Our backyard tree coming to life.
“I am with you.” God-with-us. Where two or three are gathered. Always.
This is my “aha” of Holy Week. Not original, but deeply felt. I lost myself in these thoughts and feelings that came to me this morning of Good Friday, on the eve of Passover. The stories of both these observances are meant to assure us that God is with us.
God has heard the people cry. Whatever your cry, God has heard it. God is with you. Always.
That’s really all I have to say. But you know me, I want to tell you how I got there.
I almost did not follow my usual Holy Week practice of reading Will Quinlan’s The Temple of God’s Wounds, a chapter per day. I’ve written before of its mystical power for me, though I am not in sync with all its tenets.
This year I coupled these daily readings with the passages of crucifixion and resurrection in the four Gospels. Each day I read a crucifixion text in chronological order of its writing: Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. On the days that followed I read the resurrection texts in the opposite order: John, Luke, Matthew, and Mark.
What I didn’t realize is that I unconsciously followed the pattern of The Temple of God’s Wounds. The narrator is instructed to view six paintings, one per day. The first three have to do with the crucifixion, the last three have to do with the resurrection.
On this reading, I once again profoundly embraced the narrator’s need for confession. As regular readers of this blog know, I am not too keen on sin, as it has, in my view, been over-emphasized in Christian tradition, plus many of the things labelled sin do not match my experience of what sin really is. That does not mean I am not aware of how I have failed in my human relationships, my relationship with earth and its creatures, and my relationship with God.
On this reading, I also recognized the narrator’s longing not only for transformation, but for an experience of transcendence that left him, in Charles Wesley’s words, “lost in wonder, love, and praise.” That came for me with the remembrance that the whole of the biblical witness testifies to God’s steadfast presence. God has not left us alone.
The incarnation is less important to me as a doctrine than as an experience that God has somehow joined us in Jesus’ passion and compassion, offering a life refreshed rather than defeated by wilderness and suffering and death.
The differences in how Jesus’ story is told among the Gospels allow our own differences. We don’t have to subscribe to every “jot and tittle” of those stories to “get” the meaning, the inspiration, of the story that God is with us.
And, as I review the first draft of this post, I realize I overlooked two other “texts” or better, “contexts” that enhanced and influenced my “aha” about God’s presence: my body mending after a severe cold and our yard and the ravine beyond coming to life after winter. These “gospels” speak even to those who do not know Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.
“I am with you.” God has heard our cry. God-with-us. Where two or three are gathered. Always.
On this 50th anniversary of the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr: “Keep the Dream Alive!”
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