i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
If you’ve lived a full life, you have died more than once, and have come back from the dead. I know that. I have sat with you as you have described the death of relationships, and children, and the ravages of addiction, and the pain of losing an identity. I have sat with you as you’ve told me stories of survival and triumph. I have sat with you as you have remembered the feeling of slowly rolling away the stone on the tomb of mourning you built around yourselves—how the sunlight began to slowly beam through the cracks until you were alive again. You know what resurrection is.
As we approach Holy Week this year after the longest, coldest winter most of us can remember, I know that we are dying to skip the suffering and the cold tomb of Good Friday and Holy Saturday and go straight to Easter morning. We want to open the tomb with a swift kick to the stone that’s blocking it. Or even take a sledgehammer to it, and then possibly move to Florida.
But those of us who have lived through death and resurrection over and over again in our lives know that we can’t feel the joy of feeling alive again until we have felt death: the betrayal of Maundy Thursday, the pain of Good Friday; the darkness of Holy Saturday. Rolling away the stone on Easter Sunday means little without sitting in the tomb for a little while. Rolling away the stone of winter doesn’t mean as much in Florida. Rolling away the stone of grief doesn’t mean as much if you haven’t grieved.
So I want to urge you, please, to come to our Maundy Thursday Tenebrae service on April 2nd. We will begin with a simple soup supper in the parish hall before moving into the sanctuary for our Tenebrae service. Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam says “Tenebrae is a small group of people gathered together in a darkening room. If that isn’t a definition of the human condition, I don’t know what is.” Tenebrae, the service of the shadows, is a traditional Christian Holy week service that honors the suffering inherent in the human condition. My colleague, Parisa Parsa, says that Tenebrae is “the most Buddhist of Christian services, letting the truth of suffering be laid bare, inviting us to look at it unflinchingly, and asking us to see that we are not separate from it.” Join us. It is beautiful, simple and meaningful.
And then, please join us on Easter Sunday, either for our sunrise service in the cemetery (God willing), or our 10:00 am celebration service in the sanctuary. We will have breakfast at 7:15 am in the parish hall cooked by Linda E. Davis and Bob Kneeland. We will shout our Alleluias! We will shout “He is risen!” And friends, WE will rise. ALL are welcome. We mean that.
Beloved, let us be together this Holy Week for all of it—for the betrayal, for the suffering, for the joy of Easter morning. We need one another.
I thank you God for most this amazing church.
Rev. Robin Bartlett is the Senior Pastor at the First Church in Sterling, Massachusetts. www.fcsterling.org