Not According to Plan
This past weekend, Christians throughout the world marked the holiest days of the Christian
year. We moved into the Upper Room on Maundy (Holy) Thursday as we experienced the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus’ offering to become as a servant among us to wash the disciples’ feet, and the giving of a New Commandment as Jesus encourages us to love one another as he loves us. We experienced the agony of the cross on Good Friday as Jesus was betrayed and handed over to be crucified. We experienced the passover from death to life, dark to light, Lent to Easter at the Great Paschal Vigil. And we reveled in the glow of the Resurrection and the joy of the empty tomb on Easter Day.
|What a difference a week makes!|
It is a full, intense, gut-wrenching kaleidoscope of emotions and, when fully lived into, a reminder that the Christian life, while transformative, is not an easy journey to embark upon. The heart of the Christian faith is emblematic of the human condition in its raw pain but in the end, it holds out an uncompromising vision of hope. Death is not the end; the fullness of joy awaits those who put their whole faith and trust in Jesus — as inconceivable as the story may seem to those with a more rational bent.
The reality is that the death and resurrection cycle is not relegated to a particular three days in the spring calculated by the lunar calendar. Moments of death and resurrection know no time frame. Which is perhaps why I spent Palm Sunday in an Emergency Room at South Shore Hospital. This day that marks Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem takes place the Sunday before Easter. It offers Christians an ancient portal into the events of Holy Week and the last days of Jesus’ earthly pilgrimage. Most people think of the palms themselves and the processions that take place outside churches as worshippers shout “Hosanna” and reenact Jesus entrance into the city where he would be crucified.
On Palm Sunday, following the procession and the waving of palms, the liturgy quickly turns. Suddenly the Passion gospel is read, often with the congregation taking the role of the crowd, and in an instant the joyful cry of “Hosanna!” is replaced with shouts of “Crucify!” The events soon begin to spiral out of control and chaos reigns for a week until Mary Magdalene arrives at Jesus’ tomb on that first Easter morning to find it empty. That’s when the whole world changes and all our preconceived notions are flipped upside down.
But back to the ER. Late on Saturday night, our 18-year-old son, Ben, started complaining of sharp chest pains. No traumatic event, just excruciating pain in an otherwise healthy young man. After various tests — EKGs, x-rays, CT scans, he was diagnosed with a collapsed lung. A spontaneous pneumothorax to be precise. Thus began 48 hours in the hospital. He’s on the mend now but we’re all healing from the fraught emotion of it all. When your son looks up at you and says, “I don’t want to die,” there’s an internal death and resurrection cycle that takes place within your own soul.
Whatever is happening in your own life — a medical issue, the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, deep depression, feelings of unworthiness, unchecked sin — know that you are not alone. The God who has experienced the very worst of the human condition is with you. Loving you, tending to you, comforting you. These cycles of our lives don’t always fit neatly into the calendar. Life is a constant adjustment. But you are not alone. My son is not alone. We are not alone. And that is the good news, the joyous news, of Easter as we collective move from “Hosanna” to “Crucify” to “Alleluia.”