If you are here for the first time, it might not be unreasonable for me to assume that you were expecting to hear about a certain Christian doctrine that many (not all!) but many strands of Christianity affirm: the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
For many folks, Easter and Jesus’ physical resurrection go together like peanut butter and jelly, or hot dogs and mustard.
But you have just witnessed a sweet story about the power of love to enable transformation. In Kate Chorao’s book Pig and Crow,
you were introduced to a character named Pig, who started out submerged in wintery feelings of sadness and loneliness. But along comes another character named Crow. Crow is always attracted to Pig’s baking, but Crow gives as much as she takes. And, as the story unfolds, you see how there’s a loving logic to what Crow gives. She gave seeds first, which required hard work to tend. The next gift was a caterpillar, which taught Pig patience. When it became a butterfly, it taught Pig wisdom. Hard work, patience, and wisdom, in turn, enabled Pig to be able to receive the third gift of an egg, which became a goose, which in the end healed Pig of her sadness and loneliness.
It’s a story of the power of love to enable transformation.
However, it’s not explicitly about Jesus and the resurrection.
Are you missing that explicit reference to the resurrection, on this Easter Sunday?
Let’s talk about how Unitarian Universalists do Easter. We take the concept of resurrection and we expand it. We make it larger than what the Bible says happened to a specific person named Jesus at a singular time in history. One of our most famous Unitarian Universalist ancestors, Ralph Waldo Emerson, urged people in 1838 to do exactly this, and here’s why: because (to his mind) Jesus taught a democratic view of the spirit. Jesus taught that all people are children of God and have potentials for divine living in their own right. Jesus was only an example of what might be possible for all of us.
For Jesus, religion was never meant to be all about Jesus.
Emerson taught this in 1838, and he got into some huge trouble. He was banned. He was castigated. He was pushed out.
But today, we Unitarian Universalists are all Emersonians.
We don’t dwell on the physical resurrection of Jesus because that’s not what our religion is all about. What we dwell on, instead, is how spiritual transformation is a possibility for everyone–especially when life feels impossibly stuck. One powerful example of this is of course Jesus’ own story of his brutal death and then his coming alive again. It’s one example of such a thing, expressed (we would say) mythologically. But when a Unitarian Universalist celebrates Easter, the focus is on how anyone could be stuck in a place of suffering, and we proclaim–we proclaim!–that suffering never needs to be the last word. Transformation is yet possible. Keep hope alive!
We might even speak of resurrection–if we use that word more broadly, more inclusively.
“Life can only be understood backwards,” said the great Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. “But it must be lived forwards.”
Whenever you find yourself like Pig was, at the start of the story, and you are in some wintertime emotional space of sadness and loneliness, and it is very much like the tomb in which Jesus’ dead body lay, Unitarian Universalism calls you to believe, to have faith, to stay curious about what happens next, to not succumb to despair.
Something or someone like Crow will come, and maybe it will seem unclear what it all means. Crow wants to trade you pumpkin seeds for your baked goods, but what will that lead to? Do it anyhow. Say Yes. Then say Yes again when Crow comes and wants to trade you a worm, or when she comes yet a third time to trade you an egg. Life must be lived forward. Live it forward with a faithful Yes.
Because the most powerful transformations are not the ones you can plan, not the ones you can foresee. There is a destiny for each of us, but it is mysterious, and things happen at their own time and at their own pace.
Have faith in your life.
Nature teaches: wintertime never lasts forever. Always, Spring comes.
When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Love’s touch can call us back to life again,
fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been: Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.
For Unitarian Universalists, that is the good news of Eastertime for everyone.