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PENTECOST AND AFTER
May 23, 2010
 
I miss the alleluias! one of the people with whom I exchange a prayer greeting each morning wrote in today. Yes, it's that time: the Easter alleluias subside into the long season of life as usual. Since last fall, the church has traced the events of a specific life: waiting for the holy birth of Jesus, celebrating the birth itself, observing the broadening of his impact on the world of his day. Then came the terrible ending of it all, when he leaves us behind in a hideous confusion of suffering, abandonment and death. And then, three days later, a glorious mystery, one which nobody has ever or will ever understand, in which death itself has been drained of the poison of its most effective weapon against us: its dreadful permanence. And now comes the long stretch of living a life that knows there's such a thing as resurrection, no matter how bad it gets. In life in Christ, here is where the rubber meets the road.

For what's the hardest thing about bereavement? Oh, boy -- there's so much competition for that position I'd hesitate to put forth a nominee. But surely among the worst things is the sheer tedium of it -- day after day after day, it's just going to be the same thing. There's not going to be time off for good behavior. She's never coming back. I'm never going to see him again. Resurrected she may be, but we're still here, and the decades stretch out before us in a sorry parade that plods pointlessly on and on into the future. Here is mad King Lear contemplating the eternity of it: Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life, And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more, Never, never, never, never, never.. (King Lear, V.3, 307-9). In the end, Lear just can't do it, we know -- he dies of his broken heart.

Here is something I know: living a life conscious of resurrection is work. It's not just something you learn about and then you've got it, like the chemical formula for table salt or the capital of Pennsylvania. No, you have to keep doing it, keep finding it, over and over again. And don't try to do this all alone: you need people to help you through, even though none of them really know just what to do either -- that doesn't matter, as long as they're there. Keep yourself in a loving community, and you do get better and better at it as the decades pass. Keep your spirit well-nourished, and you recover more quickly when you fall. But still, living a life conscious of resurrection is far from effortless.

Our world is so absorbing -- so beautifully and so totally absorbing -- that it's hard to remember that our world is not all there is. The church tries to help, in the long season after Pentecost, sending us stories week after week about Jesus turning all our sad limits upside down -- feeding multitudes with next to nothing, healing people as good as dead -- and even some who are dead! -- so that we will remember that our impossibilities are not the last word. That there's a "forever and ever," even after the string of "nevers" that break our hearts.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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