March 30, 2018
+ I preached last Sunday about how I dreaded Holy Week this year. I dreaded it—I still dread it—because of today. This moment. This dark, silent moment.
What I have been keeping with me this week is that the story of Jesus, for us as followers of Jesus, is our story too. What we commemorate today isn’t just something that happened then, back then, in the distant past, to someone else—to Jesus.
It is where we are too. This is our story. And it is happening now, right now, for us.
This is our story.
This is our death. This is the death of those we love the most.
This is the part of the story we don’t want to be ours.
This stripped away austerity.
We have reached the lowest point in this long, dark week. Everything seems to have led to this moment. To this moment—this moment of the cross, the nails, the thorns.
To this moment of blood and pain and death.
To this moment of violence and utter destruction.
We are here, in this moment, not finding much comfort, not finding much consolation. We have, after all, known in our lives what this despair is.
The day after my mother died last January, as her body was being cremated, I
went to what is called the Grief
Shrine at Sts. Anne and Joachim Catholic Church here in Fargo. There, tucked
away in a far corner of the church, is a shrine for those who mourn. In it is a
representation of the Pietà—the famous statue of Mary holding the dead body of
Jesus. In her arms, Jesus has been taken off the cross and lies on her lap,
while she gazes upward toward God, grief written on her face.
|The Pietà at Sts Anne & Joachim Catholic Church, Fargo. January 29, 2018|
That day after my mother died, that statue was very potent reflection of my own grief at that moment. In that statue, I saw myself and my mother. Though, for me, our saw our roles were changed. For me, it was not the mother holding the son. It was rather the son holding the body of the mother.
I too held my mother’s body that Sunday afternoon I found her, very much as Mary holds her Son in that statue. And because I recognized out shared place, though switched a bit, I saw that, yes, it too was my story.
See, this is our story too. What Jesus shows us in his life—and death—is that we are not alone. We don’t go through all this alone. Jesus went there too. And because Jesus did, God knows what we are experiencing in this awful thing called death.
Today—in the death of Jesus—we see that this is also the death of our loved ones. And it is our death as well. And nothing fills us with more fear than this.
This is why, in this awful moment, we know despair. In this dark moment, our own brokenness seems more profound, more real. We can feel this brokenness now in a way we never have before. Our brokenness is shown back to us like the reflection in a dark mirror as we look upon that broken, emaciated body on the cross, or held in the arms of his mother.
But…as broken as we are, as much of a reminder of our own death this day might be, as overwhelmed as we might be by the presence of death in our lives at times, so too is the next 48 hours or so.
What seems like a bleak, black moment will be replaced by the blinding Light of the Resurrection.
What seems like a moment of unrelenting despair will soon be replaced by an unleashing of unrestrained joy.
What seems like an eternal brokenness will replaced by complete wholeness.
Yes, we might die, but God is not dead. Yes, we might be broken, but God will restore all that is broken. Just as God restored the broken Body of Jesus, so God will restore us and our loved ones as well.
In short order, this present despair will be turned completely around. This present darkness will be vanquished. This present pain will be replaced with a comfort that brings about peace. This present brokenness will be healed fully and completely, leaving not even a scar.
God will prevail even over even…this. Even death has no power over the God of unending life! This is what today is about too. This is what our journey in following Jesus brings to us. All we need to do is go where the journey leads us and trust in the one who leads.