“I Died But I Did Not Leave Them.”…Trayvon Martin, the Tulsa Shooting Victims and the Idea of Resurrection

 At the end of her show on March 17, Melissa Harris-Perry (now a member of First Unitarian-New Orleans) said the following:

      His name is Trayvon Martin. When innocent children are killed; when their parents are left to wonder if their children’s lives matter–at all, at least we can remember their names.

 Well…on Friday night in Tulsa three men lost their lives and two others were shot in a senseless act. So it looks like we have to change Melissa’s statement.

      His name is Dannaer Fields/Bobby Clark/William Allen. When innocent people are killed; when their families are left wonder if their lives matter–at all, at least we can remember their names.

Yesterday was Easter–the day, when celebrated right, honors another innocent man who died. Yet according to the story, that man rose from the grave. However, if one looks at the Gospel of Mark’s version of the story, there is a different picture presented:

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ 8So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

 The idea of resurrection is hard to get one’s head around. But as the Rev. Earl Holt once said, “Resurrection does not mean resuscitation.” Too often we liberal religious folk keep wanting to make resurrection=resuscitation, and miss the real power that resurrection, and the story of Jesus’ resurrection, really gives.

 Rita Nakashima Brock, co-author of Proverbs of Ashes and Saving Paradise, worte a book years ago entitled Journeys By Heart. I reccommend it heartily. In it she proposes that the real power of the resurrection was in the community. No community—resurrection would have been a different thing.

 In 1997, long before I knew there was a book called Journeys By Heart, I read The Red Tent. And it is because of The Red Tent that I think about resurrection differently. I also think that if we liberal religious folk talked about resurrection this way, there would be a lot less anxiety in UU congregations about how to talk about Easter and why we should celebrate it.

 So here’s the part of The Red Tent that we should look at Easter through. For those of you familiar with the book, this comes at the end when Dinah dies.

 I died but I did not leave them.

 There is no magic to immortality.

In Egypt, I loved the perfume of the lotus. A flower would bloom in the pool at dawn, filling the entire garden with a blue musk so powerful it seemed that even the fish and ducks would swoon. By night, the flower might wither but the perfume lasted, Fainter and fainter, but never quite gone. Even many days later, the lotus remained in the garden. Months would pass and a bee would alight near the spot where the lotus has blossomed, and its essence was released again, momentary but undeniable.

Egypt loved the lotus because it never dies. It is the same for people who are loved. Thus can something as insignificant as a name—two syllables, one high, one sweet—summon up the innumerable smiles and tears, sighs and dreams of a human life.

If you sit on the bank of a river, you see only a small part of its surface. And yet, the water before your eyes is proof of unknowable depths. My heart brims with thanks for the kindness you have shown me by sitting on the bank of this river, by visiting the echoes of my name.

Blessings on your eyes and on your children. Blessings on the ground beneath you. Wherever you walk, I go with you.

 They have died but they have not left us. Wherever we go, they—Trayvon Martin, Dannaer Fields, Bobby Clark, William Allen—go with us.


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