Thursday April 21, 2022
My alarm went off at 5:30 Easter morning. Through my window, on the far side of the lake, a full moon was slipping behind the mountains.
“How nice!” my sleep-numbed brain thought, “having a full moon for Easter.”
Then I realized – of course there’s a full moon! That’s how we define the date for Easter – the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. So the moon and the sun have to be balanced, like bodies on a seesaw or weights on a whirligig. Remember those things?
I heard a thump. A bird had flown into my window. Birds come to my feeder at first light. Quail aren’t noted for intelligence – but even they know it’s easier to find sunflower seeds at my feeder than to scrabble around in the undergrowth looking for leftovers from last fall.
A quail, a nerf-ball of feathers, lay motionless on my deck. Broken its neck when it hit the glass, I assumed.
But I had an Easter sunrise service to attend. So I left it for later.
Thirty people, wearing tuques and winter jackets, gathered by the lake. Idyllic setting. Green grass sloping down to still water. Weeping willows almost in leaf. Not a ripple to break the reflections of dark and distant forest. Until a swoop of Canada geese landed in a flurry of foam. And paddled silently around, wondering who we were.
We sang. Morning has broken. Joy comes with the dawn. Voices thin against the vastness of the universe.
We broke bread. Crushed grapes in our mouths.
Not dead after all
When I came home, I saw that the quail was not dead, after all. It still lay on the boards of my deck. But its head was moving now, bright eyes peering from side to side. Wondering, perhaps, who am I? How did I get here? What’s going on, anyway?
Later in the morning, a second Easter service. Indoors, this time. Our voices sound fuller when the walls reflect our words back to us. Jesus Christ is risen today, hallelujah. We shall go out, with hope of resurrection.
Back home again. The quail still squats on my deck. But it has risen onto its feet.
Is that a resurrection? Or just a recovery? Does it matter?
Nature, as my friend Bob Thompson often points out, has astonishing powers of recovery. Of healing. When a dam breaks, spilling toxic chemicals into a stream, the first thing nature does is to start its process of healing. It flushes itself clean. Or at least, cleaner.
When a fire annihilates a forest, the first thing nature does is start growing a new forest.
When a parking lot buries a field, the first thing nature does is send grass shoots up through the asphalt.
“Nature is never spent,” wrote poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. “There lives the dearest goodness deep down things…”
We speak of nature as if it were a separate being, an independent entity. The same way we speak of God.
Neither are. Separate, I mean. They are us, and we are them. (Sorry, language purists.) We too can heal, and we can be healed.
The quail risks spreading its wings. It lifts off, and is gone.
Christ is risen.
Copyright © 2022 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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Last week’s Soft Edges column turned into a bit of a rant about Good Friday. I think I argued that calling it “Good” celebrated cruelty and sadism, and that nothing “good” ever came out of those two qualities.
Ginny Adams got it: “You preached to me in this article which I read just after a Good Friday morning prayer liturgy. Nothing at all good about it -- may those of us who try to walk the way of the Crucified One, see the horror anew that is on our evening news.”
So did Jim Henderschedt: “WOW, Jim. Thank you for having the courage to put in print what I have felt for many years. The ‘Good’ is very much out of place … as is the attempt to justify the atrocity by making it a necessary act to satisfy God enough to save sinners. It was an unjust execution of an innocent man who had the courage to stand up against the unjust political and religious systems of his day. Maybe it is time for the Christian Church to confess its own sin in its failure to call the crucifixion what it really is….an act of violence based on manufactured evidence to silence the message of truth and justice.”
Isabel Gibson’s childhood indoctrination took a different path than mine. I had commented that “We call it ‘Good’ because we have been taught for generations that something good eventually came out of it.”
Isabel countered, “I wasn't taught that. I was taught that the ‘Good’ meant ‘holy’ - a more or less archaic use but in keeping with the Holy Week nomenclature.
“So, no, nothing good in the human sense about Good Friday, but something holy.”
Ruth Shaver added a note of impartiality: “I think it's incredibly important, now more than ever, to remember that the Gospels were written at a time when it was not safe to place the weight of Christ's death on the state. No doubt the religiously powerful whispered in Pilate's ear, but Rome was the only power that could put Jesus to death and did so because Jesus had was perceived as a threat to the Pax Romana. The chanting crowd demanding Jesus' crucifixion may be based on some actual event, but Pilate's action was on behalf of a state that would brook no opposition, real, threatened, or imagined. Any interpretation at this juncture in history that does not anchor responsibility to the Roman state risks perpetuating one of the key beliefs of antisemitism.”
“Your column came at an opportune moment for me,” wrote Ken Nicholls. “On Good Friday we had a walk of witness through the town. I have been on many of these over the years and I never feel satisfied with them as those leading cannot deal with the day and have to talk about Easter (which of course has technically not yet happened.) The result, as you implied, is that we play down current acts of barbarism (e.g. Ukraine). There are so many people suffering their own Good Friday with no prospect of an Easter. I have to believe in an Easter for Ukraine but I do not want to sanitise or rob it of its Good Friday.
“I would like to hear a more strident and prophetic comment from the churches.”
The lectionary offers a choice of psalms today. I chose Psalm 150; it seems to fit better with the mood of the column above. For sheer joy, it's hard to beat a child's playground.
1 God has given us a glorious playground;
let us have fun together!
2 Climb to the top of the stairs with your heart in your mouth;
slide down the shiny slope with shrieks of glee.
3 Ride the swings higher and higher
until you can reach out and touch the sky;
swirl around on the merry-go-round until your head swims.
4 Build dream castles in the sandbox;
bounce on the trampoline and soar above your troubles.
5 Chase your friends in a game of tag;
throw your arms around everyone in a giant hug.
6 Let our games, our imaginings, our activities,
announce to all that this is God's playground.
God gave it to us to enjoy together.
Thanks be to God.
You can find paraphrases of most of the psalms in the Revised Common Lectionary in my book Everyday Psalmsavailable from Wood Lake Publishing, email@example.com.
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Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca He’s also relatively inexpensive!
I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also has lots of beautiful photos. Especially of birds.
Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)
ALVA WOOD’S ARCHIVE
I have acquired (don’t ask how) the complete archive of the late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures. I’ve put them on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. You’re welcome to browse. No charge. (Although maybe if I charged a fee, more people would find the archive worth visiting.)