We drove to church in a gray drizzle that watered the earth this Easter of 2017. I looked forward to the flowering of the white cross by the children of the parish. For in this flowering we acted out a wonderful story, and I had a part in the story simply by being faithful.
I read recently that Christianity invites us to become a part of a glorious story. If we accept the invitation, we shall be changed. In the twinkling of an eye, we shall embark on a new path, in a new direction. We shall not look back to those days when we were not a part of the glory story.
Being a part of something larger and greater than ourselves satisfies a basic human need. We naturally reach for the heavens, reach for meaning, desire to believe we are more than mere matter, but spirit as well, that we house a divine spark within us. Those who do not believe in Christ, in his salvation invitation, seek religiously to be a part of social or political stories. It is an innate yearning for belonging to something greater.
In the Bay Area, mobs gather and destroy property. They attack others, in the name of hating hate speech, defining hate speech as opinions with which they disagree. They are reminiscent of zealots in sixteen-century Europe who destroyed images of Christ and attacked clergy. Today Christians throughout the world are persecuted. Churches are bombed and believers slaughtered. The local vandals who riot, breaking laws and denying freedom, believe they act righteously. They are purifying their gathering places – parks and campuses – to make them “safe” spaces where they won’t feel “microaggressions,” i.e. different opinions. They are channeling their yearning for meaning into a cult of sensitivity and self.
Created by God, we yearn for him. We want to believe in him. We want to be part of his story. But today it is unfashionable to believe the historical evidence of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, so folks who want cultural approval find other ways to express their religious impulse.
And so at Easter, I am thankful that I am part of God’s story. For the Christian story is the very heart of our humanity. It is the foundation for all good law and every just liberty. It is the source of the deepest love and the most extraordinary mercy.
It was still drizzling as we arrived at church. Children gathered in the Sunday School and adults took seats in the pews. The thick white cross with the holes drilled through to house the flowers waited at the head of the red-carpeted aisle.
The children and teachers entered as the organ thundered and the congregation sang. We stepped happily up the red carpet to the white cross, carrying our flowers. As I helped a two-year old shove a green stem into one of the lower holes, I sensed we were anointing those holes made two thousand years ago on Golgotha, filling Christ’s wounds with this green life, with these rainbow colors, with our own healing salve of love. For long ago, outside Jerusalem, we nailed Our Lord to that cross. We buried him in the tomb. Now, we filled the holes, making his body whole again. And so, as Christ’s body, we became whole too. And as part of the story, we rise with him to new life.
The tiny hands pushed the stems deep, and soon the greens and reds and yellows and blues burst from the white wood of the cross. We stood back and gazed at our masterpiece. It was a transformation from death to life, a kind of transcendence, a resurrection, a master-piece, a piece of our master. We processed back to the Sunday School, satisfied, having played leading roles in the story of Easter, in our own life-stories.
We celebrate new life on Easter, the gift of eternal life. We celebrate the greenery of God’s incarnation, his passion, his life, death, and resurrection. On Easter, death passes over us, and we are reborn. We flower in this time of pass-over.
Our children will not forget how they flowered the cross today, for in our parish we do this every Easter, again and again. We repeat the important parts of the story, so that we become a part of them. We repeat Easter with every Eucharist, and we repeat the cross-flowering with every Easter. We act out the drama again and again, because it is true, because it is life-giving and life-saving.
After the organ played its last note and the priest prayed his last prayer, the flowered cross was taken to the front steps of the church. The rain rested for a bit, and in the watered air the light glimmered and glistened. We took photos alongside the colorful cross as though Our Lord stood among the children. “Let the children come,” he told his disciples.
And so we do. We welcome the children into this glorious story of life, love, and God. We welcome them to flower their cross and ours.