Rev. Louis R. Lothman, Th.D.
Sitting a week or so past Western Christendom’s Easter, and in the immediacy of Eastern Christendom’s culmination of Holy Week, there is much talk and debate now about opening up society all across the globe after so much darkness and pain. People are wondering how best to go about life in the ongoing pandemic and all the death, destruction and fear it has wrought, is wreaking and will continue to wreak on so many. Virtually everyone is tired of so much and ready, anxious for a “break” of some kind so life can get back to “normal”. Eager to be done with all this, over it, and able to get back to our lives with some sense of control or normalcy.
I see that as a universal, normal expression of anguish and yearning for relief, human protest against limitations that bring suffering.
For many Christians, though certainly not all, the season of lent and Holy Week invite us into a voluntary season of some suffering in order to identify with Jesus crucified, resurrected Christ. And as the week and season come to an “ending”, we can wonder like the world is doing, “what comes next?” In that wondering reside an opportunity and a temptation. The temptation is to sigh a breath of relief, say I am glad that is over, at least for me, and go back into life as it used to be.
It is as though we hear Jesus’ words from the cross, “It is finished,” and Easter’s arrival means we can simply pick up where we left off. To go there is to miss the opportunity of God.
“It is finished” was not an ending, it was a complete, utter, active surrender of love, the absolute profoundest of beginnings, eternal beginnings. In Philippians, Paul writes, “ Forgetting what lies behind and pressing forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize [read “ultimate treasure”] of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” [Phil. 3:13b-14] In those words we can discern Jesus, in “finishing,” actually is trustingly continuing into new arenas of life with and in God. He is stepping into the “upward call” of God’s eternal love and inviting, summoning, even wooing us to follow, like Paul.
In Luke’s gospel we read, “And another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first permit me to say goodbye to those at home.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one after putting their hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.’”[ Luke 9:61-62]. I hear in that a pining for the past that Jesus indicated would pull people away from the immediacy of life with God here and now, going forward.
The world and all of us may be tempted to “return” to what we are pining for, and what is more familiar, even if uncomfortable during and through this crisis. We as Christians may be tempted to return to what we have been missing as we have endeavored to walk with Christ this holy season. But to follow that temptation will undo or abandon any possible transformation toward love the suffering we have experienced or observed in others may have engendered as fertile furrows stretching out ahead of us, focused on the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, open to all in his universal friendship. May we all surrender into transformative sufferings undertaken freely in love, and give in not to resistance and recoil. Let us search together for ways to co-create a more caring, loving reality, looking forward in hope, and not back in fear.
Grace and peace to you and all in your circle of care.