Standing in the Gap

Last year I declared myself Queen of the World and changed “Good Friday” to “The Day of Tears”. The “good” came with the theological belief that in the execution of Jesus, God’s will for his life was fulfilled and he accepted the punishment for humanity’s sins begun by those errant, rebellious first humans, Adam and Eve. My heart, mind and soul do not believe in that theological concept of sacrificial atonement, or a fall/redemption model. My heart knows this day as a day of tears.

Last night we remembered the day when a beautiful person, healer, teacher, prophet, lover, and friend was executed for speaking of love and equality; when the seemingly impossible actually happened; when (in the words of Don McLean) the music died; when dreams died… ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

(For the full audio version of the sermon, click here.)

On the Day of Tears we entered fully into the human experience with Jesus – the experience of living life as best we can, of loving and being loved, of dreaming big dreams of how your life can be and how the world can be, of wanting to make a difference, of looking opposition in the eye and deciding whether to back down or not, of grief, betrayal, joy, hope, loss and death… all of it. It’s all wrapped up in this story and it leaves us bereft at the end.

What do we do when life falls apart?

What do we do when dreams die?

Where is God in all of this?

Henri Nouwen, in Seeds of Hope, talks about “befriending” death. He says befriending death allows us to claim the totality of the human experience.  Befriending death means integrating the often darker, shadowy, fearful place of death into the life-giving part of ourselves. It’s hard because death is one of those things we don’t like to think about. But, he insists, that if we really befriend death, we would be a free people.

How do we befriend death?  Nouwen says: “Love – deep human love – does not know death… real love says, “Forever.” Love will always reach out toward the eternal. Love comes from that place within us where death cannot enter. Love does not accept the limits of hours, days, weeks, months, years, or centuries. Love is not willing to be imprisoned by time…”

I think in Jesus we see that Nouwen was right. Because he could look death in the eye and accept it as part of the journey of life, no more and no less a part of God, he was able to live freely with integrity and love until the end. Perhaps part of what makes yesterday so difficult, is that Jesus died an awful death with so much more grace and dignity than most of us believe we could muster.

So, that brings us to today. Holy Saturday they call it. Maybe (as long as I’m renaming things) it should be Holey Saturday. After any death we feel like there is a part of us missing, an emptiness inside, a hole. Yes, we all know the end of the story, but it behooves us to understand the importance of this day within the human experience as well. These are the days where we find ourselves in the gap. A most uncomfortable place to be. A place between what was and what is yet to be, a place between known and unknown, a place between past and future, a place between death and new life.

It’s okay to be a little melancholy and reflective on these days. It’s normal to feel a little anxious and concerned. What’s next? We want to know. But on these days it will need to be enough for us to know that there will be a next. The Spirit is working in the gap, just as the seed is germinating in the darkness, waiting until it is ready to spring forth into the light. Wait… hope… keep the faith.