my view in Easter

just over a year ago, a clergy colleague said to me, “You’ve got to go through Good Friday in order to get to Easter Sunday.”

I’ve known since last April that this year’s Holy Week and Easter would be a turning point for me; last April, I had a very painful ending to a job and place I had started to love very much, and this last year has been a trudging road toward a new, good normal.  It’s not that I’ve necessarily arrived somewhere now here in Easter week, but that Lent and Holy Week were a big looming hill that I’ve crested–April 2014, and though I’m aware enough of God’s work to keep me dependent on Him, I feel like I can see beyond for a little ways, and oh my goodness, is the view lovely.  I want to share a bit of my view.

Last June, I showed up on Trinity’s doorstep bedraggled, emotionally and spiritually.  I’ve spent a lot of my first year trying to “balance” self-protection (having suffered deep burns in my formative first year of full-time ministry) and priestly vocation.  Parishioners did not take offense, but patiently loved me, offered themselves, gave encouragement–they showed up.  On Sunday, as I walked in procession through these dear people, I realized how I’d fallen in love with them; how their love had given me balm to heal.  They showed me that even in the midst of pain, the best way to be is honest and real and unprotected–“balance” as such doesn’t exist, and ought not be sought.

As a two-clergy family, we have to work hard to find non-“work” friends.  It’s a good thing that most of our community comes from our churches, but it’s also comforting, on the road to healing, to have a few friends who you know truly only put up with you because they really do like you for you (this is my own trust issue, not a commentary on the faithful friends I’ve been given through Trinity).  The first time one of these now-friends said, “Hey lady, you’re looking different today; you doing okay?”  I almost cried & hugged her.  Someone who had no social contract to notice me decided to notice anyway (it happened to be Ash Wednesday, so yes, I was a little tired).

Less than a week has passed, and already I’ve been shaken to the realization that it’s not a storm that I’ve come through and left on the other side, but a shift into a new way of being.  In doggedly pursuing healing in the last year, I’ve been learning to notice things–notice and relish the faces in the Easter Day crowd who you’d last seen pained and in hospital; notice and celebrate the tears welling up while you process through the middle of this loving crowd who has shown you Jesus; notice and be curious about the super-tight feeling in your stomach that won’t go away–don’t try to figure everything out, or to label every passing experience, just notice it, be present to it, say “Hello, you’re here right now, and I’m here, too.”

This is a more vivid, larger, and more painful way to live, being present.  But that’s what God is about.  God is so determined to be present with us that he came to sit with humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, and he continues to be present with us through the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Comforter comforts us in all our troubles so that we may comfort those with the comfort we ourselves have received from God (something like 2 Cor. 1:4).


Jesus stays, Jesus stays.

“Crucify him!  Crucify him!”

Last Sunday, we played our part, joining in the dramatic reading of the events leading up to Jesus’ death.  We yelled “Let him be crucified!” along with the jealous crowd (Matthew 27).  Someone told me afterward that she always waffles about whether or not to say those words out loud with the rest of the congregation; it makes her uncomfortable, and it just sounds so horrible.  I knew what she meant–I closed my eyes this year when I joined in the shout; I just couldn’t bear seeing the angry crowd in front of me, it felt so real.

The horror is that it is real.  In dozens of ways, we shout “Crucify him!” every day.  When we respond in anger, when we deceive and rationalize, choosing the easy way out instead of the truth, we turn our backs on the reality that God offers us.  It’s like throwing God’s playbook into the trash and letting the door slam as we walk away.  We insist on our own way and our own wisdom, just like Adam and Eve in the garden, just like Jesus’ disciples who were scattered in Gethsemane’s garden–just like every human throughout time; except for Jesus himself.

What a strange God we worship.  What kind of God leaves his abode to come down to this broken place called earth?  Once arrived, what kind of God takes on the limitations and stresses of human life, living inside the confines of a human being?  As a human, what kind of God endures a fraudulent trial leading to trumped-up death charges and a humiliating spectacle of an execution? What kind of life is that? What is he revealing to us about the truth of love?

As Jesus hangs on the cross (as he did at this very hour), people mock him; someone asks, “If you saved others, why can’t you save yourself?”  Another says, “If you’re really God, the way you say you are, why don’t you come down?  If you did, we’d surely believe you then!”  Can you imagine the temptation Jesus might have faced?  Indeed, in the garden with his disciples the night before, he has already laid his cards out with his Father, begging that he not actually have to go through with the whole thing, desperate to find another way out.

Abandoned and hanging on a cross, Jesus, the Son of God, stayed.  While he was spit on, ridiculed, beaten, and nailed, he refused to turn his back on the people who were torturing him.  Jesus never pulled the release valve, Jesus never left us.  He was committed to showing humanity what love means by never turning his back on us even if that meant that he would have to die.  There was finally nothing else left for Evil to try except to force God’s hand by threatening him with death if he didn’t give up on people.  Jesus stayed.

The same crowds who had shouted a few days earlier that he was their hero turned quickly into the angry, jealous crowds who pushed at him to crack and then turned their backs to let him die. How often do we experience the same swift change in our lives?  Our best friend suddenly becomes our most effective attacker; our well-ordered life is shaken into a disaster; the most reliable part of our day is ripped out from under us, leaving a gaping hole.  We all suffer abandonment that leaves us wondering which way is up.

Though we may not know which way is up, or how to keep moving through the mess of life, or how to withstand the attacks of someone we love, Jesus has shown that God will stay right next to us.  Staying meant death, but Jesus chose not to use his power as God to get him out of the mess humanity had made around him; he only ever called upon the power of God to help others, never himself.

Jesus still calls upon the power of God to help us, even though we’re just as fickle and cowardly and arrogant and skeptical as the crowds who surrounded him at his death.  Jesus never left them alone, even when the price to stay was death.  Even though we turn our backs on God, he will never leave us alone. Jesus stays, Jesus stays.