The Mixed Bag of Holy Week
Vaccinations are going up, covids 18+1 is still a reality, and the virus numbers are trending down, not done, but down. AND, and, and, people of Grace we are coming back to in-person worship on EASTER!!! If I were a superstitious person, I would not want to say that aloud in the universe, you know, just in case. BUT, I’m a person of faith, so even when I get a little nervous, my faith gives me courage to shout it from the blogiverse! I’m relying on that faith for us heading into the celebration of God’s promise of abundant life on EASTER!!!
I both am and am not jumping up and down as odd as that sounds. It’s a mixed blessing for me and likely for so many of you. When we come back, we will be missing some of our brothers and sisters who have been active and valuable members of our faith family and now live in God’s full presence. I know where they all sat nearly every Sunday, and to be honest, as I’ve told their family members, looking at those chairs without those people will break my heart just a little bit more. And I also know that our worship together will give us strength to walk with one another through overwhelming grief. Perhaps coming back at Easter will offer an extra bit of healing and promise.
An eleven year old going on 40 part of the time, told me a couple of weeks ago that whether we think much about it or not, we’re living in history right now. That someday people will look back at what we’re doing and how we’re handling things and make judgments that we, who are living in it, probably aren’t thinking about most days. I sat there with jaw dropped, and asked him what he thought the assessment might be. And he said he wasn’t sure, but that from a distance, some of it looks like we aren’t very willing to take care of each other if it means we don’t get what we want. By the way, before that conversation happened, we spent time with the complex Lego creations he has put together over the past year, so it wasn’t all serious “old people” talk. Smile.
It’s such a mixed bag, living in this complexity. It may not seem altogether real until it does, and then when it does, some of us aren’t sure we can get up and keep moving, at least not without a limp. Remember Jacob wrestling with God that night? And dawn is about to break and the “stranger” tells Jacob to let go and Jacob refuses until he receives a blessing. His name is changed from Jacob to Israel which means he has striven with God and with humanity and survived. And then it says he gets up to go meet his brother and he’s limping because the struggle had displaced his hip. (see Gen. 32:24-31) I feel like all of us, whether we recognize it or not, have some kind of “limp” perhaps physically, and most likely for most of us, spiritually. We may feel disjointed or displaced because a beloved person in our life has died during this time and we didn’t have the strength of the wider in-person community to help us grieve. Or maybe it’s because we’ve lost a job, or maybe had to quit or decrease to less than full time to care for our kids. Maybe we have struggled with one another because of such widely different views on how to handle school, or shopping or eating venues, or sporting events, or family gatherings, or yes, even church. And maybe we have experienced and been a part of the ugliness that we human beings can be with one another when we are under such stress and pressure that our disagreements escalate to personal insult, never a healthy thing for the giver or receiver or the bystander of those exchanges.
So many things. And I think we have simply been working so hard to survive that as we are seeing a light, maybe not at the end of the tunnel, but a light nonetheless, the overwhelming nature of what we have been and are still going through, is yet a journey to be walked rather than a destination to be reached. Hurt and pain and hardship, regardless of cause, must be healthfully processed, whether we want to or not. Believe me, hard experience has taught me that if we don’t choose to process, we will anyway, it will simply take longer and probably show itself in less healthy and more starkly painful ways, both for ourselves and for others.
When I allow myself to know, I’m aware of some deep physical, emotional, and spiritual weariness that rests in my bones. That doesn’t mean I’m not still experiencing joy, or that I’ve lost hope, or that the future isn’t bright with vision. It simply means there is a weariness with which I will need to face and find my way through as vaccinated numbers expand, and my continued prayer, the numbers of positive cases and deaths continue to decrease. I have weariness for and with the overwhelming numbers of people in grief. While we can walk with those in deep pain, we can’t erase it for them, so we hold space and listen, please simply listen. I have weariness with hate, and division, and unkind words too easily said and waaaay too easily posted on social media in gross generalities about anyone and anything that is the target of the day. I have weariness with a world that has not chosen to grow more kind and inclusive with our differences in opinion when the virus has shown us that care for one another is the answer.
It is a mixed bag of celebration and sorrow, joy and heartbreak, despair and yet an unending hope. Holy Week all wrapped up into one it would seem.
The following Psalm 137:1-4 is resting in my mind and heart as we plan to be in person again. We celebrate coming home to the familiar and yet share sadness at the unfamiliar of not having everyone here that we’re used to seeing. We rejoice with gladness, and yet will not be singing aloud our joy for reasons of safety until everyone who wants a vaccine has had a chance to get one. Our eyes will sparkle our smiles, and yet we won’t get to see those smiles until such time as masks are no longer required. Along with God’s people in the Psalmist’s time, we will ask ourselves and then have faith that God will find a way for us, “to sing God’s song” in this foreign land that is the same but different moving through and yet carrying with us this chapter of our shared history.
The YouTube video following the quoted Psalm is from the musical “Godspell.” It’s a part of a 2010 gifted high school production of a 1970’s musical seeking to bring the story of Jesus to wider crowds. The way the writer adapted Psalm 137 into song to fit with Jesus preparing to go to the garden to pray preceding his crucifixion fits the day and the hour Jesus prepared to face in the paradox of “good” Friday, and perhaps to much lesser degree, fits the day and the hour that we face now.
“By the rivers of Babylon –
there we sat down and there
when we remembered Zion.
on the willows there
we hung up our harps.
For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for
‘Sing us one of the songs of
“How could we sing the Lord’s
in a foreign land?”