In Spite Of

By Ric Hudgens, a sermon for North Suburban Mennonite Church in Libertyville, Illinois

During this quarantine, I’ve been listening to music from an earlier period of my life. I’ve been going through my music collection and replaying songs from a time that was not bound by seclusion, confinement, vulnerability. My daughter observed that it’s been good medicine for me.

Last night I was listening to an old album by the Canadian folk singer Bruce Cockburn with the line “got to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.” This is an image of Easter “in spite of.”

When a martial artist wants to break a board, they envision punching through the board. The target is not the board itself but a spot just past the board. If you target the board you will pull your punch. To break the board, you have to punch through the board.

I am suggesting that Easter faith in a time of pandemic is faith in spite of. It is kicking at the darkness until it bleeds daylight. It is a punching-through that stands between us and the-coming-after. Easter faith doesn’t pull any punches.

Now is a time to face this crisis and it is right to do so. We’ve been sheltering in place and protecting ourselves, our family, friends, and neighbors. It is perfectly understandable to be anxious, depressed, or lonely. Easter faith is not an antidote to any of that.

But Easter faith has always been an enduring and overcoming faith. Not a faith that delivers us from difficulties, but a faith that endures trials and tribulations, with the belief that they are not the last word. An overcoming faith that sustains and breaks through. A faith that doesn’t pull any punches until our darkness begins to bleed daylight.

This crisis must also be a time for seeding our future. Let’s make it a time of strengthening the bonds of connection, community, and care. What in Latin they called “conviviality” – filled with life. That is what happened in the tomb on Easter morning so long ago. The tomb was filled with life. The darkness began to bleed daylight.

Something happened then that had never happened before, and yet happens again and again. Around the world and day by day, wherever light overcomes the darkness, Easter faith punches through despair, fear, hatred, oppression, and injustice.

Conviviality. Filled with life. The-coming-after is also part of the Easter story – and it still is today.

Let it be so.

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