A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Thursday, April 09, 2020

The Muddy Mess of Holy Week

Image may contain: people standing, plant, outdoor and natureA guest post from Rev. Tom Snyder, Pastor Emeritus and Visitation Pastor, First and Christ United Methodist Churches, Ashland, Ohio.
Part of Kitty's and my morning devotions is reading from a website: "A Network for Grateful Living" (gratefulness.org), a creation of Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast, There is a quote for each day, largely from contemporary spiritual writers. These thoughts help inform our spirits. Last Friday’s struck me particularly, given that we are in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. The quote from author, educator, social activist, and spiritual leader, Parker Palmer, reads: "There is a hard truth to be told: before spring becomes beautiful, it is plug ugly, nothing but mud and muck… But in that muddy mess, the conditions for rebirth are being created."

Over the weekend as I reflected on this insight, we cleared, dug, and trenched our flower garden, working amid and being caked in considerable mud and muck. There were, however, daffodils about to bloom; the purple nubs of what will be full, green hostas; and a few emerging shoots we hope will be flowers and not weeds! Except for the daffs, it is still mostly mud and muck.

Image may contain: flower, plant, nature and outdoorHere we are in Holy Week, Jesus' triumphal entry now a memory, and he is in the mud and muck of his final week - anger at the desecration of the temple, a farewell meal with his friends, anguished prayer, betrayal and arrest, abandonment and denial, mockery and scourging, a mob-controlled trial, crucifixion, and excruciating death. Then, "…sealed in the stone-cold tomb."

I have always been struck by how many worshippers skip from the "Hosannas" of Palm Sunday to the "Alleluias" of Easter, missing the guts of Holy Week and the deep spiritual fodder of the Passion. Missing the muddy mess, the literal ground for rebirth is ignored and lost.

One of my favorite Easter hymns, "Now the Green Blade Riseth" speaks the language of death and rebirth reflected in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus; and in the simple natural process of seeding, dormancy, and emerging growth. Reflected profoundly in the hymn's imagery are Jesus own words, which I have so often quoted at the graveside: "Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it will bear much fruit," John 12:24. 
Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain,
wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.
In the mud and muck of this pandemic, faced with heroics in the face of death, isolation from loved ones, mourning those who have succumbed to the virus, applauding and deriding various patterns and levels of leadership, yearning for the familiar, we have only faint hints of what will be birthed from where we are. Growing beneath the mucky surface of this wrenching crisis are emerging patterns innovative leadership, the stretching and reshaping of moribund institutions, the forced renewal of the church, a new appreciation for the ordinary folks who keep the wheels of our lives in motion every day. There is being reborn the value of family, relationships, health, well-being, neighborliness, trusting science and honoring education.

As followers of the crucified Jesus, now the risen Christ, we are more than ever aware of the power of that loving force we call God, who pushes us up through the mud and muck of despair into the greening growth of faith, life, hope, yes, even resurrection itself.
fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.
Blessed Easter, beloved, and stay in peace.
Faithfully, in love, Pastor Tom+

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