The Mess of Resurrection
– Rev. Emily Goldthwaite Fries
…sometimes what looks like death, is, in fact, a new beginning…
The caterpillar goes into its chrysalis, looks like death for a time, in its tiny tomb, and later reemerges as a beautiful, colorful butterfly.
But do you know what really happens inside that chrysalis? Modern science has allowed us to find out more – not exactly more answers, but much deeper questions. Inside that chrysalis is not a caterpillar growing wings. Not at all. Once the caterpillar’s built its hard casing around itself, it actually disintegrates into goo – a soup of cells that doesn’t resemble its former body in any way, though its microscopic heart and brain are in there somewhere. Over the course of a month, a seemingly new creature forms, and the wings that have always been within the caterpillar, like tiny rolled- up blueprints of its future form, finally unfurl until it hatches from the chrysalis and immediately takes flight, never looking back.
I love that the fathers and mothers of our faith recognized Easter as a season, and not just one fabulous holiday. When Spring comes to us in the Midwest, I can’t help thinking about how seasonal resurrection is in the natural world around us. In this part of the country, where the seasons are so distinct and extreme, everything seems to be coming back to life, even us.
And the Spring Peepers, the tiny frogs, smaller than the cicadas actually , who live in wetlands and forests. I first encountered them in Iowa. They survive cold winters in temperatures as low as 8 degrees below zero, by staying still, and allowing up to a third of their body fluids to freeze. They will thaw back out when the temperatures rise again, and when the weather starts to warm up, they too will sing!
Some might say I’m reading too much into these creatures. Not only anthropomorphizing them, but also conveniently making them members of my religion. But where I’m going with all this is really the opposite – I think we don’t appreciate how very literal the resurrections in our lives can be.
Sometimes, we overthink it when our bodies and souls just know, like so many creatures do, that It’s a natural part of life to go through a time that looks to all appearances like death in order to emerge anew.
Why is it so hard for any of us to believe that we can heal from old wounds, or a broken heart? Or recover from addiction or mental illness? Or envision Gods’ church thriving …rising on fresh wings of hope and witness and purpose so needed in this world?
Even exciting changes feel like death to us, when all the while new life waits with its wings curled tight for safekeeping. I want to thank you, Robbinsdale UCC, and Parkway UCC with whom I’ll share this sermon later…for helping me notice something in scripture that I had never seen before.
The women go back to the tomb after having witnessed Jesus’ death and burial, but they waited ‘til after the Sabbath day… How hard it must have been that Sabbath day for the women to simply do nothing, to wait, to fold their hands and let themselves grieve. Their grief was so messy, their fear so real and so permanent, the last thing they could imagine on the other side of that Sabbath day was life.
You are in the midst of that ‘Sabbath’ time too, faithfully anticipating the transformation of your church – how are you doing with it? Are you restless to bring the change more quickly? Even in your excitement, does a fearful little voice within you whisper doubtful thoughts, thinking the doubt can delay the new life to come? Here’s the thing. When the Spirit moves, when Jesus calls, when God acts in mysterious ways, the new life to come is not only a choice or a possibility, but a promise. On the other side of resurrection, you will be the same, and yet you will never be the same!
It doesn’t make any sense at all, but it’s as natural as the turning of seasons. Look around! Resurrection is everywhere. Everywhere! Why shouldn’t we join the chorus of the cicadas and the frogs who in their short lifespans chant with all they’ve got? Life is what it’s all about!