Monday, April 17, 2006

deliver us from bad lighting

The ocean has delivered unto us another winter. A cold snap to accompany Eastertide; winds and rain thwarting the coming of spring, slowing the blood that should rush more quickly in our veins, sun-powered. Here on the coast, we wait in shivering expectation. I am sad this year that I did not usher in the Easter celebration with the preparation of Holy Week. I meant to go to church on Good Friday. I meant to go on Saturday too. I meant to fast from something. I got called in to work.

On Thursday night I got together with friends. We talked about sin. One of the funniest quotes of the night was "if the road to hell is paved with good intentions, what's the road to heaven paved with?" Someone said "beer." It was meant as a joke, but the laughter that followed was of the kind that only familiarity can breed.

Yesterday morning I was able to celebrate Easter at Christ Church Cathedral here in Vancouver, on the corner of Georgia and Burrard. I've never witnessed the ritual of smoking the altar, but it was strange and beautiful. When I finally fell asleep last night, the smell of sandalwood and cedar was still in my hair, and the voices of hundreds pushed wildly against the walls of my heart. The beauty of the higher churches, the ritual gatherings of Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox and some Anglicans, somehow seems more appropriate for the intensity of the Easter celebration. Yesterday I participated in something that liturgy uniquely gives: the sense of glory, carefully prepared for, meticulously ordered and beautifully executed.

I wrote this on Good Friday. I was going to publish it but I didn't have time. So here it is:

What is this day, this week, this Christian life without community? I find myself wanting it, craving the presence of others, craving it bodily and reaching out for it in my soul. Today is a still day, a sombre day, a day where death bleeds into possibility and destruction is overlaid with hope. It is too hard, alone, walking down the streets, drinking coffee even among friends. I come home, and without a Bible (I sent it home as I'm leaving here in 2 weeks) turn to the Internet for the Easter readings. Somehow it just isn't the same. I was going to go to church tonight but got offered an extra shift. Sigh. I start thinking in deal-makings (always the mark of slipping into piety, into thinking we're so Godly, into thinking we've evaded the need for God), "I'll go tomorrow." "I'll go Sunday morning too." The deals aren't really with God, I don't think, but more with myself.

I want to hear a good sermon. I want to hear in a choir the vastness of grace resounding and the relentlessness of life breaking through.

After last night's talk about sin, it is interesting to consider today, this very day, as the day that it was rendered powerless over our spiritual destiny or existence. We concluded that not everyone calls it "sin," and that other faith traditions and religions have their own words for the concept: Immoral, unethical, wrong, bad, tragic, disastrous. "Sin" is loaded with religious connotations, and somehow it's helpful to strip it of that and see it in other lights.

Is sin the possibility for wrongdoing? Is it guilt? Miscommunication, misguided intention, or simply the possibility that exists for us to fail? I heard once that it means "missing the mark." Well, that could be said of a whole lot of things.

How was Jesus "without sin?" Was it that he was born of some other substance, the substance of Divinity. It's not that he did nothing bad, for we know that he "grew in wisdom and stature," and growth is usually messy. He riled up religious leaders. He was a shit-disturber, and an agitator. He said things he shouldn't have, and was looked down on by many. He was sinless, but he wasn't safe. He was sinless, but he did things people called wrong.

Last night someone made a comment that made us all laugh. "I honestly thought I had never sinned until I was 10 or 11. I thought I was somehow different, that I had missed out on something, that I was special and sinless. I was a good kid!" This feeling testifies to the way we are taught about sin. That it is one-dimensional. So purely moral. What about the sin of bad lighting, as someone said jokingly. The sins of ugliness? Sin touches more areas of our existence than simply our behaviour. It is non-response. It is unwittingly participating in unjust economic systems. It is institutional and corporate as much as it is personal.

All I know is that the journey of Easter meant, or begun to mean, a whole lot more to me when sin exploded its tired vestiges. Sin is the possibility to screw up. The possbility to wound and be wounded, to misunderstand where we sought to learn, and to tear down where we sought to build. Christ was infused with holiness and perfection, and all the flickers of things gone right. He was a hybrid of God and (hu)man, and by simply existing, let alone dying, cross-bred our depravity with glory.

We may be tired of the story, or we may not get it at all. We may be confused at what actually took place in his body, emptied of life so many years ago. We may not really understand the hopelessness of the world, being so surrounded by the incessant laughter of a culture hopped up on pop music, fake tans and colgate smiles. But we recognize this weekend, held in
Spring's cupped green palm, that everything will be fine.

"The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." - the prophet Isaiah

"Beauty itself is the fruit of the Creator's exuberance that grew such a tangle, and the grotesques and horrors bloom from that same free growth, that intricate scramble and twine up and down the conditions of time. This, then, is the extravagant landscape of the world, given, given with pizzazz, given in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over." - Annie Dillard

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