You can watch the video of Pastor Kris’ reflection HERE.
This has been a most unusual, emotionally packed week. Stories in the news have captured our attention: There has been financial disruption. There have been protests as women and men stand up and insist on being seen as they work to save lives. As individuals show up… and tell about the real human tragedy, the real losses, all the underlying illnesses, and the overwhelming presence of death in isolation that is tearing lives apart.
We have been there. We have seen. There is so much tragedy going on as governmental systems awkwardly attempt to respond human truths.
With that short introduction, I could be talking about our situation today. I could lift up the unbelievably contentious discourses we have been having as a country this past week. Conversations that emerge from political systems which suggest conflicting responses to the coronavirus pandemic.
I could focus this reflection on the urgencies that have born the weight of our attention: The continued scarcity of the masks and face shields, gowns and gloves, that front line responders desperately need. Or, I could talk about the debates earlier this week around whether or not to postpone Wisconsin’s election.
I could highlight the real-life urgencies erupting due to the packed phone lines and websites which have crashed as people apply for unemployment benefits, and small businesses apply for federal grants.
And with a broken heart, I could talk about the immense grief people are suffering. Suffering as they are separated from loved ones. Unable to enter the hospital with family members who are sick, fighting for their lives due to COVID-19. Or, I could tear up and remember the stories of those who could not be with their loved one as they died.
Tonight, it is understandable for us to gather and talk about the current global crisis.
Our own grief and loss.
But this week I have also been struck by the intensity of the emotions in our sacred Biblical texts, at both the individual and communal levels. The tensions, and grief, and losses that have erupted. The distress swirling out of control in the lives of ordinary people.
I am finding that images of our biblical past and our present “now” reverberate with similarity. Both the then… and the now… are packed with an immense awareness of isolation, social distancing, and death. We have all seen the pictures:
We have all seen the photographs taken outside of nursing homes across the country. The pictures of the wives and husbands, sons, daughters, and grandchildren, showing up and standing outside of nursing home windows. Standing outside as they talk to, sing to, and hold up signs for their loved ones who are confined inside.
Set that image against the pictures in our imaginations as we hear about those who showed up at the cross so very long ago: Jesus’ mother; his aunt (Mary’s sister), Mary from Magdala, and the disciple, the man whom Jesus loved. These were people who came and stood as near to Jesus as they could. They gathered at a safe(ish) distance, but could do nothing. They could do nothing, but watch the story unfold. Yet they showed up at the foot of the cross. Not able to touch Jesus, this was their equivalent of social distancing. They were there, but not able to hug. Not able to kiss their beloved goodbye. This is a story we are witnesses to and experiencing in our very own time.
It is here, in the showing up, that we encounter the Holy, the personal, the relational part of the story. The “so what” of our covenant with God. The reality that even as those who gathered around Jesus while they were not able to touch him… and as they watched in dismay as he died… that what they were doing in that moment was what they needed do. What they could do. That was enough.
And that takes courage. It takes courage and love to be there. To witness all that we have ever known being suddenly ripped away.
This is our truth today as we stand in the shadow of death: God’s call to be present. To respond in love. To show up in any way that we can: via homemade signs, or sending cards and letters, sidewalk chalk drawings, or phone calls, texts, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, social media…
It may be all we can do for the moment.
Somewhere deep down we know there is more to the story. We know that even from the cross Jesus sees. God sees. We know that God takes our loss and transforms it. We know that life will overcome death.
But. Not. Quite. Yet.
Thus, today it is OK to pause in the grief. To name the fact that this Holy Week is different. Easter. Will. Be. Different. Our lives… will be different.
This Good Friday, we stand at the base of the cross. May we allow ourselves to experience all the emotions. To identify our losses… your losses… my losses… large and small. To acknowledge death is all around us. And that we are all, in our own way, grieving.
Beloved, this has been a most unusual, emotionally packed week. As we come into our time of prayer, I invite you to hold “all the stuff” in sacred space.
Reflection on readings from John 19:9b-18, 25b-37 offered on Good Friday, April 10, 2020