Readings are HERE
My favorite Easter poem by John Niehardt, 1908 (author of Black Elk Speaks)
Once more the northbound Wonder
Brings back the goose and crane,
Prophetic Sons of Thunder,
Apostles of the Rain.
In many a battling river
The broken gorges boom;
Behold, the Mighty Giver
Emerges from the tomb!
Now robins chant the story
Of how the wintry sward
Is litten with the glory
Of the Angel of the Lord.
His countenance is lightning
And still His robe is snow,
As when the dawn was brightening
Two thousand years ago.
O who can be a stranger
To what has come to pass?
The Pity of the Manger
Is mighty in the grass.
Undaunted by Decembers,
The sap is faithful yet.
The giving Earth remembers,
And only (we) forget.
What is it that we forget? In the Psalm today we sang "The Lord is my strength and my song" It is the song we often forget when we get caught up in the world of trouble, pain, and grief. Anthony deMello has a meditation that speaks of the song the angels sang at Jesus' birth - Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Humankind - but deMello goes on to ask what was the song the angels sang at our births? We knew our song at birth and we seek to hear it again as we go through our life. Often abuse or life or insults mute our song so we can no longer hear it. It goes something like this: "you are the beloved of God, you were born in this time and this place and the world is not the same world if you had not been born, you have a special gift to offer for the healing and wholeness of the world."
When we are grieving it is hard to hear our song. When we have been hardened by others, we lose the tune. When we put our hearts on things that do not last, we no longer know the words.
Peter, Mary Magdalene, and the beloved disciple all heard their songs anew as they traveled with Jesus over the three years he was with them. Peter heard that he was a "rock" - he was an impetuous person who seems anything but solid in the story we hear in the Bible - but still Jesus saw something in him that was rocklike. Mary Magdalene was oppressed by seven devils - what that means we don't know - but it definitely made her life unbearable. Jesus saw a human person in Magdalene in a day when women were treated as possessions. He revealed to her that she was a person of worth and value. The beloved disciple never has a name - we often assume that person was John to whom the gospel is attributed- but I like to think it could be anyone of us. One who rests against Jesus at the last supper - hearing the last heartbeats of Jesus before his death.
In our Gospel today we hear how each of them, even though they had been with Jesus for 3 years forgot the song they had heard in his presence. When Jesus died, so did the song that he had sung to them. They returned to the old ways- all they could remember. Death was common, they knew what to do with bodies. Since it had been the Sabbath they could not properly care for this body of the one they loved so deeply. Now it is the next day. They go to the tomb to do what they have always done when someone dies. Even when they see the stone rolled away and the empty tomb - they still don't know what to make of it. Peter and the other disciple go home. That is often what we do when we don't know what else to do - go home. Magdalene stays - her home has been with Jesus - a home she cannot find anywhere else. So she stays and weeps, bowed down with grief. So bowed down with grief she does not recognize Jesus when he asks her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Only when he calls her name, "Mary" does she see him. The notes of her song start with her name - and she races off to tell the others "I have seen the Lord." "He is alive."
Peter takes a bit longer to hear the fullness of his song. In our reading from Acts he hears the full score. He had thought the message of Christ was only for his people, the Jews. Hanging out with Paul he sees that there might be more, but he is unsure. The church has a controversy about what Gentiles must do to become Christian. It is one of the first church controversies. Just before he says, ""I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him," Peter has a dream where a cloth full of food that in his tradition is unclean comes down from heaven and God says eat. Peter resists as it is so abhorrent to him to even touch unclean foods. But God says - nothing I make is unclean. Suddenly Peter understands what Paul has been trying to say - all are welcome - there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female in God's eyes. We are all brothers and sisters, children of God. Peter learns the song of hope and liberation and begins to sing it to all he meets.
So, where are we in remembering or knowing our song?
Have we forgotten? How will we relearn it? Is grief or pain or attention to the wrong sorts of things blocking us from hearing it? Are we continuing to do things that don't work trying to get a different result? Are we looking in all the wrong places? Or have we heard and embellishing the words and music with our liberation and our hope. There is a saying "My friend is one who knows my song and sings it when I forget." Jesus is the ultimate singer of our song but all of us as followers of Christ can sing for each other and bring the music to life in our midst. When we hear our song we are like Mary, hearing her name spoken by Jesus. Our hearts leap and we know we are the beloved of God, welcome in this world, and with a call to participate in the healing of the world. War and trouble, disaster and hunger can weigh us down and close our ears. Isaiah in our first reading lived in a time of disaster yet even so he sang of a a life into which we can enter today. As we pray "keep us in eternal life" -- a life lived in God's world that exists even when we can't believe. Singing our song and helping others to find their songs - brings us into that world - we step in and participate in the coming of God's realm here, now.
Isaiah envisions it in this way:
For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain,
or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the LORD--
and their descendants as well.
Before they call I will answer,
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent-- its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.