Thursday, April 13, 2017

Life, Death, and Holy Week

This week presents very different realities for two of my friends here: one is eagerly anticipating the birth of her first child while the other is grieving the one year anniversary of his father's death. Yesterday, these friends sat side-by-side as we prayed for both of them in turn. Lamenting and celebrating. Grieving and hoping. Remembering and anticipating, in one breath. In one prayer. 

One of the reasons I fell in love with the local church is that it holds the breadth of human experience together in one place. On any given Sunday, there will be babies and widows, yuppies and divorcees, fiances and old married couples standing together. The church is the place where baptism and burial happen, where I can be reminded that my personal life-stage is simply one in the mosaic of life in all its beauty and fragility. The church forces me out of myself and into the dynamism of a family. 

But this week, it was especially poignant to pray for my two friends in their two different life-stages because this week is the reason we can hold life and death together in one place. In it we recall the death of Christ as well as his resurrection-- the events created the Church in the first place and which tangibly and permanently remind us that death and life now both belong to Him. 

I think that in the complexity of our broken world, it can be difficult to properly grieve or to properly rejoice. Bad things happen and we feel tempted to minimize them-- "death is just another part of life," or "he is in a better place now." There is truth in these things, but they often are claimed in an attempt to diminish the gravity of what has actually happened. The crucifixion of Jesus-- his willingness to take on death for our sake-- validates our grief and our rage over death. 

We feel this on some level which I think is why we also tend to minimize the good things that happen. Babies are born, but they are born into worlds full of pain and loss and turmoil, so we feel timid in celebrating too fully lest we diminish the suffering of others. Good things happen and we feel tempted to dismiss them-- "it's not that big a deal," or "I don't want to broadcast it when others are hurting." There is sensitivity in these sentiments, but they also can anesthetize us from joy. The resurrection of Jesus-- the proof that the stuff of this world is being made new-- means we ought to celebrate it. Jesus' commitment to redeeming creation validates our enjoyment of it.  

In my own life, I've wrestled with this dynamic of grief and joy and often sought to "balance" the two as if one invalidates the other. However, yesterday I was reminded that instead of invalidating each other, they belong together: without a proper celebration of the good, we don't properly mourn the loss of it. This is seen most clearly in the God-Man Jesus, whose body is now resurrected but still bearing the scars of his passion.

Wherever you find yourself in the breadth of human experience this week, consider the Person of Christ. In Him is death and life, suffering and joy, pain and promise. In His Cross, we find the most profound validation of our grief available; and in His resurrection, we find a hope beyond imagination.

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