It’s a foggy morning in the Southern Tier of New York. As I turned on my computer to begin writing this blog after reading the Scripture selections for today, I scanned the headlines that came up, as is my usual practice. I was unable to stop there, however, as the first story was about wild tornados in the south central parts of the country. The statistics and photos were grim: possible 136 mph winds – 16, or maybe 17 dead, a new middle school totally demolished along with many homes and businesses…
My original thought for this morning was consideration of the word “Alleluia” which appears as the psalm refrain for today and was an integral part of our monthly service in the style of Taize last night. I was thinking that, as in the Christmas season, even those who consider the octave of Easter (the week following), things have pretty much returned to “normal life” by today. Students go back to school, families on “Easter vacation” are back home, many of the church flowers are drooping and so removed…We forget that in the Christian calendar the Easter season extends to the feast of Pentecost – fifty days later.
So how is it that I can return to my original happy thought of Alleluia after the swift decline of my buoyant mood? True, I need to dig deeper. There is a refrain in the gospel for this morning, however, that comes to my aid. “Unless you are born again through water and the spirit…” Jesus says this to Nicodemus, a Pharisee who approached Jesus by night so as not to be noticed speaking to him, after having told him that he needs to be “born again.” Nicodemus, taking the word of Jesus on a literal, physical level, is troubling over how he can get back into his mother’s womb when Jesus begins to explain with the above quote. For Christians, baptism is the answer to the riddle. It is also the lifeline we grasp with all it implies of faith and hope and belonging to community that sustains us in times of trouble. Our baptism and immersion into the life of the Spirit of God remind us that Jesus didn’t just sail through this life as a rock star gathering fans and hailed by all in the end. Neither do we. In the past week, however, we have considered more than once the message to the disciples when Jesus appears to them after the Resurrection. His greeting is always one of peace. “Peace be with you,” he says to calm their fears, to assuage their grief. “Peace,” he says this morning to all those shocked people in our country today. I am always interested in the post-destruction interviews with people who have experienced great loss. Most times, I hear great gratitude that they are alive and a willingness to begin again. That is the Easter message after all.
Today my “Alleluia” is softened and will be the impetus to pray for my sisters and brothers around our country and the world who struggle with the word and with their faith. May my prayers, added to those of all who believe in a caring God who weeps with us in our sorrow, bring peace and hope in solidarity to those who mourn. Alleluia!