Easter Sunday/Flower Communion
Delivered April 20, 2014 - Rev. David A. Miller ©
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito
A Unitarian Universalist Association Congregation—Solana Beach, Ca
Born and reborn again, but to what? I have often wondered if spring fools us. Every year we come through the season of darkness, into a season where blooms burst forth and hope springs eternal. I wonder though on this Earth Day weekend, this weekend with the message of rebirth and resurrection in Christianity, what are we being born again into.
I walk in Balboa Park about 3 times a week. For those of you who don’t know, there is a hill that goes down from the parking lot near the organ pavilion past the barns where they used to keep the San Diego Police Horse Patrol, and then it climbs back up to the plaza in front of the Natural History Museum. At this time of year, that little valley at the bottom of the hill, has beautiful wildflowers, pink and red with lots of lovely yellow flowing up the hill like a delicate blanket moving softly with the shift of the morning breeze. In the past couple of years there has been a construction project that has taken out most of those flowers in order to build new facilities for the Japanese Friendship Garden.
I am sure that the new facilities will be tasteful and also beautiful in its own way, but I have struggled with the loss of the wild and unplanned blooming every spring of this comforting blanket of flowers. Of course the canyon is the way that I know it in my time here in San Diego, but I am going to guess that 30, 40, or 50 years ago, that canyon looked different to those who may have walked it then and to them what they lost perhaps was reborn into the concrete sidewalk that I tread now through my changing landscape.
What I worry about is when the time comes for rebirth, will there be less and less to be reborn. At what point will we cover so much of what is natural or wild, or we dig up so much of the natural resources, or we burn too much of the carbon based fuels, that the cycle of rebirth so important in our shared stories and mythologies will not just no longer have the same meaning, but will also struggle to bring forth the rebirth that is essential to our common welfare.
Is there some cosmic coincidence that Earth Day, Spring and the Easter Story happen the same time every year? The story of the death and resurrection of Jesus is a story of a miracle and quite frankly in my book, the story of the Earth and of Spring are miracles too. How can things look and feel so lifeless only to bloom with such incredible color and life again and again each full trip around the Sun. And like those who take the miracle story of Easter seriously, those who believe in the miracle of this earth should not take it for granted and indeed take it very seriously.
In many ways I admire the passion of the Christian world that can be experienced around Easter. I admit to having many judgments about some of the theology and the practice of modern day religion, but I do appreciate the story of resurrection, hope and possibility at the core of the story. And I believe that those of any faith who feel a deep sense of religious connection with the natural world, and those of any faith who see the holy in the this creation, and those of any faith who feel the miracle of life coming from lifelessness as the seasons change, must protect this miracle with a religious passion of our own.
Rebirth can happen with each act of love toward ourselves, each other and the earth. Rebirth can happen with the reclaiming of our need for space to breathe and places to connect with the natural world. Rebirth can happen when our passion for the reverence for life becomes a foremost thought in our minds and in our hearts.
There are ways for us to view stories of rebirth and rising above despair as a prayer of hope for the future. To be born again and again is to return to the forefront of our minds the things that are important to us, things that can slip away in the course of the daily lives that we live. We celebrate rituals and holidays like Easter, Passover and Earth Day to bring back to our thoughts the things that we hold central and things that we hold dear. Whether Christian, Jew, Theist or Atheist, whatever belief system we hold, let us hold on to this notion that the rebirth of life is intertwined with us bringing to the surface what is dear to us again and again in our hearts and minds.
We cannot only consume and then count on nature to replace what we have consumed. We must remember that we are a part of this system of life and what we choose not only affects our lives but the lives of future generations. As the poet Wendell Berry writes slightly modified for inclusive language, “Until we understand what the land is, we are at odds with everything we touch. And to come to that understanding it is necessary, even now, to leave the regions of our conquest - the cleared fields, the towns and cities, the highways - and re-enter the woods. For only there can we encounter the silence and the darkness of our own absence. Only in this silence and darkness can we recover the sense of the world's longevity, of its ability to thrive without us, of our inferiority to it and our dependence on it. Perhaps then, having heard that silence and seen that darkness, we will grow humble before the place and begin to take it in - to learn from it what it is. As its sounds come into our hearing, and its lights and colors come into our vision, and its odors come into our nostrils, then we may come into its presence as we never have before, and we will arrive in our place and will want to remain. Our lives will grow out of the ground like the other lives of the place, and take its place among them. We will be with them - neither ignorant of them, nor indifferent to them, nor against them - and so at last we will grow to be native-born. That is, we must reenter the silence and the darkness, and be born again.
(pg. 27, "A Native Hill")”
― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays
In this season where blooms burst forth and hope springs eternal. In this time of year when the hills have beautiful wildflowers, pink and red with lots of lovely yellow flowing like a delicate blanket moving softly with the shift of the morning breeze, let us not forget our interconnection and responsibilities to this beauty, let us act to resurrect as often as possible our sacred ideals that can lay dormant in our hearts and let us act now to assure each year at this time that we will be reborn together, again and again and again.