Thursday, April 09, 2015

April 9, 2015 — Obscenity and Glory

Easter’s come and gone. The day, anyway. For Christians who follow the liturgical year, the season lives on, in the forty days between Easter Day and Pentecost.

Today I ran across this quotation from a collection of sermons by Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat (HarperCollins, 1985). Buechner is a preacher’s preacher. Although he doesn’t step into a pulpit that often, his influence as a writer is widespread, and much-appreciated by those who craft sermons week in and week out.

Here’s the excerpt:

“Anxiety and fear are what we know best in this fantastic century of ours. Wars and rumors of wars. From civilization itself to what seemed the most unalterable values of the past, everything is threatened or already in ruins. We have heard so much tragic news that when the news is good we cannot hear it. But the proclamation of Easter Day is that all is well. And as a Christian, I say this not with the easy optimism of one who has never known a time when all was not well but as one who has faced the Cross in all its obscenity as well as in all its glory, who has known one way or another what it is like to live separated from God. In the end, his will, not ours, is done. Love is the victor. Death is not the end. The end is life. His life and our lives through him, in him. Existence has greater depths of beauty, mystery, and benediction than the wildest visionary has ever dared to dream. Christ our Lord has risen.”

What I like about this expression of Easter faith is its realism. There no illusions, here, that life is never hard. There’s no attempt to sell the idea that God offers the baptized a “Get out of suffering free” card. There are plenty of purveyors of spiritual snake oil out there who carry around whole stacks of such cards, and hand them out as a come-on. (It works. They always seem to be surrounded by hopeful hordes waving dollar bills.)

Buechner’s got too much integrity for that. For him, the cross is not an item of sparkly gold jewelry, but an “obscenity” that — paradoxically — leads to glory.

For people with cancer, or anyone else who’s on a hard road, there’s hope in that vision. Hope doesn’t come from finding a way around life’s struggles and heartaches. It comes from resolutely forging on through them — knowing that, on the other side, someone’s waiting for us. Someone who’s been through it, too.

No comments: