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Easter Sunday | March 31, 2024 Rev. Dr. Kathryn Benton




 

My Lord, What a Mornin’…My Lord, What a Mournin’. Which is it? Or is it both? The words and the spirit of this Sorrow Song seem to capture the full meaning of the Easter experience…the mourning, the despair, the sadness, the ability to place oneself in the context of the entire universe, where even the stars begin to fall, and at the same time expressing the morning, the longing, the hope…even the joy of the resurrection…the rebirth of the earth, as well as, all life…the flowers…the trees…and in this case the prophet Jesus of Nazareth. Of the Sorrow Songs Du Bois wrote:

 

Through all the sorrow of the Sorrow Songs there breathes a hope—a faith in the ultimate justice of things. The minor cadences or despair change often to triumph and calm confidence. Sometimes it is faith in life, sometimes a faith in death, sometimes assurance of boundless justice in some fair world beyond. But whichever it is, the meaning is always clear: that sometime, somewhere, [people] will judge [people] by their souls and not by their skins. Is such a hope justified? Do the Sorrow Songs sing true?

 

Later, this song was used by the Civil Rights and anti-war movements…I think the sorrow songs ring true. Pauli Murray agreed. She wrote of this all-inclusive view of life in the following poem:

 

Hope is a crushed stalk

Between clenched fingers

Hope is a bird’s wing

Broken by a stone.

Hope is a word in a tuneless ditty —

A word whispered with the wind,

A dream of forty acres and a mule,

A cabin of one’s own and a moment to rest,

A name and place for one’s children

And children’s children at last . . .

Hope is a song in a weary throat.

Give me a song of hope

And a world where I can sing it.

Give me a song of faith

And a people to believe in it.

Give me a song of kindliness

And a country where I can live it.

Give me a song of hope and love

And a brown girl’s heart to hear it.

 

Murray knew something about hope and its seeming opposite, despair. She even saw hope in a crushed stalk, a broken wing…perhaps a lynching (which she was clearly familiar with). On this Easter Sunday, we need these words…we need this hope…this Song in a Weary Throat. There is much that brings us despair…much that robs us of this hope. In Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified, Palestinians (Christians and others) are being prohibited from entering in order to commemorate the Holy Days…while they have not embraced a cease-fire. And neither have we…the major financers of this and other tragedies. Is this a triumph of oppression over freedom…of death over life? Will this reality keep us from seeing the hope that Job spoke of…that if it be cut down, that it will sprout again? No! says Howard Thurman…for:

 

Brooding over all of life is a Presence that no single event

or experience can possibly exhaust.

 

Further he said:

 

No expression of life exhausts life.

The spirit of life broods over every living thing,

just as only so long as the spirit of the hive is over the apiary

can the bees live and make honey and fulfill themselves.

This brooding presence is the aliveness of life.

 

This aliveness of life finds a central moment in Easter, he says…the high celebration that coincides with the coming of spring – the creative season when new life abounds on every hand. Thurman is talking about spring, yes, but he is also alluding to the fact that this reality…this creative impulse, is built into life.

 

Poet Rainer Maria Rilke recognized this. He wrote:

 

See the flowers, so faithful to Earth.

We know their fate because we share it.

Were they to grieve for their wilting,

That grief would be ours to feel.

There is a lightness in things. Only we move forever burdened,

Pressing ourselves into everything, obsessed by weight.

 

Rilke speaks to this experience of spring…to the flowers blooming everywhere around us…their ability to bloom with abandon, seemingly unburdened by the happenings of the world…the violence and war…the hatred and oppression…in Gaza, Ukraine, Sudan, Yemen…all over the world. It is the human that is so burdened. For me, and I suspect for you, there are days that I wish to be unburdened like the flowers. I long to experience a lightness…the ability to live in the moment…enjoy the moment. I am extremely fortunate to have inspiration close at hand. Freddy and Lily teach me this on a daily basis! In the eyes of a three-year old, each day is a new opportunity to experience this joy, this abandon, this freedom. He is not yet burdened…obsessed by weight. Instead, he experiences this lightness…without thought for the wilting that is certain to come. At 7, my granddaughter is already aware of the wilting. She tries to prop up the flowers…wishing for them to be frozen in time. She is already aware of the grief that comes with wilting and dying in the plant world, as well as the animal and world. Yet, as a child, she has not yet succumbed to the overwhelming burden of living. She is not yet obsessed by the weight of the world. She is, I think, open to the manifestation of another world.

Arundhati Roy, Indian writer and activist is also open to this possibility. She writes:


Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.

On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.





Can we hear her breathing? Can we quiet ourselves enough for that? Well, the answer is, I think, that it is very difficult to do this. It is very difficult to take time out of our busyness to listen and to pay attention, even to our own breath. If we practice this breathing, we may cultivate an awareness of our own place in the universe…our own calling to bring about another world that needs to be. We may catch sight of the crushed stalk and the broken bird’s wing. We may in Thurman’s words notice that…

 

All around us worlds are dying and new worlds are being born.

All around us life is dying and life is being born.

The fruit ripens on the tree;

The roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth

Against the time when there shall be new leaves, fresh blossoms, green fruit.

Such is the Growing Edge!

 

The growing edge is alive in this community! We are being called to a faith in the ultimate justice of things. We are being called to the realization that no event of our lives, whatever its character, can imprison us. As long as we recognize this, says Thurman, we will not scale down our aspirations to the level of the facts in our present situation. Look well to the Growing Edge!

 

May we listen for the breath of another world…may we experience an unburdening that allows us to envision this other world…a world filled with the hope and faith that will inspire us and keep us on the path…




 

 

 

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