On Easter Sunday…some thoughts from my first visit to Jerusalem in 2011…
I would say that the world is a hopeless place…except it’s not. Somewhere around here – at the Garden Tomb, under a church – there’s an empty tomb to prove it. It’s what we have to offer this place – emptiness.
If we take on what this place is full of – despair, hatred, violence – then we place the body of Jesus right back where it was at the end – dead, lifeless, abandoned, abused, scorned, and hopeless. But if we yield to the absence…If we retain nothing…If we get rid of the pretension that we know what God would have them do…we would at last be true to the truth that is uniquely ours to tell.
And what does that empty space proclaim? The presence of God who once met us face to face and we survived. The emptiness says God has gone on before us. The absence of anything pure reason and feeling would lead us to pushes us back to the way we always reject – Jesus’ way.
Remember how he told you this would be necessary. Remember how he told you that he came to bring a sword. Remember how he told you to love your enemy, your neighbor, your projimo. When you are empty…when you have nothing to give…when you know what it means to lay down your life…you will find it.
photo by Samuel Zeller via Unsplash
‘If, as some have done,
Ye grope tear-blinded in a desert place
And touch but tombs,—look up! those tears will run
Soon in long rivers down the lifted face,
And leave the vision clear for stars and sun.’
—‘Tears,’ Elizabeth Barrett Browning
photo by IV Horton via Unsplash
Yes, there’s a day for suffering,
for marking love’s dark mien.
Contorted faces bearing the cost of contingency and time.
There’s no reason to the grief,
there’s no cause for any tear.
Even the call to Private Ryan–Earn this!–
can’t elevate the squalor of our deaths.
We all end
in ridiculous deformations
of our former selves.
Whatever potency we pretend to
is buried with us in the grave.
So nail it up there for us to see.
Splay us on a tree with righteous indignity.
Reveal us for what we are–
rank imposters after glory.
unsplash photo by Bern Hardy
Last night they didn’t try to package Jesus into a digestible savior. In the Good Friday service I attended, the space was prepared. Attention was paid. The movements were purposeful. Light and darkness played across the sanctuary. There was little attempt at explanation and what there was was superfluous. The story was told well. Music leaned into the spaces where words fail. Silence even more so.
Holy Week is strange and sensual. It presents us with a drama that resists reduction. Our multiple theories of atonement reveal the struggle to comprehend what it’s all about. So good worship doesn’t try. It just leads us into the story and lets us walk around with all our senses on.
I was grateful for the care that was taken with last night’s service. It respected the shadows and light in Jesus’s life and in my own.