Monday, April 9, 2012

Grateful for a Resurrection

I was going to call this post "Ordinary Resurrections," borrowing the title and not a little of the sentiment from Jonathan Kozol's extraordinary book, Ordinary Resurrections. That was before sitting through yesterday's Easter services at Maple Grove United Methodist Church.

By the time we left, long after noon, the title to this blog was changed and so was I.

Yesterday was my first chance to hear the "new" minister, Glenn Schwerdtfeger, better known as Pastor Glenn. Pastor Glenn accepted the call to Maple Grove following the retirement of a dynamic and well-loved minister, Bill Croy. Bill would be a tough act to follow under regular circumstances; with him retiring for medical reasons as he did, I imagine it was all the tougher an act to follow.

I suspect, based on what I witnessed yesterday, Pastor Glenn is up to the challenge. 

I was not disappointed. In fact, I was moved to tears by the sermon, not once but twice. He had me from his opening words: The Easter story begins with Mary Magdalene alone, weeping in the dark. Easter does not begin with joyful hearts and shouts of "Alleluia." It gets to those things, to be sure, but Easter begins with Mary weeping in the dark.

Mary weeping in the dark. What an image. Pastor Glenn went on to talk about the first two questions put to Mary Magdalene by Jesus: "Why are you weeping?" and "For whom are you looking?" From there, he put the question to us: why are we weeping and for what are we looking? He then went on to talk about the meaning of the Resurrection. As Pastor Glenn reminded us, Easter is the power of God to be with you when you weep in the darkness, to open the tomb where your hopes lie dead, to help you see the Lord when you thought only the gardener was there.

Pretty powerful stuff. (And if you want to read the sermon yourself, you can find it here.)

I sat there the first time through, wondering what my answers would be to those question. The second one especially held my thoughts. Then the first service was over and we joined the congregation for Easter breakfast in the church's Fellowship Hall.

When we entered the hall, I saw Bill Croy zipping around in the motorized wheelchair he now uses. With the Bishop's blessings given the extraordinary circumstances under which Bill retired, the Croys have stayed on in the Maple Grove community. So I was not terribly surprised to see Bill and in fact was both pleased and relieved to see him eating and talking with other parishioners. 

What surprised me was Bill coming up to the table where Warren and I were seated, looking straight at me, and telling me he had read my blog abut his retirement when a friend up north called his attention to it. 

He wanted to thank me for writing that story. "No, thank you," I said, thinking of all the comfort and hope I had received listening to him preach. 

I looked at Warren after Bill left. "I'm going to cry," I said, blinking back tears for several moments. As moved as I was by Bill's kind words to me, I had not come to Maple Grove looking for praise. It was a gift, plain and simple, handed with deep feeling and gratitude from Bill to me.

We moved back up into the sanctuary and the second service again. Again, there was the sermon and again I was moved to tears.

Why am I weeping? What am I looking for?

As I have mentioned a few times, and as is obvious from my lack of postings, I have been struggling with writing. I have been struggling with lots of things: my health, my time, having both of my sons, my daughter-in-law, and my grandchild-to-be 2500 miles away, watching my mother fade. And while there are moments when I can look beyond my struggles, too much of the time I am wandering around not really seeing my life, not really seeing anything.

I could be Mary, alone, weeping in the dark.

Why am I weeping? What am I looking for? I kept pondering those words, right through the end of the second service.

And then I received another unexpected gift. A woman approached me; I recognized her as Bill's wife, Dorothy. Independent of her husband's words earlier today, she wanted to thank me for the blog about his retirement.

I started to get teary again. While she thanked me, her voice catching with emotions, I thanked her  and told her of my gratitude at being at that final service. We hugged one another in our tears.

I am always overwhelmed when someone compliments me on my writing. I understand that blogging is the most public of acts in the writing world, but the writing itself is the most private. It is when I get to face myself on the page. I am profoundly grateful when someone takes my hand and tells me my words moved them. That act of kindness gives me the courage to rise to my feet and try again.

And now I come back to Pastor Glenn's questions of Easter morning. Why am I weeping? What am I looking for?

Pastor Glenn preached that the Resurrection was not extraordinary, but that believing in it is. For Pastor Glenn, the extraordinary message of Easter is seeing the Lord in our daily life.

Jonathan Kozol quoted an Episcopal priest in defining what an "ordinary resurrection" might look like. For Jonathan Kozol, getting up and facing life, day after day, despite one's barriers, despite poverty, despite closed doors, was an ordinary resurrection.

And for me? Something opened up inside on Sunday. Call it faith, call it spirituality, call it gratitude. Call it a miracle that I have written this post.

Call it a resurrection.


I'm linking up with Michelle and Deidra both! 


Anonymous said...

This is a lovely post. I may print out the sermon and consider it in private, but it sounds to me that the Holy Spirit was in motion yesterday...telling you in so many words that your writing DOES matter even when it doesn't seem so to you.

I know that I come here again and again for a sense of calm and peace.

caryjo said...

You obviously have a "heart" that absorbs and reaches out to love and bless others in many ways. You will truly continue to bless those around you both physically and cyberspacely... for want of a better term. Blessings.

see you there! said...

You write really beautifully. I always find something to think about in your posts, something that stays with me.


Deidra said...

Ah, I have missed you....