"I never thought I'd see this in my lifetime," said Bob, a 60-something who occasionally attends the same church I do a few miles north of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. On a warm Sunday afternoon last spring, a Buddhist, a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Jew, and a Sufi stepped up to the pulpit of this Christian Science sanctuary to read from their respective scriptures on love and peace. After each one finished, we prayed silently together.
Although Easter was a month away, this gathering had the spirit of a resurrection celebration. Easter is about the "impossible" happening, and so often a diverse world living in peace seems impossible. But that day it felt possible. Even inevitable. There was a conviction that prayer had the power to change us, and ripple out in waves of love and peace to renew the world.
Easter is about emerging from rock-bound views of what's possible. The Hindu swami recited this ancient Sanskrit prayer: "Lead us from the unreal to the real. Lead us from darkness to light. Lead us from death to immortality." What better description of resurrection? Not a one-time miracle, but on-going, irresistible progress of each individual from the limited to the unlimited, the material to the spiritual understanding of life.
Spiritual understanding frees us from the blinders of materialism that sentences life to end in death. It dissolves the egocentrism that produces conflict and suffering. Easter proclaims that there's a different truth about what sustains life. Jesus' resurrection proved that God, Love, destroys hate and its attempt to kill. It blazed this promise across the millenniums: A life of pure love can't be killed.
Neither can it kill. Jesus healed the soldier his disciple Peter had wounded trying to defend him. Jesus said, "Put your sword away. Anyone who lives by fighting will die by fighting." The resurrecting power of that truth shone anew for me that Sunday as the Buddhist teacher read from the "Metta Suta," "Who does not want to suffer should do no evil deeds openly or in secret.... In joy and safety let every being's heart rejoice. Let none betray another's trust or offer any slight at all. With love for all the world let him extend unboundedly his heart with no ill will or hate."
Unbounded hearts and hands were extended in the church that day. The rabbi shook hands with the Muslim. He read from the Hebrew scriptures of Joseph's reconciliation with his brothers: "Now do not be distressed or reproach yourselves because you sold me.... And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. Only then were his brothers able to talk to him." Perhaps more tears of forgiveness throughout the world will enable us to talk, instead of fight, with each other.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy was no stranger to those tears. A reformer in theology, medicine, and science, she drew the ire of those locked into a material worldview. Like other great peacemakers, she responded with love. "I would enjoy taking by the hand all who love me not, and saying to them, 'I love you, and would not knowingly harm you' " ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," pgs. 11-12).
Love like that has the power to resurrect humanity from conflict to peace. Such love comes from God, the divine Mind, the original consciousness of everyone.
From the viewpoint of that Mind there's no rivalry, no mine and yours, to fight over. When the divine Mind directs, people live together, as the Christian pastor read that Sunday, "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace." It's not easy to make this peace practical between individuals or nations, but it's so important to admit that it's possible and work at it in small ways every day.
Easter is about infinite possibilities. Mrs. Eddy wrote that Jesus' resurrection helped to raise "others from spiritual dullness and blind belief in God into the perception of infinite possibilities" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 34). St. Paul asked, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" (Acts 26:8). Why believe it impossible for the Creator to make plain the oneness of Life that binds us in peace?
A Sufi prayer closed our gathering that day: "Send thy peace, O Lord, our Father and Mother, that we thy children on earth may all unite in one family." Let it be so.