Easter Week

photo(39)First- this photo I snapped outside our front door today. Check out the clunky boot print next to the tender dance of tiny bird feet. All marked by snows dusting. A spring story on my steps.

Now a long take on Easter meditations.

Yesterday the snow cancelled services at church. The news that we wouldn’t have to rush, drive, and move our family through a cold and snowy morning brought relief. However, both Drew and I were quickly saddened by the fact that we would miss the community and focus of going to church on Palm Sunday. We ourselves, and for our children, wanted to experience the Story, wanted to move into the moments of Lent’s culmination. So we did some church at home and had a great time experiencing the Palm Sunday story with Eli and Andi.

Today at breakfast time, I told the kids this week is called Holy Week. Without much forethought into flushing out the meaning of the term before I spoke it, I thought quickly of how to kid-ify an explanation. “It’s a week to focus on Jesus every day to get us ready for Easter’s celebration,” I said.

So now, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “Lest after preaching to [my children],  I myself  should not become disqualified,” I too want to orient myself this week towards a focus on Jesus and a movement into the affirmation, celebration, and awe of the resurrection reality that anchors my faith.

My 2013 Holy Week “snippets”

Well, actually some are long. You might want to read these over a few days!

(no deep theological research was preformed in the compilation of these snippets- just my musings and the Spirit…)

1. The journey to Jerusalem- Mark 15:40-41- “Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of  James and Joseph) and Salome. They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for him while he was in Galilee. They and many other women who had come with him to Jerusalem were also there.”

When I read this passage last week, I was struck by the women’s willingness to move with Jesus from Galilee, a place of familiarity and normalcy (a quieter, more simple, and homogenous place) to Jerusalem- a hotbed of religious and political friction. These women were not content to let their care and concern for Jesus end when a challenge came. They followed him in his risking, his suffering, his humiliation, and his death. They cared for him not only when he was popular, infamous at least, in Galilee but when it cost them dearly to do so, when he was the object of a mobs cries for crucifixion. Am I willing to risk my own comfort to follow Christ?

2. Being Welcomed- Mark 11:8ff- “Many in the crowd spread their coats on the road ahead of Jesus, and others cut leafy branches in the fields and spread them along the way. He was in the center of the procession and the crowds all around him were shouting, ‘Praise God! Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord…'”

Reading this with our kids yesterday, I kept thinking about what it is to make a long journey, to endure the trials of traveling, and then to have someone welcome you at the end of the trip. My first time home from college as a freshman during fall break, I was welcomed by a huge sign my mom had made and hung outside the house that read, “Welcome home Lindsey!” in her bubble-letter best. I’ll never forget it. As much as it felt good to be home with my family, there was also a physical marker to show they thought about what the journey meant for me and made preparations to mark my coming. Jesus came into Jerusalem as an upside-down king. Not on a powerful war horse adorned with rich blankets, but on a donkey, astride the cloaks and rags of ordinary folks. These people welcomed him not because he had won a major military victory, but because he was coming to win the greatest struggle there ever was. Whether they understood what was ahead of him or not, the people offered a physical sign, branches waved and laid, that they anticipated his coming and welcomed him with all they could. What will mark my anticipation this week?

3. Filled with agony- Mark 14:33ff- “He took Peter, James and John with him and he began to be filled with horror and deep distress. He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.'”

During a Lenten time of  morning stillness a couple weeks ago, I read this passage. And re-read it. And re-read it. Really?,  Jesus was filled with horror…deep distress…his very soul was crushed. I imagined Jesus’ body, soul and self being filled up with overwhelming distress at what was happening. Sin was coming directly toward him in the form of betrayal, wrongful accusation, abandonment, and emotional and physical suffering of the most severe degree. He knew full well what was coming and very humanly felt overwhelmed by the awfulness of it.

I think this filling-up still happens with Jesus. When innocence is spoiled by force, when the helpless are exploited, when a family is broken, a woman abused, a child harmed, a life destroyed, justice perverted, ignorance elevated, wrongs ignored, or anytime the opposite of what is LOVE and GOOD and PURE wins out for the moment, Jesus feels deep distress today. I have to believe when people are suffering horrors, Jesus himself is still filled up with horror- that he suffers alongside humanity in their ills.  God knows and understands and ultimately, I believe, will win over the darkest dark. May I be aware of darkness and help someone in distress.

Called out-  Mark 15:21- “A man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the country just then, and they forced him to carry Jesus’ cross”.

And to think I don’t like to have my plans changed! Simon was probably coming to town to celebrate the Passover just like many others. The Bible mentions his sons’ names so we assume it was a family affair- probably an annual custom with norms they’d come to appreciate, anticipate. Perhaps they’d even grown used to the grotesque cruelty of crucifixions and most years timed it so they could sneak in before the gruesome parade. Maybe this year, whatever held them up back in the country (I’d wager it was a stubborn sheep) delayed them long enough they were crossing the road right in front of the convicted criminals on the way to their deaths. A curt and threatening soldier grabs Simon, yanking him away from his sons, and forcing him to carry a cross for a stricken, abused, and bleeding man he sees collapsing under the cross’ weight. With no choice, Simon joins the procession, carries the cross that will kill Jesus to the correct spot. Did he choose this task, sign up for the duty, intend to help bring about Jesus’ death? No, but he became a tactile part of the process. Yikes. Sin’s momentum, at times uncontrollable, carries us along into choices we wish we didn’t make. I hope to become aware of sins ravages on my life and walk out from under their weight.

Godforsaken- Mark 14:36-37- “Everything is possible for you…please take this cup from me” and then Mark 15:34- “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

It’s difficult to rationalize, theorize, or apologize for the cries of help and deliverance of Jesus that go seemingly ignored by God in these hours. If the Trinity is unequivocal oneness, how could the God, “Father” truly abandon Jesus, “Son”? In trinitarian unity, this separation seems impossible. Jesus was never truly alone or abandoned right? I don’t fully know but today I read a meditation by Jurgen Moltmann that is helpful. He writes,

  “Christ’s request  [the removal of the cup] was not granted. God, his father, rejected it. Christ’s true passion begins    with the prayer in the garden which was not heard, which was rejected through the divine silence. He died with this cry [Eloi, Eloi, lma sabachthani] which expresses the most profound abandonment by the God on whom he had pinned all his hopes and for whom he was hanging on the cross. What Christ was afraid of, what he wrestled with in Gethsemane, what he implores the Father to save him from, was not spared him. Is there is any answer to the question why God forsook him? Is there any answer to the agonizing questionings of disappointment and death? A real answer to this question cannot be a theoretical answer beginning with the word “Because.” It has to be a practical answer. An experience of this kind can only be answered by another experience, not by an explanation. A reality like this can be answered only by another reality. It is the answer of resurrection: “For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you.” The passionately loving Christ, the persecuted Christ, the lonely Christ, the Christ despairing over God’s silence…. Our disappointment, our loneliness-es and our defeats do not separate us from him; they draw us more deeply into communion with him. And with the final unanswered cry, “Why, my God why?” we join in his death cry and await with him the resurrection. “

A courageous ask- Mark 15:43- “Joseph from Arimathea…gathered his courage and went to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body.”

I don’t know much about this Joseph but I do know about gathering courage before asking for something. I’m from the line of people who doesn’t like making phone calls to set appointments for car maintenance or hair cuts (you know if you’re one of us). I have to pump myself up, take deep breaths and assure myself I won’t die if the phone conversation falls flat or gets awkward. Joseph of Arimathea on the other hand, couldn’t assure himself he wouldn’t die for this request. Who knew how volatile Pilate would feel on this day. Yet, like the women who journeyed in risk, Joseph was willing to risk his own life and reputation to take care of Jesus. Tenderly, carefully, caring for him in his death. Doing what he could with what was left to show devotion and respect for Jesus the man, not yet proven to be the risen Messiah. Joseph was deliberate, courageous and careful. I hope I can be too.

He is Risen- Mark 15:6- “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He has been raised from the dead!…Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.”

The shocked and bewildered women, who followed Jesus to Jerusalem, stood at his cross witnessing agony, defeat and death of all their hopes and dreams, are now at the tomb- trembling. bewildered, afraid, in awe. And assured. All they had hoped for, all they dreamed Jesus was to be and would do, was coming true. He was not dead. He was ALIVE. Newly resurrected, brought back from suffering and pain and death and given newness, renewal, rebirth, and victory. He would meet them back where they lived, in Galilee. He would move forward with them in their life. Now with the power to bring new life, unadulterated hope, and unquenchable peace to them as they lived out their lives. This alive Jesus lives in me! Amen!

He is Risen Indeed- The Word lives on.

Resurrection must be made real in my life. In the way I live and work, think, parent, love, and write. I must believe Jesus is capable of making all things wrong and horrific, right in the end. That the God I believe in will not let things end in suffering, agony, death, and defeat but will act in continual resurrection strength to heal, offer hope, redeem, and renew the brokenness that often defines our days. He is Risen. We must celebrate!



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