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Shine On Me: An Easter Homily by Rev. Josh Pawelek


Thank you choir! It's o good to have you singing on this Easter morning. “Shine on me!” This is a beautiful, bluesy, uplifting piece from the world-renowned composer, author, music educator and choir director, Rollo Dilworth.

         For me it’s a great choice for us on Easter morning.

The Christian story that God became incarnate—took human form in the person of Jesus—was born, raised, carried out a ministry of love, healing, acceptance and justice, was crucified for that ministry and, then, came back from death, was resurrected—it’s a profoundly uplifting, profoundly hopeful story. Shine on me!

For those of us here, Unitarian Universalists, liberal religious people, along with our friends, family and other guests—we are a particular kind of religious people who typically don’t regard the Christian story as literally true; but we nevertheless recognize that any story in which love wins is an uplifting, hopeful story. Love: shine on me.

We recognize that any story that tells us that the things in this world that wound us--that wound our bodies, curtail and constrain our living, kill the human spirit, even destroy life—any story that teaches us these things can ultimately be overcome through faith, through caring, through compassion, through love—is a profoundly uplifting story. Faith, caring, compassion, and love: shine on me!

Any story that places its protagonist in a tomb, but then rolls away the stone, letting the daylight in, is a profoundly uplifting story. Daylight: shine on me!

Any story that follows the movement from winter to spring, the movement from cold to warm, the movement from frozen to thawing, from grey to green, from long nights to long days, from barren to lush fields, from stillness to activity, from death to life, to renewal, to regeneration, to rebirth, to resurrection is a profoundly uplifting story and we need it in our lives. Springtime, life and love: shine on me!

We need an uplifting message. So much weighs on us—not only the conflicts in the larger world that fill our newsfeeds and haunt our dreams—not only the stress of a divided nation heading to the polls in just over seven months—not only the ever-increasing negative impacts of climate change—but also our personal struggles, whatever they may be: financial struggles, health struggles, parenting struggles, struggles in school, struggles associated with aging, struggles to discern purpose and meaning in life, struggles here at UUSE regarding concerns about our larger denomination. It is an incontrovertible dimension of the human condition: no matter what our station in life, each of us will at times struggle. Each of us will at times feel lost. Each of us will at times feel grief. Each of us will at times feel rage. Each of us will at times feel as if we are trapped in a tomb, the stone rolled in place. We need an uplifting, hopeful message that affirms our humanity, our worthiness, our divinity and the reality of a larger love that holds us and will not let us go. We need an uplifting, hopeful message that counsels us to be patient, to keep breathing, to be strong, to be courageous, to discern and take the next most elegant step (because it’s the only step we can actually take). We need an uplifting, hopeful message that assures us: ‘this, too, shall pass,’ ‘tomorrow is another day,’ “it gets better,’ ‘hope springs eternal,’ ‘we shall overcome,’ ‘all shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Love and hope: uplift me, buoy my spirits, shine on me!

          Even at those times in our lives when we aren’t struggling, when things are going well, when we’ve achieved goals and we’re resting, when we live with a reliable sense of well-being and security—even then—we still need—we still deserve—an uplifting message, a message of hope, renewal and resurrection that sustains us in our living, our encounters, our relationships, our work, our play—all of it. Even in the good times we need this message. Without the presence of such a message in our lives, the risk is always that we will slowly turn away from others, that we will slowly succumb—often without ever knowing when it began—to cynicism, bitterness, combativeness, despair. Today is one day—one very significant day—for that message. So we sing, “Water is Life.” So we sing, “Gather the Spirit.” So we sing, “We Got All the Love,” “Shine on Me,” “Draw the Circle Wide,” “Lo the Day of Days is Here.” Some say ‘he is risen.’ Some say ‘glory, glory, hallelujah.’ Some bask in the invigorating beauty of spring. Happy Easter! May you take with you from this morning a message of hope, renewal and resurrection. May you take with you from this morning the knowledge that a greater love abides, that it holds you close and will not let you go. It shines on you, not only today, but each and every day. You do not have to earn it. It is your birthright.

         May it shine on you.

May it shine on all people.

May it shine on this good, green Earth.  

         Amen. Blessed be.



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