you may say i'm a dreamer: three days of non-violent resistance in holy week...
NOTE: This is a Holy Week letter I sent to the good folk in my faith community. I share it with you too in the hope that you will join me - physically or in spirit - to make the Three Holy Days of this week a time of renewal and non-violent resistance to the growing madness.
Dear friends and members of First Church:
Peace and blessings be upon you during Holy Week. I rarely send out special notes to the whole congregation: your lives (and in-boxes) are already too full – but this week I have made an exception. Like many of you, I experienced a numbing sense of sorrow and exhaustion after the most recent round of bombings in Ankara, Brussels and Istanbul. I found that my tears had run dry – at least momentarily – and that my heart was heavy. After the massacre in Sandy Hook, I couldn’t imagine a deeper encounter with despair but apparently my conclusion was premature.
As our politicians pandered and preened to position themselves as the toughest, most aggressive and terror savvy leaders known to humanity, I found myself tempted to lose myself to the mechanics of Holy Week. There are multiple details to work out, rehearsals and homilies to focus upon, to say nothing of choir practice and worship bulletins. It would be easy to let the rituals of this season fill up my emptiness and grief. But that would be too much like Pontius Pilate choosing to “wash his hands” of Jesus and simply let the system move on its normal, violent way; remaining aloof from the torture and execution of our Christ has a long history. And that is precisely what the status quo counts on: our being too busy, too tired, too sad, too unfocused, too entertained or too confused to say “NO” to the madness.
This morning, however, as I took a short time for quiet reflection, I was drawn to these words from Fr. Richard Rohr. They touched something in my heart that encouraged me to reach out to you with this letter. Rohr notes that the over-arching theme of our Bible portrays “Jesus as an extreme example of God taking sides” in the wounds of the world.
"(Our story) starts with one who empties himself of all divinity (see Philippians 2:6-7), comes as a homeless baby in a poor family, then a refugee in a foreign country, then an invisible carpenter in his own country which is colonized and occupied by an imperial power, ending as a "criminal," accused and tortured by heads of both systems of power, temple and empire, abandoned by most of his inner circle, subjected to the death penalty by a most humiliating and bizarre public ritual, and finally buried quickly in an unmarked grave. If God in any way planned this story line, God surely intended the message to be subversive, clear, and unavoidable. Yet we largely made Jesus into a churchy icon that any priestly or policing establishment could gather around without even blushing."
My deepest hope for us as individuals and as a faith community is that we would consciously choose to use Holy Week to renew in ourselves a commitment to the compassion of Christ Jesus. For while Rohr succinctly summarizes God’s call to radical acts of tenderness, Holy Week exposes what happens whenever choose to opt out and ignore the way of Christ: the innocent are crucified again and again in the most horrific ways.
So let me invite you to come to Maundy Thursday worship as an act of non-violent resistance to the fear and anger gathering steam in America. In community let us listen to the story of how Jesus was betrayed, recognizing our own inclination to abandon our deepest values even as we renew ourselves to lives guided by his sacrificial love. On Good Friday, let this be a gathering devoted to relinquishing our illusions of control so that we might radically trust God in the midst of confusion and sorrow. And let Easter be for us a celebration of the Lord’s love that refuses to accept all of the ways we say NO to God. Let the resurrection of Jesus help us ask: what if…? What if God’s love was more powerful than death? What if God’s grace makes all things new? What if solidarity and compassion are more important than partisan politics or social prestige?
“You may say I’m a dreamer…” was played on a portable piano outside the Paris club bombed in November. And the people kept singing, “…but I’m not the only one: imagine.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor who was eventually martyred for his work against the Nazis, said about Jesus, “It is only because he became like us that we can become like him… but not through hero worship, but intimacy with Christ.”
As the Three Days of Holy Week ripen, my hope and prayer is that you would seek more intimacy with Christ Jesus, trusting that his path offers a healing alternative to the violence and deceit that infects our culture. With so many secular voices pleading that we listen, trust and believe them, I find Bonheoffer’s closing words on the Sermon on the Mount warrants a renewed consideration:
"(God says) discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend – it must transcend all comprehension. Plunge into the deep waters beyond your own comprehension and I will help you to comprehend even as I do. Bewilderment is the true comprehension. Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge. For my comprehension transcends yours."
The way of the Cross is foolish to those addicted to the status quo: the Three Holy Days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday offer us an alternative – and a way through the darkness and into the light. I hope you will join me.
Grace and peace,
The Reverend Dr. James Lumsden
Holy Week 2016\
Holy Week 2016\