Sunday, March 27, 2016
The stone is rolled away
Today is Easter, one of the happiest and yet most complicated of holidays. There are a lot of ways it can be happy (many of them secular), but the complications usually come from one question: What does it mean?
What does it mean that Jesus returned to life-- that is, to life on Earth-- after he died?
For some, it is a grand miracle that signals the divinity of Christ. That is, it is a literal sign from God about the meaning of this one man. For others, there is great symbolism in it, more important than the miracle itself. The rebirth echoes the truths of Spring, the inescapable and remarkable fact that the world we have been given renews itself after the death of winter. In a place like Minnesota, that is particularly remarkable. Of course, Jesus did not live in Minnesota.
It's odd though... for me the symbols of the week that affect me most deeply are not the cross or the palm. Instead they are the curtain and the stone.
First, the curtain. On Good Friday, at the moment of Jesus's death, the curtain in the Temple of Jerusalem tore from top to bottom. This was a particular curtain, too: the one that separated the place of God's presence from the world of men. Only the High Priests could go behind the curtain, and then only once a year. The curtain tore, giving us all access to the divine, to the presence of God. How amazing is that?!
Second, the stone. When Jesus was placed in the tomb, a large stone was place in the entrance to seal the space. The first sign that Jesus had risen was the sight of the stone rolled away-- too big a job for any one man.
That stone is the door to a prison cell, opened once life was offered to all.
That image, of the cell door and the stone, is deep within me. This week is not like every other week. I organized a gathering in Washington for this Friday, where the schools doing clinical work will gather. On Thursday, at a different event, I will speak at the White House on the importance of clemency-- the opening of that prison door through an act of mercy. I hope that this week will also see the President granting clemency to dozens of inmates, including some I have come to know and believe in.
But today, I will celebrate what is and what may yet be, curtains torn and stones rolled away.