There’s a Garth Brooks song that has been rattling in my head throughout most of Lent. The song is Belleau Wood, and it recalls a Christmas truce that took place spontaneously on Christmas Eve 1914, in the fierce trenches of World War I. The event came to be known as the Christmas Truce, and stood as a poignant reminder of our humanity as soldiers of all sides joined in singing Silent Night.
In the song by Garth Brooks, there is a line that says “Heaven’s not beyond the clouds, it’s just beyond the fear.” Even when I first heard this song, as I zoomed down Front Street (in Midland) in my blue 1984 Z-28 Camaro, almost 17 years ago, I was struck by the profundity of those words: “Heaven is not beyond the clouds, it’s just beyond the fear.”
Those same words came to mind early this Lent as I listened to a friend tell me about a very profound experience of resurrection that he had gone through with his son. Listening to him, I was very impressed by how clearly he detailed this experience of Resurrection. Then I was struck by the fact that all too often, the Resurrection is seen as a grandiose and distant example of God’s omnipotence, it is a moment of WHAM!, and a distant reality that took place a long, long, long time ago (like 20 years ago or something…) And as I think about it, I can acquiesce that these thouhts are often true, but there is far more to the Resurrection than the resurrection. Far from being an isolated incident a couple of millennia ago, the Resurrection is a truth which each and every one can glimpse at every moment of every day, a truth which is not revealed in someone’s Rising from the tomb, but through the love that we express, love rooted in Love. This is where the song comes in, because while we hold the Incarnation, and the life, and the mission, death and resurrection of Christ as being historical events of long ago, they are realities that we can encounter on a daily basis, or to quote the song “Heaven’s not beyond the clouds, it’s just beyond the fear.”
Ok, so by now, there may be some who are still trying to figure out what I’m talking about (I don’t blame you). As I see it, in our faith journey it is sometimes too easy to find reasons for a diminishing relationship with Love. Even the Scriptures tell us of Jesus’ having to wake up the Apostles on more than one occasion. I can almost hear Peter (in a groggy and whiney voice) “but Master, it’s late and we’re tired… boo hoo.”
These things happen, and when as we throw sin into the mix, we start to become those things that we are not. We slowly start to dig our trenches deeper, and deeper, and we become complacent with being where we are or we believe what others may tell us about mercy and grace, and God’s wrath. The trenches, however, is never where life happens. Jesus the Christ showed us this by rising from his own trench, and calling us to RISE from ours. From those mistakes, those fears, those sins that have held us down and blinded us to the gift of life that is freely given to you and me! Again, Heaven’s not beyond the clouds, it’s just beyond the fear, and yes, that song about an incident that happened during one of the deadliest conflicts the world has ever seen, is appropriate, because ultimately, we are called by Love himself to stand up as dignified and beloved children of God (sometimes in a messy trench filled world) and join the chorus of voices which stand beyond the trenches and proclaim who we are in life, and in love! You and I, each one of us, are called to recognize where have been, and to make amends if necessary, but then to get up and live! To live a life that proclaims to all exactly what it is that Love has done for us. A life that proclaim that God not only took on flesh, but also has Risen from the dead A life that resounds with the truth that I have been made new, and my life has been given a worth that is far beyond any monetary price. We are called upon to stop thinking of the Resurrection as an event of the past, to stop imaging what it must have been like and to live as children of the Resurrected with our entire heart, and mind and soul, and our being. Just as those soldiers risked so much, and started singing a simple hymn, we are called upon to become a hymn of the Resurrection, because I have glimpsed it in my heart, and in my life. Each one of us is implored to become who we are in Christ, no longer slaves, no longer servants, no longer people who imagine, or who dwell in the trenches, but people who live freely Love’s Resurrection. We are to be the presence of Christ as we break the bread, and to be the healing peace as we reach out to others, we are to share with all, believer or not, a love that calls us beyond the trenches that divide us, and into a unity that is brought together in Love.
The soldiers at Belleau Wood showed us this through their simple coming together in song, and my friend reminded me of this through his story, but Christ gives this to me through His resurrection, not something that happened yesterday, but a reality in which I am now! He is Risen! He is truly Risen, and I know His love! Heaven is not beyond the clouds, it’s just beyond the fear, and Love, Christ, He has conquered fear!