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Resident Exile, Bill Borror, Church, Sermons

Reshaping life! People who can say that have never understood a thing about life—they have never felt its breath, its heartbeat—however much they have seen or done. They look on it as a lump of raw material that needs to be processed by them, to be ennobled by their touch. But life is never a material, a substance to be molded. If you want to know, life is the principle of self-renewal, it is constantly renewing and remaking and changing and transfiguring itself, it is infinitely beyond your or my obtuse theories about it.

― Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago

Its a rainy Monday and I am thinking of a friend facing a difficult meeting. And I am thinking of his losses, which remind me of my losses, which remind me of the tenuous nature of life Last month on an episode of the New Persuasive Words podcast, the subject was Loss ( We observed that none of us can escape this inevitable phenomena. As Kierkegaard once noted, anything we can lose in this life cannot give us ultimate happiness. Given that everything in this life is transient and every carbon based-life form will die....well you can draw your own conclusions.

We say that flowers return every spring, but that is a lie. It is true that the world is renewed. It is also true that that renewal comes at a price, for even if the flower grows from an ancient vine, the flowers of spring are themselves new to the world, untried and untested. The flower that wilted last year is gone. Petals once fallen are fallen forever. Flowers do not return in the spring, rather they are replaced. It is in this difference between returned and replaced that the price of renewal is paid. And as it is for spring flowers, so it is for us.

― Daniel Abraham, The Price of Spring

Loss is the price that is paid for the possibility of new. My grandson is obsessed with dinosaurs and the other day asked me why they are no longer alive. It's not easy to explain mass extinction to a four year old (and my son reminded me to be careful because I am not the one who would have to deal with the nightmares). Not sure I was successful with Ben Jr., but I am thankful for that particular astroid that hit the earth 65 million years ago. What was a very bad day for the Tryannosaurus Rex turned out to be a very good day for us mammals.

Personal evolution, like biological evolution does not necessarily guarantee progress. It does not mean that the new will be better than the old, any more than it implies that the loss diminishes the value of the thing which is no longer here. But what it does offer is hope. There is the promise of rebirth. There is the possibility of Easter.

I am not done with my changes

----Stanley Kunitz, The Layers

A traumatized Mary comes to the grave of Jesus, perhaps to grieve or maybe to be close to him one more time (John 20). She finds an empty tomb and a mysterious stranger. It is the resurrected Christ, whom she recognizes only when he speaks her name. She reaches out to embrace him, but he refuses her. "Do not hold on to me..." (vs.17).

I have heard a lot of strange and unsatisfactory explanations for why Jesus stops her from the most human of all responses: embracing the beloved, once hopelessly lost, miraculously found. I think maybe what Jesus is saying to Mary is that I have changed and your love and devotion must be transformed as well. I still know and love you, but you must let go of what I was to you and embrace a new reality and a new love. Once in the Galilee, my love set you free from your past; now my love can transform you for a new eternal tomorrow that will be with you to the ends of the world.

Perhaps this is the key to rebirth: remembering the love, but not holding on to something that no longer exists; then doing the work to let go of the loss, in order to embrace the possibility of transformation. I think for Mary, encountering the "new" Jesus was probably as traumatic as losing the old. Moving on can be as difficult as the letting go. But it is the trauma of a new birth, not the sting of death.

Behold I make all things new

----Jesus Christ

That is the infinite promise, that came at an infinite cost. And it is a divine drama that plays out in every soul. There is always an opportunity for a new beginning, to be reborn scarred but stronger.

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