Thursday, April 17, 2014
By MERLE G. STEVA
SOMETIMES, I THINK, we are so familiar with our Christian writings that they cease to get our attention. Do we truly grasp the reason for the celebrative sounds of Easter? That God raised Jesus from the dead – is that in fact a source of comfort and possibly a basis for laughter for us who must die?
REFLECTIONS is a column written by members of Maine's faith-based community. Opinions expressed in the column reflect the author's view and not necessarily that of the newspaper.
God, who gave us this life – is this God bound by some inner necessity to continue our lives beyond our dying? Off stage and out of view, do shadowy beings wager whether God will bring any of us from our graves into realms of eternal day?
LET ME SHIFT the scenery now. See Mary at the tomb. It is early morning – daybreak. She stands there – thoughtful, perplexed and locked in her grief. She realizes that everything, even that which she loved most, comes finally to the tomb.
It is a universal knowing. Life everywhere melds into death. Each day, doors slam behind us – are bolted against our return.
Mary had thought of Jesus as a door that would always be "open" to her. She weeps by the cold stone that shuts the dead from the living.
Then a shadow falls across her. Someone is near. Mary, not looking up, says, "Tell me, where have you laid him?"
At first, a booming silence. Then, she hears her name, "Mary." Something about the timbre in that voice makes her turn. Her weeping is swallowed up in an overwhelming gladness.
A WORD ABOUT NAMES. We are given our names before we wander out of the fog of early childhood. We and our names belong.
It is not possible to recall the time when our names were first pronounced in loving accent. There is a kind of mystery and a shade of holiness attached to the business of naming and receiving a name. No one has ever lived so alone as not to have need for a name.
We and our names are welded together for the whole of eternity. Shakespeare, in his play "The Tempest," causes Ferdinand to say to Miranda, "I do beseech you, chiefly that I might set it in my prayers, what is your name?" Do we not do the same?
HERE, A SCENERY SHIFT. It is springtime in the early 1940s. Under an old straw hat, I am driving a team of horses, the reins around my neck. My hands and legs guide a one-row corn plow.
It's a lovely day. Noon is fast approaching. The sun is high. The skies are cobalt blue and cloudless. Over the creaking of harness and plow, I catch the notes of bird song.
"Whoa!" I say. The team stops. Immediate silence, save for the puffing breaths of the horses.
Listening intently, I wait for the bird to sing again. There it is. My eyes search and discover the meadowlark sitting on the fence to the left of me.
Suddenly, it bursts into fevered song. The wind gently lifts its tail feathers.
The memory of that time is forever etched in my mind. Often reflecting, I envision that it was as if the Creator had spoken my name. Now I know something of what poet William Stafford meant when he wrote, "Wherever God has sent me, the meadowlarks were already there."
MARJORIE McCOY, author of "To Die With Style!," died of brain cancer at an early age. In the first stages of her illness, several folks asked, "Don't you wonder, 'Why me?'"
"Why not me?" she countered.
After her death, a piece of her writing was found. It was something about the dance at the heart of the universe.
She loved to dance, and, if there were dancing at the heart of reality, she wanted to be invited. Her final words at the end of that scrap of writing were, "So save a dance for me!"
Is it possible that she may yet hear in one glad, ecstatic moment someone speaking from over her shoulder, asking, "Margie, may I have this waltz with you?"
AND WHAT ABOUT US? My Easter thoughts seem always to end in tears of laughter. I believe that at nightfall, I shall hear my name upon the lips of my Creator.
God – who has, in so many ways, spoken my name in this life – will, after I have gone as far as this body is going to carry me, again speak my name.
I hear God saying, "Come! In my house there are many rooms. I have made preparations for your coming."
Just so! Overwhelmed by an infinite gladness, our deaths shall be swallowed up in our being, called into the eternal fellowship of God's Easter people.
"For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:38-39)
Merle G. Steva is a retired minister in the United Church of Christ and a member of First Parish in Saco.