In 2009, my mother died on Good Friday. Since then, I've looked at Holy Week a lot differently. I am especially drawn into the Easter story in the year when the Gospel reading is taken from Mark, because that was the assigned Easter Sunday reading for that year.
That Friday, April 10, 2009, a little after 12 o'clock noon, I received a call from my sister in Columbus. She had received a call from the hospice nurse that my mother had gone into what is termed, "terminal anxiety," and that it could be hours or maybe a day before she would die. I had been dreading a call like this for quite some time, although I must admit I expected it to come in the middle of the night. After some agonizing, I made the decision to stay and lead the Good Friday worship at the church where I was serving as interim associate, and then make the two-hour drive down to the hospital, hoping that I would at least spend a few precious moments with her.
I didn't make it. Shortly after nine p.m. as I was barely out of Canton, I received the second call. Mom had died a few minutes earlier.
Over the next several minutes, I was able to make a few phone calls to friends with whom I wanted to share the news. But following those calls, my wife and I drove the rest of the way in silence for what seemed like an eternity.
As I reflect on that evening, I can relate to the feelings of the three women who went to Jesus' tomb early on that first Eastern morning. The reality of death has a numbing effect on the most stalwart of us. We smile, we try to remain strong, and congratulate ourselves that we don't cry, and all the while we fight back the tears that we need so much to shed.
The women went to the tomb to finish the job of burying Jesus. None of them expected to learn that Jesus was alive. The last thing they thought they see was an empty grave.
The message of the angels, who were sitting where Jesus' body had been laid, was totally startling.
"He has been raised; he is not here."
What happened was illogical, unthinkable, unnatural, incredible, and whatever other adjective you wish to add. The one who had been certified dead has come alive.
But unlike the other Easter readings that you're perhaps more familiar with, this one ends abruptly. That's what makes this reading remarkable.
The women, "went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid."
They were bound to be terrified. And besides, who would believe them?
It's been suggested by several commentators that this original ending of Mark was unacceptable to early Christians, so they tried to fix it by adding additional verses. But ultimately, it falls to us to finish the story.
Each time we proclaim the mystery of faith: "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again," we share the hope that just as Christ lives, so we too shall live. We are living in the presence of the risen Christ who has declared his eternal love for us and his eternal presence in our lives. This is the gospel that we profess.
I've been alternating between a couple different devotionals throughout this season on Lent. I've found much to appreciate in each one.
At the Lutheran Center, we've been reading from
You Are the Way, published by Augsburg Fortress, as part of our daily noontime prayer. It focuses primarily on the Gospel of John and the "I am" statements of Jesus, with questions to ponder and brief quotes from well-known writers.
At home and elsewhere, I've begun my day with Walter Brueggemann's,
A Way Other Than Our Own
. I bought the Kindle version of this book, so it's on my phone and other electronic devices. This has enabled me to share it with several different groups when I have gathered for meetings.
Brueggemann is an unabashed proponent for the social justice message of the gospel. I have always treasured his ability to help readers view modern society through the lens of the Old Testament. We're not much different than people in the time of Pharaoh, or so it seems.
I have also received and enjoyed the various devotionals assembled by congregations. I admire the time, dedication, and thought that you've put into writing the reflections. It demonstrates to me that there is a willingness and desire among members of our congregations to deepen their faith and grow closer to God.
A group of pastors collaborated to do daily video devotions which were also gratifying to watch.
Several colleagues have mentioned that they've noticed an increase in attendance at their mid-week Lenten services.
So, this leads me to ask, why can't we sustain this discipline year 'round? It's a question worth pondering.
Tomorrow at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday of Holy Week, I will be with our Rostered Ministers of our synod at our annual Renewal of Vows and Blessing of Oil liturgy at Trinity Lutheran Church in Kent.
On Maundy Thursday evening, I will be with the people of God at Christ Lutheran Church in Struthers to celebrate with them as they begin the Triduum.
We will take a brief breather next week and not publish. Our next edition of Monday Musings will appear on April 9.
This Easter and always, may the Spirit of the risen Christ fill you with hope and may the promise of the resurrection bring you joy and peace.
+Bishop Abraham Allende