Sunday, April 1, 2018

Hearing the voice of a Christian on Easter Morning 2018 / The Second Day of Passover 5778

With immense gratitude for having witnessed the power of the human spirit in Maya Angelou this Easter morning and for the local non-Christian friend who shared this powerful Christian voice with me, another non-Christian.

"I'm grateful to be a practicing Christian.  I'm always amazed when people say, 'I'm a Christian.'  I think, 'Already?' It's an ongoing process. You know, you keep trying.  And blowing it and trying and blowing it." -- Maya Angelou

A local friend of mine who will be 90 years old soon said that all she knows for sure is that "something" happened on Easter morning all those centuries ago.  She doesn't claim to know what happened.  I've never heard her talk about virgin birth or resurrection.  She doesn't insist that anyone else believe that something happened.  She belongs to one of several local First Congregational Churches (United Church of Christ) which have lesbians as pastors.  My friend has been a Christian all her life, a life of turmoil and grace.

My friend stands with a diverse group of Christians throughout the centuries, including Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez as well as numerous dear friends of mine who identify as Christian and who have walked through their lives or continue to walk through their lives in what they hope is the true spirit of Jesus.

This morning I'm reminded of what John Lennon said in 1966, when I was 16 years old.  His words stayed with me:

"Christianity will go, he had said.  It will vanish and shrink.  I needn't argue about that; I know I'm right and I will be proved right.  We're more popular than Jesus now.  I don't know which will go first -- rock & roll or Christianity.  Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary.  It's them twisting it that ruins it for me."

At that time, I was attending the Episcopal Church every Sunday with my family.  My family went to church together until the fall of 1967 when I stopped going to church during my freshman year of college because so many of my friends by that time were Jewish and/or atheist, and I could no longer listen to sermons that denied the validity of the beliefs of Jewish people as well as anyone who was not a Christian.  Not long after I stopped going to church, my mother stopped going to church. This was not long after one of the priests at our church was found to have been molesting one of the choir boys who was the same age I was. Within a year of the time I left the church, my younger sisters also stopped going to church.  My father continued to go to church alone for a while, but then he stopped going to church as well, never to join a church again until he became a member of the Crystal Cathedral.  He never visited the Crystal Cathedral but faithfully watched its services on television from 1994 until his death in 2003, donating 10% of his income to that church and continuing to wonder if Jesus truly was the "son of God."

It has been my good fortune to learn over and over again that all followers of Jesus are not thick and ordinary. Maya Angelou was not thick and ordinary.  My father was not thick and ordinary.  My Christian friends are not thick and ordinary.  Something still keeps me from identifying as a Christian, but it does not keep me from listening with all my heart to those Christians who do not twist Jesus' message and who inspire me to experience the loving power that Martin Luther King, Jr., talked about again and again in his sermons:

"Only through an inner spiritual transformation do we gain the strength to fight vigorously the evils of the world in a humble and loving spirit.  The transformed nonconformist, moreover, never uses the passive sort of patience as an exercise to do nothing.  And this very transformation saves him from speaking irresponsible words that estrange without reconciling ... He recognizes that social change will not come overnight, yet he works as though it is an imminent possibility." (p. 18, Strength To Love, a book of sermons published in 1963 and published again with an introduction by Coretta Scott King, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968)

From the book, The Glorious Impossible, by Madeleine L'Engle:

"... After his resurrection he was never recognized by sight, but by his voice, or in the breaking of bread, the eating of fish ..."

May this day, Easter 2018 as well as the second day of Passover 5778, be an opportunity to listen for voices, Christian or otherwise, who speak out against the ever-present forces of injustice.

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