Easter, a New Beginning…

Though I’m done with the Lenten Observance (the Sundays and Easter, esp. are not part of Lent), I thought I’d write something on Easter.  Last Sunday, I signed the book at SMUUCH  (Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church, in OPKS) — signing the book is the key action one takes to become a member of a particular Unitarian congregation.  Of course, one is expected to make monetary contributions, as you are at any church, but one is not a member until one signs the Membership Book.  I chose the date specifically — 1 April — because it is April Fools’ Day, not because I plan on using the date as an escape hatch (April Fools!), but rather because I have great fondness for fools and for humor.  My own spiritual journey is a lot about revelation and wonder, and about humor which tends to do the same thing that koans do — mess with the ego and superego — and I think that a key element of spiritual development.  And it was that playful aspect of foolishness that I was highlighting by choosing to become a member at that church on that day.  Today was Easter which has an important part to play in my Unitarian journey.  When I lived in Syracuse, NY, I was part of a storytelling group there called Salt City Storytellers.  Many of the members of that group were also members of May Memorial Unitarian Society and the group had its meetings there, including their monthly concerts/open mike nights.  So I had been in the building for about a year and felt it seemed a bit strange for a church.  The sanctuary was very plain — wooden walls, wooden pews, a dais and a lectern.  What was special about the sanctuary was that it had a very small cupola with glass walls, and small windows at the top of the walls.  The sanctuary was often dark, even during the day, as Syracuse gets only about 50-60 days of sun a year.  Well, in 1993, we hadn’t seen more than a day or two of sun in the winter and early spring.  Easter looked like another cloudy and rainy day.  But at some point in the service the sun did come out,and given the position of the small windows, the sanctuary filled with light.  It had a great effect on all in the sanctuary, including the minister, Nick Cardell, Jr.  And it had an effect on me, a moment of wonder that I saw as an invitation.  And then Nick began his sermon, “What if they found the body?”  in which he argued that the matter of Christ’s bodily resurrection was not something that mattered to most Unitarians, and he felt that the discovery of the body would not have lessened the message of the gospels.  In other words, one could be a follower of Christian values as set out in the gospels without being a Christian member of a Christian church.  That was the message that sold me and convinced me that I would join May Memorial.  Though I didn’t sign the book until 12/12/93 — the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I count my status as a Unitarian from that conversion moment, on Easter 19 years ago.  Nick’s sermon reinforced my idea that I could believe in a human Jesus, without the whole Redeemer and personal Savior stuff added.  It was a wonderful moment.  I have had some conversations with people I knew in college (College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA) who have maintained that Jesus’ message is, in the eyes of the world, nonsense.  What gives it power is that he died and was resurrected, and that he redeemed us.  But I don’t consider that message non-sense.  And I know far too many Christians (and I’d include a lot of people in business schools at Catholic universities) who put more value on economic theory than Jesus’ gospel to the poor.  So much for the redemptive power — for some of those I’ve met who attended or graduated from Catholic business schools Jesus’ saving them is seen by them as giving them license to prosper at others’ expense.  But I like the idea of the message divorced from the messenger — I’m sort of a “If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.”  I’m not advocating violence against Buddha or Jesus, but the cult of personality seems to excuse followers for bad behavior, and it devalues the importance of the message outside the framework of a particular denomination or its congregants.  So, I thank Nick Cardell for that message nearly 2 decades ago.  I found it poetic and inspiring, and because of it, and the light on a cloudy day, I am now a Unitarian.

1 Response to “Easter, a New Beginning…”

  1. 1 Sharon Blevins
    April 8, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    Alleluia and amen!

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