Easter: Seasonal Regeneration

Please visit our YouTube channel to watch Rev. Ann Marie’s video recording of this sermon.

We need this day, this spring day, this April day. We need this week of budding trees, blooming flowers, the sunlight changing its intensity. We need a break in the ordinary, a seasonal regeneration, a miracle.

We need liberation from the ordinary, from the same ol’, same ol’. We need the promise of a Passover that gives us more than survival, that brings us a secure home in a lush, peaceful homeland, where the freedom to live fully exists, where we can openly observe/practice our religion alongside supportive, loving neighbors practicing theirs.

Perhaps we need the discipline of a month-long time of focus. We need the practice of giving up our meals during the day so that we pay closer attention to what we can do to realign our values with our practice, so that every evening we feast with each other with joyful hearts, peaceful minds, and a recommitment to giving to others in such a way that they also live well-fed in every way. 

Whether we need liberation, a Passover, or a renewed focus on what will bring life, joy and peace, this season is full of lessons to be learned.

Some of the lessons are so obvious, we merely need to pay attention.

This is the new morning, the beginning (again) of seeing and participating in the life that springs eternal. Knowing that babies keep being born. Knowing THE babies that keep being born! Seeing that from seemingly dead wood comes blossoms and green leaves. Seeing the flowers that emerge from the dirt flowers springing to life, even if they are dandelions; the dandelions that delight my two 4-year olds, who don’t know they are “weeds.”

It is a time for rejoicing, whether you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Pagan, UU; whatever your spiritual path may be or not be. This year our religious inspirations align.

However you can allow this year, let this spring inspire you! Bring forth what you’ve been meaning to let free. Liberate yourself from old ways that don’t bring joy. Reacquaint yourself, perhaps through a period of study, with something you want to understand better that helps you feel inspired to learn even more.

Perhaps, you don’t know as much as you’d like about the Jewish mystics, or about why Martin Luther King, Jr. stayed a Christian, when he could have become a UU. Maybe you know very little about liberal Muslims and what they believe and teach. Or how they feast!

If we could be familiar, more aware of those with whom we have so much in common, yet of whom we remain so ignorant, that day of peace that we all long for just might come sooner rather than later.

We need each other.

We need bridges, common inspirations, common reasons to see the heart and soul of each other.

I have shared with you before that I find nothing more inspiring than the sound of a Muslim “call to prayer.” I don’t need the literal translation, because the longing for knowledge of the sacred, for peace, is all there in the song, in the cadence of the human voice pleading. I love that sound.

I don’t need to believe the Christian story about why the dogwood tree looks the way it does to be thrilled to see them blooming every single spring all over the South.

I don’t need to believe about the Japanese cherry tree blossom, the sakura, the story about how it represents the story of renewal and optimism, yet it only blooms for one week. The pops of pink mark the end of winter and signify the beginning of spring. Buddhists think they are perfect because of their quick, short blooming season, symbolizing the transience of life.

Be joyful; there are so many reasons to be!

Perhaps you’ve been to Branch Brook Park between Bellevue and Newark? Over 5000 cherry trees are blooming there now, more than in Washington, DC. They were planted at different times, going back to the 1920s, by differing business leaders, politicians, all to inspire hope and optimism, when that was what was needed to move forward from the hard times.

Don’t we need spring? Don’t we need joy? Don’t we need what moves us forward from the hard times?

As I spoke about some Sundays ago, JOY is an act of resistance.

You can eat too much chocolate, too much candy, but you can’t have too much JOY. You don’t have to believe in stories that don’t make any sense to you. But you do have to be happy that the 4-year-old is thrilled with dandelions everywhere! And you have to take some of that IN!

What inspires you? Was it the brave young Justins in Nashville this past week? I found them inspiring.

Is it that the Ukrainians are still not giving up? I find that inspiring.

Is it that families can come together when they need to? Even when they can’t agree about where we are going after death? Is it that nations can?

Maybe it is diverse communities that help each other when they need to? Perhaps it is congregations that come together and lay down the old myths and create new ones, new stories that will inspire others we haven’t even met yet?

Is it that joining with people like us and at the same time very different from us, in a way we know, can save us from death and destruction and war, pain, grief; and bring us life and that which is life-giving again and again and again?

I believe in the power of rising up, of being an inspiration I believe in. In the kind of grace that feels like a miracle. I believe in spring. I believe in babies who keep being born. I believe we can be linked together in a chain of inspiration so strong that our tears will be wiped away when joy comes, which it does, again and again and again.

Easter is for reminding us that joy fuels life. Sure, life is short. But joy can be everlasting. Everlasting.

We Unitarian Universalists have an interesting way of approaching Easter. I can hear the criticisms from some of my Christian friends: “You talked about dogwoods, flowers, and dandelion weeds?” Yep, I did. And children and babies and being born again, and rising and joining with people different from us, yet like us, again and again until peace is here.

And I can hear some of my conservative Muslim friends saying, “You have to do more, you have to study more.” I say I have studied enough. I need to love more. I need to smile with joy more. We have all been passed over from death, for now, to live life full of joy, and feasting, and happiness. And enjoying the sound of children, the presence of new members, the faith that is Unitarian Universalism, that needs to be spread! We have evangelicals among us. They know their role and their talent.

Whatever brings you joy is what you should be doing, today and every day, especially as you come into this congregation. If playing games makes you happy, do it. If it is being in a place that makes you feel whole and accepted and “a part of,” look for others who need that.

We have a wide and inspiring faith to be proud of, to be a part of.

Again and again we rise!

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