Simple enjoyment: An Easter Sunday sermon

New Life Springing Up All Around (photo by Martin Malina, Kootenay River BC, July 2019)

Happy Easter!

Now, did you know that Easter is not just today — one day? Easter lasts fifty days, from Easter Day through to the Day of Pentecost, which this year is on May 28.

And, for that matter, every Sunday in the year — even during Lent — is considered a ‘little’ Easter, a mini feast of the resurrection on what Christians have called the first day of the week.

The primary theme of Easter is resurrection. Jesus Christ is alive, raised from the dead. We, too, share with Jesus life everlasting in our baptism. Therefore, new life is always around us and in us, of course. But we don’t always notice it.

Admittedly, with all that’s wrong in us and in the world today, it’s not easy to focus our attention on the new life springing all around us. That’s why we need to hear the Easter proclamation over and over again: Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Maybe it’s too simple a thing. Our minds want to complicate the message of Jesus’ resurrection with debates, controversies, stipulations—and we end up thinking we need to do a whole bunch of mental gymnastics. In order to believe we think we need to have every question about life after death figured out, solved.

And yet for over two thousand years Christians have believed in the presence of the living Lord Jesus, and expressed their faith in resurrection and new life, despite the evils and troubles in the world.

During the Holocaust in the last century over six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis. In a part of the city of Warsaw in Poland, called the Warsaw Ghetto, an inscription was discovered years later carved into a wall in the home of a Jewish family. It was a prayer, a statement of belief and an expression of faith: 

“I believe in the sun even when it doesn’t shine; I believe in love even when I don’t feel it; I believe in God even when God is silent.”[1]

I wonder if, today, we need to renew our faith in the truth and wonder of the resurrection. I wonder if we need to narrow our focus and try not to complicate the simple practice of belief and faith, despite the temptation to do so.

A couple of decades ago a scientist, David Quammen, published a book probing the far-reaching effects of extinction. This is, admittedly, a broad and expansive topic with many implications: the climate crisis, evolution, species diversity, etc.

In order to understand ‘extinction’, David Quammen studied not every species that ever became extinct throughout history, no. He studied a single species, the dodo bird, the last of which died on an island in the Indian Ocean in 1681.[2]

Any pursuit of the mind or soul, whether in science or in the life of faith, begins on as small a scale as possible. “The way to the many is through the one. Loving all things starts with loving one thing.”[3]

How do we practise focusing our attention and simplifying things, in the first place?

In the midst of all that is, good and bad, let’s take a deep breath and take a good, long look and listen around us. Have you been outside this weekend? What’s one thing you notice in nature and in the change of the seasons?

We know nature can’t be speeded up. We may want it to! —especially given the sluggish arrival of Spring this year. And still we are reminded again of the natural pacing of things. The crocuses, the tulips, the buds on the trees and blades of grass will soon emerge with fresh, new greening. This is both the reality of nature, and the nature of reality. 

But we are often at odds with the natural pace of life. Nature and reality happen often at a much slower rhythm of life than we’ve come to know for our own lives. Consider the nine months of pregnancy, periods of incubation, weather systems, growth, ripening — these are all teachers for us.

Thomas Aquinas, the great Doctor of Theology from the thirteenth century, defined prayer as the “simple enjoyment of the truth.”[4] The truth is, like nature, what is real. We don’t live in a fantasy world—the world of ‘what if’s’ and the world of ‘could-of, would-of, should-of.’

Easter is real. And the truth of new life and resurrection is to be celebrated and enjoyed: The simple enjoyment of the truth.

We can’t enjoy this reality when we are speeding. Because of the instant culture in which we live—instant results and same-day delivery—we’ve rather lost this art of simply enjoying the truth.

I now drive an electric car (EV). Driving an EV has opened my awareness to the simple enjoyment of the truth. The greatest enemy to the range of a battery-powered car is increased speed over time. As a friend who also now drives an EV told me recently: “the speed limit is your friend.”

I’ve experienced a conversion of sorts. I used to not think of driving over 120 kms/hour on the expressways. Now, I average well under 110. Why? To extend my range. Not an easy lifestyle adjustment. Yet, slowing down—ironically—has made me realize how much time I actually have.

Of course, we’ve always known that our energy consumption increases the faster we drive—no matter whether your car is powered by fossil fuel or electrons. The faster you go, the more fuel you burn. It’s always been true. The speed limit has always been my friend. I’ve just noticed it now with the EV probably because I don’t have the same level of ‘convenience’ filling up anywhere. I’ve had to confront some limitations to engaging our culture of hyper, hurried, hustle.

With a positive result for me. When I slow down, I pay attention to what has always been true, right there before my very eyes.

When we slow down, when we narrow our focus, we expand the field of vision before us. We notice in another person, for example, things we may have missed when we’ve hurried past them in the hallway. We reconsider and see again their true needs. We listen better. We don’t just rush to conclusions but recognize what they really need and who they really are.

Who is your neighbour? Where is new life beckoning around you now?

New life in Christ is here! It has already happened. And continues to happen all around us, all the time! 

Easter doesn’t magically remove evil and all the troubles in the world today. Easter is not waving a magic wand and making our suffering disappear. The living Lord is not some cosmic superhero that solves all our questions with a snap of a finger.

The simple enjoyment of the truth is the presence of heart, mind and soul seeing God in the real, the natural: the breath, the heartbeat, the love and the good that is always around us. Let us rejoice today in this most blessed gift!

Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

[1] My translation, from “Karfreitag 7 April” in Der Neukirchener Kalendar 2023 (Neukirchener-Verlagsgesellschaft, 2023)

[2] Cited in Belden C. Lane, The Great Conversation: Nature and the Care of the Soul (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), p.40-41.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Cited in Laurence Freeman, “Conditions for Breakthrough” in The Art of Waiting (Singapore: MedioMedia, WCCM, 2022).

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