Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dancing With Eternity

Rev. Jeffrey Symynkywicz, March 31d, 2002

 It was my turn to decorate our church’s Easter egg tree this year. Actually, I hadn’t planned it that way. The plan was for Jack Sidebottom and me to find an acceptable tree branch in that little patch of woods behind the parsonage, and to bring it here to the church, and set it up, and then—lo and behold!—to have someone else decorate it in time for our service this morning.
But then, through no one’s fault but my own, that wasn’t the way it happened.
You see, I remembered to get the tree. But I forgot to recruit volunteers last Sunday to decorate it. By the time I remembered, it was the middle of the week, and I didn’t want to bother anyone at that late date, so I said, “What the heck…” and decided to do it myself.
It’s not that tough a job, really. (It’s not as daunting as decorating a Christmas tree—a task that has reduced me to tears on occasion, and not because I was overwhelmed by the beauty and meaning of the experience, either!) You just go up in the attic, and get the big box of eggs from past years that have been carefully packed away in egg cartons, and you place them, ever so gently, on the tree.
There were lots of eggs—dozens and dozens (as you can see). But I came to church early on Friday morning, long before anyone else had arrived, and the sanctuary was quiet, and the sun was shining through the windows, and it was just me alone with my thoughts—and all these eggs.
At first, my goal was just to get it done as quickly as possible—get it done so I could go on to the next item on my “things to do” list. But then, as I kept at it, I started looking—really looking—at the eggs… and reading the names of the people who had created them… There were all kinds of decorations, some fancy, some very simple; some had been by people who were, obviously, very talented and clever; others were done by children, perhaps very young children…
Some of the names I recognized, and some I did not. Some were from people who had moved away, or had drifted away, or were no longer with us in this earthly life. Others were names I knew well—including many of you here this morning… dear friends… and I could see your faces as I put your eggs on the tree… Other names I had never even heard of before, and I’m still not sure what their connection with our church might have been…
But each one, I knew, represented a precious human soul: a man, or woman, or child who had shared his or her being—his or her creativity—his or her Easter joy—in decorating that egg, and carefully attaching its string— and now, years hence perhaps, was part of sharing this Easter with us in this church this morning. And that, I thought to myself, is what Easter truly is all about for many of us: It is about being part of that great and glorious stream of living souls that flows down through the ages, agelessly, deathlessly—some of whom we have been blessed to know, and many others not, but to whom we are all joined in the great ocean of life eternal.
As I stood back to admire my handiwork—a fully decorated Easter egg tree—it was as if those blessed souls—each egg a wondrous human face—a wondrous being—was dancing upon the branch on which it rested— swaying gently in the breeze, dancing on the eternal tree of life—dancing with eternity—with one another—with all of us—with all time.
None of us ever finishes our ministry upon this Earth when our time comes for us to go. None of us ever becomes the full person that the Hand of Life intended us to be. The end always comes too quickly. We will never be finished in our search for spiritual and emotional completeness. The little lives of any of us are, however many score years we happen to abide here, but a glimmer of light between two vast eternities.
The great Renaissance artist Raphael was so moved by the essential incompleteness of human existence that when he painted his most famous portrait of Christ, he kept the lower left hand corner empty—unfinished—to symbolize the unfinished part of every life, even the life of Jesus himself.
Here is the essence of our human condition:
Our little lives are short. Even the grandest, most powerful, most transforming, most revolutionary human life is short. Yet, we dance with one another on the branches on a Tree of Life which is eternal and immortal.
Easter speaks to both of those conceptions. It is a promise of truth and beauty flowing freely now, within this life, with the cycles and seasons of our lives and within all nature. But Easter is also a declaration of a hope which transcends the bounds of time and space; it is a declaration of our hope in the immortality of our spirits—our love—and our ability to glimpse and savor and taste in the barest, simplest instant all that which is eternity.
I think that it is in the simplest treasures that we glimpse eternity most profoundly: The simplest touch upon our shoulder or across our cheek; the softest whisper of truth and meaning in our souls; the gentlest notes of music, music of the birds, music of the breeze, music of the laughter of those we love. The pain of loss. The miracle of healing. An unquenchable hope for the future. Constant reminders of how precious each moment truly is. Constant reminders that we are dancing with eternity.
Easter reminds us about our place in this great dance. It reminds us, too, of all of those whose lives have touched ours, especially those who are no longer with us on this Earth. There are those people, whom we have all known and loved, who live their lives with such vigor and spirit and energy that truly, they abide with us as much now as much as they did when they were by our sides. Though they are gone from us in body, their spirits live on. We can know that the things they did for us—the lessons they taught us—the gifts they gave us—will never, never die. They live forever within our hearts and memories, within our deeds and dreams now. We can meet them again on that bridge of love, in that dance of life, every eastering morning within our souls.
Eternity does not mean “a long time”. Eternity is beyond all time. Our sense of Easter connects us to eternity, and our sense of eternity transforms the time we live here on this Earth. Eternity is the dimension of the divine, pouring itself forth into our lives. It is the smile of God reflected back upon our tiny human lives.
As the great Sufi poet Kabir wrote:
Friend, hope for the guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think… and think… while you are alive.
What you call “salvation” belongs to the time before death.
If you do not break the times that bind you while you are alive,
do you think
ghosts will do it after?
“Why wait for death?” asks another poet. “You are immortal now… Why wait for death? Eternity is now.”
Eternity is now, and Easter is now. Easter is not just a glorious myth from long ago. It is also a living reality, in human life, in the life of all creatures, in the life of our living Earth. Easter lives is us, eternally, in our affirming spirits, our hopeful minds, and our trusting, dancing hearts.
May the blessings of Easter be with us all. Amen.

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