Wednesday, April 17, 2019

In Hope of Resurrection

I grew up in a tradition where Easter was more about crucifixion than resurrection. For several years now, my church has read the Passion narrative--the story of Jesus' trial and crucifixion--along with the Palm Sunday story. We tend to do a Maundy Thursday service project, but not much else when it comes to Holy Week. We still need the full story, to know the sadness before the joy. It's a rough Sunday, I'm not going to lie. The story is hard for kids and adults. But what is most striking to me is that, as I'm reading, I realize these are the stories from childhood churches. I know them from there, not from my life as a pastor. Then, the resurrection was more of an afterthought than a focus, for Jesus died for our sins.

Fast forward, and my understanding of Gospel has shifted. I no longer believe Jesus' death was a point of salvation, but the result of a corrupt system. It's a pretty staunchly Protestant sort of thing, with our empty crosses and such, but the fundagelicals seem to have skipped over the empty cross part. I need the story of resurrection. Because I have no doubt in the story of crucifixion. Over and over, innocent people die. Over and over, terrible things happen. Over and over, we destroy what is good. Over and over, we are frightened by something different. I know that story. I could learn that story just by existing with little intentionality.

I know there is crucifixion. I need the story of resurrection. I need the remotest glimmer of hope, the possibility that the worst thing is not the last thing.

Right now, children are held where I live. Not the next town, not the next state, not if I get in my car and drive for a bit. Where I live.

I need resurrection.

Right now, asylum seekers are being released in the streets of Phoenix, with nothing more than the clothes on their back. It's not an expression. Everything else they had with them has been taken and will not be returned. They are fleeing unimaginable poverty and violence. Being released means they have passed a credible fear interview and are trying to make it to some family member who will care for them during the years long asylum-seeking process. They have traveled through incredible danger. This is the way for them to seek legal status and by virtue of being released, they are in the country legally.

I need resurrection.

I wrote about a 35 year old who stepped in front of a dump truck and was killed. I did not write about the man who died from cancer related to exposure to Agent Orange. He is the one I know of. I shudder to think how many more there will be this year, not to mention the many others unable to shake wars in other ways.

I need resurrection.

Every day, I wonder who will be a victim of this administration. When Trump was elected, someone said, "Well, we survived two Bushes, we'll get through this." I'm white, cisgender, middle class, married to a man. I will survive. I have only one strike against me--being a woman. Then there's the whole healthcare issue, but maybe that's too much to go into. I will survive; I do not know if my friends of different demographics will.

I need resurrection.

I'm still writing, still working, still thinking about Easter. I'm still thinking about the tears shed last Sunday as we read the story of Jesus' final hour. I am not the only one who needs resurrection. I will sit with the sadness and the brutality for a few more days. It is not yet Easter, but I am aware of how dark the tomb feels right now.

For all those who need resurrection, hang on. Sunday is coming. And this worst thing will never, ever be the last.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A Eulogy and a Hope

On the days when I need Church--the deep, visceral need for something Holy, something present, something transformative--I long for beloved community. Today is a day I need Church.

My friend died yesterday. He stepped in front of a dump truck and is gone. I hadn't seen or talked with him since college graduation now thirteen years ago, but I still call him friend. And I say that because a thought of him still brings a smile, as rare as thoughts of him might be. When gathered with friends, his name would come up as we laughed together. He was good and kind and beloved. Pictures of him show up any time I look back on college days. Friend is most certainly the right word.  

I've been on the internet more than usual today--well, on social media. I've texted more with friends today than I usually do. I've talked on the phone with people I normally don't call. This is the outpouring of grief for our friend. We want to tell stories, to talk about him, to laugh together. For even if we haven't seen each other in years, we are bound by those years in college. We are bound by that version of beloved community. 

If I had what I wanted, what would provide rest for my soul, we would gather somewhere together tonight. There would be drinks and food and hours spent laughing and talking and crying and praying. We would share the most holy communion, maybe as sacrament, maybe not. Some of the people missing our friend today might get to do that. I will not. The people I would choose to gather with are in Tennessee and Virginia and Ohio and Indiana, while I am in Arizona. This version of beloved community is in diaspora right now. Who knows if we will get to gather again. 

Maybe it doesn't sound that different from what people who love each other do--but this thing for which my wound aches seems far more holy than what I have seen at a bar. This is Church, the Church I am constantly in amazement of--that tells stories of death and life week in and week out. We tell a story of a God who was born, of a God who died, and all the grief wrapped up in those events and the in between. God bless the Church, who knows what to do when someone dies. There's no other institution that manages it quite so well or so readily. It's wrapped up in our own stories of our salvation. Let us sit with death and all that brings, for it is not quite so scary here, together, alongside resurrection people. 

As a pastor, I hope I can give people a beloved, wonderful community. I hope I can give them a Church that is more life-giving than a career that might take them elsewhere, and a place to call home in a deep, good way. I hope the church gives roots that reach down more deeply than anything else. It sounds impossible, until the moment we are all longing for that beloved community we once knew. It sounds as countercultural as the Gospel actually is. It sounds dangerous enough to execute a person over. It sounds like salvation. 

Even today, I do not grieve as those who have no hope. I'm mostly agnostic about the afterlife. I still believe my friend will receive whatever good may come. God knows, if not him, then who? 

And here is the story that I most remember, which is not particularly hilarious or amazing, but is dear. One day, we were standing talking underneath the trees on campus by the parking lot in front of the men's dorms, early in our freshman year. His name was Adam Bisesi, and he often went by his last name. Somehow, in conversation, he spilled his high school nickname, "Bisexy." (Bih-sexy) Immediately after he did, he blushed and began stumbling, "Oh, no. I didn't mean to say that. Please, don't use it." And I laughed. As another friend put it, he was mortified and I found it hilarious. That was so often the case. 

For this gift from God I give thanks. 

May the peace of Christ carry us all.