‘Hurry please it’s time’ died on Easter morning
Nicodemus hinted at the impossibility of renewal with his question to Jesus, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" We live in a finite and linear world. There is no rewind button. We can change course, but not go backward.
The lack of a rewind button, of a method to make things new again, has everything to do with the pain and sorrow we endure and witness in our lives. Our frustration at this inability is evident everywhere. A "Monday morning quarterback" wants to rewind to a point before Sunday's game. As a nation we want to zip back to Sept. 10, 2001, and pay more attention this time. We want to put warning signs up on roads before the crash, but can do so only after. If we had just sold our shares of Delphi a few days earlier. Why didn't we tell our spouse we loved them before the divorce? If only we had confronted our teenager about drugs before the overdose. Why didn't we quit smoking before the cancer started?
In an e-mail Thursday, a pastor who is a lousy typist tried to write, "You never waste our time," but the words that came out were, "You never wash out time." It was good for a laugh on typing skills at the time, but buried in the typo was the fundamental source of human pain. We cannot start over. Our mistakes accumulate. Our actions have consequences in real time, consequences that are not "washed out" when we change our ways.
We lost the game, the World Trade Center fell, the Hartselle teen died, Delphi stock is worth 60 cents a share, our spouse has remarried, our son died from the overdose and our cancer is terminal.
"April is the cruelest month," wrote T.S. Eliot, because we see it "breeding lilacs out of the dead land." The cruelty is the contrast between natural renewal and our own inability to return to the womb, to start afresh. "Hurry up please it's time," was the poet's refrain. It is our time that is passing. Every second we live, every mistake, is irretrievable. Innocence lost is lost forever.
The "unless" is mighty because it trumps all other. Time marches forward unless we accept the renewal offered to us through the death of Jesus, a renewal whose power we saw, and see, through the resurrection. Death comes ever closer unless we accept a renewal that rebukes the hurry of time, that topples the temple of the finite.
We are so immersed in the temporal, we so often "hurry up please" for time, that we struggle to recognize the gift that undoes time. Like Cleopas on the road to Emmaus, we can't see renewal when it stares us in the face.
But the rebirth promised by the resurrection is real, indeed far more real than football or overdoses or cancer. Those realities are fleeting; the reality bestowed upon us by a man in pain and slumped on a cross is eternal.
God forecast the renewal offered through his son with Abraham, whom God "reckoned righteous." He let Abraham rewind to a point before sin. He let Abraham accomplish what eludes us in daily life. God washed out Abraham's past sins.
Almost as implausible, Jesus washed out our finiteness even as he understood it. He understood our fear of hunger because he fasted. He understood our thirst because he went without. He experienced our pain, and our fear of it, as the thud-thud-thud of a hammer pierced his living body with nails.
He understood because, out of his love for us, he experienced it. And, of course, he experienced death. He dragged his cross toward death, soldiers and Pharisees reminding him, "Hurry up please it's time." He locked himself in linear time from birth to death so he could make our time his, and so he could kill it by dying himself. He wept with us for Lazarus, consuming himself with our grief and denying himself the escape from mortality that God withheld until Easter morning.
We hope you have a wonderful Easter. Enjoy the colors of Easter dresses and dogwood, of blue skies and green grass. Soak up the beauty and pleasure that, while finite, bring joy. But don't immerse yourself entirely in that pleasure, or in your grief. Through his death and resurrection, Christ washed out the limitations of a life that ends with death. He promised us renewal.