A Holy Week message from Bishop Jon V. Anderson
As we enter in the weekend of the great Passion, I am hearing the great, old and life-giving passages of Holy Week and the Holy Weekend in a different way.
That is one of the gifts of living in relationship with scripture, as you journey through life the law and gospel of each scripture passage or story of the Passion attack you, turn you, encourage you, and sing to you in new ways of God’s great love that we see enfleshed in Jesus and the events of Holy Weekend.
In early December my spouse, Robyn, and I learned she has breast cancer. Through the winter we lived through the wintry time of diagnosis, biopsy, many tests, waiting, lumpectomy, radiation, and eventually she will begin hormone therapy. All the Bible passages started to speak in new ways after our imagined future was called into question by the arrival of cancer. We are thankful for the treatment and all the people who have cared for her and supported us. The power and reality of illness and death do not seem abstract to us these days. We hear the biblical texts, words of liturgy, and the stories of our friends and family living with illness with new ears.
In the same time frame my father, Virgil, approached death and died from a mix of congestive heart disease and dementia (which was stealing him away more and more even though his body remained). Sitting with this loved one and reading scripture was another reminder of how our location in life and history shapes what we hear in scripture. Holy Communion becomes different before and after death as the meal that will gather us all to be fed at the table of God’s grace across time and space. The promises of scripture pop out both speaking a word you might struggle to hear and also promises that give great comfort. I am hearing new and different things in this season. I am troubled and grateful.
Whether your life has been simple, joyful, complex, full of suffering, celebrating birth and life, or grieving and lamenting, may God bless you as we journey into the Great Story of God’s passionate love for you and me. Jesus came and walked with people who were sick and dying. He made it clear what God’s longings were for us all as he acted to heal people and even raised people from the dead. Jesus walked with people who had made bad choices and who were being crushed by the broken sin-full systems of their time. Jesus announced God’s gift of forgiveness and invited people to leave behind the “feast of resentment” and come to the “feast of restoration.” (Karoline Lewis – The Prodigals)
In these days we are reminded of our longing for a Messiah and the ways we unconsciously and consciously reject God’s gifts in our life. We will hear Christ’s command to love one another personally and communally. We know how hard it is to love and love well. Justice is what love looks like in the world. Jesus calls us to work for greater justice in our lives together and in our society. In the great Story of this coming week, Jesus will be rejected, scapegoated, tortured, and killed by religious and political leaders of his time. And we will wait in the “dark interval” after his death fearing that sin and death and evil will have the final word as we have seen it all work before.
During the last quarter, I read a powerful book by the speaker at our coming assembly, Dr. Deanna Thompson. It is called, “Glimpsing Resurrection: Cancer, Trauma, and Ministry”. She helped me hear four different stories people live out as they live with cancer, I found it helpful and also challenging in the best sense of that word.
Her story of living with cancer has changed how I hear people’s stories and God’s Story. In her conclusion she writes, “In Christ’s resurrection, we glimpse a foretaste of the feast to come—a time of promised resolution, when our lives return to God and participate in God’s eternal communion—but for now, the space where the womb is also simultaneously a tomb remains. We live, like those who encountered the risen Christ on the road, in spaces of not-yet-resurrection, where we hope for—but are not always able to glimpse—that new age.” (Loc 2086 Kindle).
As significant as all these experiences and her theological reflection are, nothing tops these simple words and the promises of our God revealed in the life-changing words of the messenger of God. It changes everything. It makes you hear everything differently. It makes you approach life differently.
“‘He is not here, but has risen’”
May you be a messenger of Good News and invite others to join you around the mystery and promises of Holy Week and the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord.
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,[a] about those who have died,[b] so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.[c] 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.[d] 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4