This Holy Week, Could Our Losses Bring Us Together?
Holy Week always invites such an intense mixture of feelings. There is the raucous fun of Palm Sunday, the contention of the debates with the powers that be, apprehension at Jesus’ predictions of what is to come, the intimacy of the upper room, the anguish of the trial and execution, the mournful pause on Saturday—dwelling on the loss and holding at bay the exhilaration of Easter. With this wealth of emotion, Holy Week is really a microcosm of life.
A large part of every Holy Week, and of life’s way, really, is coping with the experience of loss. The disciples lose Jesus. They also lose their hopes for a kingdom like the great King David’s where they would sit at Jesus’ right hand. They lose some of their faith in people as their companion, Judas, betrays them all. Striking to me is the way the disciples cope with all this loss. They do the same thing my family does, perhaps yours too: we come together. We unite.
My immediate and extended family is scattered across the country and the world (even my youngest son lives in England). For the last several years, we have been in that season of life when our family’s senior generation has been coming to the end of long, active lives. When we lose one of these loved ones, we come together. We seek out family and get close for a little while. We unite. Our loss brings us together.
As I listen to concerns raised across the PCUSA, I hear a common fear of loss expressed by many. I share the concern about the severe loss our church family has experienced over my lifetime. When I was ordained in 1977, there were 144,000 Presbyterians in Pittsburgh Presbytery. Now there are 34,000. Individuals have walked away as well as whole congregations. For us who stay, there is bewilderment, soul-searching and, most of all, grief — deep, painful, lonely grief.
Perhaps it disturbs you, as it does me, that instead of coming together – uniting as One in Christ – many in our church family tend to dwell on the probable causes for all the loss. Often we scatter in search of a solution instead of pulling together to be the solution.
This Holy Week, perhaps we can dwell on the feelings we have as we face our losses and follow the disciples in what we can do about it. The disciples, like my family, came together. They united. They sought one another out, sharing their experience and their routines of daily life.
They shared with one another how they encountered Jesus and then He came to them on the beach and in the upper room. They experienced such joy and power that the community they created has continued down to this very day. That community is now us and is ours to create and pass on.
For us to do this as the disciples did, our losses must unite us. Then we can share how we encounter Jesus and He will, indeed, be in the midst of us. The Holy Spirit will stir our hearts so that we will be together with joy and go out into the world as the disciples did, powerfully proclaiming the gospel in word and deed.
It all begins with our losses bringing us together.