May 21, 2017 – Easter, 6th Sunday of
Letters Home (from a retired pastor to his family, the Church)
Lately I have been reflecting on Easters of my childhood. Even though Christmas was my favorite religious holiday, I do remember that Easter was always a fun time for my family. We would rise early that morning. Then we were off to church. Afterward we would go out for breakfast. In the afternoon the family gathered at my grandparent’s farm.
The Easters I remember most were the ones where we all gathered around large wooden tables on the lawn, enjoying the early spring weather. These were large gatherings of aunts and uncles, cousins, and my grandmother’s sister’s husband. Grandma’s sister had already passed away. But all of her side of the clan would be there, too. At that age Easter vaguely meant something about bunnies and colored eggs. But most of all I remember those gatherings of family — many generations deep — around the tables. I remember the love and belonging of those feasts.
At those picnic tables and other tables like them I learned the stories of my family. I also learned how to grow to be an adult, and how to long to be the best person I could be. All of this took place within a circle of shared family love. Without that love, I would not have known how to accept the gifts that had been offered to me at those tables.
Years have gone by, and all that is left of those gathered at our tables is a handful of family members. We all know the story of being scattered from the table of love and belonging. This takes place as time goes by and as members of our family and friends die or wander away. It also happens when our own eyes become filled with images and dreams that draw us from the relationships that have nurtured our lives. Most of us spend our lives looking for another community, another table to replace the one we feel we have lost.
There are many circles of relationship within which we live. These include the circle of our family, marriage – the circle of two, circles of friends, and of our shared faith. All of these share one thing in common. That is that there are many blessings to be found within those circles. There is a second truth that these circles share that is a little more difficult to apprehend: simply showing up is not enough. At some point the relationship asks us to enter it fully, not just with presence – but also with heart.
There is a circularity to loving and receiving the fullness of love’s blessings. The fullness of what it meant to gather with my family around those wooden tables on the lawn was open to me because we were bound by love. Back then I loved as a child, with an open heart, ready to receive what was offered by my family. Maybe this is why we often read these words of Jesus as part of a marriage ceremony, “Unless you become like a child, you will never enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt. 18:3) I understand these words not as restrictive, but as an invitation to the fullest experience of the relationship Jesus came to offer his friends. These words can be applied to the relationship of husband and wife, parent and child, friend and friend. In order to enjoy the full blessing of those relationships we need to open our heart. That act opens us to everything the other longs to give, and to what you discover together from that point on.
Easter is about bringing those who have been scattered back together. This gathering will not be to the table in the upper room, or the wooden tables on my grandparent’s lawn. It will be the table of the banquet of life, in full relationship with God, Jesus Christ and each other. The wonderful thing about the Easter feast is that the banquet of an Easter life begins whenever we open our hearts to attend. That is why we, the church, will pray the prayer below this Sunday.
Sixth Sunday of Easter
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 22