- Easter sermons are always the hardest of the year for me. All year long we, at St. Andrew’s try to look at religion in a way that does not violate what we have learned from scientists like Einstein and Darwin. Then, on Easter, we have an infusion of visitors who have not been a part of that conversation and who walk church expecting typical Easter sermon that will assure them of an eternal shelter from life’s storms.The problem is obvious. Darwin has shown us that the world is evolving, so immortals would become relics as nature changed. Einstein has shown us that space and time are only understood in relation to one another so the idea of a permanent place also violates our basic knowledge of the world.
Martin Luther’s famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God” is based on Psalm 46. The psalm does not describe a static world, but instead a world of earthquakes and crumbling empires. In other words, it is describing the world of shifting foundations that resembles our modern scientific view of the world. Then it says in an almost Taoist way, “a river runs through it.”
Likewise, the parables of Jesus do not call us to dwell on some other invisible world, nor other invisible supernatural beings. The purpose of a parable is to use startling images to illumine our own experience more deeply. So when Jesus tells us to consider the lilies which are here to day and gone tomorrow, he is not promising that we can obtain a permanent form, but that there is something we can trust in the midst of change.
Considering the lilies, we notice several strange things. First, death and life are not really separate. What is living grows out of what is dead. We also realize that we are part of a larger life. The roots of a plant merge into the earth, the leaves open to the sun. What we think of as a flower is a bridge, a“flowering” between heaven and earth. Then third, we realize that life is wiser than we. DNA has a plan of its own that has nothing to do with the drama we imagine to be our life.
So, while there isn’t really a shelter from life’s storms, there is a shelter in the storm. The foundations shake, empires crumble, but a river runs through it all.