We know the story. During this next week we will tell the story, in some cases we will re-enact the story and, if we allow it, our souls will be invaded by the story.
Yet with two thousand years of hindsight, we relax a bit as we go through the brutal parts of the story, because we know the outcome. And it is a glorious outcome – which we celebrate as Easter.
We know the outcome, but the followers of Jesus didn't, at least not at first. When events became brutal, they scattered. In the many moments of spiritual wilderness and physical anguish during his last days, Jesus himself wondered if he had been abandoned, or if the ancient promise would be kept.
But in spite of everything he kept his trust. Trust that he was God's anointed, trust that love was – and is, stronger than death. Trust that new life is possible.
After two thousand years, the Christian church has created some order out of the chaos of the original story. Beginning with Palm Sunday and throughout Holy Week we have organized liturgies each of which tells a particular part of the story. The readings, the music and all the movement follow a time honored sequence.
But the original story was mostly chaos, except perhaps for the organized cruelty and certainty of Roman rule.
Much of our world today is awash in chaos. And much of the chaos is generated by cruelty – which has produced floods of refugees from Syria, Northern Nigeria, El Salvador and other places. Less brutal, but still chaotic, are the millions who can claim quasi-refugee status from the 2008 recession or the growing opioid epidemic and on and on and on.
In the face of chaos, there is the desire to impose order. To come up with answers. The unfolding story of our seemingly endless presidential election process has featured rhetoric that promises answers and order in language that is often heartless, if not cruel. At our just concluded House of Bishops meeting, we issued a unanimously supported statement that spoke to this troubling rhetoric.
And then there is the chaos of the 21st century church. The "mainstream church" is no longer thus, and hasn't been for thirty years. And the desire for answers, or for a sure-fire program or project, to bring us back to a less chaotic image and time, is real and deep.
We are being thrown back to the story. And the challenge is to pay attention and hold still enough for transforming change to happen. At a recent clergy gathering, I admitted that I don't have the answers for the church, and a priest admitted that she didn't either – that none of us did, but that we are NOT ALONE. God is with us. In trust and faith we were able to say that God is very much at work. And we need to join in.
Our missional work, which we have named Joining God in shaping our future, is rooted in scripture and prayer – which ground us in the faith and at the same time fuel the imagination. It is designed to get everyone at every level – congregational (through Going Local), clergy, laypeople and diocesan staff – to discern what God is up to, develop experiments that enable us to join God in God’s work, and resist the temptation to arrive at a technical fix, which is yet another tactic to impose order.
The challenge is to hang in. And hang in with one another. Hang in – in the trust that God is up to something – something love-filled and life-giving.
Jesus was literally hung – on a cross. And he hung on – to trust, to faith, in the midst of all the chaos.
And new life emerged.
Thank you, Bishop, for your words of faith and encouragement. The world is a scary place sometimes, but God is always good.
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