Whatever one’s belief system, this is historically a good weekend to meditate on what makes a belief “true”. If I say I believe something, but don’t in fact, myself, act in accordance with it, what is the meaning and purpose of my belief? If I say I believe Someone loves me enough to suffer for me (and some believe die for me), but I accept that Someone’s love only to make myself feel better, and not in order to love those others in the world in need of a belief in A Love Without Strings Attached, what does that say about what I truly believe about the quality of a Higher Love?
As we look to what we say we believe, we often get stuck in the childish questions, like, “How has it changed me? How am I better a person? How does my future look brighter?” But the real questions to ask myself that the events commemorated in this weekend ask, the grown-up questions of The Christ are: “How does what I believe make me want to change the World? How does The Divine make me a better human being? How do I bring the future Kingdom of God to earth — now, today, here, for all — as The Christ did?”
If we aren’t suffering with others on Friday, and mourning for the whole world, the whole Earth on Saturday, we will never truly know what it is to celebrate life and resurrection on Sunday. No matter what one claims to believe, this is a good weekend to ponder as the philosopher might ask, What do we owe each other? And as the prophets or saints might ask, What would happen if some of us began to really believe in Love?
And Just Like That — We Might Finally Get That “Jesus Thing”
And Just Like That –We Might Finally Get that “Jesus-Thing”
By Jane Tawel
April 11, 2020
And just like that – — we might finally understand the meaning of the Season.
Thanks, Corona Virus.
There finally comes a time — a true, even though foisted -on -us time — when those who want to follow the Son of God in His Passion, in those final days — not the first euphoric, “this -is -fun” days — but the final ones when Jesus accepted willingly the full spectrum, the end results of human sin and suffering — now there is a time when we who are completely human, can get a glimpse into choosing to suffer as the Son of God, did — in other words as we claim that He who was human by choice suffered.
Just like that, Christians are forced to celebrate the final Holy Days that Jesus celebrated which of course were not “Christian” but Jewish Holy days. Passover. As we put the sign of the cross on our doors in hand sanitizer, and huddle around tables with those family members sheltering from the plagues, fearing what might be our final plague of viral death-cells roaming outside and destroying the world’s largest economies in the process — as we decide whether to keep throwing in our worldview with the current reigning Pharaohs or whether we will seek a whole new world by following the poor mumbling, stuttering Moses-es who would lead us to literally only God-knows-where, and possibly to a new world order out beyond our cultural norms, a world which we distrust now as what sounds like a socialist, spiritually-demanding community of equals living out in the desert with only what we can carry on our backs and a faint hope that the Promised Land will be better than the Land of the Brave and the Free.
Now in the Year of the Corona Virus 2020 — this Christian season like none other in our bonnet-wearing, basket toting, bunny-worshipping lives is actually something we might have to rethink in the same way we had to rethink playtime, worktime and now, worship time while hunkering down at home. Now we finally know what the people of God have celebrated since Moses led them out of Egypt and away from locusts and flying frogs and Amazon rivers and Michigan waters filled with blood. We celebrate another day of being spared. We celebrate the Goodness of Providence. We celebrate life — l’chayim!
Now we see our part in all that has gone wrong on our planet and in our neighborhoods. We can choose to ignore it, but not if we want to continue to pretend that this particular weekend — Friday through Sunday — has any significance at all. Now we see ourselves for the lazy Egyptians, or Romans, or Americans we have become — for the kind of people who want to claim to be God’s Chosen People but only if we don’t have to keep up our end of God’s bargain; only if Jesus keeps the covenant for us, not with us. We finally must look at our destructive abuse of God’s world and the real consequences, our destructive abuse of our own souls and the consequences, our cheap love and grace towards others and the consequences. We must own our years of complicity — in worshipping a nation, not a Kingdom, a religion and not a God.
We may understand at last, Christ’s warning to those who would follow him: “Beware the yeast of the Pharisees”. Yeast won’t make it to the Promised Land, any more than a religion of pride and greed will. Neither travel well. As we find ourselves in our own wandering wilderness — apart from all the comforts, separated from the parceled-out bread and entertaining circuses that the rulers sell us as nationalism and numbing panacea, as we pull back the historical and currently polarizing wizards’ curtains to see the false prophets for who they really are, those with their emerald-green worlds made by money-making machines; those that if we don’t want to stay in Oz, that too many religions will re-sell us as tickets to Kansas or Heaven.
At last we may realize that God is out there — in the wilderness, offering only the manna we need. At last we realize as Dorothy did, as Jesus did — that we have always had it within our own power to go Home. But first we have to leave Oz, leave Egypt, leave the comforts even of our own parents or community.
First, if we want to understand any kind of “Holy” time or “Holy-ness”, we have to walk the Yellow Brick Road of trials, and fears, and bad things and bad people and of suffering. And we have to fight all those soul-destroying things in others and in ourselves. We have to learn how to share love with those we meet on the journey, even if they are nothing like us — even if they are Tin Men or Scarecrows or Cowards.
First, before we can live again in a new Corona-virus-in-the- past world — we have to learn to take only what we can carry with us in this world — a few loaves of pita bread and some leftover hummus maybe. We have to have enough faith, without caring what anyone else thinks of us, and we have to use our own hands, our own abilities and put the Blood of the Lamb on the doors of our hearts.
First, we must humbly pray that this plague passes -over our family, our loved ones, the People of God, the whole world — that this ends, so we may have the chance to begin again. Passover. Then, as The People of God have always done, we must promise each other to “Never Forget” and so we have to learn to suffer more willingly in the wilderness with other human beings. We have to believe that God will provide, if we provide for each other, and that there will be enough manna for all of us today, if we don’t hoard it for tomorrow for ourselves.
We have to not only pray for immunity from this current plague, but we must keep doing those things that we now do to make us stronger, and our immune systems more effective in fighting pandemics. We must also find truth in those words and people throughout history and alive today, that make our spiritual immune systems more effective in fighting evil. We must keep doing those things that make us better inside, as well as outside. We must find the same strength to make our hearts, minds and souls more immune to hate and sin and pride and greed. Then we must re-learn how to live rightly, in fear of a Holy God, with love for the natural world of creation and a selfless care to restore it to wholeness, and with a renewed sense of love for our very lives and the lives of all others; and with a contentment we might find in knowing that we have a soul headed for a place of perfection that we can only imagine.
We must accept that God has already provided the vaccine against the diseases we all share caused by fear, and hatred, and self-centeredness. It is called The Way, The Tao– but we have to trust it to heal our souls and to insure our real lives against death by the shiny things that tempt us into soul-destroying things. We have to willingly get vaccinated from evil, for love to conquer all.
Now, perhaps, in this unique Holy Weekend, we finally know that if we don’t do the right things, we will die. We should remember that nothing has actually changed — we will die. There is no way that any single person will ever do enough “right things” so that he or she can live forever. There has only been one human who chose differently — who chose rightly — only one since Adam and Eve first chose their own serpent’s version of fake news over God– since people chose The Lie because it gave them more justification for getting more stuff — more physical, intellectual, emotional, political or religious stuff. And ever since Eden, most of us have kept choosing the intriguing complications of our lives over the simplicity of eternal life. As Leonard Berstein wrote, “God is the simplest of all”. We, however, continue to prefer the puzzles of forbidden fruit. We have a chance to realize, during this enforced simplification of our lives and an enforced simplification of our chosen means to worship God, that simple can serve us better, and that we serve God better, when we choose to live simply.
Only the Messiah, Jesus the Christ got to choose whether he wanted to die after living on this planet. The Father gave only His only begotten Son the choice of whether to die or not. This weekend we celebrate the fact that Jesus chose to die for sins he never committed, and he chose to give us the opportunity to die with him in his cause or to allow God to leave us behind in the dust.
This weekend we celebrate our free will on this planet, and we can use that free will today to ignore the cautions about what is the right thing to do to protect — save — ourselves and others, or we can offer our own wills on the altar of a God who waits for us on the other side of the Red Sea, a God who has prepared a place for us, a God who loves us enough to send His Son to live with us, eat with us, celebrate God’s provisions throughout history with us, and a Son who will choose to die with us so that we can have hope once more that Sunday’s Coming and the Tomb is empty.
Today our deaths may be due to a virus cell, tomorrow it may be from a heart attack; tomorrow we may die from our hatred gone amok, the next person might die from gluttony, and the poor we will have always dying because of our own appalling lack of love.
We celebrate a day that in too much lapsed time, too much hindsight, too much cheap-grace theology, we have dubbed “Good Friday”. But it’s not all so “good” standing alone — it certainly wasn’t for Jesus. Why do we think we can leave him hanging there for all time, saving us from our sins? Do I really think that if I live in Boston, Massachusetts, that the Doctor at the hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, or a nurse in Sacramento, California or a researcher in Wuhan, China can save me personally from the plague that has infected the world? No. I am saved only by what I am, what I seek, what I have recourse to, what I live into and by and for and amongst — I am saved by a whole lot of luck in what I’ve been given and what I can survive. I am saved by the strength of my immune system, not my sister’s or brother’s immune system, not my pastor’s immune system, not my president’s or governors, or guru’s or shaman’s. And it was long past time for many of us to realize we should have been taking better care of our health, our immune systems and frankly the health and immune systems of everyone within six feet of us. We have all become quite the “evangelicals”, during this Corona-Virus plague, have we not? Sharing warnings, sharing tips, sharing encouragements, sharing the Gospel of how to live through and after Corona-Virus? Quite the over-night prophets and pastors we all are now from the safety of our social media fortresses. Quite the love we seem to be overflowing with — from a distance. What will be our evangelical good news for a world struggling to survive the consequences of this time? Will we finally celebrate the Jewish Jubilee that Jesus claimed he came to install as God’s Kingdom on Earth?
I should have been building up my immune system all these years. I should have been taking care of my health and the health of the homeless people in my park and of the grocery clerks and the people I worked for that I thought weren’t important enough for me to stay away from when I had the flu, and then I should have been fighting for the rights to a living wage for all the people who are still out there risking their lives because they can not afford to stay home from a job that doesn’t pay them enough. I should have been taking only what I need and not hoarding. I should have been asking for forgiveness and begging for mercy all these years. I should have been loving my neighbors and my enemies enough to save us all from “what’s out there”. I should have been reaching out in love to everyone. I should have been not worrying so much and loving more every moment of this wonderful God-given life. I should have been reducing my stress and increasing my faith.
I should have been putting on armor against disease — just like God advises me to do with sin. If I am saved from the Corona Virus, it is only by a current bit of luck, because of course everyone is going to die of something. I am saved, perhaps also, by my willingness to keep the contract with the rest of the world that I should have made as soon as I could reason. The contract is that I will be a good citizen of the world and think of you all as I would like you to think of me — do for you all as I would like you to do for me. Jesus taught us this, not with words only but by deeds — “To live, you must love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and will, and you must follow this as the first rule of being a human being. The second rule is like this one, because your fellow human beings, whether you like it or not, are created just as much in god-images as you are yourself — so love everyone, just as you would love yourself and treat everyone as you would like everyone to treat you, and behave towards all, and connect to all as you would like them to be in relationship to you.” Do those two things, Jesus, says, do them as He did them — and you will find your way from the garden, to the Passover, to the crucifixion, to the tomb, to the Resurrection, to the Promised Land, to Christ’s side and to the completely healthy, virus-free reality of God’s Kingdom.
And now we see that we have been worshiping a Golden Calf and we better once more let Jesus into the temples and churches and small group Bible studies, and hand Jesus the whips of rope to turn over our money tables. Those tables of those that sell cheap salvation for a price, who have too long been blocking us from worshiping the True God in spirit and in truth.
And now, as we live in our own tense, stressful, worrisome, Garden of Gethsemane, we see how fearful we are that Jesus can’t really pull it off. We are finally aware, perhaps, of how tired and drowsy we are. How lazy. How cheap we think prayer can be. How happy we are that Jesus is somewhere else, somewhere back there, so we can rest. Now we see we have fallen asleep. We thought we wanted to follow Jesus to Calvary but we can’t even stay awake in a Garden, long enough to pray with him. We don’t need to wait for the rooster to crow, we have betrayed him with our willingness to believe God’s grace is Walmart-priced and Christ’s plan is for us to relax while he does the heavy lifting.
And now we see that the Saturday between the Friday of Jesus on the cross is the longest, longest, longest day in the whole world for any one who thinks they want to follow a crazy rabbi who claimed to be a Jewish Messiah and who finally claimed to be The Only Begotten Son of YHWH, but who on a Friday, before the Hebrew Sabbath could begin — died.
And this King of the Jews died of the same thing that we all die of, no matter what our beliefs. He died because of what we have done to the world and the earth and to each other. Jesus died, as we will, because of our choices to pretend we are not responsible for the ills of the world; because of the evils of pride and greed that we have let infect our most profound human ideas — those that make up our religions and our overseeing, ruling governments. Maybe we are those nationalists, those who want to make ourselves “Great Again”. Maybe we are the religious groups, who like those of Jesus’ people who were only too glad that Moses went away for a while on the Mountaintop with G-d, so we can deal with Aaron who will give the people what they want to believe they can worship and so that Aaron can keep his job.
Maybe we are glad to believe that Jesus has gone away for awhile and we can do whatever we want until He returns? Maybe we don’t believe that Jesus will come down from the Mountaintop as Moses did, and be as righteously angry as a God to find us worshiping gold and cheap entertainers like Aaron was — like too many of our leaders are? Maybe we don’t believe, just like the Golden-Calf-worshipping, bored with God’s provided- manna, unwilling in faithlessness Hebrews didn’t believe, that we will really die because of what we choose to do? Maybe we’ve given up on walking for forty long years and we don’t want to relearn what it takes to be the kind of human being who will be useful and happy if they someday live in a perfect land of milk and honey and community and love? Maybe we’ve forgotten that not everyone makes it to the Promised Land, even if they say they “believe” in Jesus? Just like everyone who hid at Passover behind the Blood of the Lamb didn’t make it to the Promised Land, Jesus warns us that “not everyone who comes in my name will enter my Heaven”. Maybe we can, in our sheltered, quarantined time away from the world out there, remember that Jesus knows only those who “do unto the least of humans, as if you were doing it unto The Christ”. That’s scarier than a pandemic to my mind.
Maybe our enforced sobering in the face of a pandemic, and the joy we find in living in this different kind of life we have right now — a life forced on us by the plagues we have fled –a joy that comes not from getting something new or more, but from being grateful for having what we need just for one more day — Manna — “this is my body given for you, take, eat in remembrance of Me” — maybe all this will sober us to find joy in a message that we can start living, out there — and not put our lives and love back on a shelf with our other scriptures and self-help tomes. Maybe we will defy death this time so we can go about life as if we really have been Reborn to New Life.
Jesus died because we grow easily bored, and restless with simplicity, and we prefer to be a palm-waving, cheering participant in the mass hysteria of the people who want to make Jesus a Reality TV Star. “Go, Team!” is so much more acceptable than “Repent!” “We Win!” means someone else — the other team, the other gender or color or creed or socio-economic strata — “They Lose!” So, what do we do now without teams to watch and cheer for; without churches whose doors are either open or closed to us depending on who we are; without even wars to continue to fight “safely”? What do we do now that we have proven, albeit without our consent, that we can live simply and in peace and by sharing more with others?
The scary truth, is that the veil has been torn — and we see people hoarding, disobeying God’s law of love, ironically, there are those who are still convinced they have to go to church to find the right God, even if they kill their neighbors for it. The torn veil shows us a world sorely lacking in not only protective gear for sacrificing health workers and life-saving medicines for poor people, but not even the right antidotes for price-gauging drug companies, and not even enough expensive ventilator machines for the famous and rich who have always assumed that only poor homeless, worthless, 401k-less Lazarus-es lie at their doors with unhealthy sores and cells; we see that no one escapes, and that even the very wealthy, with their rich warehouses of stuff can’t save themselves from death.
People are all for freedom if it means they can do whatever they want to whomever they want. People don’t want freewill in a Kingdom with a suffering, truth-telling, overly-loving-of everyone Savior. People don’t want the King who says he belongs to a “kingdom not of this world”. We want a King like the one we elected on Palm Sunday — the miracle-making Santa Claus King that we can cheer for, while we stand on the side of the road to Jerusalem; we don’t want the King Jesus really was — is — will be — we don’t want to have to carry our own crosses beside Him while we walk with The King to Calvary. And if Jesus won’t bow down to our expectations, why, then — we will find someone who will. And we will call him, not Jewish Messiah, not Old Testament Son of God, not present King and coming Ruler — but we will make our own images of gold, and will cheer those who are only too willing to pose as our god-substitute sacrifices for us. If we leave here, lucky enough to be Passed-Over, then we may find our way back to Jesus as God-lite. But we will have a new choice — a new Egypt to leave — a new wilderness to cross — and a new Savior for a new day to follow. We can as Moses did, ask God to show us the future — the Promised Land — a healed and healing world — that we are meant to carry our brothers and sisters to live in — along with us. We can as Jesus did, pray that we don’t have to die from this death in particular, that “God takes the cup from us” in this time of pandemic, and allows us to live with our friends and family and in the joy of a wonderful world for a bit longer. But, as Jesus did, we can also pray to endure, to suffer willingly even to the point of death, to walk the road, and enter the tomb even if we don’t feel God’s presence at all. We can with only a tiny bit of hope and faith, pray, “Thy will be done and into Your Spirit- Father Hands, I give my life, my soul, my all”.
So, we live not as if Jesus is still on the cross, and as if we are wandering afraid and alone in the wilderness of this world, but as if it is always Saturday and Jesus is still in the tomb. Because tomorrow, that day of Easter we are so anxious to celebrate, should be the really scary, sobering, choice-inducing day. Tomorrow, when Jesus rose, is the day we have to decide whether we are going to leave Egypt once and for all or not.
Tomorrow is the day when the disciples of Jesus were still found huddled in terror behind their closed doors, afraid of the death lurking around every corner — death by Roman empire, death by religious leaders, death by unemployment and lack of the most basic of necessities or funds. And so today, whatever day it is now, as we huddle behind doors, and tomorrow as we, as the early disciples did, must continue for our own safety to huddle behind doors, we must not think that because Jesus chose death, that we won’t have to. We will.
This year won’t be like other Easters for most of us. It won’t be a Passover for Jews like it usually is, although the Jews of this world are much more acquainted with short and long term suffering than most of us, which says a lot about why Jesus chose them as His People. And so –
On a day like Easter, after giving our token-worship to a Savior that died on Friday, Easter arrives like a party-day, one that we usually see as — Oh, yay, rah Team Christian! — here we go, back to the Egyptian — I mean, American — values of Easter bunny-idols, and exorbitant amounts of moneys spent, not on God’s work of caring for the world, but on candy and fertility-rite egg hunting for children, and salaries for public speakers in robes behind lecterns, and large dinners at home or at fancy restaurants; and in a belief system with a manufactured, fake grace so small and cheap it can fit inside a brightly-colored plastic Easter egg. But this year, tomorrow — if you are a good person, and are truly following Jesus, and not following some preacher or rabbi more worried about their career than about your health and safety — tomorrow you will have none of those trappings of “celebration”; none of those rites of religion or rites of Spring; none of the passing pleasantries of friends and family who come and leave again after a rich meal, loved ones who may leave you without leaving barely a trace of what is still missing, hungering inside them. Tomorrow there will not be those who are gone away from your home without filling those universal yearnings for a love that lasts longer than a large hollow chocolate bunny. Tomorrow, we will all still be behind closed doors, waiting for a Savior. Tomorrow, we may simply be celebrating being alive for one more day.
But, finally, tomorrow, this year of 2020 Worldwide Pandemic “Resurrection Sunday”, might just actually feel like what it felt like for the disciples of Jesus. Tomorrow we might wake to the sorrow and sadness of another day behind doors closed in fear, doors locked in vain attempts to keep death out. Tomorrow we might feel an aching loss of a loved one, that we will not see in this lifetime again. Tomorrow we will wake to less extravagances, to another day of only the food /the manna we can “carry”, the things we need just to survive. Tomorrow we will look outside and feel the kind of fear and anger we should have of those powers and rulers who play with our lives so carelessly. Tomorrow we will realize that this is what God intended every Sabbath to be — rest from labors, and maybe it’s time we stopped working at the idea of working, and started working at the stuff the whole planet and everyone need to live well. Maybe tomorrow, this year, we will be content to do nothing, and to let our Sabbath be a time when God actually meets us right where we are.
Tomorrow we will realize that we have all that any of us really need, if we truly want to worship God right where we are. We will wake to an understanding that He has given each of us His Word, the Truth, the Light, and while it has always been nice to expect someone “official” to bring us to the Promised Land, and to hear nice music, they aren’t with us now. And really, in the end, it’s always been about my choice, my life, my decisions, my relationships. In the end, even after all he did for the People of God, Moses didn’t get to leave the quarantine alive. I think now that that was the most loving thing God could have done for Moses — to choose to protect Moses’ soul for God’s Eternal Promised Land, over what had become Moses’ self-centered dreams of ruling the Hebrews in what could only be a temporary way-station, anyway, a nation that would at best, be a passing illusion of what God’s Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven would someday be.
If we leave these upper rooms of fear and hiddenness, like Jesus’ disciples did days after Jesus rose from the grave, we will always have more choices, more decisions, more moments to live as God’s People in God’s Worldview. We must walk-on in our own strength and paradoxically only with strength from outside ourselves, we must journey on toward the Promised Land. The Good News about Jesus is, He came to show us how by doing it himself.
On this Easter Sunday, when we will not yet know what it means to be resurrected from fear and loneliness, from sorrow and pain and disease, from sin and death — this Easter — we may realize that this sense of waiting and watching that has become our new normal in the time of the 2020 Plague of Corona Virus, this watching and waiting was always supposed to be the life-enhancing philosophy of the People of God. From Job to Abraham to Moses to David to Mary to Jesus — the long arc of the Messiah is the arc of watching and waiting. Watching — our Salvation is at hand. Waiting — the Kingdom of God is among you like a pearl hidden in a field — Seek and you will Find!
The disciples of Jesus ran away from him on Thursday, betrayed and denied him on Friday, despaired and doubted everything and everyone, especially their God, on Saturday, and on Sunday, the disciples hid and regretted their decision to give up their jobs and families — to give up everything to follow Jesus. On Sunday, when Jesus was dead, his disciples hid together or alone, and tried to figure out how to deal with an uncertain tomorrow but a tomorrow that would one day, certainly mean their death. They behaved like we do, like we are, at least now. They behaved as we do, because they didn’t believe that what they had been watching for, the One whom they were waiting for — Messiah, Savior, Son of Living God — would ever come.
Jesus was dead.
And then. . .
Not because the disciples had the right theology. Not because they were faithful. Not because they were pure and loved well. Not because they had a great heritage. Not because they went to temple or church or tithed or were baptized or prayed the right prayers. And not because Jesus had died in their place so they wouldn’t have to. And then, not because any of us had followed the right rules, or practiced the right rites, or believed in the right Constitution. And then…
On Sunday, after the Jewish day of Rest, Sabbath, and very early in the morning, and just when some that the world considered tainted and useless, some grieving women came to Jesus’ tomb, and those women who were also afraid and in despair said, “Nonetheless, we will persist”. And these women went to care for a dead body according to the Jewish burial customs because even when someone we love dies, we keep their memory alive and we care for their legacy as best we can. “And when they came to the tomb, the women found it empty with someone who was maybe a gardener and maybe an angel nearby, and they said with agony, “Where is the body of our friend, Jesus”. And the angel, who might have been just a man, said: “Don’t look for him anymore here where dead things and dead people are. He has overcome death by dying, and he is risen just as he promised you, and he is waiting and watching for you to come to Him today.”
And then on this day we celebrate on Easter, all these years later…
And not because of us or anything we can achieve…
But because of God’s great love for His Child, who we call Jesus…
and His great mercy on His children, who are all of us….
— the whole world shifted.
Even though we may follow all the right sanitizing programs to protect us from COVID-19, there are no guarantees. And it will not be merely because of anything we do or believe that we will be saved, or that will ensure that we will have an eternal life in a new earth and new heaven — a Promised Land. And yet, our very souls depend as much on our inherent spiritual immune systems as they depend on the health, the need to consistently sanitize our worldview, and the rules we follow to live justly with others and walk uprightly before our God, and of how we love others. Our souls depend on what we do and believe just as much as our physical health depends on it at this time and throughout all Time. That is the paradox, the mystery of the Passion of The Christ — it all depended on what He did, and it was completely out of His hands to do anything. “Father, you know I can do nothing apart from You.” “Father, you and I are walking in this world as one.” My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why must I suffer and die?” “Parent -Mother-Father-God — into your very enormous holding hands and loving Self, I give you my all.”
We will be saved by the Blood of the Lamb that WE choose to identify with, even behind closed doors. Our world will be saved by how we choose to die. Will we die trying to take as many toys and chocolate bunnies and plastic baubles and rolls of poop-wiping material and armaments and experiences and mansions with us when we go? Or will we die trying to do unto others — to the least of the least on this planet, in this world, in this nation, in this neighborhood — as we are hoping other people will do unto us? Isn’t it when all is said and done, sacrificial Love, that is the real “Jesus-Thing”?
Will we die for the same things we have learned to live for in this time of sheltering in –for something, even if we can’t see it now, that may well count for something bigger, more important, more lasting, and beautiful than our own small life?
Jesus was just another small life, after all. A nobody, a poor despised Jew, a person who didn’t follow the unhealthy, unloving, ungodly rules of the Pharisees and Sadducees and Roman rulers; but rather followed the rules we have all been given to keep the planet healthy, to make people truly believe and know that there is hope and love and help along the way, and Jesus followed the rules and The One Way that God has given us in order to keep our very souls from death. Jesus died just like we all will, and from the same thing. Jesus died from what we have done to the world, not what God has done for it. And then Jesus rose from death, so God could show us what He is still able to do for and through and in us.
And so Saturday, is our day. A day to decide if we will watch and wait or if we will hide and despair. Because tomorrow is the day that Jesus comes back from The Promised Land to invite us to let Him help us find our way to eternal life there, too.
Tomorrow is the day Jesus had the biggest Surprise Party of all time. Jesus walked into the room where the disciples hid frightened and angry and lonely and lost and yelled, “Surprise!” Easter is the Surprise Party Jesus throws each year in God’s honor, and yet — though all are invited, not all will come.
Tomorrow is the day, that disciples had their whole worldview turned upside down on its head. Corona Virus has done the same for many of us in the world living today. Tomorrow is the day of “Shock and Awe” when Jesus shows the world that Love can win over hatred, that peace can win over violence, that meekness beats pride, and truth destroys lies. Tomorrow is the day that Jesus shows us that He lived as “the way, the truth, and the life” and that that Way can lead us to God. Tomorrow is the day that Christ’s Life defeated Christ’s death and that God’s Love defeated the World’s Pandemic.
But Today — this holding-pattern day — is the Everyday of not just our new reality behind the closed doors of Corona Virus sheltering-in. Today is the Every-Saturday of Holy Week. Because every day of this lifetime, is the day to choose whether we will die with Christ, in order to be resurrected into His Kingdom.
And just like Jesus instructed us to go into the world and wash each other’s feet, so today we choose, again and again and again, will I wash my hands to love my neighbor? Will I humble myself enough to let God show me how dirty my feet are because of how I’ve chosen to walk in this world?
Will I choose today to live as if Jesus is no longer dead, but is risen and alive in this room where I am still trying to hide from fear and still trying to hide from Him? Because The Kingdom of God is now. It is here. It is both here and also that for which we watch and wait. Just like my life today, when I am seizing this moment with grace and gratitude as all I can be really sure of; while also longing for the moment we will be reunited with the ones and The One that we love.
Jesus spent a lifetime dying to himself, and living for His Father. I struggle with even a day spent dying to my own wishes, yearnings, grubbing, or worrying, or self-care preening or just giving up getting out and about. During this time of Corona-Virus, I have learned how pointless so much of it has been and how much of what I have done or who I think I am, is useless here and now. I am not even strong enough to “stay awake” and pray for those truly in need. As never before, I am afraid of dying and also more aware of my own impending death. But I am also, as never before, more aware that I am not alone, and that no matter what I go through or what happens to me, there is a Savior who has gone before me, and is here to help me take one more step forward in His Way. Christ bears the Lion’s share of what ever yoke or burden I carry today.
Today, I am grateful, to be imprisoned in this living tomb of worldwide plague, because I am given another chance, a new choice, another opportunity, and a seedling of hope. I get another chance to truly listen to what Jesus means for me when he calls: “Follow me”. They are hard words, but Jesus promises that although “With human beings, this is impossible, with God, all things are possible”.
Because it is finally oh so very probable for me to believe in the inevitability of my very own death — It might even be possible for me to believe in Resurrection.
And just like that — death’s victory is hanging in the balance.
Yesterday was my religion’s High Holy Day and what for years we called Easter but now some of us call Resurrection Sunday. On our front porch up in the ceiling on a hook that used to hold a porch swing but now doesn’t, a humming bird has made a nest. When my tall, handsome “I’m a man, Mom” son first saw the grey sack hanging there with something swarming around it, his Dad said he got scared and freaked out. Maybe he was thinking it was a bee’s nest or something. I was at work, so they had to show me the nest when I got home that day. Two days ago the bird was sitting still as a statue on the grey sack. If you have ever seen a humming bird can you imagine how hard it must be for momma bird to sit still? I thought – I know that look, you are getting ready to birth those little waiting lifes, aren’t you little momma? I don’t know how many bambinos humming birds birth or how long the gestation period is or what they look like when born, but I knew the determined expectant, fearful, hopeful look of that mamma’s every fiber.
This morning at 6:20 I went out to check on the nest. Momma is not there. I looked up all around the nest and didn’t see any tear -aways or holes so I’m hoping mamma bird just went out for breakfast. I hope nothing is amiss. I hope every thing is all right.
My children used to think humming birds were called “honey birds”. My four children were so adorable. I have said it before and I will say it again, I think Heaven might include a lot of do-overs – I get to do all the good parts over and over again. And then again.
I have discovered that many of my Western World Peers do not do anticipation very well. All of those great Anticipatory Church Holidays, like Advent, Lent, Good Friday – a lot of people don’t even know what they really are or mean any more and if they do, they really want to skip to the punch. Sort of like people I guess now do designer on -demand cesarean section births – I’m ready, so let’s get this over with and get to the baby part. Christianity has gotten to be where every one just wants to sing one praise chorus of “Just As I Am” and skip to the designer good baby part. New birth fast. Hallelujahs on demand, Tivo-ed every day. My husband and I see our son fighting the need to wait on things as he rushes to grow up. It is natural and it is also natural for parents who love him, so say, “Son, some things you need to wait on.” Because we all make mistakes when we get tired of waiting.
I wonder if Mama Honeybird got tired of waiting? I hope not. I hope she just went out for breakfast.
Can you imagine if God got tired of waiting?
One way the bible can be read is of a long, long story about centuries of people who get tired of waiting and the God who never does.
I think The Church is getting tired of waiting. Like Adam and Eve did. Like the Hebrew children in the Exodus did. Like Judas did.
And I think we daily want to skip right to the joy of Easter via the caesarian section of cheap born again life. We don’t know how important it is for that life to be born of cross carrying gestation. We want to skip Good Friday and all that it means about our sinfulness, our weightiness, our infirmities, which only Christ could carry to term at the cross. We want to shout “He is risen” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday – and so we miss what the anticipation of “Sunday’s Comin’” could mean in our lives, in the world, in Eternity. Because if we aren’t carrying our cross to term, then we can’t really love others and we certainly can not know, worship and love a holy God who wants to carry us to term into a new, re-created, perfect eternal life forever. Jesus doesn’t offer to birth us free from pain and mess, but He births us in and by the bloody placenta of the Cross. God banished Adam and Eve from a perfect world with many offerings of His grace, and the extreme pain of giving birth was one of those graces. Because without understanding that because of fallenness and sin, we must with some amount of pain birth all human creation — children, art, clean dishes, fields of fruit, microchips, vaccines, novels–birth with sweat, and toil and pain– if we didn’t have that pain, then we wouldn’t need a Savior and we would forever give up the anticipatory hope of a new creation in us and in the whole world. The very, very best part of Resurrection Sunday, is that Jesus willingly had to die to get to it.
If I am not dying to something in myself, daily, making every day a Friday, then I will never know the glory of being resurrected into new life on Sunday. “I am crucified with Christ”…. Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it…….
“NEVER THELESS I LIVE!”
Jesus did not skip the cross to get to the glory. And neither can I. But He carried the Lion’s share for me, for us. Christ had no idea what the end of the suffering would bring, there was no “spiritual heaven-sent sonogram” to predict the ending. But He knew the Father and He knew that He had to carry the kingdom to the end of it’s gestation period, no matter how agonizingly horrible and painful and lonely it was. He saw the pregnancy through to the bitter end, and birthed a whole new world, a whole new creation on Resurrection Sunday. And just like I long to do with my little birthed biological children, He longs to daily offer us do-overs – He is walking along, holding our hands, carrying the heaviest parts of our crosses, warning us to be careful crossing the street, laughing and holding and snuggling, and disciplining and admonishing and guiding and investing in our futures. If we rush to grow up, we will make mistakes. If we trust in our Father,and let His Son guide us, live in us, we will have eternal life.
And that is why we anticipate The Christ’s coming once more in the flesh, in person to reign in the world forever. Because that Resurrection Sunday, when Christ’s children are eternally resurrected to live with Him. That Sunday will mean the end of all anticipation – all pain, all sin, all sorrow, and all death. That Resurrection Sunday is what we are preparing for. That is the end of Good Fridays. That means Hallelujahs every day. He is risen. Indeed. Easter Morning my husband made this English nerd’s day by coming up with synonyms of the “indeed” part of that liturgical phrase. He played around with, “He is risen also.” Nope. “He is risen in fact.” Okay. And then he hit on it. “He is risen, Kapow!”. And so we joyfully throughout the day, would proclaim, “Christ is risen! He is risen KAPOW!” It was after all, a very Kapow thing for God to do.
I was hoping to see Honeybird give birth. But all I saw was her waiting vigil, her anticipatory expectation. That is my world, sitting vigil on a planet of people groaning in expectation of something better, something cleaner, something more loving, and more just, and more true. A world groaning to be born again. We, Christ’s church, Christ’s body, are called to wait vigil for Christ’s return and to midwife the new birth for the whole world that He died for. However you are called to do that today, know that as Paul discovered when he turned his whole world upside down for Jesus and helped midwife Christianity in the process, know as you go about your life today, as Paul says in Romans 8: 18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Just like in the agony of childbirth I could never have imagined how wonderful it would be, to be the mom of such four wonder-full children, so too, do we see only vaguely how wonder-full the world will be when it is fully gestated and brought to new birth, new creation when Christ comes again to reign forever. The paradox remains that as we strive to give the world new birth, Jesus longs to be born in us. That is the glory in us He died to reveal. That is what our present sufferings mean if we live into His Story, waiting patiently for all Christ’s birth, death and resurrection mean in our lives and in the world. “But you beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” (Jude 1:21)
Come, Lord Jesus. We wait and hope.
God is still waiting – with the anticipation and joy of a loving, doting father to celebrate for eternity –our birth. YHWH is the suffering God, who through His Suffering Servant Jesus, and His death and resurrection, offered each of us Life – real life, abundant life, not just 15 minutes but an eternity of all we now merely dream could be real life. This world of pain will seem like some weird Reality Show compared to our real life in Christ’s kingdom, and our souls will realize that life outside the womb of these present sufferings, is all life was always meant to be, a wonder-full reality of relationship with our Creator and Lord, an eternity of walking hand in hand in the Garden with the Father and His Son, our Savior, Jesus the Messiah.
Like my son, once you know the reality, then faith keeps you from freaking out. Like the Honeybird, once you take up the task of painfully gestating God’s love in you and in the world, you can live daily with anticipatory hope in the Pregnant Pause of Christ’s Kingdom. He is Risen. Kapow!
Because it never gets old:
“Hope is the Thing with Feathers” By Emily Dickinson