Easter Trespass

After early morning thunder, Easter Day turned sunny in Dallas. It was our Easter in Virustide. There were no churches open to visit, no restaurants, no parties, and perhaps worst of all, no Choral Evensongs. Of course, lots could be found in the Virtual World, but the sunshine was calling, and the feet took the head and the heart outdoors.
    Crowds of people were outside, as if this were a normal spring Easter, not too hot, the air washed clean by the earlier rain. But you could tell it wasn’t normal. The crowds were not, shall we say, crowded. A group of five were lingering near a tree, drinks in their hands, but not that close to each other. Talking, smiling, laughing, but not touching: the unnormal distance was present there in the midst of normality.
    I have been avoiding the Katy trail of late: when many runners and walkers and bicycles and dogs are out, one cannot but be in a crowded crowd. So I was off, I’m not sure where, following a sidewalk, crossing some grass, passing a closed-up baseball field, climbing a hillside, clambering down to a street. And I was crossing an empty parking lot when I noticed an electric cart pulling up parallel to me. It was not close, but the driver seemed to want to talk.
    He asked me how I was doing. Fine, I said, just out for a walk. Then with apology he told me I shouldn’t be there, that this is a children’s hospital . . . May I say, it was the gentlest reprimand I’ve ever received in my life? Of course—I said—I understand perfectly. I get it; I have grandchildren. Very sorry. And I retraced my steps and went around.
    What’s that word for walking in a place you’re not supposed to be? that word for going on a path you’re not supposed to go on? It begins with a “t.” Yes . . .
    So it was Easter, but it is not yet the final Easter. We go on erring and straying and trespassing. The Virus is still here. But someday, someday it will be the final Easter, and there will be no more need for the many things we do now to protect one another.
    Department of Small Things. I don’t believe one can find “Easter Sunday” in any edition of the Book of Common Prayer. I was a new priest when a charming but crotchety old guy told me I had an error on a sign I had made. It’s “Easter Day,” Felix (RIP) told me. Since then I’ve fancied that’s because Easter always falls on a Sunday.
    On the Web. “He’s Asking Your Permission” is a very brief meditation on Maundy Thursday I wrote for the Covenant blog: https://livingchurch.org/covenant/2020/04/09/hes-asking-your-permission/




G Is for Good

In Holy Week, we return to the Divine Alphabet to marvel at and dig a bit into the goodness of God.
    Normally, we’ll say something is good if it is measuring up to what it ought to be. For instance, we have an idea of what apples ought to be, and if you tell me you ate a good apple yesterday, I know that you mean it tasted good or was fresh and crisp, etc. We also use “good” in a moral sense, for instance, if we say someone is a good citizen. We mean things like: she is reliable, she pays her taxes, she looks out for her neighbors.
    Here’s a true story. I was teaching an ethics class at a seminary, and began one day by saying I had bad scrambled eggs for breakfast. The obvious question you’d ask is: What made them bad? Were they rotten eggs? Were they runny? Or were they tough and inedible? All those are reasonable possibilities, different ways scrambled eggs can fall short of what we expect them to be. But what, I asked my students, would you say if I told you that my scrambled eggs were bad because they wouldn’t tie my shoes?
    One student answered: “I’d say that’s why I love this class!”
    God, however, is not good because he lives up to standards. We don’t have an idea in advance of what a god is; we don’t look at our particular God and say, “He’s measuring up to standards. He’s a good God.” It’s also true in terms of morals. It never makes sense to describe God as someone who is morally well-behaved.
    No, the goodness of God is radical.
    God is good because he is the fountain of all goodness. Every good thing, whatever it is, comes from him, and he is the reason it’s good. The good apple, the good citizen, the good music, even (if you can imagine such a thing) the good blog post: their goodness comes from God.
    We call God good because goodness, all goodness whatsoever, comes from him.
    Holy Week invites us to take these thoughts deeper. There is a day in Holy Week that is called a good day. It’s the Friday of course, the “Good” Friday. Why is it good?
    It’s good because God accomplishes something good on that day. He takes all the cruelty of the universe, all the sorrow and all the wickedness, and he absorbs it. In taking all this upon himself (on the cross), he inaugurates a cosmic process of turning it around. The down-payment on this great reversal is his resurrection. He turns his own death into life.
    God takes the worst and makes it good. That is the deepest reason God is good.
    On the Web. A recent short piece by yours truly on the ethics of “aid in dying” was published inThe Living Church and is now on their website: https://livingchurch.org/2020/03/17/ethics-aid-in-dying/

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The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."