Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

     High and holy moments happen in my life  - but very rarely during Holy Week and Easter. I can count on the holiest week in the Christian calendar being one of only partly controlled chaos.  After 28 years of being married to a minister, I know there will be extra sermons to prepare, special services to attend, and always a pastoral care crisis or two in the mix.  We usually have extra family and friends visiting - which just adds to the general sense of pandemonium.
     So, the traditions that blend ritual with family become holy for me.  We invite our family/friends to Easter dinner in the evening - not at lunch.  I gave up that craziness years ago.   We dye eggs at the last minute on Saturday so we can  “fight” Easter eggs on Sunday.  (There’s not enough room in this post to explain -you just have to experience it.)  And then there’s the annual Easter photo with whatever children and family are home.  This picture is from last year at Easter.  

     Throughout the crisis and the chaos and always on Easter,  the Holy is present -  in the laughter. 


Easter Sunrise 2011 Edisto Beach

       The kids humor me on Easter. It's our family tradition to rise early in the dark and go to the beach to watch the sunrise. No one is allowed to gripe or complain, though it's fine to stagger around groggy. We all get to the beach and spread out, and come together, and spread out, in waves, processing the scene in our own ways. I love watching the light overtake the dark in a quiet spot, the wind and waves our music, the sermon speaking in our hearts. I used to enjoy a fancy, Easter service, but I find at this stage of my life, in what is a period of healing, I need an intimate sanctuary on this day.
      We arrive at the tomb of loss expecting grief, and behold, comes joy, unbidden. It never ceases to amaze me.



     During this Holy Week, I have been doing a lot of reading and a lot of chaplaining, and the two have definitely affected one another. Earlier in the week, I read Diana Butler Bass's Good Friday reflection and it stayed with me. Bass quotes the ancient saint Julian of
Norwich: “Here saw I a great ONEING betwixt Christ and us: for when He was in pain, we were in pain.” The reverse is also true, Bass asserts. "Jesus on the Cross, naked and mocked, is with us all on every broken-heartened, betrayal-laden, blood-soaked day of human history.  That is God’s Passion; that is Jesus’ Cross.  And, in the tortured Christ, we find the hope to endure, a love for others and creation, the power to enact God’s dream of love and justice for the whole world.  We are with God.  God is with us."
     This with-ness, this ONEING between us and Christ was at the forefront of my thoughts during my nights this week in the hospital where I am chaplain. That was particularly true when I was with the family of a young patient who died. "Could you pray with the mother and offer her some words of encouragement?" another family member asked me. I spoke
to her out of the Christian heritage we shared, and the insight that Diana Butler Bass's words had renewed in me. Speaking her child's name, I told her, "_____ was not alone in this. Jesus has been through death before, and so he can take our hand and lead us through it when that time comes. _____ was not alone; Jesus was right there. And he
will be with you, too, in the hours and the days ahead. He was a man of sorrows --"
     "Acquainted with grief," she finished the quote from Isaiah 53, one of the Old Testament passages that New Testament writers later used to describe Jesus. I hurt for this mother, and wished that I could take her grief away, wished I could undo the death of her child. The best I could do was be with her, and testify to God's being with her as well, remembering that in the suffering of Good Friday, God became one with those who suffer. And that is no small thing.


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