One year ago on April 2nd, we held a mini Women’s retreat at our church. In 2011, Easter fell later in the month. I remember my friend Daryl, who was beginning to not feel well, struggling with whether she would make it or not to the retreat. I remember her bragging to me that she made it and how she and Michelle had crashed Donna’s small group of ladies who had been serving the snack breakfast that morning. They sat together in their reserved circle of chairs in the back of the sanctuary. I was so glad she made it.
One year anniversaries, after you have lost someone is a natural part of grieving. April second this year was Palm Sunday and because of my grief, I experienced Holy Week from an entirely different perspective. I sat in our sanctuary for the Good Friday service with the memories of a year ago still prominent on my mind. The sanctuary was dimly lit, candles burning, the worship team sitting on stools with the unplugged feel, and the 10 foot cross draped with black and red material. The mood was set and conducive for reflections of Christ sacrifice on the cross. But my mind struggled to stay focused.
We watched a movie that depicted Peter, Mary the mother of Jesus & Mary Magdalene as if they had been interviewed just hours after the crucifixion. They shared memories of their experience of the events that led up to Jesus death and they shared their feelings of deep sorrow and shock. At one point Mary, the mother of Jesus, recalled and questioned, “Where was the God who sent an angel to announce her son’s birth? Where was the God who sent a host of angels to announce her son’s birth to shepherds? Where was the God who placed a star in the sky that helped guide the wise men to come and see her son bringing him gifts?”
Jesus’ family, friends and followers were jolted on the first Easter weekend as they went through those hours without the knowledge of the resurrection. They had lost a son, a brother, a friend, their rabbi, and for many their messiah.
Memories, feelings of shock and questions of why drifted off the big screen and linked to my heart triggering a depth of loss I have never experienced before at a Good Friday service. The connection to their pain was very real for me. Empathy and understanding welled up inside of me like a time bomb of emotions that was ready to explode. Peter and the two Mary’s attempted to try and make sense of it. Their attempts hit a little too close to home. Tears streamed down my cheeks, tears from relating to their story, tears for the pain Jesus suffered, but honestly my tears were mostly from sadness I felt from my friend not being with us this year.
However, the crossover of an emotional connection with their loss was not complete. While I shared in the loss of a friend who was a daughter, mother, sister, wife, friend and teacher, my hope was not in her. On the cross that day, Jesus’ family and followers’ hope was nailed to a cross and sealed behind a stone. All they had hoped for in a messiah and his coming kingdom was gone in less than a 24 hour period. Where was the God who had delivered Moses and the Israelite nation for Whom they celebrated and remembered the Passover? As deep as my emotions were, I knew my emotions did not reach the depth or intensity of their emotions and their experience from that terrible night.
During the service, my family was helping a couple who were leading in worship with their 3 year old twins. After the movie, the service moved into communion and the couple had to leave again to lead in worship. One of the girls was upset with this, wanting to stay with her mommy. I ended up taking her out of the service and quite frankly, I was relieved at the distraction. A break from the upheaval of my emotions was welcomed. I briefly felt guilty for not wanting to focus on Jesus or Daryl. Besides, I needed to get a grip; the service was about the cross.
Upon my reentry into the service, I was able to slip into a communion line and partake. Holding a precious life on one hip, with my free hand, I ripped off a piece of bread and dipped it in the juice. Jesus blood was shed for me and his body was broken for me. It was an unsettling evening. How appropriate, my mixed bag of emotions actually was. Good Friday is unsettling and it is uncomfortable. The sacrifice on Good Friday was pronounced. A sacrifice made out of love for all who would believe and it is out of the great sacrifice of suffering and pain, the seed of hope was planted.
“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:24-25
A hope where Jesus knows and understands our pain. A hope where Jesus can handle my mixed bag of emotions. A hope which breeds hope of how we will one day see again those who have gone on before us. A hope where Jesus will keep his promise to walk through the pain of life with us. A hope beyond hope where he will return one day and make all that is wrong right.
Hope – what a beautiful word.