a new time.

20 Apr

A New Time
An Easter Sermon by the Rev. Dawn Cooley
Delivered April 20, 2014 at First Unitarian Church, Louisville, KY

I spoke extemporaneously today at First Unitarian, so I don’t have any manuscript to put up here. I am in the process of getting permission of some of the folks who shared their stories – when/if I do, I will post the audio. There was some powerful sharing going on, so be sure to check back.  Here is an approximation of what I said.


We Unitarian Universalists have a complicated relationship with Easter.  Often, we prefer to talk about Spring instead.  We say it is becuause we no longer believe in the literal truth of the resurrection (if we ever did), but the truth is that many Christians don’t believe that anymore either.

But if the story were just about one man, and what he did and what happened to him, that would not be nearly as compelling as understanding it as a myth – becuase a myth means it is something each of us can relate to.

Joseph Campbell says a myth is a story told almost exclusively  through symbols, that it addresses our human questions of: Where did we come from? What has meaning in life? How shall we live knowing we will die?

When we look at the story of Jesus, particularly the Easter story, as a myth in this way, it becomes something we can all relate to.

Jesus was teaching stuff that the people in power didn’t like.  And this made them angry.  Stuff about how God is love, and that we are each God’s instruments to create paradise here on earth through, in part, loving one another.  And so Jesus had to die – you don’t get to challenge the status quo and live.  And so he died. But he could not stay dead – then his message would stay dead.  In order for this story to live on forever, Jesus had to rise from the dead.  Any by doing so, the story is cemented forever in history.

This story is a powerful one. It is one that has a before, and an after . Before Jesus, After his Death.  In this way, it was a pivotal moment in our Western Culture – not unlike the invention of the printing press, or how assembly lines brought in the Age of Industry.  Or, maybe, even like September 11, 2001.  We are probably still too close to it to know, but for many of us, we know where we were on that day.

And we have other pivotal moments in our lives – things that we define as a “before” and an “after” – things that changed us, that shifted how life was for us.  Events that ushered in a new time in our lives.  Perhaps we didn’t know it when it was happening, but when we look back we see it that way.

It may be something like the birth of a child. I know for me, the birth of my first child shifted everything – suddenly my heart was out here, in my hands, not safe and protected inside my ribs. That shifted how I did everything. But it could also the be death of a loved one, or an event that happened in our lives.

I invite you now to think about these pivotable moments in your own lives, those times when everything shifted.  And as you feel comfortable, I invite you to share them…

And people shared.  Beautifully.  Powerfully.  Soulfully.  As they shared, I made more connections with the story of Easter

  • loved ones featured prominently in many of the stories, much like how Jesus had gathered his disciples to him before his death;
  • that there was also darkness, sorrow, and pain in these pivotal moment – that Easter would not occur without Good Friday
  • that there is often a time of not knowing, of confusion – and the story of Easter would not be the same if Jesus had just immediately come back Friday night and said “Hi, here I am!”

We ended the sharing with the powerful story of a young woman who was raped, and who was now working to not be a victim, but a survivor.  And we talked about how love can conquer even death.

We each have our own resurrection stories – pivotal moments in our lives that we end up with a before, and an after.

May Easter be a reminder that even when things seem bleak, hope is there – hope that a new life will emerge,  hope that how things are now is not how things will always be, hope that new times can bring a new way of being in the world. May it be so. Blessed be.

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