Grieving Faithfully: Lenten Reflection (40)

Scripture for Today: Matthew 27: 3-10, 55-66

I wept last night. It wasn’t the kind of crying where one cute teardrop falls down my cheek — I full on cried.

Reading the Isaiah passage for the congregation, I fought back tears as the names of people lost at the hands of senseless violence ran through my head.

Just as there were many who were astonished at him–so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
Emmett Till, Philando Castile  He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
Andrew Del Pilar, Zakaria Fry, Viccky Gutierrez, 
But it was our transgressions that wounded him, our iniquities that crushed him;
Malcolm X, Sandra Bland 
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;
Martin Luther King Jr, Standing Rock Sioux
By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people.
Parkland High School, Pulse Nightclub, Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Jessica Leeds, Jill Harth, Mindy McGillivray
He was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Stephon Clark, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin 

29594560_10104756341874551_2244687083193373744_nAs we venerated the cross, I prayed for members as they knelt. I found myself moved deeply by prayers: “May you know how deeply God loves you.” If I knew the parishioners personally I prayed in specifics: “May God break through your loneliness” or “May God’s love find a way through your adolescent aloofness.” I sensed God’s ache for each person.  And I cried.

After the service, I went back into the chapel alone and sat by our cross. My tears flowed more heavily once I was in silence. How, how, how? how do we keep letting this violence happen? Will Easter come?

 

The grief of Holy Saturday, the kind that grips our souls, is typically reserved for individual people we know and love intimately. But today we, just like Judas, Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, are invited to a despair that encompasses the pain of all life shed of hope, and to wonder if we will know Love.

I invite you to consider these two accounts of grief: the death of Judas and the waiting at the tomb by the women. They accounts both display the utter pain and dismay of people who loved Jesus. However, the women are able to hold onto God’s love in the midst of their grief and this love motivates them to respond faithfully.

This is the sort of grief to which we are called: to speak truth when lies are uttered, to refuse to perpetuate the lie that “it’s better,” to march, to advocate, to offer ourselves and our service to the Love of God.

Pray:  How long O Lord?

Reflect: On this Holy Saturday how does our abiding faith in God’s love motivate us to grieve death in a way that leads to faithful action?

Art: Lamentation, or the Mourning of Christ by Giotto

Words of Gratitude: Thank you to everyone for walking this Lenten journey with me. There were many days where the writing did not come easily or required me to wake early, and at those times I wished I had not made the promise to write daily. However, hearing the ways these pieces have touched you has been an invaluable gift and I pray God’s presence abounds with you as we await Easter. I am especially grateful to my friend, coach, and editor Jesse Ortiz. Without their support and commitment to this project it would not have happened.

Art found on Vete a La Verga by Vincent D. Cervante http://religiousresponse.us/2016/12/13/vete-a-la-verga/"A Christian Response"

Companions in Grief – Lenten Reflection (14)

Scripture: Job 1-3, 40-42

The story of Job is the first of the wisdom texts. These texts are full of beautiful prose and poetry, a writing style markedly different from the historical texts. They were written at the same time as historical and prophetic texts, and offer a human lens into the experience of the people of God. Job, written around the time of Moses, is a story of the very human struggle to trust in God’s covenant to protect and guide us in times of grief as well as in times of ease.

Job’s story, although extreme in example, offers me a sense of comfort that frothy  epithets fail to provide. When I hear words such as, ‘Don’t worry, just trust God,’ or ‘God won’t give you more than you can handle,’ I feel enraged. I want to shout, “You cannot even begin to understand what I’m going through!”

Job’s story comforts us by revealing the complexity of grief: our desire to trust God, the temptation to blame ourselves, frustration with inept friends, and our longing for relief. Job unlocks the hopelessness of depression I experienced in college, the anger I felt when betrayed by a mentor, and the emptiness I felt when one of my beloveds died from suicide. Job brings me back to the utter despair of those moments in ways I never had to experience.

Job brings me to an authentic place of pain that I must experience to know the healing promised in Job’s redemption. At the story’s end when God and Job converse about God’s steadfastness during Job’s suffering, I am transported to moments of relief I can appreciate in retrospect. I can see the people who supported me, the ways doors were opened, and the promise of love that extends past death.

Our scripture is full of stories that enable us to connect at the core levels of human experience. We must develop the vulnerability necessary to share our own stories with one another because they offer us a strength rooted in something far deeper than the idea that “everything will be okay.” A strength that reminds us that we are not alone in that moment. A strength that enables me to say boldly, “I had heard about you before, but now my eyes see you.”

Prayer: May I know the power of companionship.

Reflection: What holds me back from sharing my stories of grief and loss? How might I open up to others to offer spiritual companionship?

Art:  Found on Vete a La Verga by Vincent D. Cervante a powerful entry on grief and rage published on the blog “Religious Response.”

 

Keep on Loving – Remembering Katie McQuade-Toig

This weekend one of my dear friends and a truly beautiful woman died. While I am confident Katie’s soul and presence will never leave us I am struggling to make sense of the loss of her physical being.

Katie and I met in 2010. I was preparing to move to Kenya and transitioning some of my work at Trinity to a volunteer team she wanted to join She and I shared breakfast at Zaftigs Diner and it took about 10 minutes of conversation to realize our meeting (and following friendship) would extend far past Almost instantly, Katie and I sensed a resonance between us and shared about our struggles with food/body, our desire to make a difference/fear we would fail and  our beautifully checkered pasts. This was one of Katie’s great gifts, to open up her humanity in a way that made strangers feel like friends within minutes.

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