Rachel S. Gerber is denominational minister of Christian Formation for Mennonite Church USA.
As a pastor, the story of Holy Week always poses a variety of challenges, like a parent dressing up leftovers to feed the family dinner, again. Turkey meatballs! Turkey tetrazzini! Turkey tacos! As a church we hear this same drama played out again and again, year after year. Sure the Gospel readings change, but the general story content remains the same. Often in the case with familiar stories, our minds move to auto-pilot and we fail to completely engage and enter into the story fully. But this year, I have been so grateful for this age-old story that comes to us again, because I need, we need, our Church needs, (and God knows) this world needs the message of this story more than ever.
A good friend of mine posted on Facebook this week, “If Holy Week teaches us nothing else, we are reminded again that through darkness, opposition and pain — love will prevail.”
Between the headline news that greets us each day, the continuation of church struggles and our own familial and personal crisis on both large and small scales, we need to be reminded of this truth.
Love prevails. Love wins. Love is stronger than death. Love comes to us.
I don’t know about you, but I need to be reminded. I remember a difficult time a few years ago when my family was in a severe multi-car accident. During that same week, we received the news that my mother-in-law had stage 4 cancer with only months to survive. It was a dark period of life. It was disorientating. As I recovered and tried to come to terms with the implications, I found myself wondering where God was in the midst. Not unlike the disciples whose hopes were dashed by the crucifixion and death of their beloved Jesus. He was gone. Laid in a tomb, sealed with a stone.
Yet over time as I journeyed into this grief and pain throughout the following weeks and months, what one could call a season of Holy Week, I was able to see that although God didn’t prevent this pain from occurring, God was present. God was real. God did show up all along the way. Friends and family stood at our side offering their presence in our grief. These same hands fed us, held us, prayed for us, loved us through it all. These hands and feet were the hands and feet of the one I’d been searching for, longing for, wondering about all along. They were the hands and feet of Jesus. Christ was alive!
Even in the darkest days, there is still good that comes. If life feels difficult for you this week, look for the light. I promise it’s there.
For instance, as we hear updates of the continued Syrian conflict with heartbreaking images peppering our evening news, remember Mennonite Central Committee is working tirelessly to provide vital humanitarian relief by delivering emergency aid, providing essential items such as hygiene kits, supporting peacebuilding work, education for displaced children and trauma healing.
If you are ready to lose faith in our own denomination as it continues to struggle over various issues, consider the new initiative at work, the Future Church Summit, which will take place at Orlando 2017. The Mennonite Church USA is at a crossroads and we can be there to band together to reimagine what Anabaptist witness is needed today. The light shines.
How do you find yourself today? Like the women that approached the tomb early Easter morning, little did they know that a new day was truly dawning. They were greeted with the message, “Do not be afraid! Christ is alive!”
May you find renewed hope and strength in this Easter season that there is nothing, absolutely nothing that can separate us from this love. Even if you still find yourself somewhere between the shadows of Good Friday and Holy Saturday, may the truth of a promised Easter Sunday sustain you on the journey.