Sunday, April 08, 2012

Tabula Rasa

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits—
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works vindication
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he keep his anger for ever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
For he knows how we were made;
he remembers that we are dust.

As for mortals, their days are like grass;
they flourish like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.

The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
obedient to his spoken word.
Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers that do his will.
Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Psalm 103
As we celebrate the reality of the resurrection on this day, so many questions push themselves to the surface. Gathering and proclaiming that Jesus, who was dead, killed by a combination of intrigue and fear, has defied even the final power of death to demonstrate for us that which awaits all of us is nothing to fear now, still wonder. Not for nothing have Christians understood this first day of the week to be the First Day of the New Creation. This New Thing wipes the slate clean. The past, in all its forms, no longer holds us. As God no longer demands an accounting from us, why should we demand one from one another? The dead hand of our old lives was buried in the tomb with the bleeding corpse; our new life, unrecognizable even to those closest to us (see John 20), begins even now.

We are, even now in the midst of the terrors that stalk our world, living in the midst of this new creation. What would it be like to live this way? What would it be like no longer to live in fear of God or one another?

What would it be like to live without the fear that our death is some kind of judgment upon our lives?

Good Friday was the moment when the set-piece drama of Holy Week came to what anyone should have understood was its pre-determined end. As Jesus, his body bleeding and broken, finally dies, the state reasserts itself as the only real arbiter of life and death, pronouncing its judgment that some people do not deserve to live; that their deeds are a threat to good social order; that the monopoly on violence needs to be demonstrated for all to see in order to maintain good social order.

On Sunday, Jesus, walking and talking and laughing with his disciples, put an end to the threat on our lives the state, in its demonstrated unjust power, holds over us. Our life, dictated by this new reality, is one in which the threat even from the state to kill us should we not live as it is demanded no longer holds us.

We in the modern West, in particular, with our much-vaunted, centuries-fought-for freedoms, have trouble understanding the real threat posed to good social order by this resurrected Jesus. If Jesus has been raised from the dead, what tool does the state have left to insure its continued existence? The Church, living out the freedom we have from the Father in the Son through the Holy Spirit, proclaim the reality of the Psalm above in our lives, remembering the words of Jesus as our tool for ordering our life together: Love one another.

Our contemporary western state relies less on the threat of violence than other means of coercion; all the same, the state exercises its understanding of absolute control over our lives no less than the most heinous despotism. Whether or not we love one another is not a concern for the powers that be. Like Pilate's admission that the question of truth is not one of consequence for those in power, we who live in the only Truth that really exists as the living, resurrected Jesus see in and through him the only way to be who we are created to be. We live this out without regard to our past, without fear of the threat posed to us by Power because we believe that in the powerlessness of Jesus' death and the resurrection that brings him to us even here and now the matters that concern the state no longer hold us. Power, an insouciance to truth, the running of the well-ordered machine of the state for its own sake: these are things that, as of this day, are part of that past that no longer hold us.

Each Sunday is a little celebration of this event, a recollection that is deeper than collective memory, a declaration of the coming Final Act that is more than prophetic utterance of "Someday . . ." Yet, on this Easter Sunday, let us recall that death no longer terrorizes us, with its baggage of annihilation, separation from God and all those we have loved, and the end of meaning and purpose. Looking around us at a world that so desperately needs to hear the words, "Christ has risen!", let us be about what we are called to do without fear, with our faith in the Truth of the Person of the Risen Christ always with us, in the love that is our distinctive marker, that which defines who we are.

"Behold, I make all things new!" declares the Voice from the throne, at the end of it all, according to the Revelation to St. John the Divine. God is indeed making all things new, even now, beginning with the Living Christ who shall never die, and who invites us to forget what has past. Our sins, removed as far as the east is from the west, no longer define who we are before God, within as we relate to ourselves, or in our living with one another. This is the First Day of the New Creation. What was is gone. What is, what will be, these are the things that await us as we awake to the new reality inaugurated in and through the Risen Jesus.

Happy Easter. Christ is Risen!

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