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.

5 Responses
  • jean thomas on March 30, 2012

    I am just totally astounded at the loss of Presbyterian members since 1977. Probably the Methodists can report similar numbers. We should embrace all with open arms, not drive some out who don’t conform to certain “standards”

  • Kevin on April 4, 2012

    As my requests to local PCUSA churches (outside the MLP website’s list of “accepting” congregations) as to whether they openly welcome and support ALL people seem to be falling on deaf ears, I see one of the major reasons why people are leaving the church in droves. Isn’t every church meant to be a spiritual home for ALL people, not just some? Why aren’t they all? Not next year or in a decade, but today…NOW?

    I’m sorry, but until every PCUSA church clearly identifies as open, accepting, and supportive to my LGBT brothers and sisters, I’ll stay home, thanks!

  • Janet Edwards on April 5, 2012

    Dear Jean and Kevin,

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here. I share your assessment of a primary cause of our losses in the PCUSA and in the mainline churches as a whole.

    My question to you both is this: How are we going to reach the welcome you desire?

    Jean, what is the road to embracing all with open arms?

    Kevin, I can understand your giving up on the church. At the same time, I wonder how the day will come that you yearn for of honest welcome in every PCUSA if you are not working for it within the church?

    What I am trying to say here is that inclusion begins with inclusion of all of us within the church–that is one way I understand uniting in the face of our losses. Does this make sense to you?

    I hope to hear from you both. Peace be with you, Janet

  • Kevin on April 6, 2012

    I confess that I’m impatient, but I believe with justification.

    During my time away from the PCUSA I had hoped it would be more progressive than it is. The apparent foot-dragging in the church disturbs me, so I’m looking to the UCC, which is well-represented in my area, clearly welcoming and affirming as a denomination, and not afraid to say so. I’d like to be in and with the PCUSA again, but I believe my new church home will lie elsewhere, that is until the PCUSA as a whole has a change of heart and enters the 21st century.

    Thank you for your time, and a blessed Easter to you and yours! 🙂

  • Janet Edwards on April 6, 2012

    Dear Kevin,

    Blessings on your walk with Christ especially this Easter holiday!

    You are right that the PCUSA is struggling for the courage to move with God into the 21st century. Two hopeful steps taken last year.

    One was the adoption of a new Form of Government which allows for greater variety and experimentation among us,. The other was the opening of ordination to all called, gifted and prepared candidates. Our emerging leaders in the church are amazing.

    I am hopeful that these will help us pick up the pace of becoming the church God has in mind already into the future.

    I am glad you see too thatGod is not finished with the PCUSA yet.

    Peace, Janet

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