Easter isn’t just a day, it’s a season. In the Christian tradition we refer to this season as The Great Fifty Days. It ends with the birthday of the church at Pentecost. But, really, every Sunday we come together to worship is Easter. It’s a feast of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that reminds us that life is greater than death. This is a message that many of us need to hear.
So often religion gets turned into that which only restricts. But, as Sister Joan Chittister says in her book The Liturgical Year, “Religion is life to excess. Religion celebrates what the rest of the world forgets – the inherent goodness of life itself.”
I know that some of you will read this and think about how much sadness and destruction religion has wrought over time. I agree, but I would suggest that the core tenets of most (if not all) religions help remind us of life’s goodness and our obligation to be a part of that goodness.
At Oxford College it’s the end of the semester and instead of The Great Fifty Days these are The Busiest Fifty Days. The run-up to the celebration of commencement is a flurry of activity as students pack in all of the events they meant to do before now and as the college commemorates the end of an academic year. By the time we make it through exams and on to commencement, we’ve often forgotten how to breathe.
Our baccalaureate service, which always takes place the night before commencement, is one way we help the campus community and most especially students, take a breath. At this multi-faith occasion we pause to consider the ways in which we human beings make meaning out of this sacred life we’ve been given. We rejoice at the end of one step along our students’ journey and remind them that they must keep walking on the path, not just to their four-year undergraduate graduation in Atlanta, but the path of figuring out what it means to be a part of the goodness of life.
This year the title of my baccalaureate sermon is Enough is Enough. How many times have you, out of exasperation, said those words or something like them out loud or in your head? How many movements have we witnessed in the last few years where people came together to say, “enough is enough, there has to be a better way forward”? But have you ever thought about these words in a different way? Has anyone ever told you that, “you are enough?” Enough really is enough when it comes to our human worth and value, and we are loved. Even when we feel unloved by family or friends or co-workers, we are loved by the Sacred One who claimed us from our very beginning. Enough is enough.
This is also part of the Easter message that Christians are in the midst of celebrating. In the Gospel of John when Mary Magdalene encounters the risen Christ in the garden but doesn’t recognize him until he calls her by name, “Mary,” we get a glimpse of this love. Jesus reminds Mary and us that there is a deep intimacy in knowing someone’s name and their story. Then he tells her not to hold on to him, but to go and be the Easter witness. He tells her, in a sense, to go and tell people that enough is enough, that their sacred worth is not determined by anyone else but God. And God claimed us from the very beginning of our existence. That’s the goodness of Easter and the gospel of Jesus Christ as well as our collective human existence of which we are all called to be a part. Knowing that we are enough, let’s spread that goodness to everyone we encounter.
The Rev. Dr. Lyn Pace is the college chaplain at Oxford College of Emory University and lives in Oxford, Georgia with his partner, Ami, and their son, Sam.