I cried on Easter Sunday…actually, Jesus my bridegroom wept because again He went unrecognized. It’s a sad feeling deep in the heart, when a pastor doesn’t recognize the risen One he is preaching about knowing so well. Not much has changed in over 2,000 years.
It’s Good Friday morning –coffee with an old friend chatting about God, yoga, healing, trauma, + racial tensions when over walks the pastor of a local church we used to attend. He had his back to us and I had not even seen him there–he says, ‘I couldnt help but overhear your wonderful conversation. I was just working on my sermon for Easter Sunday’…He’s warm and curious, friendly. Well, that is until I remind him I offered to teach yoga at his church a few years earlier.
ERRRRRRR...like a locomotive halting to a stop, the energy shifts and his face registers something I don’t quite understand. I say my family and I will see him Easter Sunday, that I am glad he came over. I asked God to show me more about this interaction, to reveal more about who He is alive in my heart.
Fast forward to Easter as we enter the building, I am immediately greeted by pastor and I cheerily go in for a hug, again I see a look on his face that is somewhat disconcerting. My intuition feels him silently saying ‘I feel badly for you Anita’. I choose to let it go.
Ahhhhh, a memory bubbles up from the last time I saw that look on a pastor’s face. It was at Wild Goose the summer before. He had had an obvious fear of yoga (asking me to vow to use my gifts in the world for things other than yoga) mentioning its origins in India. I really wished I had trusted my insincts then and listened to my heart and not questioned myself but that story is for another day.
The ten of us extended family are gathered worshiping in a newly renovated space with vibrant contemporary Christian music singing to our Risen Lord of Love. The spirit feels alive as we sway and clap, closing our eyes to enjoy God with us, Emmanuel. I begin to wonder if there will be a moment in the sermon where I recognize pastor drawing from our interaction on Friday.
During the last 5 minutes he says, ‘I have not said this in the other 3 services but I will now. Don’t go choosing your faith like your making a casserole. Choose one path– that is Jesus. Don’t go get a little bit over there from Catholicism and a little bit over here from Eastern mysticism. Just focus on Jesus. He is the One Way Truth + Light.‘
WOAH!! Was that it? That’s not what I expected at all but now I am thinking, ‘Why are you surprised. His body language gave it away both times!! The church rejected your idea of yoga as a faith-deepening practice and he just spelled it out in case you were wondering where they stand now.’
I turn to my heart and breathe and ask God to humble me, show me more.
My 18 year old daughter says, ‘Mom did you like the service? He’s too conservative for me. And his message doesn’t match the vibe of the space and music. I can’t believe in this day and age he makes such an enormous percentage of the world’s population as ‘others going to Hell’. I mean, who even believes that anymore?’ I respond that I am happy to have the opportunity to stay with the question and turn to my heart for the answer.
Here is where the weeping begins. First, hearing my Beloved say, ‘He doesn’t recognize love and non-judgment, compassion and a servant heart when he sees it.’ Then again later more crying– the body never lies.
- I don’t think it would have mattered if pastor saw me holding my hand-painted cross throughout the service, or heard me praying in my head for my mother in law in pain with kidney stones.
- I dont think it would have mattered if he saw me looking from one family member to the next saying a silent I love you so much, I am so grateful we are here together.
- It wouldn’t matter if I told him how I visit the prisoners nearly every week nor our support of inner-city kids getting a good education.
No, Pastor ended with an attempt at making some of us in the audience wrong. Not for sinning like adultery, jealousy, + greed but for our curiosity around other wisdom traditions. For our attempts at connecting with the Magi in the world. Jesus came to other then and continues to now. We are all other but must connect to that place in us that feels foreign, unexpected and full of the unknowable mystery. Each and every one of us is a living cell in the larger Body of Christ. Think of what missing limbs we could connect if we found and recognize Jesus in everyone, whether or not they identify with the word or not.
I remember when I too, judged people as ‘other’. It’s a feeling of separation from them and from God. The practice of yoga or yoking has a way of integrating parts of my body. It starts on a small, individual scale until somehow through God’s GRACE, I feel able to embrace all of His creations.
Why aren’t you expecting to find me EVERYWHERE! Surely I am! Wherever there is pain, there AM I!! Wherever there is LOVE there AM I!! God put matter and spirit together in the creation story and has been revealing this mystery ever since the dawn of time. There is only God and the need for God. Our awareness is like the blue sky, even when the clouds cover it and dim the light, it is still there.
The bible accounts the many times the Risen Christ was not recognized. What are we to take from this? I would love your comments and thoughts.
I’m no bible scholar, pastor, or theologian– I’m just a wife, mom, yoga teacher and servant heart looking to love and be loved unconditionally the way He has shown me in this very personal relationship we are enjoying. Me and my inner BrideGroom…no offense to my earthly hubby but the Kingdom of God within me is a pretty great place to find safe haven and a voice of reason.