Why Easter Matters to a Troubled Creation
I struggled to keep my concentration in church. On Easter Sunday, of all days. My mind has been ruminating on faith for weeks. It’s not a crisis. There have been two major crises before where I’ve spent literally months in prayer while working to expel doubt.
A couple of weeks ago I saw an old episode of Davey and Goliath. For millions of young people in the latter stage of the post-war baby boom it was mostly our religious formation.
The current meditation is on the nature of what it means to be called by Christ. My family never belonged to the “in crowd”. Certainly I never did. My parents lost touch with religion before I was born. My dad had grown up dirt poor and blamed his mother’s generous tithing for the family’s poverty. By the time my folks were married they both placed far more effort in their union local. I can’t say their mission was misplaced. The factory where they worked when newly married was a sweatshop in the truest form. They were nominally Christian but not religious.
A couple of weeks ago I saw an old episode of Davey and Goliath. For millions of young people in the latter stage of the post-war baby boom it was mostly our religious formation. Oh, and Vacation Bible School, which served as a free baby-sitting service. It also allowed me to become well versed in a variety of denominations as we went from one church to another and another during summers.
My parents never forgot slights. Their impoverished childhoods I’m sure played a role in their characters. They lived by a creed of their own: Get the other guy first because he’ll otherwise get you. They also weren’t much for displays of affection. Late in life I visited my dad in a hospital. His face covered by an oxygen mask. Before I left he reached out and weakly clasped my right hand. It was a rare moment.
Mom and Dad are both now gone a very long time. In under three weeks it’ll be 22 years since he died. Mom has been gone for almost 13 years. Their children’s lives were and often are fascinating odysseys. My brother rejected the old man’s materialism but I can’t say it made Matt a better human being. He would’ve denied it but I often saw him work to get the other guy first. The youngest was apparently a good student. It’s not Christ-like to brag about abilities as a confidence man. The youngest sibling but also the first to die. He rests in a pauper’s grave off a lonely highway.
My sister was the oldest and she was the first to make an effort to lead a more Christian life. She would admit it isn’t always easy. Her life has been a struggle. Born severely asthmatic, her husband left her young and then shortly thereafter died. Leaving her with a child to raise alone. Mom and Dad stepped in briefly and helped. And so did a larger church community! Today, Cindy is a successful schoolteacher and pillar of her faith.
For me the path has been a bit like the little boy getting called home in a Family Circus comic.
For me the path has been a bit like the little boy getting called home in a Family Circus comic. A dotted line traces his wandering and distracted path. Busted relationships and I’m not even sure I can any longer count the places I’ve lived. There was one calendar year where I worked for 5 different broadcast companies and on 9 distinct stations. Too often I’ve just gotten comfortable and decided to call someplace home and then find my residence is a U-Haul truck. The Church is my home. It’s the one constant between cities.
And, yet, I stumble. Those slights my parents shared rise up and challenge faith. My last broadcast job lasted 7 years. An eternity in radio or television. After more than five years I was comfortable enough to buy a home for the very first time in my life. Less than two years later and after stratospheric ratings I was let go. Mainly because I hadn’t quit and saved the company money and grief! Funny, successful talk radio hosts generate controversy. Don’t program the format if management isn’t ready for the fallout.
I then believed the president of the company a despicable man. It hadn’t started that way. I’d grown up watching him cover the space program for CBS News. Men like him were a major reason I became a broadcaster. Then I watched him make people promises he never intended to keep. Get them before they get you.
Not long ago I learned he was in an assisted living facility. He had been stripped long ago of any authority in his broadcast company. And I was tempted. I was going to telephone the man. I was going to taunt him. I was going to call him and ask if his diapers had been changed. For days I nearly picked up my telephone and made the call. But I couldn’t. There were happier days. The days he used to take me to lunch and dinner at fine restaurants and one evening when I recited almost verbatim a story he had done for CBS. He looked at me. “What, you couldn’t have been older than 5 or 6 at the time?” he said in surprise. I explained his work had made a profound impression. As we ate a man came into the restaurant and sat down at a piano.
The old man across the table looked at the musician and then at me. He recounted an experience as a little boy when his father took him into downtown Chicago. They stopped at a restaurant for lunch. It was the boy’s first experience with fine dining and he suddenly felt very special. Then a man sat at a piano. His father looked at the waiter and sternly asked, “Is he going to play?” When the waiter said yes the father stood up. “We’re leaving,” he said. “I can’t stand a piano when I’m eating!” The little boy’s chance at being someone for a few hours one afternoon came, suddenly, to an end.
David looked outside at the beautiful view from the restaurant and spoke. “My father was always right,” he explained to me. As if he needed to find a rational explanation.
We defend our parents because they’re flawed creatures. We learn to love them because we grow to know we’re flawed people. Like them, we struggle to deal with slights. Perceived or real.
My pastor says the resurrection was the single greatest event since the creation of the universe. Our challenge is coming to terms with events smaller and far more common.