Remember: Easter didn’t happen in one day. It started at dawn with a few women and slowly unfolded. Next the disciples were stuck in a room for 50 days til Pentecost. Then Pentecost Easter started to be shared with the public. We have been unfurling Easter for the 2,000 years since. Every Sunday is a piece of Easter, Easter, the resurrection, the promise that Christ will return is still taking place today. Easter never was a one day event. That’s why Mark ends so abruptly, it was the beginning.
Can you hear Easter?
It’s ringing in the stilled bells, the empty chapels, creeping up with the quiet growth of spring
It’s on the lips of exhausted doctors and nurses—too tired to murmur
It’s in the silent wave between neighbors, keeping too far away to talk, but close enough for company
It’s in the silent hug between family members stuck together; where entire conversations flow through the body
It’s on the breath of the sick, in that place between waking and sleeping
It’d in the angel’s nod of greeting to the women, the absence of guards and the rolling away of the stone
If s a stone rolls away and nobody hears it; does it make a sound?
It booms like the rise thunderous sun, bedecked in glory, shining out the news wordless in its proclamation
Can you hear Easter?
Here we are Jesus, at our say nothing Easter.
And the truth is, I really don’t know what to say. An angel told us you’re alive, but what does that really mean?
Your angels are frightening God, full of life & death; we cannot fully understand who or what they are. We are blinded by the angels eyes, and need some holy shade to think. And we are not exactly filled with hope.
Where is Jesus? He promised to return, but here we are and Mark leaves us with a rolled back stone, one angel and bunch of women. Who would believe what they had to say anyway?
Would Peter and the disciples really hear what needed to be done?
This is a say nothing Easter, where we are alone with ourselves and think, what can we say.
What will you say?
My God, My God why have you abandoned us?
The churches are empty, The offices, the schools, the streets are laid bare.
and demons are everywhere.
The diseases hide in plain sight, and surround us.
And we are stuck, alone, in our own personal pit left with only with our anxieties and depressions.
The powers that be are useless, stuck running around in circles, contradictions abound.
We are stuck in the mire. Things suck, and for those who have to watch their beloved ones die alone this is the shitstorm that never ends.
And God, you know I do not say shitstorm lightly.
We are stuck in the pit. Are very bodies are disturbed. I feel like not eating, then eating everything. I cannot sleep, but neither can I stay awake.
My God, My God. Why would you send your only son on earth to suffer with us.
To see those who are falling through the cracks: the maligned: Zacchaeus, the ignored: the woman by the well, the ones with long term diseases: the lepers and those living with disabilities: the lame and the blind.
Then to see friends die of disease. First Jairus’ daughter, then his beloved friend Lazarus.
Thank God it’s Friday, Good Friday. A day to cry out, a day to admit that not everything is alright. The kids are not alright, neither are their parents or grandparents. The doctors and nurses are not alright, nor the grocery and retail and mail workers. The teachers are not alright, nor the aunties or the uncles. Those who live with abusers, those who are not yet out to their family aren’t alright, those who are lonely and have no one to call are not alright. The thousands and thousands of people on unemployment are not alright.
Lord, why have you abandoned us? We are not alright. If it’s possible, please let this cup pass.
But your will be done.
We are not alright, and Jesus is not alright with us.
We are vulnerable, he made himself vulnerable. We are cold, sick, naked, alone, uncertain and unsafe.
We are face to face with the cross and we do not like it.
Lord hear our prayer! Be with those who are not alright, be with us for we are not alright. Help us. Hosanna in the highest.
We are forever practicing virtual communion.
Recalling you, re-membering you. Virtually recalibrating ourselves to be the body of Christ until it becomes a physical reality.
We celebrate with all those saints who have come before us, and all those who have yet to come as a part of your kingdom. It is a virtual party, a foretaste, a glimpse of what is to come.
We worry about the rules a lot: who is truly welcome at the table, does Jesus really mean every single person can be a part of the body of Christ?
We worry about what together means: does communion mean at the same time, does it mean being in the same place? Does it mean the same loaf? Does it mean it all has to be wine? Do chips & grape soda count? What is the food of the people?
In our anxiety to be together, sometimes we do the opposite and make a lot of walls to keep each other apart.
But I’m happy for the gift of virtual communion. To remember that not everyone who is supposed to be there is there, and yet somehow it’s still communion and they are still included.
I am grateful for the celebration of it–for the solemn moment when we realize that we are a part of God’s family, and that Jesus welcomed especially those who are forgotten or overlooked, I remember that Jesus often called those who had no other access by NAME to him.
Because this virtual communion is also a real communion. Somehow, miraculously it’s always both. We are both the unbaked bread beginning to rise, and the crusty bake, dipped in the cup, and no matter what stage we are at we can taste it on our tongue.
However we classify and codify this communion, Lord I pray you make us a part of it.
May we be blessed, broken and consumed, until Jesus comes again.
We pray. Amen.
I know the story. After they had supped with one another—Jesus took bread & blessed it & broke it. He did so saying this is my body broken for you.
And when the Coronavirus was coming—we went to the grocery stores and the stores that sold toilet paper. And we called our far way family, our everyday colleagues and our close friends and sent heartfelt blessings to one another, and then we said to each each other I will broken for you.
Help us to remember one another and remember Jesus every time we break bread until we come together again.
And then, Lord, as Jesus washed the feet of the disciples he told them to love one another—passing on the gift that Mary Magdalene gave him, he knelt in front of each and every one of them to cleanse the dirt off their feet.
We too are washing in service–washing the germs from our hands when we enter a building, washing the germs for ourselves when we exit. Let each washing be a blessings. A spillover of your love. A symbol of the cup spilling over and filling our souls. Washing people from our presence, standing at least six feet from one another out of love.
Lord we are the body of Christ–and we are broken, we cannot celebrate communion or eat together, we cannot wash or touch one another. Remind us that Jesus knows what it is to be utterly alone. Jesus knows what dying alone felt like.
Jesus knew what it meant to be distant from everyone, and considered dirty. Jesus underwent all of this, because it is a part of the human condition. He also knew he would soon be leaving for a place where he could no longer physically touch us–and that he looked forward to being physically present with us once again. Remind us that Jesus says that he is broken for us, let us be broken for Christ and one another too.
And then Jesus tells us to love one another, to practice virtual communion, and to do this until we meet again.
Teach us to love and serve one another in whatever way we can, let us do this until we meet again in full communion, and do it in remembrance of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen
Who was essential at the cross?
Not Peter or John, Matthew or Mark.
Simon was essential: when Jesus could no longer carry the cross, Simon, a common laborer, with the strength to do the manual labor, the construction, the carrying of an essential item to where it needed to be. Simon was essential.
So were the two criminals who hung by the cross. Worthless and killed for being heretics, these two were essential for having the existential and theological conversation about who was saved and who wasn’t, and when was it too late to be saved.
The Centurion, and the common prison guards, were essential, they were the first to realize Jesus was the Son of God after he died. These workers in prison were essential.
Joseph of Arimathea, was essential. He gave up his own burial place, and risked his own death by the officials, boldly asking Pilate for the body, revealing what he believed and why. Then Joseph and Nicodemus polluted themselves–wrapping the dead body with their own hands, and using Nicodemus own mixed spices to move Jesus to the tomb. These men who put down politics to work with the dead were essential.
The women were essential. The women were sent, because they were thought to be harmless. Women prepared Jesus for the tomb with the wrappings and the spices to hide the bad smell. They entered the grave, where the guards watched–socially distant–to make certain no mischief was done. Women were the worthless but essential workers of the day.
Who was essential at the cross? Who did the work that needed to done? Who carried, cleaned, buried, wept, wrapped and worshipped?
Before this night is over Peter, you will deny me three times,
In fact each and every one of you will deny me before the end.
Not me Lord, I would never deny you.
The absolute horror of what was going to happen could not be fathomed by the disciples. It was too a deep a hole for them to see. Death, betrayal, denial and damnation were unthinkable. After all they had faith, and they had Jesus. What else would they need?
Denial is very human. It’s how we handle some of the world, it’s one way to fend off PTSD.
What are you in denial about right now? Here, in the middle of a pandemic, what is too much for you to take in?
Remember that even the disciples had trouble processing it all. Remember that only Christ and God can hold the enormity of the tragedy that is taking place. And Jesus requested the presence of these fumbling disciples in Gethsemane to pray. And after they messed up not once, not twice, but three times, but Jesus did not send them away.
We will not be sent away, and our presence is necessary.
Give yourself the grace you need to pray, be in denial and present in whatever strange combination exists within your soul, and remember you do in good company.
Why is it called Holy Saturday?
I know many people pass the time on Holy Saturday by holding a vigil and reading through scripture.
But the truth is, when the disciples where waiting on Saturday, they were doing nothing. Holed up in their house they were hiding from the Empire.
They were awaiting their own death. Probably wondering out loud why Jesus had to die, wondering why he had to die a heretic, laid upon a cross that meant your were destined for hell.
It was a room that smelled of fear and death. It was a place where the disciples took cold comfort with one another, no doubt trying to ignore Peter’s pleas that he didn’t meant to deny Jesus. No doubt wondering if they were supposed to steal the body.
Women were sent. They were thought to be harmless. Women prepared Jesus for the tomb with the wrappings and the spices to hide the bad smell. They moved him to the cavern in the garden, where the guards watched to make certain no mischief was done. They were the worthless, but essential workers of the day.
We are in a sort of Holy Saturday ourselves, waiting for the word for the all clear. Hearing stories of who has died, and the suffering they have undergone.
We are experiencing the interminable wait, the timeframe is unknown, the hope is thin, and the loneliness is impenetrable.
Families are worried and separated from one another. And the world is slowly falling apart. And the world is a dark and scary place.
We can see the cornerstones of our lives being deconstructed. The things we depend upon are changing: the routines are gone, the securities are unreliable: school, work, church are crumbling.
Holy Saturday is what happens under the waters of baptism, I wonder if that’s what happens when you say goodbye to a loved one who has died who you can no longer see on earth. I wonder if Holy Saturday is where we are as we wait for the second coming of Christ.
Holy Saturday is the gap in scripture, undefined by the stories, left wide open in the yawning space of time.
Holy Saturday is now. The time between sickness and the cure. It’s the time before the temple is rebuilt. It’s the time when the cracks in society are splitting apart. It’s the time when the gaps are made clear, for when the rebuilding needs to happen.
And we await the healing, sabbath, wholeness of Easter and the time we can be together.
Somehow, this dark waiting time can be Holy too.
More Pandemic Prayers
Remember me? I was the one who realized at the tender age of 3 that I would never be perfect.
Then at 5 I proclaimed I didn’t want to be perfect anymore, I just didn’t want to make any more mistakes
At 8 or 9 I decided it was ok to make mistakes, as long as I don’t make the same ones over and over again.
In seminary, I really understood that knowing what my faults are is not the same as being able to fix them (having been well aware of my faults for years at that point)
Here I am, thrust in the middle of crises and I am valuing presence over perfection.
I am sending out videos and virtual worships and trying not to review what went wrong.
I’m trying to let go of the fact I prayed the Lord’s Prayer Incorrectly last week.
I’m trying not to worry that I left someone off the contact list completely, and didn’t call her when I first called everyone else.
I’m trying to not clench my teeth every time I remember that somehow I thought ahead and wrote Ether instead of Rubina on someone’s sent envelope.
Let’s not talk about the zoom prayer that really never came together.
And Homeschooling is more for sanity’s sake than the illusion my children will actually learn anything new.
I’m making the videos, I’m throwing together the worships, the prayers, the phonecalls.
I’m appreciating the fact that my 8 year old son wanted to help me to very sloppily put labels on the Easter Cards, I’m trying to appreciate that for the first time ever I’m sending out Easter cards.
I’m finding special things for my kiddos to do.
I’m trying to remember the ways I am praying for family, colleagues and facebook friends. I’m trying to appreciate every essential person who is still working onsite right now.
And my family did get to have a “Zoom Dinner.”
I’m finding scattered time for you, God, in the midst of pulling my hair out.
I’m imagining Mary and Martha, standing tear-stained by the tomb. I’m remembering that when they saw you (tending the garden of course), they couldn’t even recognize you.
I’m remembering the same thing happened on the way to Emmaus, where the disciples even got to talk to you and didn’t realize you were Christ.
But in both instances, the meeting wasn’t about perfection, it was about presence.
The time they spent with you, the time you spent with them.
Easter was all about showing up!
So as I cobble together Holy Week, as I know that there will be no flowers, no choir & no little children running about sharing their joy. Help me to find Presence, I pray.
Remind me today and every day, O Lord: Presence Over Perfection.
Breathe in the Presence, Breathe out the Perfection,