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First Parish Universalist Church
790 Washington Street, P. O. Box 284, Stoughton, Massachusetts 02072 
(781) 344-6800
Worship: 10:30 AM
Church School: 10:45 AM

Always One More Move

Rev. Jeffrey Symynkywicz, April 4, 2010

            Sometimes, the raging waters of this world overwhelm us. At times, quite literally—as many of our neighbors and friends and relatives—maybe some of you-- have found out in recent weeks as the rains haven’t let up; and the waters rolled in; and the basement was flooded—again; and the sump pump burned out-- again; and many felt as though they had been bailing—bailing—bailing—for more than half their lives.


            Sometimes, we don’t need the raging waters in order to feel that it’s just us against the elements; that we’re beleaguered; our houses inundated, under siege, flooded, by forces that seem so much more powerful than we are. It might seem sometimes, in this life, that it’s just us holding back the river; bailing with all our might; just trying not to get swamped.


            But now, just in time for Easter, the sun is out again. The air is warm. Spring is really here. The waters will recede (if it doesn’t start raining again). The cellar will dry out. The pain will subside from those tired old shoulders.


            And life will go on.


            Whatever becomes of any of us, whatever the outcomes of our own little dramas here in this world, the great sweep of life will continue. New generations will come—and go. Life will abide.


            And where there is life, there is hope. Dum spiro, spero. “While I breathe, I hope.” That’s one of the few bits of Latin I remember from high school (they’re generally attributed to Cicero). “While I breathe, I hope” – and more universally, while we human ones remain, human hope survives. “Hope dies last,” a Mexican proverb reminds us. And hope will never die—not as long as we human ones are here. Tramps like us, baby we were born to hope.


            Often when all else has been taken, hope remains. Even when the water continues to flood all around us, hope remains. We might not feel very hopeful at the time, but it is hope that keeps us bailing. It is hope that keeps us striving. It is hope (sometimes, yes, an admittedly weak and vague and almost subconscious hope) that gets us out of bed in the morning, and helps us put one foot in front of the other, and continue down the path that is ours to walk.  


            This is the miracle of Easter. That as dark as life appears sometimes, there is still hope. There is always one more move that we can make. There is a spring to follow every winter. There is a relentless spirit in us that cannot be crushed—by marching armies, or flooding rivers, or the darkness in our souls. The rose that lies in wait within our souls can bloom: if we cling to hope; and see with the eyes of faith; and nurture it, and care for it, and water it, with the power of love.


            Easter is our declaration that there is no checkmate of the human spirit. The affirmation of Easter is that we should not give up hope until the final breath is drawn—and, perhaps, not even then.


            The central lesson of the Christian story of Easter is that wherever death exists, God brings the hope for new life.


            Nor is death just a physical phenomenon. There are more kinds of death than physical death.


            There is the spiritual death that comes upon us when we feel overwhelmed by the mundane dreariness of our day-to-day responsibilities and burdens.


            There is the death of our ideals, which we face every time we see injustice triumphant and absurdity and narrow-mindedness and prejudice victorious on this world.


            At times, too, we face the death of relationships we care about. We can feel ourselves slipping further and further into an abyss of loneliness and despair and isolation.


            Death is not just physical. And the good news of Easter is that we have deep within us the power to overcome and to transcend each and every form of death and dying we face in our lives—spiritual, intellectual, emotional, inter-personal.


            Easter is not just the story of Jesus rising from the tomb. It is not just about spring and Easter bunnies and baby chicks. Easter is today, and the real possibilities of Easter for us are about today, they’re here and now. They are not just of the past. They are not just for the future. The story of Easter is not just another historical myth. It is not just a matter of religious speculation of what awaits us when we die.


            The spirit of Easter is a real, living presence, here with us today. The hope of Easter is for this life. It is a call to push aside the boundaries of this life. To reach deeper and gain more meaning from this life. Easter declares that, wherever death exists in our lives, there is a power of which we can become part, which can overcome it. We experience many deaths in these lives we lead. We can experience countless resurrections, as well.


            Resurrection can be hard work sometimes. When I think of resurrection, I always think of those delicate, little flowers—snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils—that are the first harbingers of spring. I don’t just think of them because they’re pretty. I think of them because they’re so strong! Think of that hard ground those little things have to break through, every year. It can’t be easy for them. But they do it. And they beautify our earth. And they give us hope. And in the miracle of spring come again, we sense the power and depth that is inside of us.


            Resurrection can be hard work sometimes. It can be soul-wearying and heart-breaking (not to mention back-breaking) work. Resurrection never comes on the cheap. It requires the full engagement of our hearts and minds—and of our hands. Human hands reaching out to do all that needs doing. To heal all that needs healing. Human hands, sometimes, folded in prayer, seeking the help and guidance we will need to choose wisely the next moves we must make on our road toward eternity.


            On this Easter morn, we, too, stand as disciples, gaping in amazement at the empty tomb, where death has fled, and where, with God, anything is possible. We stand as disciples, not necessarily of one human messiah or of a particular creed or set of dogmas. Rather, we stand as disciples of tireless and timeless ideals:


            the ideal that life has meaning;


            the ideal that life is worth living;


            the ideal that love can transform the world;


            the ideal that love is more powerful than even death itself.


            Know it or not, that first Easter long ago kindled its own miracle within each of us. It kindled within us the miraculous ability to hope and to dream. Let us dare to hope with courage. Let us dream, and let us act, wisely and lovingly. Let us choose, here and now, our own special place on the tree of eternal life.






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