Monday, April 01, 2013

After Easter

Aside from going to the Easter service at the UU congregation of Ann Arbor, which was not especially Christocentric, I didn't do anything particular for Holy Week.  Yes, I posted some blogposts from the privacy of my study, and in the dead of the night, but I didn't go to any of local church services.  There is a very nice small, progressive Methodist church around the corner, complete with rainbow flags and folk singers.  They had a Good Friday service -- short, 30 minutes and repeated three times.  They had a service and a potluck on Saturday afternoon.  I didn't go.

I didn't expect this response to Holy Week, now that I am out of active parish ministry.

Mostly, what I feel is relief; I allowed myself to be aware of the frustrations and resentments I had felt in active parish work during this season.

I never felt the work of Holy Week was burdensome.  I enjoyed writing newsletter articles re-telling the story of Jesus' last week in Jerusalem.  I enjoyed thinking about all the strange nooks and crannies of the gospel story.  I enjoyed engaging the differing perspectives of the characters in it.

Every year for 12 years, I conducted a communion service on Maundy Thursday. I prepared the liturgy, arranged the flowers, gathered the church's most beautiful objects to set the table.  I cut up the bread and poured the wine.  It was a labor of love, and I felt my most priestly.  A small group gathered.

On Easter Sunday, we had a chilly sunrise service.  On Easter morning, the congregation would come down front, and join the choir.  We belted out the Hallelujah Chorus, from the Messiah.  We sang "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" with the old words.  The sanctuary smelled of lilies. All great stuff.

I never resented one task or duty of the season.  I get the Easter story and I know its saving power.

But every Spring, it felt like pushing a peanut up a hill with my nose in the rain.  I think many of my colleagues in ministry know what I am talking about.  There is a lot of resistance out there to directly engaging the story of resurrection, indeed, the gospels in general.  Holy Week is when most liberal ministers understand Paul's description of the work as being a fool for Christ.

I am stopping myself from describing every kind of resistance that smart and sophisticated people put up to Easter.  I am stopping myself from describing every caution and disclaimer and historic contextualization we ministers go through before we get down to the story.  I am stopping myself from enumerating every metaphor for resurrection I have invoked over the years.  I am stopping myself from describing every way that I used to contain the resurrection within the world as we now know it.  If I did not stop myself, it would sound like I am angry with our people.

I have heard too many UU ministers with Christian leanings vent about the uninterest that UU's have in Christianity.  I want to ask, "and what did you expect?"

What makes UU's wonderful is that they are impatient with all the old forms. Maybe, they instinctively know that we ministers are working through some unfinished business from seminary.  Or maybe, they don't need to know the story of Jesus to know that springtime proves the resilience of hope, or that Empires screw over the little folks, before they vanish into oblivion.

And yes, it is weird that they all show up on Easter Sunday, but don't really want to talk about it.  But hey! Go figure.

I see my colleagues out there almost drowning, nose down, pushing that peanut up the hill.  God love you all.  This year, I was just glad to be on dry and level land.

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