Being Born All Over Again

By Rev. John Morehouse

Yogi Berra, one of my favorite commentators on the duplicity of the English language, once said upon his Yankees winning yet another World Series. “Wow, its Déjà vu all over again!” In many ways what I do each Easter is Déjà vu all over again, and again, which in many ways is just what this holiday is all about. Being born over and over, again.

Being born again, is as good a declarative UU response as any to the evangelical idea that we can be born again with new ideas and new hopes. Reinvigorating with a broader spirit such words as “born again”, and “grace” and “hope” and “salvation” are part of my larger project of re-capturing the language of reverence from the fundamentalists.

So like Yogi Berra, we are here being born all over again. Not in just in celebration of the power of spring and the older meaning that Easter represents but in truly, each of us and together, being born yet again and all over.

Easter is, of course, the holiday celebrated in Christianity for its defining story. Jesus is buried in the tomb after his gruesome death on the cross and his rising up into eternal life on the third day. You have all heard me tell, each year now the story of the UU girl who in kindergarten garnered her very own meaning to Easter. When asked by the teacher what the meaning of Easter was, her students responded with fireworks, turkeys, Candy and even Chocolate hearts. Only the UU girl came close: “Easter is when Jesus died and was buried in the tomb and then on the third day the stone was rolled away and he walked out and if he saw his shadow there would be three more weeks of winter.”

Or as one of my colleagues asked me the other day, “if we found the body could we call off Easter?”

But you know, as irreverent as that is, it may not be as far from the older meaning of Easter as we think. Because her interpretation truly does speak to the possibility of resurrection in all of us. Indeed, when we see our shadow, our darkness, when we understand what holds us prisoner in the tomb of our fears and troubles, then and only then can we see the light at the end of the tunnel. Only when we face our fears are our fears relieved, only when we acknowledge our pain can healing, that spring of the soul, be seen in three days, three weeks, three months, three years.

Ultimately this day is a reminder, that like the seasons, all of us can be reborn. All of us have the power, deep in the human impulse, to overcome our winter and enter a new spring, a new life. And all these so called silly symbols of the season are just reminders of that human power to overcome and be reborn. The eggs represent new life, the bright clothes the promise of spring, the bunnies, well we all know what bunnies do.

The dance between life and death is a complicated one. There are times when faced with serious illness we think all is lost and we prepare to die only to recover. And there are times when faced with the vibrancy of life we are overtaken by death suddenly, leaving our survivors to wonder where to go next. As long as life pulses through us though there is the opportunity to still live life with as much fullness as we can muster. Or perhaps even a little more.

Perhaps even in death there is new life; either as souls reborn or in the immortal memories of those we leave behind. Occasionally it happens that we have to choose between staying on life support and letting go. Sadly this very private decision becomes public as it did for Teri Shivo several years ago. Then, as now, there are many who would argue that only God can end life. When I have debated this ethically with those opposed to ending a painful life, I ask first of all, how do we know God isn’t providing us the means to make that choice and secondly what the Christian Right to Life people were so afraid of. Indeed, isn’t that the point of Easter: Eternal life. Why fear death? Any time we are focused on this difficult moment we have a choice to let go and let life be as it will be or hold on. In either case, being reborn whether physically or not is always a matter of faith. When I have debate this publically with people of other faiths we all had to admit that death was not an end but a beginning, all the more a beginning on a day like Easter which is all about beginnings. After the debate one of my colleagues asked me what we Unitarian Universalists “do” with Easter. I laughed and told him that we trot out all the great pagan symbols – the eggs akin to cats who had many lives, the lamb always sacrificial and the bright colors and I talk about rebirth like some old druid priest. He laughed uncomfortably until he realized I wasn’t kidding.

Those symbols we take for granted are very old. The eggs for instance recall the myth of Hathor and Astrate who laid the Golden Egg of the sun and Germans used to tell of a hare who would lay eggs on Easter Eve. Eggs were always the symbol of rebirth and were usually colored red. Russians used to lay red eggs on graves to serve as resurrection charms. (from Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara Walker)

Easter is about the symbolism of rebirth all over, again and again. Easter is about being born all over ourselves as well; for when we accept our failings, we turn over all of ourselves, warts, struggles and all, to the truth that we are flawed and in that realization we are reborn. Reborn both as individuals and together.

Being born all over again might be what this day and this church holds for you. You come here with your dreams and hopes of becoming something more than you are. You come here looking to be fed and we feed you. But being part of a church community has never been about just you, but you in communion with each other. It about being fed as much as it is about feeding others. You know the Hasidic tale of the man who is shown hell and heaven: in hell he sees people who, despite a table laden with food cannot feed themselves because their arms do not bend, and then heaven, same table of food, same arms that will not bend but there they feed one another.

Its about what we can birth together that is new and exciting. And its not about me, it’s about you. As King Arthur proclaimed on his death, “Camelot lives. Camelot lives in each of you. Don’t surrender its dream.” This lighthouse that will be the birthing center for justice and hope and solace and laughter and creation.

Like death, whether it is Jesus on the cross, the loss of who we love or even our bodies, life comes again. Life always comes again. That is the Holy Promise. That is the end of the shadow. Many of you can’t see this now but it is coming. Life always comes again. I sense your strength returning. Keep growing, grow from this, it can only go forward – give of your time, volunteer to be on a committee or the Board, make that pledge!

Being born all over again means just that. Being born is an active verb, you are still and will always be “becoming”. Being born all over means that every part of this church is part of this promise, from our charter members to our visitors today. Being born all over again, means that you can always make this happen. The good never dies.

We believe our lives are all about growing hearts that love, minds that seek, and hands that serve.
Hey, ain’t that good news!
Being born all over again, now ain’t that good news, believing that as each of us grows so do we together become something more than we were, all over again. Ain’t that good news!

Hallelujah, my people, here we are born again. Halleluiah!

Opening Reading:

Rev. John Corrado, has written an explanation of the gospel (“good news”) of our faith in the form or a responsive reading.

We believe there is a place at God’s table for each and every child of earth.
Hey, ain’t that good news!
We believe the giver of life has been given many names and loves the givers of all of them.
Hey, ain’t that good news!
We are more interested in getting heaven into people now than getting people into heaven later.
Hey, ain’t that good news!
We believe that religious scriptures are open doors rather than sealed vaults.
Hey, ain’t that good news!
We believe there is still some holy writ yet to be written.
Hey, ain’t that good news!
We believe true evangelism is more preaching practiced than practiced preaching.
Hey, ain’t that good news!
We believe peace and justice are not just words we form with our lips, but realities we shape with our lives.
Hey, ain’t that good news!
We believe in one race – the human race.
Hey, ain’t that good news!
We believe we are one with the stars and trees and tigers and rivers and all the stuff of life.
Hey, ain’t that good news!
We believe our lives are all about growing hearts that love, minds that seek, and hands that serve.
Hey, ain’t that good news!
Amen.

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2 Responses to “Being Born All Over Again”

  1. Aaron Sawyer Says:

    Hey Rev John! I’ve got a friend coming to your church this Sunday. Will you be there?

  2. Sovereign Gentile Says:

    Sweet Jesus… i rejoice with thee.

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