April 6, 2020
“Sometimes questions are more important than answers.” Nancy Willard, author (1936-2017)
Easter 1962 I stood before the congregation at the First Christian Church in Ames, Iowa and declared my faith. Following my family’s tradition, and months of study, I was baptized by immersion. I loved the ritual of it, especially wearing a white robe. Before the dunking, the minister stood before our group of 13-year olds and asked: “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior?” One by one everyone said yes. I recall feeling antsy because the question didn’t make sense to me. Exactly what did Jesus save me from? My mom used to tell me that I was my own worst enemy. “Stop asking questions, Kathi.” Would Jesus stop me from being me, the bad and good parts of me? Gosh, I thought, wouldn’t that be a neat and tidy way to live. When the minister stood in front of me and asked the question, I couldn’t bring myself to say yes. Instead I nodded in agreement. But what I really wanted to say was “Could we talk?”
Fast forward twenty-five years. After my dad died I started attending the First Christian Church in downtown Portland. It had a beautiful sanctuary with circular seating, symbolizing unity in community. The minister walked among us. The choir was called Joyful Noise. The feeling was wonderful, but still I longed for a meaningful dialogue about my faith. The opportunity arrived when the minister phoned me and suggested a get acquainted meeting.
He was a lovely man, truly interested in who I was as a person. For the first time I asked what I wanted to ask way back at my baptism. “If I have God, why do I need Jesus? I mean, isn’t Jesus kind of a middle man?” The minister paused, leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands on the top of his head. “That’s an interesting question. No one has ever asked me that before. Let’s talk about it.”
He explained to me that most people can’t comprehend the enormity and vastness of God. That God is creation itself. All knowing, all seeing, everywhere present. Therefore, we need to bring God into human form in order to relate. This is the role that Jesus played and still plays today.
I continued my line of questioning. “If God is the Almighty, then why would we pray to Jesus and not to God? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to bring our prayers to the source?” He chuckled at that while inviting me the next Sunday to listen closely to the prayers. “We pray in the name of Jesus, not to Jesus.” That statement allowed me to think of Jesus as a human expression of God.
I continued attending Sunday services at First Christian Church, and, at the time, I wasn’t sure why. Sanctuaries often feel like home to me. Safe and sacred space. That’s what I felt throughout the year of going to church. Then, one Sunday, something profound happened.
Sitting next to me on the pew was a young family; dad, mom and a few little kids. The dad kept looking at me in a quizzical way. While he was looking at me, I was looking at the stained-glass window of Jesus holding a lantern and saying, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” (Revelation 3:20) I would do this Sunday after Sunday. Just stare at it while thinking, “Please knock on my door. Please don’t knock on my door.”
On this particular Sunday, with the family nearby, I silently prayed to God for a sign. Is this church right for me? Is any church right for me? When service was over the man came over to me and asked, “Do you belong here?” After a long pause, I smiled broadly and replied, “No, I don’t belong here. Thank you!” He chuckled and said he was asking if I was a member of the church. “No, I’m not. But, again. Thank you. Your question was answered prayer.” With that I quickly departed. I wonder what the man thought after that?
The next week I attended a wedding of a long-ago friend at the Portland Church of Religious Science. The next day I attended a service at the bride and groom’s church. I wept the whole time as I finally felt at home. I learned that, like Jesus, I too am a child of God. And, as Jesus said, I would too would do his works and greater.
This Easter, now 58 years after my baptism, I have come full circle as a proud member of an open, welcoming and progressive Christian Church. There, I found, Life Itself continually knocking on my door. Life invites me to enter into the Highest Expression of My Good/God Self. Easter is a great time to renew my own personal resurrection. May you find peace in your heart this Easter and beyond.
What does Easter mean?
“The origin of the word easter isn’t certain. The Venerable Bede, an eighth-century monk, and scholar, suggested that the word may have come from the Anglo-Saxon Eeostre or Eastre – a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility. Another possibility is the Norse eostur, astur, or ostara, which meant “the season of the growing sun” or “the season of new birth.” The word east comes from the same roots. In this case, easter would be linked to the changing of the season.”
Additionally: Easter falls on the first Sunday, after the first Full Moon, after the Spring Equinox. The hare was the spring goddess’s totem animal. Eggs were painted and placed in fields as fertility symbols for the beginning of the growing season. What will you do with your painted eggs this year?
Fun with Easter Bonnets!