Thursday, April 21, 2011

A charmed life…

Y’all know Eric. You’ve maybe called him by a different name, but I’m sure you’ve met him. Eric was a guy in my high school who just seemed to have it all. Athletic, naturally confident, good looking, all the ladies loved him. Eric seemed to live a charmed life. Your Eric may not be named Eric, but I’m confident we’ve all met a gal or guy like that. Maybe you’re Eric.

And what was nice about Eric is he never really tossed his privilege in your face. Some do, and it’s nauseating. But Eric was kind and giving, fun-loving and friendly. Though we weren’t close, I enjoyed his presence on my soccer team. And I respected that, for as charmed a life he lived, he respected others, whatever their situation.

Speaking of which, you also know Tony, don’t you? Tony was another high school friend. But he came from a tough family, always struggled in class, constantly battled new problems, appeared frantic and socially marginalized. Certainly not Eric. Maybe you’re Tony.

And it didn’t really seem to be Tony’s fault, right? He tried hard enough. Well, sometimes tried too hard, but among problems in life, that’s as good to have as many. It’s just that life dealt Tony a hand that wouldn’t play well, and never let up. Is star-crossed the antonym of charmed? Then Tony, and many we know like him, led a star-crossed, unlucky life.

This Sunday is Easter. So we’re called again to celebrate the central mystery of our faith: Jesus of Nazareth, in some unexplainable way, rose from the grave into new life three days after his execution by Rome as an insurrectionist and blasphemer. Well, more like thirty-six hours, but it was on the third day, and that’s the tradition (i.e. don’t worry too much about the details!). Anyway, however it went down, since then the fundamental Christian task has been figuring out what this death and resurrection meant for us, the world he left behind. After all, though we know relatively little about the historical Jesus compared with, say, George Washington or Augustus Caesar, we’re quite sure that most things he did weren’t just for his own sake. He had this strange- some would say instructive- way of living always for the benefit of others…

And apparently, he had a way of dying for others too. At least, that’s the claim. So what’s the point? Glad you asked. Now, stand in line. I mean, people have asked that for millennia, right?! Many offered good ideas, some discovered great ones, others, you might say, are still waiting for inspiration. But diverse as Christian understandings about Jesus’ role in life and faith have been, often they’re in the same ballpark, one I’ve unilaterally dubbed “Grace Field.” In other words, in Jesus dying and resurrecting, God was offering something Christians call Grace.

What’s that? Again, good question, about which there’s not full agreement. Except…that it’s free. Whatever God wants to give us, thinks we need- whether you describe that as freedom from sin, eternal life, unshakable forgiveness, avoidance of Hell, constant companionship, inspiration and power to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God,” all/none of the above- it comes with no price. If it had a price in the first place, Jesus paid everything. God freely gives this mysterious cure-all called Grace. Take it! It’s yours!

Lucky you. Lucky us. Apparently, we’re all Erics in God’s eyes. To be honest, I feel more like a Tony many days. Wondering why I try so hard when things aren’t going right. Wondering why it seems easier for others, or if I’m just missing something critical. Even when I’m on top-of-the-world I know, “This too shall pass.” But the truth of life that every Easter we’re invited to remember, reclaim and shout “Thank you!” for at the top of our spiritual lungs is that we all can lead charmed lives. God gives Grace freely, lovingly, unconditionally. Jesus conquered death to convince us so.

May you know that in the bottom of your soul this Sunday, and carry that with you until next Easter, and the following, and…

Grace and Peace,

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