Hope remains

Rev. Valarie Englert, Senior Pastor

Our Lenten pilgrimage has taken us to Jerusalem. We’ve followed Jesus as he entered the city on a donkey. We’ve heard the cries of “Hosanna!” We’ve felt the expectations of the crowds in our bones; felt the swell of our own expectations in our hearts.
 
“Will God finally get rid of the Romans? Will Jesus finally ascend the kingly throne of David? Will this be the time when God makes everything right?”
 
Time seems to have slowed. Jesus gathered with his disciples to celebrate the Passover and share the Seder feast. Surely, the story of liberation from oppression and slavery will cease to be just a story – it will be reality!
 
Today, though, all those expectations are dashed in cruel fashion. The world crumbles as Jesus dies. The unimaginable takes place before our very eyes, and the scene is horrible beyond imagining.

“Where is God?” the disciples must have wondered … shouted … sobbed. It’s not supposed to end like this!
 
At times of horrible loss and crisis, hope seems to disappear.
 
Yet it is in such desperate times when hope throws us a lifeline. When all seems lost, hope remains.
 
“Hope is what is left when your worst fears have been realized and you are no longer optimistic about the future. Hope is what comes with a broken heart willing to be mended.” (Quoted in Feasting on the Word, Year B, Advent).
 
We modern-day pilgrims are living through what some have called the “Great Unraveling.” Our days are filled with pandemic, war, hostile division.
 
But hope remains. It’s a slender, shining thread we hold onto this Good Friday. God will show up. Our hope is not in vain.

A new way

Caroline Noll, Associate Pastor and Pastor for Children and Families

When we lived in Houston, our church did the same church-wide Christmas pageant every year.

Technically, the music was different, but the middle school girls were always hoop angels and the high school girls were always horn angels, and the same adults were always the magi.

An exasperated kid blurted out, “Why do we tell the same story every year!”

Well, it’s a good story, an important story, and good stories are worth telling again and again.

But not everything is the same.

We are different, our world has changed since we last told the story, and so we encounter the story in a new way.

And so it is today with the narrative of Good Friday.

How many times have we journeyed with Jesus to dark Gethsemane?

Lord, light the darkened places in my soul. In my despair, help me believe and have hope.

How many times have we followed the disciples disappearing into the night, fading into the shadows, leaving Jesus alone with those who would do him harm?

Lord, in this night, in this valley, strengthen those who work in the light, who push back the shadows, who do good, heal, provide and sustain.

How many times have we witnessed the suffering of Christ?

Lord, so many are suffering with sickness. Lord, so many are suffering in fear, are fragile and vulnerable.

O Lord our God, may each one broken in body and spirit be surrounded and filled with your presence, your love, your tender care.

How many times have we heard Jesus’ last words and grasped at their humanity, their divinity?

O Lord, we are fumbling, stumbling, at one moment sure and the next moment lost and falling again.

Our attention turns inward and away in this midst of the greatest display of love.

Forgive us, we pray.

How many times have we watched the sky turn dark?

It is finished.

We are still. We are silent.

But we are not alone.

Because this story does not have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

This story continues, lives on, lives on with life abundant, transformed, made well, made new.

We tell the story, again and again, that we may encounter the living Christ in this day, in this time, in our world, in our homes, and in our very being.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

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