Friday, April 22, 2011

Is there some idea to replace my life?

The entire Passion Gospel is here. These two chapters in John’s Gospel take us from Thursday evening to Friday evening, from one garden to another garden.

I over-seeded portions of my back lawn a few days ago, and I’ve been watering the seeds every morning. This feels like a good thing to do during Holy Week: to aid growth in a barren area. I’m not a gardener like my wife is, but I understand why, for her and for many others, time in the garden is time spent with God. The garden is where seeds go to die and to be resurrected.

Between the wisdom of two gardens, other details in this story seem frenetic, pitiful or ridiculous: Peter’s three denials, Pilate’s wrangling over Jesus’ guilt or innocence, the priests’ determination to get the Romans to do away with Jesus, the inscription “The King of the Jews” over Jesus’ cross, the soldiers gambling for Jesus’ possessions.

Yet these details are where we spend most of our lives: protecting our reputations, trying to understand confusing situations, ham-handedly forcing our own way, being taken advantage of, and taking advantage of others. All of these are very human things—and God loves us in spite of or maybe even because of these things.

But today, I’d rather dwell on the moments of real wisdom and love. Between one garden and another, we find Jesus refusing the way of violence; Jesus announcing that he is not the kind of king one might imagine; Jesus denying that Pilate, and by extension the Roman Empire, has any real power of its own; and Jesus ensuring the future care of his mother by pairing her with one of his disciples.

The goodness of Jesus’ life inspires one more act of wisdom and love. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are powerful Jewish leaders. Up to this point, their efforts to stand up for Jesus have been brave but half-hearted. But today, they collect his body, wrap it, and secure a tomb in which to place it.

This morning I’ll deal with some of the more trivial things: washing and priming walls to get ready to paint tomorrow morning; shopping for groceries; looking for replacement baseboard for the family room; cleaning the microwave. All of these things have to happen. I’ll probably also engage in some kind of self-serving behavior. This happens every day, more than once. But I’ll also be on the lookout for wisdom and love. I’ll start by watering the new grass seed again: this is wisdom and love.

And after dinner, I’ll meet with four teenagers who have been asked to carry the big cross into the church tonight. I’ll invite them to carry the cross for someone in their own lives who is carrying a burden that feels too heavy to bear.

Here’s a song by Sufjan Stevens called “For the Widows in Paradise, for the Fatherless in Ypsilanti.” The lyrics are here.

Music for Holy Week is here, including an entire suite for Good Friday. I'll begin to post Easter music tomorrow.

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