Sarah Small, Head of Eden, shares the last of our Lent reflections on sorrow and celebration in a time of Covid-19.
Psalm 22:1, Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
This Holy Week, in the West in particular, we find ourselves in uncharted waters. We can’t meet together. We can’t take part in our usual Good Friday remembrance, or our planned Easter Sunday celebration. We are limited, contained, housebound. For many it’s a frustrating and humbling reality for a church full of busy Christians.
In a recent article in TIME magazine, NT Wright went so far as to write that, “…this Lent has no fixed Easter to look forward to. We can’t tick off the days. This is a stillness, not of rest, but of poised, anxious sorrow.” This reminded me of CS Lewis’ description of Narnia – a place where it is always winter and never Christmas. We are in a period of waiting, a time that Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann would refer to as ‘disorientation.’ We used to know how to do Easter, what to say, when to meet, how to walk ourselves through Holy Week, pausing at Good Friday, but always eagerly desiring (preferring, rushing even to) Easter Sunday. Our answer to the pain and sorrow of Good Friday was always the joyful, ‘Sunday’s coming.’
But this year we are unsure and so we try to stick with what we know.
Many of us will celebrate on Sunday, we will stay in our homes, perhaps gathering virtually with family members and friends. There may be some live streamed content from our churches, and we will make every effort to do something to mark the significance of the day. But what will we do with our ‘anxious sorrow’ many of us are feeling at the moment? How will we deal with the worry about a vulnerable loved one, the disappointment about cancelled events, the exhaustion from constantly being surrounded/completely alone? What can we say to those whose livelihoods have disintegrated in a matter of days, whose financial future is in ruins, whose family relationships are fragile/volatile, even violent?
Yes, we have hope, and yes Sunday is coming, but this year it feels as though we need more than hope in a distant celebration. We need more than, ‘it’ll be alright in the end.’ We need to be real about the disorientation that we feel, about the fact that what used to work and make sense does not fit so well right now. This is scary territory for those of us who are used to having the right answer. But it’s also humbling.
Jesus himself experienced complete disorientation. Three times in Matthew 26 as he is ‘overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death’ he prays for this cup of suffering to be taken from him. And yet in perfect submission to his father he also prays, ‘yet not my will but yours be done.’ This is the Friday voice of faith that we need to remember to use, particularly at this time. It gives language to our pain and our struggle, but in the context of a loving, trusting submitted relationship with God. We need HIM, more than we need him to breakthrough in some way we have in mind.
So, can we be honest this Good Friday (and in this current
season)? Can we come to him who knows every hair on our heads, and confess that
it’s hard. That for some of us we’re sad, anxious and confused, and it feels
like we have no celebration to look forward to? Can we allow him into that,
submitting ourselves to his will, and allowing him to speak back to us in that?
Because I think if we do, we will hear him to begin to whisper back to us. To
give us the strength we need, to grow our faith, to comfort us in our wounds
and to heal our broken hearts. We just need to admit we need it, we need HIM to
move again. Our hope is rooted in his faithfulness, and whatever the outcome
is, we will have found him in a new way, and will begin to be reoriented again.
Father, in everything going on this Easter I want to submit myself again to you and hear your voice speaking to me. Show me how to do this and encounter in a new, deeper way.
At times of crisis we have a great opportunity to share our faith with our family and community.
This special Advance Groups session explores how we can respond to an ongoing crisis by meeting practical needs whilst always being ready to demonstrate and proclaim gospel hope, even in the face of the most difficult, chaotic and confusing of life events.
 Walter Brueggemann, “The Friday Voice of Faith,” Calvin Theological Journal 36 (2001)