Billy Joel wrote and recorded the song “New York State of Mind” in 1976. He wrote it just after returning from three years of diaspora living in Los Angeles. He released it on his Turnstile Album. It was not a great hit, never one of those songs that hit the Top 40 charts as did some of his others. His fellow New Yorkers, of course, have always loved it. But I have to confess, I do not remember the song from when I lived in New York from 1980 to 1985. I remember it from September, 2001. When Billy Joel sang the song in honor of police and firefighters and others in a concert at Madison Square Garden following the 9/11 tragedy, the world listened more intently, from a new perspective. Since then the son has been covered by eleven other well known artists, from Frank Sinatra to The Muppets. Joel has performed it as a duet with the likes of Garth Brooks, Elton John, and Bruce Springsteen. On 12-12-12 he and several others sang it with words changed to raise money for Hurricane Sandy Relief.
There are several parallels between this story and the Easter Story for me. “What is wrong with your mind, pastor?” You may be thinking. Hear me out. Jesus was an unknown carpenter/rabbi from a small, sleepy town and a land known mostly for being a pain in the you-know-what to whichever outside power ruled it. Unlike New York City, a “Galilee State of Mind” wouldn’t have matter to hardly anyone, probably including most of those who lived and died there. Most people in the world have fantasy visions of New York, but most Americans prefer not to be there except for an overnight with a Broadway play: certainly not to live there! But when a crisis came, New Yorkers rose to the occasion.
When the crisis of Jesus’ death came, his followers rose to the occasion. First they fled in fear, as any of us likely would. But then, they could have gone home to the lakeshore and put it all behind them. Instead, they had this “Easter State of Mind.” Something happened. Jesus’ resurrection ‘happened’ for them. The lived into, embraced, a new state of being. And their ranks began to grow. Others started ‘singing the song.’ Then thousands of others. By the time the Romans heard them singing and tried to stop them by persecution the song could not be stopped. It was an unstoppable “Easter State of Mind.”
Some of us have noticed an atypical lack of energy around Holy Week and Easter at Harmony this year. Some of us are reeling in grief. We’ve lost a dozen church members to death since January 1, and we have 58 shut-in or near shut-in at home or living in nursing homes. Our Building Committee and new outreach pastor are visiting other church sites and planning changes to our facility to make it more hospitable for new, younger people. I think many of us have a ‘wait and see’ attitude about things to come, which is understandable. But regardless, I encourage you to have An Easter State of Mind.” An Easter state of mind includes hope in God’s power to make all things new, trust in God’s Holy Spirit to transform, and trust in the risen Christ’s power to redeem. An Easter state of mind believes spring is coming, anticipating it with smiles and encouragement to others. An Easter state of mind envisions a future for Harmony, and for each of us, even greater than our past.
Sing it! Let’s have an Easter State of Mind!
Rev. Mark Harvey