When she was just a girlColdplay, “Paradise”
She expected the world
But it flew away from her reach
And the bullets catch in her teeth
So, lying underneath those stormy skies
She’d say, “I know the sun must set to rise”
This could be paradise.
This was the oddest Easter I have ever experienced. For one, this was the first time in my life that I didn’t attend church (in a physical church building) on Easter Sunday. We didn’t dye Easter eggs, though that was probably going to fall away at some point anyway. Sunday lunch was just our immediate household, as we are practicing “social distancing” from even our parents and siblings. Weird. Very different.
Some things, though, are the same. On my morning walks over the last couple weeks, I have watched in amazement as the trees have turned green and the flowers have bloomed. I have performed my annual ritual of cleaning up the mess left by winter in my yard and pool. I have watched the sun rise every morning and set every evening, and this past week I stared for a long time at the full moon, so bright and large it lit up the landscape. A neighbor, a few houses from ours, passed away this past week. Not from COVID, but just because it was time for him to go home. Other friends have had babies and are completely immersed in the miracle of life that a child brings.
This present crisis we find ourselves in has given me a lot to think about. I cannot turn in any direction without being bombarded with news that tells me everything is changing. Things we have known and relied on for our entire lives are in danger of simply ceasing to exist. Things will never be the same, we are told. This has never happened before, so we don’t know what to expect or what to do. We rush to applaud one thing, then in a week we have changed our minds and we reject that and take up something else. It feels chaotic.
When all the voices around me are screaming doom and gloom, I find myself beginning to believe that. Then I think about how steady and consistent so many things are. The trees leaf out and the flowers bloom every year whether the economy is good or bad. The sun rises and sets on days I perceive as good and on days I perceive as bad. There is a continuum of birth and life and death that is uninterrupted by my perception.
I wonder what it felt like to be in Jerusalem during the week of Passover and Christ’s crucifixion. There was a lot of hope early that week. People who knew about Jesus believed he was the messiah, the savior they had been waiting for. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, they welcomed him like a king, in hopes that he would take up that role and free them from Roman captivity. This was the week when they celebrated and remembered the way God had rescued them from Egypt, and I’m sure it was easy to see that as a sign. If there had been talk shows and social media, I can imagine the sound bites and memes that would have been flying.
By week’s end, things had changed significantly. Their dream of a military king and rescue from Roman captivity had been crushed. The man they had placed their bets on had been arrested, beaten, and was not looking very kingly. In the face of Roman authority, he had utterly failed. They were disillusioned, angry, and afraid. So, they turned on him. In less than seven days, they went from calling out “Hosanna,” which means “savior” or “rescue us,” to screaming, “Crucify him.”
I like to imagine myself as a man in Jerusalem that week. I want to believe that I would have noticed the flowers and new life as spring took hold of the world. I want to believe that I would have been slow to join the hysteria that surrounded Jesus’ entry into the city and slower still to participate in calling for his death. I want to believe that I would have been different than all those other people. I wouldn’t have been.
I know this because I find myself susceptible to the same things today. I find it hard to stay calm in the face of so many telling me the world is ending. I find it hard not to join in the clamor for someone to save us, or tell us, or show us. I find myself angry with disillusionment and fear when what I have come to know and depend on starts to shake and disappear. And I sometimes fail to notice the flowers.
The first Easter, though they did not call it that, was a time of both great loss and ending, and also a time of great joy and beginning. Not everyone could see that. Most couldn’t. Looking back with nearly 2000 years of hindsight, we are smug in our ability to say, “The disappointment and ending they experienced was necessary for something much greater and better to come.” True, but this is hardly knowledge we came to on our own.
During the service I did attend (by video) on Sunday, our pastor talked about “Saturday” moments in our lives. Times when things are dark, disappointing, and unclear, like they were for Jesus’ followers on Saturday after he died. He went on to imagine that there was no anticipation of Sunday that day. No signs hung over the door saying, “Welcome Back from the Dead!” No plans for a celebration or real thoughts about all that would be accomplished next. Like us, they were paralyzed with fear and uncertainty. Locked in rooms, and afraid of what was right outside their door.
Sunday did come. Jesus was raised from the dead. The loss and disillusionment quickly turned to joy and promise of a future. Here’s the thing; it was always there. Sunday was always going to be. They just needed to make it through Saturday. The sun must set to rise. Regardless of the present circumstances, our Sunday has already come. If you have not experienced the grace and forgiveness God offers through His son Jesus, I would be honored to tell you my experience with grace (spoiler alert, it completely changes everything.) Maybe the world is flying away from our reach, but we will not lose hope because the Son has risen. With regards to our present circumstances, Sunday will come. It probably won’t look like what we expect, but the sun always rises. In the meantime, we can intentionally practice, and thereby learn to see in every ending the potential for a beginning. We can learn to temper the shouts of the crowd around us and think clearly through the present with one eye on the future. We can look for the flowers and choose to see “paradise” all around us. That is how we make it through the night together, and that is The Kimray Way.