Easter 2017: When the small blue flame of love moves down the candlestick

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When the small blue flame of love
crawls down the candlewick,
the last glimmer of light
fully within the closing lips of darkness,
despair as close as the next breath,
God is not finished with us yet.

When we come to our oldest moment,
the warmth receding from our fingertips
and voices fading forever from the curvature of our ears,
God is not finished with us yet.

When Earth has slowed,
its spinning ceased,
the explosive gases of our sun
an unseen mist in frigid space,
God will not be finished with us yet.

If Easter has anything left to give us
in this bent and thinning link of years – 2017 –
if there is a song left to sing
across the generations of time,
then it is the bone-deep
that even when we think the end has been determined,
God is not finished with us yet.

That is the refrain I hope to leave on our heart today:
God is not finished with us.

So now please remember what we know
from the sciences of geology
and evolutionary biology
and every other light of knowledge
we can shine under the blanket
in order to see the beginning of Life on Earth.

Reaching as we do
to squint our telescopic
and robotic sight to Mars,
and even beyond our own solar system
in search of Life
or even the history of Life now absent,
let us today, right now,
remember back to the beginning of Life on Earth.

3.8 billion years ago,
only 800,000,000 years after the origin of our planet,
darkness was upon the face of the deep,and “the Spirit of God
moved over the face of the waters,”
as it says poetically in the Book of Genesis.
There was yet no life yet. No Life.
The waters bubbled
and swirled and churned,
a mire thick with chaos and fever.
Then something happened.

In those festering shallows
a single cell appeared.
Single celled life,
appeared and multiplied.
More and more,
by the millions and billions perhaps.
For another billion years they reproduced
more single cells,
roiling and broiling
and living within the broth of creation
wherever water moved
and trickled
and sloshed.

For a billion years,
until our planet Earth was itself
two and half billion years old,
single celled life
lived and lived abundantly.

Then something happened.

Something stunning happened.
Hundreds, thousands, millions and billions of single cells
danced within the shallow seas
covering the face of the Earth.
Then, by serendipity or the imaginative work of God,
two cells danced into one another.
They became one.
In becoming one
they sizzled
and wriggled
and suddenly slithered into two again –
now two brand new cells had become one,
given birth from the one.

Two brand new cells given birth from one!

And the multiplication continued.
Instead of single celled life,
it was multi-celled life
hosting unique and varied DNA.

Then something happened.

In the blink of God’s eye,
a Sequoia tree reached to the clouds
like fingers of the Earth
grasping for stars.
Soon Triceratops
and Giganotosaurus
rumbled through thick swamps of luscious green.
Then something happened.

Before God could yawn from a hard days work,
and only two million years ago,
a furless upright animal
harnessed fire,
and crafted tools,
and launched the Hubbell telescope
that now spies on distant planets and stars
looking for life spawned like ours.

It is stunning, an indescribable magnificence.
What word could we possibly utter
to capture it?

Seeing this whole thing unfold
on screen with the magic of computers,
or strolling through the best new, high tech
museum of natural history,
we gaze upon this incredible
four billion year procession of Life
in all its spectacular diversity,
and imbued with mystery and wonder,
and we say, “hmmmmm.”

We witness an unspeakable splendor –
the universe exploding
and unveiling its wonders before our eyes –
and we drive on down the road
eating French fries
as if it’s no big deal.

When we should be trembling and shaking
and making uncontrollable noises
of amazement and awe,
we barely notice.

As the Polynesian saying goes,
we stand on a whale
fishing for minnows.

We dare not ponder it,
this astounding microbial birth of Life,
ignited most likely
from elements brought to our planet
by fragments of dead stars.
To imagine we are actually stardust –
that in our bodies we retain the material echo
of a long dead star –
that would set our hair on fire
and shatter our brains.
We can’t gasp it,
we can’t hold it,
we can’t tolerate this parade of time
because it literally boggles our mind.

And if we are honest,
we cannot fully open our mind to it
because it is terrifying.
We who are so incredibly small and fragile,
adrift in such a small boat across an ocean of stars.

It threatens us with our vulnerability
and we resist raw exposure to its enormity.

If we were to undomesticate the resurrection,
free it from being our pet that guards the door at night,
we would stand speechless and shattered
before a God who we could never again
assume is finished with us yet.

Think of it: two cells dancing into one another
in all that bubbling, hissing ooze –

Or what about this for awesome: round fuzzy insects that construct perfectly geometric hives and make honey?
Or eight-legged creepy crawly things that spew silk from between their legs, that turns out to be five times stronger than steel of the same diameter?
Or blind mammals that fly, and without sight, can catch mosquitos?

Or how about this one:
the slowest predator
with the poorest eyesight
and the worst sense of smell,
its hearing so dull it lived in constant danger,
but it became the most dominant mammal anyway –
living in deserts, arctic ice, inhospitable jungles,
and on arid prairies?

What is so shocking about an empty tomb?

In the face of what we see all around us,
not even considering what we cannot see
and haven’t even imagined yet,
how could we ever assume
God is finished and there is nothing left?

It’s Easter
and we most likely glided in here
without fear and trembling.
We came expecting to hear
resurrection is a promise
but instead we are being told it is a threat.

“There is something here within us
which does not let us sleep,
which does not let us rest,
which does not stop pounding
deep inside.

What keeps us from sleeping
is that they have threatened us with Resurrection!”

Adapted from a poem by Julia Esquivel

Look, let’s be honest.

Most of us, most of the time,
would rather have our worst fears confirmed
than to be threatened with resurrection.
With our worst fears
we know what to expect.
We always prefer order and predictability
to randomness and mystery.

When God is never finished with us,
and we never know what is next;
we can never be done
and never rest
and never know
what will be asked
by whom,
or for what?

That is the threat of resurrection:
that God is not finished with us yet.

And resurrection seeps into our dark places too.

It is only a pinhead of light
but it pierces the smallest crack
in the stony sarcophagus
encasing our hurts and fears and wounds.

Laser thin,
it enters the catacomb of tombs
carved out of our interior life
where we have buried
our dread
our shame
our grief
our ugliest hatred
and our most bitter self-abuse.

In that graveyard
inside your heart and mine,
dark and cold as outer space,
even the paper-thin light of resurrection
illuminates everything inside.
Those old dead dreams could stir.
Those limp, lifeless hopes might animate.
Those long dead passions
might begin to yawn with yearning.
Prayers we had long forgotten
or given up on and buried beneath resentment
might just begin to throb again.

The power of awe
and astonishment
and wonder
threatens to overturn the hammock of our comfort,
that sweet spot of imagined balance
we have long stretched out in.
We know, and fear,
that if we give ourselves over to awe and astonishment
anything is possible.
That is what scares us!
Anything is possible.

The worse thing in the world we can do
is domesticate our sense of wonder and awe,
and assume we understand the limits and scope
of what is possible
and what is not.
That is when we die, while still breathing.

Resurrection is a threat to our complacency.
It threatens our desire to be left alone in our comfortable little world, with our manageable set of relationships.
Resurrection threatens our stability
and it threatens our mentality
and it threatens our false hope
for order and predictability.

God is not finished with you yet,
so hold onto that for dear life –
and don’t let go.

Happy Easter.