Thoughts at Easter, 2014
|Mary Wakefield Buxton|
by Mary Wakefield Buxton
Urbanna, Va.— Who would have thought the years would fly by so quickly? Like bolts of lightning flashing fast against the evening sky, the years have passed by.
As one grows older, so seemingly do problems grow and . . . sadness. One expects aches and pains of the body, but there is something far worse—the grief of losing beloved friends and family. Each loss is carried like a stone in a knapsack hoisted upon our backs. One shoulders onward, of course, duty calls, things have to be done, so we move on, trudging forth, never missing a step, but always aware of that steadily-growing load.
This year I have given much thought to religion. I was interested in the dialogue earlier this year in the Letters to the Editor between the fundamentalist and the Episcopalian. One was profoundly unhappy and frustrated, too, by the “Romanization” of Christianity and argued the established church was a far cry from Jesus. The other called for today’s Christianity to broaden itself in order to recover from ancient schisms and esoteric arguments, such as how many angels perch on the end of a pin.
Every Easter I remember the stunning question Father John Boddie asked one Easter during an interview with him as he was dying of cancer.
“It’s Easter, Mary, and I have a question for you,” he said. “If you rolled back the stone at the grave and found Jesus was still there on Easter morning, would this change your faith?”
I was awed at the question from our late great Catholic thinker and on reflection I came to see this question was really the crux of faith. The details, whether this or that is actually true, whether this site or that site where something important in the Bible took place is exactly right, even whether certain dates are exactly correct, if there were 1,000 angels on the head of a pin or only one, none of this seemed relevant to me.
What is important, Father Boddie continued . . . “was not whether Jesus rose in the cave that Easter morning but . . . whether Jesus has risen in us.” He said no more, but I left him with his question deeply embedded in my mind.
Over the years I have heard many bits of wisdom from all sorts of Christians—Romans, Baptists, Unitarians, Methodists, the entire gamut. The old boundaries of denomination seem erased for me. For, in the end, the various denominations lead to the most important question which John Boddie so brilliantly asked, “Has Jesus risen in us?”
Well, we are all different. We have different life-changing experiences, come from a range of backgrounds, have various genetics mixes and, most importantly of all, we have differing brain chemistries and thus we think differently. Pity the poor priest who must attend to everyone’s needs!
But, to me, religion must inspire improved human behavior, for what good is religion if it does not modify man’s natural tendency to the Seven Deadly Sins (anger, lust, envy, sloth, gluttony, greed and pride)? Religion must also cultivate tolerance and understanding that we all have different needs. The frustration and anger in stark realization that we are different in the way we perceive God must finally give way to love and understanding and—the most important ingredient of civilized people—tolerance.
A Baptist told me that to get to God one had to squeeze into a very narrow slot. In order to get through this narrow passage, one had to leave all the envy, prejudice, greed, rage, and hatred behind like pieces of tossed luggage no longer needed.
A Methodist told me we can agree to disagree and do so in congenial manner with love and forgiveness as chief beacons of behavior.
An Episcopalian told me God works through every one of us, in some dear and mysterious way, and that our challenge is to discover what we can do, perhaps in some small and insignificant way, to improve this world.
So I look out on my garden as I type these Easter thoughts and see the beauty of God’s world, and the truth is that my troubles, aches and pains are eased. I feel His presence and it comforts me.
Yet, I really don’t know for sure if there is a God, resurrection or afterlife. I once thought when I was young that one day I would know all the answers and all I had to do was think about questions long enough and I would find truth.
After a lifetime of thought, I’ve discovered I can’t think my way to God. I can’t prove his existence nor will I spend even one more minute debating whether this is true or that is true.
I feel his presence in the world and that, oddly enough, is good enough for me. So this Easter let Jesus rise within our individual cathedral and within our own brain.