MattAndJojang's Blog

God. Life. Spirituality.

Posts Tagged ‘Paul Brandeis Raushenbush

Behind Every Easter Is a Crucifixion

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Easter

The trees on both sides of my street in New York City have bloomed with tiny white flowers that create a canopy under which I walked on this fine Easter weekend. The trees do this every year in spring, and I wait for it, knowing that the cold, grey branches only appear to be dead and lifeless; and that the flowers are waiting for the right moment for revelation.

The white blossoms are a sign for me that new life is coming, that spring will not be thwarted, that Easter has come.

Those of us who are Christian celebrate Easter with joyful and victorious choruses of Hallelujah because Christ rose from the dead and triumphed over the grave. “Where is your sting o death?” I sing at the Easter vigil where we light the Christ candle to shine within the darkness. Easter is a glorious celebration of new life, new beginnings, new hope.

However, Easter is not, must not, be a time of amnesia. We do not, cannot, forget the journey of Jesus when we sing the Hallelujah chorus. Easter, if it is to mean anything, must always stands face to face with the crucifixion of Good Friday — because God knows the crucifixions did not stop when Jesus’ resurrection happened. And God knows that suffering and oppression will not stop in 2014, just because Christians will be celebrating Easter.

I was reminded of this when my partner told me that the white flowers signify to him the anniversary of the death of his first partner who died of AIDS around this time in 1989; just blocks from where we so comfortably now live together as a married couple. For Brad, just because Easter happened in 1989, and is happening again this year, doesn’t mean his heart did not break. Easter did not, cannot, erase the fact of devastating loss Brad experienced, and the grief that accompanied it.

Easter does not erase crucifixions of oppression and personal trials that humans face. It does not have that power, nor that goal.

Easter also does not erase the crucifixion of hunger, fear, war, violence that too many will know today. Easter does not erase the crucifying greed, sexism, racism, domestic abuse, or homo and trans hatred that so many will experience today. Easter does not erase the cross of gun violence, destruction of the environment, the distrust between religious traditions, the unjust prison system, the monied corruption of political systems that plague our country and the world. Easter does not erase the agony of physical disease, Alzheimer’s, loneliness, depression, addiction, despair, heartbreak that are part of many of our daily lives.

Easter does not erase any of it — instead it shines a spotlight on those crucifixions and proclaims that the power of death and sin can and has been shattered by the power of love.

Easter only matters because it is the story of God taking the form of a human in Jesus who experienced the crucifixion, dying for and with us, and then rising to proclaim that death and destruction are not the end of the story of life. Easter matters because it reminds us that God is with us, and loves us, even amidst all of our sufferings. Easter matters because it proclaims a faith that even in 2014, God is pouring forth the powerful spirit of new life to resurrect our personal lives and our world.

Easter is a call upon the Christian to turn to face the crucifixions in our lives and in the world; encouraged and emboldened by Christ, to believe that we too can rise.

May we be blessed and bless others with new life this Easter Sunday.

— Paul Brandeis Raushenbush

Written by MattAndJojang

April 21, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Why I Love Lent

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Lent
I wasn’t raised in a household that observed Lent and only began to get into it once I was introduced to the more liturgical traditions while at seminary. My mother always thought it odd that I would observe this season believing that one of the finer things about being a protestant was not having to do dreary old Lent.

However, Lent has become my favorite season and Ash Wednesday my favorite Christian Holy day outside of Holy Week. Having someone look you in the eye with love and tell you that you are going to die is powerfully moving, and quite beautiful, especially, I suppose, if that day doesn’t seem too close.

“Death is the mother of beauty. Only the perishable can be beautiful, which is why we are unmoved by artificial flowers.” Said Wallace Stevens.

Being reminded that I am perishable, that I am dust and that I will return to dust serves to awaken me to the fact that I am on that beautiful journey between dust to dust that we call life. I, like those dry bones in Ezekiel, have had life-breath breathed into me. Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent startle me enough to consider that this very day might be a good day to look up from my day to day concerns, as unimportant as they may be, and to zoom out the lens and to look at my life — where I have been, where I am going, and if all is well with my soul right here and now.

In Lent we observe the 40 days that Jesus wandered in the wilderness filled with trial and temptation. As it is with most of us, my personal sojourn often is located in the wilderness; winding within uncomfortable and uncertain terrain filled with temptations and trials and sense of alone-ness. At some point in my life, however, I came across the words of another sojourner found in Psalm 139: “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?” the psalmist writes, “If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

Over time, the testimony of God’s intimate presence and love found in this psalm has become my own, and, while it did not, and has not relieved me of my wilderness experiences it allows me to understand my struggles in a different way, to feel less alone and to redeem my life as a valid and, even valued, part of the wider sacred story of God.

Maybe that is why I love Lent. In this season it is permitted to reflect on the pain in our lives and to even acknowledge that there are times when God seems utterly absent. Christians spend their lives between the words of Jesus that ask God, why have you forsaken me, and the others that proclaim into your hands I commend my spirit. The testimony of Psalm 139 is that no matter where we go, or what we do, whether we sense God, or we don’t – God is. God is Present.

Lent offers us the opportunity to tear away all that would blind us, or numb us to that reality. For some that will come through fasting from mindless consumption of whatever distracts us; for others it will come from radical service to the neighbor; but what is most important about Lent is that we make time and space for an awareness that God who is with us and loves us – even right here and now. It is in the telling of our stories that God is revealed and Jesus, the cross, and the resurrection become real – all of our lives become – the bread and the cup – elements of eternal life amidst the dust.

— Paul Brandeis Raushenbush

Written by MattAndJojang

March 13, 2014 at 7:46 pm