showing up, together and not together, for Holy Week

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In an effort to redeem my infrequent presence of heart and mind this Lenten season, I read through the Palm Sunday story yesterday morning. We’re less than a week from Good Friday, from Resurrection Sunday, and for several obvious reasons, I feel it much more this year.

 

We are tumbling into Holy Week 2014 much more busted up than usual (i.e. World Vision and the last straw). There has been a full-blown split. A definite division. Several new and tragically persuasive reasons to abandon the body altogether.

 

For some of us, we have simply decided to wait for the church to wake up. For her to finally reach the end of this brutal bender she’s on and decide it’s time to change, to pick herself up and go get a clear head and heart- sobriety- found at the foot of the cross. But I am not holding my breath.

 

When it comes to the Church, I feel like I am flying between wild hope and complete hopelessness. Yes, I can see how we are a “resurrection people”, with the grace and rebounding of so many from the last few weeks (really, the last few years), but then I heard about a conservative college kid, my generation, hounding down a female pastor after a service, asking on whose authority she thought she was speaking. And so I’m holding optimism cautiously.

 

Yesterday morning, I read Matthew’s account of Palm Sunday. In it, Jesus passes through the palm-heavy streets atop the baby donkey, and then went inside the temple where he started a riot.

 

12-14 Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text:

My house was designated a house of prayer;
You have made it a hangout for thieves.

Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.

15-16 When the religious leaders saw the outrageous things he was doing, and heard all the children running and shouting through the Temple, “Hosanna to David’s Son!” they were up in arms and took him to task. “Do you hear what these children are saying?”

Jesus said, “Yes, I hear them. And haven’t you read in God’s Word, ‘From the mouths of children and babies I’ll furnish a place of praise’?”

17 Fed up, Jesus turned on his heel and left the city for Bethany, where he spent the night.

-Matthew 21:12-17

 

I know some cringe at Angry Jesus, but I absolutely love this scene. He flips over tables, smokes everyone out, and then builds a makeshift hospital in their place. Restores the Temple to its’ purpose. It is like he is performing a condensed version of the whole reason for his coming. A lesson the church has struggled for 2,000 years to comprehend.

 

I want to say that church unity is an ideal I am deeply sympathetic to. I wish to be a reconciler. A bridge-builder. A peacemaker. We are stuck together, like it or not, because we belong to each other. This, I know.

 

But I also wish to be honest.

 

And if I am honest, I feel like flipping over some tables myself. I feel like staging a Sit-In. Like dropping down in the veritable Church, arms crossed, cloaked beneath a flag that is a rainbow. I feel like reclaiming this place because it is my birthright.

 

I’m all for harmony, but I hesitate to fall into a beat that is so badly broken. That sidelines a good number of us. That guts the Good News right out of “gospel”.

 

We’ve reached, what the lawyers call, a place of Irreconcilable Differences. Nothing that hasn’t happened before. The Great Schism, The Great Reformation, the Civil War, these came and served to only propel the faith to where it was meant to go. And it doesn’t make it any less hard or tragic. Real people are involved on each side.

 

But here we stand, on the brink of another, profound divorce, and at the same time, on the edge of the holiest day of the year. And I honestly don’t know what to do with that tension.

 

What I do know is that we will still come, as we have every year before and will continue to do for years to come, to meet in our shared love of Jesus… but with our elbows sharper. Our anger still hot. Wounds still fresh. All of us victim. All of us abuser. All of us tired. And all of us standing before the only real hope we have left: Grace.

 

Grace has been such a big part of my life that I feel it now like a phantom limb. I see it as The Way, as the stream I step into with all of my shit, all of my rage, all of my disillusionment, all my cynicism, my slim-as-a-toothpick hope and I don’t know how it happens, but it always changes me. It smokes out the pride and heals me.

 

And maybe it’s all any of us can do this week. Just look tenderly at the empty tomb and accept that Jesus Paid It All. That we may break apart, but grace is filling in our fractures. Unifying us forever even after we split away. Stringing a thread that will tug us back together, when the time to do so comes.

  • mark phoenix

    My heart resonates with everything you have said. I ache so much for the church, and for the Gospel that has been hijacked. I long for the day when people will see the church as a magnifier of the grace, mercy, and unconditional love of God. I weep for how we have injured so many in the name of Jesus.

  • Bill

    Man, that is so well said & puts into words what my heart is feeling. Thank you! Again!!!!

  • Alexia

    I agree with you so much. The condition of the church saddens me. I have seen way too much judgment and been hurt by the church too many times than I can remember. But your blog gives me hope that there are Christians out there that truly understand the meaning of grace, of love, and of living life the way Jesus intended us to live. God bless you brother. xoxo

  • Garp

    I am struggling with this so hard right now. I work at World Vision and I am so saddened by what has happened. I believe the move towards inclusiveness was done for good, Godly reasons, and we were forced (bullied) to go back to shutting the door on gay Christians. We capitulated to those who insist there is no such thing as a gay Christian. To those who think it is okay to throw people out of church while saying a certain interpretation of scripture is “clear.” My heart is breaking to be at a place that I have always felt helps those who suffer from injustice, but is now the cause of some of that injustice. All I can say is that I am sorry. There are many in these walls that feel the pain of this split. There are many in these walls that believe you are our brother in Christ. I am sorry. For many years I have been proud to work at WV because “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to
    look after orphans and widows in their distress.” I still believe in WV for those reasons, but I am now ashamed to be a part of the abusive church, even if my organization did not intend for this to happen. I don’t even want to be here anymore at this point, as much as I have loved this place in the past for all the good that it does for the voiceless poor. If this was just a church that I joined, I would leave right now. But as it is my livelihood, I can’t. Again, I am sorry, and I am particularly sorry for all the gay and lesbian staff that work here who have had to endure this situation.

    • Sheila Warner

      Well stated and oh, so honest! I will pray for you and those like you. I am so very sorry about the revoking of the policy that would allow married gays to work at WV. I hope that WV is quietly hiring such loving Christian couples. That the policy change was leaked is abhorrent. That means someone inside did that. It was a betrayal, on top of everything else. I hope this week helps you find healing.

      • Garp

        Thank you Sheila.

  • Roo James Wilson

    Thank you again…you are not alone 🙂

  • Sheila Warner

    This is absolutely what we should be focusing on–the love of Jesus for all of us, right where we are. And, the grace which comes from focusing on Jesus ought to move us in his direction, finding that unconditional love within us. Still standing with you! Love and prayers for this Holy Week.

  • Sarah Allen

    I am guilty of everything I hate about the church presently in my own relationships, even in my role as a wife and mom. I don’t recognize this pride as I’m casting my own justifiable stones at “those judgmental, narrow minded people!”

    It smokes out the pride and heals me.

    Loved that line and all the ways your heart is seeking to love amidst the hate. Well done brother.

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