Yesterday afternoon my car died. (Actually, let’s be honest here – I’m driving my sister’s car cause mine is giving me transmission issues, and I hate cars…) Thankfully it was rush hour on the highway, and so I was only driving about 5 miles an hour when the car stalled. I threw it in neutral, and tried to restart it as I coasted. No dice. I almost had a seamless transition as I flashed on the hazard lights, unbuckled my seatbelt, opened the door, and swung my feet out to push the car off the left lane into the shoulder.
It was dead. And as frustrated as I felt as I rode in the tow truck to the auto repair place, I was reminded of all I do have to be thankful for: I have food, shelter, a warm bed, friends and family that love me, abundant provision, a fascinating job, classes that challenge and develop me, a church community that envelops me, a body that is healthy… And even with a dead car, resurrection life is here and now and I swim in it every day, if only I have eyes to see it.
This afternoon as I ran along the lakeshore I prayed… A friend with cancer. A child that is slowly fading away. Broken relationships. Hopes that have died. There is so much brokenness and the broken shards of this world can’t seem to work themselves free from my heart. Instead, with every beat of my heart, they work themselves deeper and remind me that the price you pay when you love someone is that you suffer with them.
But even with the shards burning, I felt myself being whispered to by a voice from beyond the blue – beyond the blue of the lake, and the sky, and my heart, whispering words of life, of hope, of faith. It whispered to me from the blazing sun, through the chill air that burned my lungs and made my ears numb and my nose run, through the wind that whipped the waves to a frenzy, through the crashing of spray and froth, and the words of a song that I played on repeat for the last half hour of my run…
“Yellow and gold as the new day dawns
Like a virgin unveiled who waited so long
To dance and rejoice and sing her song
And rest in the arms of a love so strong
No one comes unless they’re drawn
By the voice of desire that leads em’ along
To the redemption of what went wrong
By the blood that coveres the innocent one…
So lift your voice just one more time
If there’s any hope may it be a sign
That everything was made to shine
Despite what you can see
So take this bread and drink this wine
And hide your spirit within the vine
Where all things will work by a good design
For those who will believe…
And let go of all we cannot hold onto
For the hope beyond the blue…”
I biked to church tonight as the sun burned it’s way down in firey oranges and burnt golds. We had a Maundy Thursday service, remembering the night that Jesus was betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, and abandoned by all the rest. And as I sat in the quiet of the cathedral, I was drawn in. The juxtaposition of life and death, of beauty and darkness, of hope and despair can leave me shaken and breathless. I was drawn into the story of Jesus, the tragedy and the pathos that it must have seemed at the time. For those watching, with no benefit of hindsight, it was the crumbling of all their dreams, the death of all their hopes, the disintegration of their deepest desires. In an instant, it all turned to ashes.
From the intimacy of the Last Supper (shared wine and bread, the washing of feet, the prayers of Jesus for these men and women who had given up everything to be with him) to the clash of swords and cries of a mob and the kiss of a traitor. And the flavors of wine and bread turn to ash in their mouths…
12 years ago we were studying abroad in Jerusalem. I remember going to a Maundy Thursday service at a small church right inside the Zion Gate. After the service, a few of my friends went to a prayer vigil in the Garden of Gethsemane. For some reason, a couple of us went back to JUC. In one of the basement classrooms, Danny and I broke out guitars and djembes and began to play. It wasn’t rehearsed, but it flowed. Classmates and friends trickled in to the darkened room, lit only by candles. A basin of water and a towel sat in the center. As people felt moved, they would step into the center, cradle the basin and towel, and kneel before a friend, a brother, a sister, an enemy… They would untie shoes, slip off sandals, peel back socks… Dirty and calloused feet were gently lifted, placed in the warm water, washed and dried with the towel. As we played, reconciliation happened. As we washed each other’s feet, the weak were encouraged, the tired were energized, the hurting were soothed. And as we followed in Jesus’ footsteps, we felt his presence.
Presence. May we feel his presence as we enter into the darkness of Good Friday… And may we have eyes to see that beyond death lies so much more.
“All the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup…” ~ Buechner