Monday, April 14, 2014

Easter 2014

John M. Buchanan writes in the April 16, 2014 issue of The Christian Century that the canonical gospels not only provide us sparse accounts of the resurrection but what they do tell us they tell from different perspectives.  “It is almost as if they are telling us, like someone who warns us not to look directly at the bright sun, that we should not try to look too directly, that we should perceive this event in a different, deeper way—more heart than mind, more wonder than analysis.  Some things are bigger than our ability to say them.” (p. 3)

After what has seemed like one of the hardest, coldest, snowiest winters I can remember I am now enjoying longer days as the sun seems to be moving ever northward and stays up longer than the day before as I read Buchanan’s words. With Easter being almost as late as possible this year, the longer, warmer, and brighter days of spring have coincided with the approach of Easter.  I know that the cold, dark days of Lent, I mean winter, will end with the rising of the Son, I mean sun.

Thanks to John Buchanan and Bruce Springsteen, who reminds us that “Mama always told me not to look into the eye of the sun”, a caution reiterated by Astronomers appearing on public media every time we are about to experience a solar eclipse, we know not to look directly at the sun. Looking directly into that celestial object even with dark glasses can cause permanent eye damage. Yet something compels the astronomer as well as the non-scientist to study the heavenly sphere that warms us, illuminates us, and provides the energy our planet needs to sustain life. I remember making a pinhole box viewer to watch a solar eclipse and using a small telescope to project sun spots unto the ceiling of my bedroom.  Even though I was not looking directly at the sun I was still mesmerized by its brilliance.

I know that the sunlight now reaching the earth and tanning my skin as I sit poolside left the sun about eight minutes ago and that any sun spots I might project onto the ceiling I am seeing where they were about eight minutes ago.  Just because it takes light from the sun about eight minutes to reach us does not mean we cannot appreciate or observe it. Even though it is eight minutes old it can still illuminate, warm, and yes, even burn and blind.  It might be eight minutes old we can still wonder-- is it a wave, a particle, or a string?

I also know that in the strictest, most literal sense, the sun does not rise.  Our senses deceive us.  The sun only appears to rise as we, standing on the surface of a rotating earth, rotate with our planet on its axis, completing a rotation cycle about every twenty-four hours.  I also know that in the spring the sun only appears to be climbing ever northward.  What is actually happening is that the earth, constantly tilting on its axis in a yearly cycle, is now beginning to present its northern hemisphere toward the sun after having presented the southern hemisphere for six months. In spite of knowing better, however, I still talk about, and appreciate the “miracle” of a sunrise rather than a morning turnaround and relish in a northward marching sun even though I know it is not true.  Sometimes historical and culturally loaded language better describe our experience and enables us to share it rather than the sometimes hard, cold, precise language of science, but that does not mean I disregard science.

The good news reported by the canonical gospels comes to us from nearly two-thousand years ago yet it is still reaching us, still warming us, still illuminating us, and still granting us life.  As a trained theologian and amateur philosopher I could employ any number of metaphors and play language games in an attempt to both explain and make sense of what the gospels describe happening nearly twenty centuries ago. I could hopefully do so without breaking any of the laws of physics.  Long ago, however, I learned that any god that can be fully explained and understood is not a god worth praise and worship.  At the heart of the cosmos and faith is mystery, a mystery that compels us to explore, to ponder, and to understand, but a mystery nevertheless. If I could fully understand and explain what the gospels describe as a resurrection, perhaps it would no longer be worth believing in.  Like a darkened sun, collapsed in on itself as a black hole, it would lose its ability to illuminate and give life.

Here is the link to my Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 post for Easter, where I reflect on all six, primary and alternate, Lectionary Readings for Easter morning.

No comments: