It is Easter Day Evening, and the last Alleluia of Easter morning has traveled from small Lewes out into the oceans off the coast of Delaware.
This Easter day I was phoned twice from a homeless Egyptian in New York, confused and broken from ten years a stranger in a strange land. The last call was from Bellview, where they can't decide if he is crazy or just too disconnected to even find safety for the night.
I traded poems with a friend from Tennessee on her way to some place else by way of a lonely Easter vigil, one in which the smoke is not from incense and the light is not from new fire, but the same old one used to light the cigarettes.
Today I looked in the eyes of a member of the parish whose husband died last month, and for whom the Resurrection is no real comfort. Jesus, yes, great, He is Risen. But her husband? Deep in her eyes is the news that he is dead, gone, and lost to her.
And I was conscious today of the absence in our congregation of two friends who could not bear our continued in-house discussion about blessing same sex relationships, when they know they are blessed in theirs.
From one to one-forty-five I stood in the line, here in Lewes - a silent vigil line that has been in place every Sunday since last September. We hold signs stating the number of US war dead and wounded and known Iraqi civilians dead. (They are greater every week). I reported how it went to our leader Patricia who was away in Ohio, and to Kathryn my companion who is in Sri Lanka, working there for those whose agony is not easily turned to Easter Joy.
Tonight I sat with friends and we talked about why that line was not enough. We named the terror: the pain of this war is nothing compared to the pain of the larger war, the ongoing war of Empire at its most arrogant, the war that has drawn us all in by virtue of our fears of being called unpatriotic.
I did a little something - I talked to Yosef in New York, I emailed my friend, I stood, I talked, I telephoned. But I confess: I did not preach this Easter Sunday about the mercy we need, a mercy that even on Easter Sunday is not found in an empty tomb, or some Resurrection were personal death is not the end. I did not proclaim the Mercy that is needed NOW. And now it is late at night and I am stunned by the agony that still envelopes even my little world. We need a mercy that makes the agony a doorway into a larger struggle, a struggle to be named. The mercy we need is food for the journey and the courage we need. And the name of our journey and struggle is liberation.
So it was with wonder that I heard last night, and heard again today, and am even now listening to a song by Mary Gauthier titled "Mercy Now."
Here are some of the words... I hope quoting them counts as a review and an encouragement to buy the record:
"My church and my country could use a little mercy now
as they sink into a poisoned pit
that's going to take forever to clime out
they carry the weight of the faithful
who follow them down
I love my church and country, and they could use some mercy now.
Every living thing could use a little mercy now
only the hand of grace can end the race
towards another mushroom cloud
people in power, well
they'll do anything to keep their crown,
I love life, and life itself could use some mercy now."
I am a preacher (sometimes a good one), and a poet (sometimes passable), but Mary Gauthier makes me realize once again that the singer and song writer shames us all.
In the terror of the long last years of this Empire, not the first and hopefully not the last Empire, I turn again to the question of the Mercy of God and God's Grace, and how in our midst there must arise again the voices that raise hope for the hopeless. Resurrection says nothing to me tonight unless it includes a Resurrection of hope, for this Easter I have heard the voices of the hopeless, the slightly mad, the dejected, the rejected and the forgotten, and they will not be satisfied by some ethereal doctrine of substitutionary sacrifice. What these people want is Resurrection of hope. Not some fancy pants doctrine of salvation, but hope. Hope not for some future but NOW.
Well, what do I know? Mary Gauthier says it best..."Every living thing could use a little mercy now."
Canon Ed Rodman prayers sometimes, "Let there be peace among us, and may we not be instruments of our own oppression." That is a prayer for this moment in the Episcopal Church.
The Resurrection of Hope, indeed I believe the Resurrection to eternal life, is mostly a matter of mercy and grace. It is a distraction of Empire, of those who would tell us who we can love and how, that lead us to spend much time in oppressive, not to say depressing, conversations about biblical morality. The more important task is to experienced love that is grace filled and signed by a giving of thanks, which sensibility is Mercy made real.
We could use a little mercy now.
'Else all is tears and never a Alleluia.