Easter 2008

Hundreds of trees have fallen because of the high waters pounding down the Caney Fork River this year. Two beautiful tulip poplars over seventy feet tall just below our cabin were ripped at their base by the strong currents. My family sat at the head of the tail waters this week below the dam listening to generators churn the water like a pot boiling over. They have kept the generators on full tilt for over a month. The herons are fat and flying low because they are the only anglers on the waters. The old man standing beside us says the generators can’t stop because they have to keep the lake below 630. He says it like an omen as two crows echo his alarm. “They are going to rebuild this dam,” he continues, “but it will take years, and this old dam can’t hold, and it will flood everything in its path when it breaks.”

Of the eleven years the community of St. Augustine’s has traveled to Ecuador with books and medicines, to build a school and a clinic in the small town of San Eduardo, the theme for the last seven has been about the scarcity of water after the well collapsed. The community there had to haul water in fifty-gallon drums in the back of trucks for all their needs. The teachers told us last year that they cannot live or teach without water. Last year this community raised over $50,000 to rebuild the well and bring in clean drinkable water. I imagined when we got to San Eduardo this year a steady and happy stream of water following peacefully from a spigot and all of us from St. Augustine's and San Eduardo standing around it, grateful for the well and the water and the spirit behind it. We didn't get a chance.

After our first day operating the clinic for about three hundred and fifty people and beginning to install the filtration system, all thirty people in the group sat down in the open-air church with a tin roof to make plans for our work over the next three days. Just then, the sky opened and the rains came and the water rose all around. You couldn't see because the electricity went out; you couldn’t hear your neighbor for the deafening roar of the rain on the roof. It was so loud it drowned out the noise of the dogs and roosters all night. A four inch river flooded the entire area and everything, I mean everything, was soaked. We walked into and huddled to find some small areas to sit hunched over and pass the next long hours. All manners of rain gear failed to keep people dry and some surrendered to its power and showered in it. The overflow tank from the well was cascading like a waterfall. The folks from San Eduardo said La Nina had devastated towns a little closer to the coast. There was so much water, there was nothing else to see, or feel or think about.

On the last day of our journey in Ecuador we hiked to the top of the world in the Andes to see a waterfall and were silenced and humbled again by the magnitude and power of water that tossed huge volcanic boulders like skipping stones. I stood there and wept at its majesty and how much time I have wasted wondering if the stone was rolled away at Easter. I could see standing at the base of the waterfall and after being in rain for days, how easy it is for water to move stone.

John Denson, whose blue-eyed son died in February, wrote an article called “A hard rain," describing how he understands death and resurrection through his son’s life. He said that he appreciates the smallest sign of God’s presence and trusting resurrection is a daily commitment for him. Hard rains, like the Caney Fork, San Eduardo and the private ones, hold powerful lessons for all of us.

It is the hard rain that carries the message to me this year of resurrection. It carries me right beside Mary to the tomb of Jesus along with the other disciples on this morning. Mary Magdalene had known healing and grace in her life. The story about her begins that she was tormented with seven sins and that she helped Jesus and his friends. She had been a part of the community and loved Jesus enough to risk being present at the crucifixion, facing the guards at the tomb, and lingering in search of his body after the others left. In this gospel she has ventured inside the tomb alone to be with her grief. I think that she expected Love and Death to welcome her like water that flows in certain and calm beds. It is what carried her through the last troubling days, leaving her just to want to know where they had taken her Lord. But instead, Love came like a flood, washing away all expectations, words, tossing stone aside, changing the course of all our lives and obliterating death. It is a hard Love that’s falling this morning.

This is the Ahimsa love that Gandhi describes as the soul force of creation. It is the Agape Love that carries us to the eternal heart of God. It is the Love that in its smallest dose, say a mustard seed, can move a mountain. It is the most powerful Love that comes like a deluge in death and wipes everything clean. There is so much Love, it is all we can see and all we can hear.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for us. The psalmist says it is like deep calling to deep, and that it is so high that we cannot attain to it. In the face of it, Mary cannot fathom the enormity of it and still wants to reach out and touch a body. When I glimpsed at the waterfall I didn’t have to believe in resurrection, I just accepted the truth of it. If water can toss rocks, and come down from the skies and wash everything, imagine what the soul force of Love can do. It can take out death; it can bring hope to the whole world; it can stop war; it can change the community of San Eduardo; and it can change us. It can move us to believe that we have the courage to love with all our hearts and minds and spirits-- that we can love our neighbors as ourselves because we have nothing to fear. Love will rain down hard. Whatever fear you hold, on this day, let love wash it away; whatever doubt you keep sealed like a tomb in your heart, let love toss it aside, not because you believe, but because you trust the power of Love to carry you back to God.