The meaning of Easter

Of faith, perspective and Terri Schiavo

I treasure the multi-faith conversations of our Island's clergy association and of this column. However, today I reflect a bit on Easter, as a Christian pastor regarding a distinctly Christian holy day. Even so, I hope that what I offer may be of inspiration to people of any faith.

Galileo turned the telescope toward the planets in 1609, and ever since humans have tried to see the details of what fills the heavens.

Galileo could view the moons of Jupiter. But by the mid-20th century researchers had grandly outdone him, building huge facilities to cast 14-ton mirrors up to 35 feet across.

One of that class of telescopes, The Magellan, can show the cloudy fires of the Crab Nebula and the sparkling Starburst Galaxy hundreds of light years away. Unless, of course, it happens to be cloudy over the Chilean Andes. Then the Magellan Telescope sits and waits until the weather clears and the night sky opens again to the breadth of the universe.

Hence, the Hubble Space Telescope, orbiting above the moisture-filled and often cloudy atmosphere of Earth. Hubble has provided a glimpse not only of the expanse of the cosmos, but perhaps of its history as well. Detecting rays of light that began their journey hundreds of millions of years ago, it has shown things in our lifetime that occurred before the dinosaurs roamed the planet.

What has any of this -- clouds and perspective and the ability to see -- to do with Easter?

If we limit our sight to the evidence of the present moment, we will see a small world of small people in a constricted universe. If we limit our view of the world to what we see on the evening news, we will see a small world of violence and bad behavior. If we limit our understanding of life to passing emotions and the physical sense, we will limit our grasp of reality to the intimately personal, unaware of the grandeur and scope of creation.

Only faith gives us the courage and the inspiration to look beyond the present moment to the greatness of the reality that is to come. Faith is our Hubble telescope, permitting our minds and hearts to orbit above the immediate and often distressing moments of this life, permitting our vision to grasp more than our frail eyes can see.

By faith we know that our friends who have died and our loved ones who are ill are on a journey beyond the one we view with our mortal eyes, a journey toward greater life and perfected health.

By faith we know that Terri Schiavo passed from this life into the greater life of the resurrection. By faith we know that all those who care for her -- and I think it helps to assume that everyone who has tried to act on her behalf is a good person -- will be brought into a reconciliation of love and forgiveness that may not happen in this lifetime but will surely happen in the kingdom of heaven.

By faith we know that we are forgiven, and so released from the power of sin. By faith we know that the Holy Spirit is leading us to the full and abundant life of grace in God's care.

So the words of Paul give us a bearing. Paul, who never knew that Jupiter had moons nor had ever imagined the breadth of a light year, invites us to see beyond the clouds, to see reality from a telescopic view of the cosmos made possible only by faith.

``Since you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.''

The Rev. Randal Gardner is rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

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