There is a Southern expression I grew up with. It has to do with being in really big trouble. I don't really know where it comes from. It is something every Southern boy and girl has been told by their mammas as a solemn warning. It is to yank bald headed, as in, "If you do such and such, I'm gonna yank you bald headed." I never saw anyone actually yanked bald headed, but neither did I ever see anyone do anything that would result in them getting yanked bald headed. It must work.
Eastern Orthodox icons of the resurrection do not show risen Jesus alone. Instead, they show Jesus reaching down to grasp Adam and Eve and pull them also from their tombs. Jesus is yanking them bald headed. Adam and Eve look none too pleased. As the icons depict the event, it is as if Jesus must remove them forcibly, yank them bald headed, to get them to come out of the tomb. If that's what it takes, so be it. God is not satisfied with leaving them undisturbed in the slumber of death. They will live without regard to their choice. They will live because God wills it whether they want to or not. So it is with us.
It appears on the surface that the choice to live would be so self-evident as not to merit discussion. Beneath the surface, we tend over and over to choose otherwise.
Episcopalians from across the country, including 22 bishops, are walking the Stations of the Cross at the beginning of Holy Week to pray for sensible gun control. The National Rifle Association calls such efforts un-American and proposes putting armed guards in all our schools. Life proves to be harder to choose than it at first appears. Somebody needs to yank us bald headed.
The wells supplying water to an entire community in Navajoland are poisoned as a result of mining activity nearby. Life proves to be harder to choose than it at first appears. Somebody needs to yank us bald headed.
Iran and North Korea threaten nuclear attacks. Missiles are launched from Gaza into Israel. Bombers are launched from Israel into Gaza. Children are kidnapped to fight wars in Africa. Children are imprisoned in the United States at an alarming rate. Life proves to be harder to choose than it first appears. Somebody needs to yank us bald headed.
In truth, we human beings have an alarming propensity to choose death when left to our own devices. We observe it up close in this Holy Week we are entering. By the time Friday comes, we are all shouting, "Crucify him."
And still God will not have it, at least ultimately. God lets us have what we want in the short term. We have made an idol of gun-owning in America, and God will let us have our way for now and first graders are gunned down with automatic weapons. Our greed poisons the very water God gives to sustain our life, and God will let us have our way for now. War. Death. Prisons. Drugs. God will let us have our way for now. And we even cry out to send even God to the cross. God will let us have our way for now.
Ultimately, though, God will not. As the icons reveal, God is going to yank us bald headed if God has to in order to get us out of the tomb. When the free will we have been given has run its course, when we have reaped the fruit of what we have sown, when at last the ability to set anything right is beyond our grasp, when we are confined to the graves we have dug for ourselves, God is not finished. God's choice for us is always life.
And we can rest assured that God is going to yank us bald headed if necessary so that we will have it.
So, this Easter, may God yank you bald headed into life, whether you want it or not. Happy Easter
Bishop Stacy Sauls is the Chief Operating Officer for The Episcopal Church.