“He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.” Mt. 28:6
As I began my journey in a Christian church as young man, I read the Bible as a record of literal events that took place. Creation of the universe in seven days by God, a literal Noah and the ark, Moses receiving stone tablets on the mountain, Jonah and the Whale, prophets from Moses to Elijah and Elisha and Jesus doing miracles were seen as actually events. The Bible, I was taught, was the literal, inerrant Word of God, at least in the “originals.” Over the years, my thinking has evolved so that when I now read the Bible I see it as mostly a book of mythological stories written down after years of oral transmission. Yet its words and stories still help us, I believe, to find freedom and peace in our earthy journeys giving us experience of eternity beyond time and space. When I say in my ordination vows, “I accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church Universal, and God’s Word to me,” (question #2), I don’t mean literally. Jesus Christ is a term for the Divine in us all, exemplified by a person who probably did not even live in history, but told in such a way it can help us understand our own God Self or Divinity.
The Bible and its stories are like pointers to the beyond. “When the wise man points the finger to the moon, all the fool sees is the finger.” It’s something each must decide for him or herself. I urge, however, you do not take the final word or interpretation from me or any teacher; seek and you will find. Experience for yourself. I am just one, however, who finds the literal translation foolish and even dangerous to people and our earthly world.
Having said that, the story of Jesus and the resurrection is a very old one which goes back thousands of years to ancient Egypt, where the avatar or god teacher Horus was like Jesus, born to a virgin, had twelve disciples, died at the hands of angry men, and three days later rose from the dead. It was repeated in Persia with a man named Mithras, in Asia Minor with Attis, in Greece as Dionysus, in Syria as Adonis and in Italy as Bachus. Each of these stories were told in the context of the lunar calendar, with the avatar being born at the winter solstice and put to death and rising at the spring equinox. What do these stories teach us? What were they saying?
These stories speak of our human experience as beings with reflective consciousness. Our being born on earth is symbolic to being born in darkness and a “cave of death.” We are blinded by our bodies and the physical world. Yet within each of us is a seed or spark of Divine Light, yearning to sprout forth into light and awareness. Just as the seed lying dormant in winter darkness bursts forth into life at springtime, so out of our darkness of living, the light of understanding and awareness appears. In these stories, the sun represents the Divine Sun of which we are the reflecting moon of Divine warmth, light and peace. We are like chicks breaking out of dark egg shells into light, laying the eggs of fertile hope. The story pulses with rich symbolism and joy!
The story teaches we can free, free at last; free from bodies and the never ending search for peace in the time/space dimension, free in spirit, hope, and joy. We awaken to the realization we are not just this limited, frail, and grave bound body, but Spirit, eternally One with the Creator of all.
Resurrection means “to awaken” as in the Greek word, “Anastasia.” We turn away from our beastly, earth bound identities, symbolized by the Palm Sunday “donkey rides” we have been riding! (The donkey symbolized the “earth bound walk.”) We awaken like children to freedom, joy, and pleasure in self-discovery. The fear of death begins to dissipate; “O death, where is your sting? O Grave, where is your victory?” Where are the dark, endless graves of life? “He is not here, he has been raised!”
Experience, the heart, becomes the proof, the inward affirmation of peace and joy despite conditions of the body and outside world. Awareness becomes the journey of our lives on earth. We understand peace is not gained by religious authority mandates; approval of creedal words, council decrees, or guilt-motivated adherence. It is granted by personal acceptance in awakening to one’s Identity. It dawns on our darkness through reason and acceptance.
Experience then becomes the criterion of our understanding and mind-training. “By their fruits you shall know them.” We observe our attitudes and thinking, becoming aware and sensitive to our negativity and hopelessness. We notice our dependence on past abuse and victimization events. Yes, traumatic events in our lives and failures can be used as barriers to happiness. They can give “personal power”.
In a congregation in Pennsylvania, we had a middle aged man who never seemed to find success. In his early 40’s, he still lived with his parents. His father, whom the family all called “Doc,” asked if I could help. I soon suggested they go with me to visit a psychotherapist I deeply respected. As we sat together in the office, the father, “Doc,” continually told the therapist what a horrific childhood his son endured. He went on and on until the therapist stopped him and said, “Who hasn’t had such?!” I was shocked. But with the help of the therapist, the son soon began to take charge of his own thinking and life. Within a year he got a stable job, bought a car, married and owned a house!
Are you mostly happy and content today? If not, you remain asleep in darkness, the hopeless of the physical world. Are you able to lay constant judgment of others aside, to cease constant condemning and comparing? If not, you sleep! Are you hopeful and experience peace amid a world of hopelessness? If not, you sleep.
Listening and awakening to the Presence of the Eternal Spirit within changes lives. It can transform bitter and seemingly hopeless people into temples open to love and forgiveness. The Presence can change anyone’s world upside down if an enduring peace and hope are truly wanted in place of darkness and despair.
Awakening, or Resurrection, gives a wonderful sense of completeness. One realizes she or he is loved just the way they are, where they are. Nothing needs to be defended and nothing needs changed except one’s thinking. Everything can be accepted as working together for one’s good and the world’s redemption. Dualities fade with a beautiful sense of unity dominating all circumstances of life.
“What if the race is over and we all automatically win?
What if the game is ended long before it even begins?
What if the test is taken and we’re all passing again and again?
What if the race is over, and we’re all born victorious;
If the race is over, what then?”
Shared with the folks at 1st Presbyterian Church, West Seneca, April 24, 2011, Easter Sunday.