May I talk about manure for a moment?
No, I don't mean that metaphorically. Not just yet. I mean the actual thing. I didn't grow up on a farm and, as a gardner, I'm useless (I have a black thumb), but even I know it's amazing stuff. In the beginning, it's organic feed for animals, providing them with essential nutrients - fuel - for living. That goes on a miraculous journey through the animal, digested and excreted as waste. But it's not wasted. It provides essential nutrients to the ground - fuel, even - to help grow more of that very foliage that fed the animal that produced the manure that fed the soil that … you see what I mean. Amazing stuff. Life-giving even.
I wouldn't want to have to stand around in it, though. And, with all due respect to farmers and gardeners, I wouldn't want it's delicate aroma wafting over my breakfast cereal every day.
Maybe that's why farmers and gardeners are so close to the Creator. They don't just understand manure, they're okay being knee-deep in it. They know it's necessary.
It might seem like an odd segue, but can I talk about Easter for a moment now?
When we talk about Easter in church this week, we'll be celebrating the resurrection. The tomb, a place for the dead, is empty and Jesus, who was dead, is alive. And we'll sing cheerful hymns and songs about the new life Jesus brings, and we'll have bright flowers, easter eggs, bunnies and butterflies, all the beautiful things that help make our Easter so special. And clean.
Even the cross, a tool of oppression, cruelty and death, becomes a symbol of love and life. But not until after a journey has been travelled. And will be travelled again and again.
The Good News that feeds us, the life and love of Jesus that nourishes and nurtures us leads us to the very story of Holy Week. A story full of the things that make life challenging: celebration, conflict, hurt, friendship, betrayal, power, oppression, cruelty, death, silence. And a new dawn. A new day full of the possibility of life and love.
That's not clean. But it is life-giving. And we do have to stand knee-deep in it.
It's up to you to choose where you stand. The life Jesus teaches, the Way for which Jesus gave his own life, is alive each new day. Every morning is an Easter morning, full of hope and the potential for life, for joy and love and grace. It isn't always clean and it doesn't always smell like lilies, but it's life-giving and affirming and engaging.
Which one will you step in today?