The Big Questions

Mar. 27, 2016

C Is. 65.17-25; 1 Cor. 15.19-26; Jn. 20.1-18

What do you think is the real meaning of your life? I don't intend that as a rhetorical or abstract question, but rather one that requires a real answer. When you tally it all up, why you here? Many people in thinking of their lives have a "bucket list," things they want to do or see or accomplish before they die. Even very young children are asked, "What do you want to be...when you grow up?" You see, I believe that there's a tangible, specific, and particular answer to that question for every man, woman, and child on this planet. I realize some people's lives are snuffed out in untimely ways by tragedy or disaster or disease, but even if unfulfilled, I think every person's life is guided in a God-shaped arc toward completeness.

Maybe, right now, you can't see it, but it's there... hiding...right in front of you...and sometimes it jumps up and surprises us! The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, "The world is charged with the grandeur of God And it flames out like foil when shook..." (or it squirts out between our fingers) like oil when squeezed. This most important part of ourselves...isn't seen until it literally pops up! It happens most during the major transition points in life...a graduation, a marriage or a divorce, the birth or death of a child, being hired or fired from a job, the death of a close family member or a friend. In such times, everything is stripped away and suddenly we see. Without these important life answers...fear or apathy or incredulity replace inquiry. The most frequent question then becomes, "What's this got to do with me?"

These days, I think it's more difficult to discover our purpose in life because we have to see it through a barrage of irrelevant information, which obscures not just our connection to God, but to each other as well. And there's so much anger in our world right now. It's hard to think about the meaning of our life if we are constantly worried about mayhem and violence all around. As a result, when we look in our mental mirror searching for our soul's image, everything is obscured. Religion helps us in the search for answers about our lives. But, I heard a news report this week that said the fastest growing religious group in America is called the "Nones". No, that isn't spelled "nuns". It's spelled "NONES". It's the group of people in America who when they're asked if they're a Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, or other...they answer..."NONE of the above". They don't see God in the answer to the question "Why am I alive?" And more and more the question doesn't even get asked. But if we do, I believe we'll find the answer in Easter.

In life we are not often given the opportunity to see the whole truth and nothing but the truth without God's help. That's what Easter's God helping us see that there's so much more to life than we could even hope for. Easter is our chance to look reality straight in the face...not obliquely or on the periphery, but directly and completely. Easter is the other end of the arc that begins with our birth and Easter affirms that it doesn't end with our physical death, but instead death is a passage to God. Easter changes the way we see things. As Abraham Lincoln once said, "You could complain that rose bushes have thorns or you can rejoice because thorn bushes have roses." What is the meaning of your life? How do you see it?

Our Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend Michael Curry is the first black Presiding Bishop among the 27 previous occupants of that exalted position. He was recently asked in an interview why he, a black man was in a church that's primarily white? And he reminded the interviewer that he was actually a "cradle" Episcopalian, that he grew up in the Episcopal Church. It all started when his Baptist father was dating his Episcopal mother, and his daddy went to church with his mother. His daddy was shocked to see that all these Episcopalians drank from the same cup...not all those little private, individual cups that they used in his Baptist church. And being the only people of color in the church that Sunday, (and this was back in the 1940's in Cincinnati, Ohio), he said that it struck him that any church where a black man and a white man could drink from the same cup must be people who know something about the Gospel. It's an Easter awareness...of life and meaning and hope for a new world!

So, this Easter Sunday morning we rejoice as we share in this witness from ancient times "Alleluia! Christ is risen!" And the Lord's Church answers back, "The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!!"...and we rejoice that God has chosen to make us his church. We're just common, everyday run of the mill people who happen to see our lives as God-purposed, God-blessed, and God-directed along an arced path that God-given. It's this awareness that makes us want to revise our "bucket list" and it helps see what we want to be when we grow up. And it makes us want to proclaim a message that has changed the meaning of our lives...and that message is the message of Easter: "Alleluia! Christ is risen!" And the Lord's Church answers back, "The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!!"

The Reverend WA Ray
St Thomas Church Diamondhead, MS 03/27/16