkness does not overcome and that Light is a light that shines from within. It is a light that offers the gift of hope for all the dark times we experience and endure in life?s journey ? even death itself. Surely we could all share some moment in our life?s journey when we too felt in some way being abandoned by God. Those dark times are part of the experience of being human.
Joan Chittister has brought the gift of another book ? Between the Dark and the Daylight in which she writes of the contradictions of life. In the first chapter she writes of ?The Light Found in Darkness? She speaks of those times in life ? darkness of the soul ? when we ask ?Where am I going?? ?When will this be over?? ?How can I get out of this sightless place I?m in?? ?Where did the joy go in life?? That sense of being stranded in the midst of life and nothing helps. Those times when we think there is no light!
She also speaks of ?a light in us that only darkness itself can illuminate.? Think of Lusseyran?s experience. It is the ?glowing calm that comes over us when we finally surrender to the ultimate truth of creation: that there is a God and we are not it.? ?GLOWING CALM!? She says at that moment it becomes clear that ?life is not about us; we are about the project of finding Life. At that moment, spiritual vision illuminates all the rest of life. And it is that light that shines in darkness.?
Resurrection faith ? Easter light ? is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. It is a gift that comes with belief in the God who comes to us in Jesus our Christ. Yes we need to observe Holy Week and the Passion Story to really appreciate what is overcome in the glory of Easter morning. Chittister does not tie it in with Easter but I can?t help but do it. She writes ?The light we gain in darkness is the awareness that, however bleak the place of darkness was for us, we did not die there. We know now that life begins again on the other side of darkness. Another life. A new life?.life does go on. Differently but on.? That is what we see and can experience today and every day if we believe something that just boggles the mind and makes no sense at all.
Chittister shares this story that makes an important point. ?Rabbi,? the disciples begged of their dying master, ?how can we possibly go on when you are gone?? The old rabbi answered them, ?It is like this: Two men went into the forest together but only one carried a light. When they parted there, the one with the light went on ahead while the other floundered in the darkness.? The disciples insisted, ?Yes that is how it is and that is why we are so frightened to be without you.? The old man fixed them with a long, strong stare and said, ?Exactly. That is why you must each carry your own light.?
Because we believe we can be in touch with that Light within that fills us with hope and an assurance for the dark times in our lives. But it?s not just about us, the experience of our own darkness gives us the light that we can share with others in their times of darkness. As Chittister captures it ? ?our own taste of darkness qualifies us to be an illuminating part of the human expedition.?
There is no better hymn to sing than the one we will now sing ? ?in the cold and snow of winter there?s a spring that waits to be? ?Believe it! ?There IS a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.? As people of Easter faith we too have an Easter light to share with this world ? yes it is hope, but it so much more! It is the love of God come to us in the Risen Christ and it is the love and light of God?s presence that flows and shines through us as we live out our faith in concrete ways day to day. Let your light so shine!