Life is a Series of Empty Tombs

On Easter Sunday, several years ago now, the Pastor of the Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago was giving his last homily before he moved on to a new assignment, after years spent at the cathedral. It was a beautiful sermon. I can not hope to replicate it, but I can give you the gist:

Each of us, throughout our lives, go through stages, or chapters, and when the chapter ends, our old lives end. We die, enter a tomb of transition, and a short time later, like Christ on Easter, we must roll back the stone and emerge into a new life. For life is a constant series of dying and being reborn, from the chapters of experience and development, and even from one moment to the next. The old us is dead and we are being called to a new, different life. And, like a string of pearls, the tombs leave a record of who we were and our transformation.

I never did cotton to the idea of Jesus as a scapegoat for all of our sins and “saving us”. I always thought that the living Jesus and his message of peace was the core Christian message. But, this framing of the resurrection story made a kooky fairy tale into profound wisdom, something to be considered on every Easter and other days too.

Am I open to new life? Am I stuck in a tomb? Should I die, hopeful, to once again be reborn? Perhaps the message of Easter isn’t about Jesus and the Romans and events that happened thousands of years ago. Perhaps the message of Easter is about facing our own suffering and hopefully be resurrected, right here in this life.

The Temple of LiLoLa

From Catholicism, I learned the value of ritual, religious practice and the power of story to shape our understanding of the world. Years after hearing a homily from one Sunday, I still think of the need to leave a series of empty tombs. The resurrection applies not to some afterlife, it applies to this one, where we have to awaken new life within us, walk away from the old and to write new chapters to our stories.

From Quakerism, I learned of the testimonies I remember as PIES, i.e., peace, integrity, equality and simplicity. The need to be still and listen to the man of the heart and mind, which Quakers call the “Light Within”. This Light is in every sentient being. Knowing this we are called to peace, to follow the voice of our own hearts and to know others are following theirs. Simplicity is to cut through the desire for material things, which can cut us off from this voice within. You cannot serve both God and Mammon.

From Buddhism, I learned that the world is full of dissatisfaction. We assert ourselves against the world in ego delusion. We are dissatisfied, because we do not have what we want or are afraid to lose what we have. The living world is always changing and the best life is to live in each moment, experiencing it all without forming attachments to things as they are, things as they will be or to possessions, no matter how trivial.

When you ask, “What God do you worship?” Is there any better response than, “Life, love and laughter.” The Temple of LiLoLa is in our hearts. It is up to us to throw the doors open.