Why do you look for the living among the dead?

I’ve been trying to imagine what it must be like to come to the tomb and find it empty. What did those women feel? I keep coming back to that feeling you get in your stomach when you think you’ve reached the bottom of the stairs, and you put your foot out to walk forward, but there’s one step left, and you stumble forward, and kind of wrench your knee a little, or maybe you fall altogether. But that feeling in your stomach when you realize that your expectations have betrayed you. Or the confusion of picking up a cup that you thought had milk in it, but it has 7-up. It’s confusing and weird and it takes a moment for your brain to catch up to your senses. How else can we imagine the feelings of these women, who had followed Jesus all the way from Galilee, who had probably known Jesus since he was a child, some of them, when they arrive at the tomb, come to do their duty, come to do what was expected, and they find it empty.

And even as their brains are catching up to their senses, here come these two men, angels we learn later, in dazzling white, demanding, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

But really, they weren’t looking for the living among the dead. They were looking for the dead among the dead.

They saw it. He died! Jesus died, on that cross! Just two days ago, they watched, and wept, and saw him laid, dead, in this tomb. Right here. And now he’s gone. They were following the rules, looking for the dead, among the dead, to prepare the body, as they were expected to. And expectations have failed them. Because if the dead don’t stay dead, what can you count on in this world?

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

It’s what we all do. Like the women from Galilee, we follow the rules. We learn how to live in brokenness, because we live in a broken world, and the rules make living in this broken world a bit more bearable. We count on the rules. Sometimes we even think that the rules will fix everything, that if we could just follow those rules well enough, perfectly enough, we could heal the world, we could mend the breaks, we could restore the wholeness. So we learn the rules. We learn them well, and they become part of us, ingrained in us, embedded in our DNA.

We live by them and we enforce them, and when we fail, and we always fail, we carry the marks of that failure in our hearts and on our bodies.

We know who is in and who is out. And when we cross the lines, and we all cross the lines, we all end up on the outside at some point, we bear the shame.

We know the rules, and we know that love ends, and relationships break,and so we shield our hearts, and we hide ourselves, and we protect ourselves, and when the relationship breaks, and it always breaks, we tell ourselves that we knew it would, and we were lucky we walked away intact, we are lucky we guarded ourselves so well; but we carry those breaks with us, touching them tenderly from time to time, as if to prove to ourselves that we are human, we are alive, because the bittersweet pain of loss and love are mingled in the scars on our hearts.

Sitting there in the St. Louis Bread Company, writing this sermon, I watched the room around me, where scars were forming, and the rules were being lived and broken, and people were slowly, bit by bit, moving into the tomb.

I couldn’t help noticing the young woman sitting in the corner, by the fire, with mascara running down her face, facing away from the young man next to her, who was clearly breaking her heart, obviously breaking up with her. She was curling herself into a tighter and tighter ball as he spoke, working her way further and further into the tomb.

Her story was the most obvious in the room, but I know, I know that she was not the only one. That all of us have a story that we carry, some violation of the rules, some way that the rules have failed us,or some way that we have misused the rules, to shield our hearts from the world, to build walls around ourselves, meant to protect us. That all of us are busy each day, curling ourselves up tighter and tighter, working our way further and further into the tomb.

““Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

If you have ever turned on a cable channel, you have probably seen the film Groundhog  Day. It’s probably playing somewhere right now. In it, the main character, Bill Murray, wakes up on Groundhog Day, and completely screws up everything he was meant to accomplish. The girl he is supposed to fall in love with hates him, as does everyone else. And so, again the next day, he wakes up on Groundhog Day, and gets the chance to improve. Every day is Groundhog Day for him, every day another chance to get that one day right, until he manages to do it, to learn enough about himself and to take an interest in others and, well, follow the rules well enough, that he actually gets it right.

And he does it! He fixes it! He fixes himself and he makes friends with everyone and he gets the girl and the rules heal him! He lives happily ever after! He actually finds the living among the dead!

That’s how we are all living. We are living life as if every day were Groundhog Day. As if, by dwelling on all my little deaths, I could find life. As if by obsessing on all the ways I messed up yesterday, I can fix tomorrow. As if by reliving my mistakes, I could heal the world, could create that one perfect day. As if by returning again and again to our brokenness, by returning again and again to the tomb, we could find life among the dead.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

But guess what? The tomb was empty.

The tomb.

Was empty.

And that is the story that we are here today to receive. The tomb was empty. The tomb, that place that we have buried all of our brokenness, all of our heartache; the tomb, where we go again and again to trace the lines of our scars and test our ability to bear the pain; the tomb, where we have laid all of the shame and the sorrow and constructed all the walls and the boundaries that divide us from one another; the tomb where our rules meet their bitter end;

the tomb,

was empty.

It was empty of the past.

It was empty of the heartbreak.

It was empty of the longing.

It was empty of the shame and the guilt and the what-ifs and the whys.

It was empty.

Because the dead don’t stay dead anymore,and everything has been turned on its head.

Because God in Christ has come to tell us that our rules are not what is going to heal the world. Our rules are not what is going to mend the rift. Our rules are not going to bind up the brokenhearted, or release the prisoners,or proclaim freedom for the captives. Our rules are not going to raise the dead. God is. Our rules keep the dead in the tomb.

But the tomb is empty.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

What matters now is life. What matters now is the future. What matters now is resurrection. This is Easter living. This is life lived in the promises of God. Whatever has gone before, it is not going to determine what happens next.

Those scars that you carry, they will remain. The resurrected Christ still bore the scars of the cross. Those scars are important, because they are yours, and they have brought you this far. But they don’t carry you any further. What carries you from here is the resurrection, the empty tomb, the knowledge that love wins, and God heals and you don’t have to do it yourself, you never did. God never expected you to heal the world, and the scars that you got by trying, the scars that you carry, they might make up your past, but they do not make your future.

The tomb is empty.

He is risen!

And because he is risen, because life has conquered death, because love has conquered hate, because what is next has won over what is past, you are free. Free to move forward. To stop returning to the tomb again and again; to step into the future, towards a life of reconciliation, towards a life of renewal, towards a resurrection life.

Of Lenses and Filters and Light (It’s a Photography Metaphor)

Grace has recently become interested in photography, having received a pretty nice digital camera from her grandmother for Christmas. A couple weeks ago, we went to the Butterfly House in St. Louis and she wanted to bring her camera along, but she didn’t have a case for it, so I went down to the basement and dug out my old camera case. It still had my old Canon from that first photography class I took in college. Remember, back when cameras used film? And as I cleaned out the case, I found all the old filters, little bits of glass and plastic that I would put on the lens to adjust for various effects. Like if the sun was particularly bright, I would use one filter, but if it was a cloudy day I would use another. I also found different lenses. I have a macro lens for when you want to take a picture of something really close up, and you want to get the details. I have a wide angle lens for when you want to get the whole picture, but can’t back far enough away to do it. And as I unpacked these and remembered what all they are used for, I thought, this is exactly what the Bible does for us. It gives us all of these filters and all of these lenses, all in one package. All these different ways of hearing about God and learning about God’s activity in the world, and some of the stories are wide angle lenses, and some are macro lenses. Some are the stories we need when it is sunny out, and some are the prayers we want when things cloud up.

But one thing that I have recently discovered, in conversations with individuals, and through the adult class on Monday nights in Lent, is that there is one lens that, as Christians, we all use when we look at Scripture. There is one overriding lens, whether we are going to go up close, or whether we are going to look at the big picture, whether it is good weather or bad. We all read the story of God’s activity in the world, through the lens of the cross. For better or for worse. Good Friday, for a Christian, is at the heart of the story. And what we think happened on Good Friday says a lot about who we think that we are, and who we think that God is.

We could pull out the macro lens and spend some time on the details. There are a lot of details here to dig into. There’s the linguistic details, like the fact that, when Jesus tells the criminal, “Today you will be with me in Paradise,” the word paradiso in Greek actually means garden, so what he says is, “Today you will be with me in the Garden,” which is maybe more about returning to a state of being right with God, a state of shalom, of peace, of righteousness, as we were in the Garden of Eden, than it is about heaven. Or maybe it’s the same thing. Or the detail that the centurion says both, “This man was innocent,” and “This man was righteous.” Those are the same word in Greek, which goes along with the thing about returning to the Garden.

There’s the literary details. Like the two criminals hanging beside Jesus might allude back to the first two criminals, Adam and Eve, who were also thieves, stealing from God. And at least one of them is invited back into the Garden, even as Jesus hangs there on the cross. Or the way that Luke is the only Gospel writer to mention that Herod and Pilate were friends after these events, where once they had been enemies. That Jesus is bringing reconciliation, even as he is being condemned to death.

Or there’s the theological details, how Jesus has been accused of catering to outsiders and unworthies throughout his ministry, and here, in this Passion story, it is the women and the criminals who capture his attention. It is the Gentile Centurion who declares his innocence. Or the way that the Temple curtain is torn in two, the curtain that is the last thing that stands between the people and the Holy of Holies, the ultimate sanctuary of God, and it is ripped asunder, and God is loose in the world. 

All these details are part of the big picture, and they give us places to focus, and interesting ideas to chew on, and they can make for good Bible study classes and lead us into all kinds of theories about what God is up to in this event of the cross.

But theories are like those filters. They have a way of working well only in some circumstances. What works on a sunny day doesn’t work so well when it’s cloudy.

Meanwhile,[- there is a big picture here. And we might be in danger of missing that big picture if we spend too much time in the details. So it’s perhaps best to put away the macro lens for the moment and pull out the wide angle. Or better yet, put away the camera altogether. Because this event of the cross is not a subject for our examination, so much as it is an event for us to experience, an invitation for us to engage, a moment around which everything turns, a moment that draws us in, and turns us, flips us on our heads, and sends us out again.

It is the moment when we hear the truth. The truth about ourselves. The truth about you. The truth about me. The truth that I deny God daily. That I, left to my own devices, would turn away from God again and again; that I would give my neighbor up to save myself; that I participate daily in systems of exploitation and slavery; that my concept of power has as much to do with tearing down and destroying as it does with building up and creating; that I look for God in strength and might and fail to recognize God in vulnerability and relationship; that every day that I live, I am busy dying – in my body, in my relationships, in my belief that I can do it all myself, that I do not need anyone or anything else. In short, the truth that I am human, I am broken, and I would have been there with the crowds, shouting “crucify him,” even as I looked around for God to come in glory to save him. That is Good Friday. The realization that we are broken human beings. It comes to us in so many ways – through the broken bodies of our loved ones; through the guilt and shame of broken relationships; through the feeling of weakness and vulnerability of our own broken health and broken hearts. It is where most of us spend our lives. At the foot of the cross, where the light of God’s judgment finds us and shows us for all that we are, and we look around desperately for a shadow in which to hide, for a way to shine that light on someone else, for a way to avoid knowing ourselves that fully. For a cave, a tomb in which to hide, because at least there, we won’t have to face this truth, the truth that the cross tells us about ourselves.

But that is not the only truth that the cross reveals. Because even as it tells us the truth about ourselves, it tells us the truth about God. The truth that God loves us so utterly, so completely, that God, knowing all of these truths about us, knowing how completely broken we are, knowing how desperately we would hide from God, still, God comes seeking us. And still, God gets in our way. Still, God comes to us in weakness and vulnerability, defying human power with divine frailty. Still, God gives God’s only Son for us, pouring his very self out for our sake, not in condemnation, not in punishment, not even as a substitution for our punishment, but precisely so that we would know the truth about ourselves, would know that God knows the truth about ourselves, and so that we would know also that we are forgiven. Forgiven because we know not what we are doing. Forgiven because we don’t know how much we need God. Forgiven because we don’t know that we look in the wrong places for God. Forgiven because we don’t know that we are living lives of Good Friday. We don’t know until God reveals it to us, and forgives us, and gives all that God is, out of love for us.

And these truths transform us. When we see these truths, the truth about ourselves, that we do not know what we are doing; the truth about God, that God knows it and loves us enough to forgive us, that changes a person. It gets into your heart, and it breaks open the tomb, that cave where we have hidden, where we have shied away from the light. It breaks it open and turns it out, so that this day, this Good Friday life, these thousand little breaks, these daily moments of dying, are no longer what rules you. And it is not the details of the story that matter, it is not the snapshot of Good Friday that you must understand and analyze and figure out. It is the movement of your heart, it is the breaking open of the tomb, it is the truth of the cross.

This is Good Friday. This is the cross. It is not a theory, viewed in the details through the macro lens. It is not a filter a tiny bit of story that only works in certain lights. It is not even a lens that opens and shuts, blocking out parts of the story or cutting out shades of the light. 

It is instead the light itself, the revelatory light through which all of the story can be seen. It reveals the truth about God more completely than any other moment in history, the truth that God knows you, completely, that God knows all that there is of you, the good that you would bring into the light, and the bad that you would hide away, out of view of the camera. And that, knowing you, God loves you. God goes to the cross for you. God in Christ pours himself out, in order to reveal the light of God’s love, to draw you, all of you, each of you, out of the darkness, and into the light. Into relationship, into community, into love, into life. Life in the light of the cross.

Everyone, Including that Guy that Kind of Bugs You, and the One who Hurt Your Feelings That Time

Joe was an impossible man in many ways. He was kind and generous and yet grumpy and narrow-minded. He was a talented musician and composer, who would disappear for weeks or months at a time with little or no explanation, and then wonder why the other band members were frustrated with him. He would refuse to allow his wife to call the pastor when he was in the hospital, and then complain that no one from the congregation had come to visit him while he was sick. He was, in short, your average Christian, your average human. He carried baggage with him that was no doubt as heavy and as unmanageable as a Mac truck. Some days he could contain it. Other days, it would careen out of control, including everyone around in the pileup. One day, I was leading a congregational meeting. I was president of the congregation at the time, and I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, maybe something to do with how we could better invite guests into the life of the congregation, and Joe, completely misunderstanding me, said something really hurtful. I couldn’t even finish giving my presentation. I sat down and cried. In fact I cried for the rest of the day. He apologized. Well, his wife made him apologize, after she apologized for him. He said his blood sugar was off and his hearing aid was not working and he was in a weird mood that day and that had caused him to misunderstand me. In other words, his Mac truck had gone out of control, and I had been collateral damage, an innocent bystander to his broken chaos.. Anyway, we moved awkwardly forward, and even managed to work together on some things after that, but I always felt uncomfortable, not sure how to deal with him.

And then one day, I was asked to assist in serving communion. An interim pastor was filling in while our pastor was on sabbatical. And this interim pastor was a quadriplegic. He spoke the words of the thanksgiving and institution, the same words that Jesus spoke on this night, on Maundy Thursday, nearly 2000 years ago. While I held the bread, the pastor repeated Jesus’ words of promise: “This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” While I held the wine, he repeated Jesus’ words, the promise of this night: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” And then I served the bread around the circle while another assistant followed with the wine. When I came to Joe, I looked at him, and I spoke his name, “Joe, take and eat the Body of Christ, broken for you.” And suddenly none of it mattered anymore. I saw Joe for what he was, a person for whom Christ was prepared to die. A broken, bitter, sometimes kind, sometimes grumpy man, who is carrying around far more than his tiny person ought to be burdened with, than any person ought to be burdened with. A sinner, like all of us, who is barely making it to the Table, much less satisfying my notion of who should be there.

Which is why we don’t get to choose the people at the Table. It would be so nice if we could, so much simpler if I could decide that the Table was only going to be peopled with those who fit my needs, those who look like I imagine a Christian looks, who act like I imagine a Christian acts. But that would be a pretty lonely table. For example, I tend to think that maybe, of all the people in the world, Jesus ought to consider leaving Judas out when it comes to Table fellowship. This guy, who was supposed to be one of Jesus’ best friends, has been conspiring with the chief priests and the Temple police. He has sold his friend for silver. He has been laying in wait, looking for the opportune time to betray his rabbi, his teacher, his friend. And Jesus knows all this. And includes Judas at the table. In all three Last Supper stories, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Judas is at the Table when Jesus blesses the bread and the wine. Judas is at the Table, when Jesus says, “given and shed for you.” “You” includes Judas. The promise includes Judas. In the book of John, Jesus washes the feet of his betrayer, becoming the servant even of the one who will hand him over. In both of these stories, Jesus blesses, forgives, includes, and serves those who will betray him, those who will desert him, those who will deny him. Knowing all that he knows, still these promises are given for them.

The problem is, this is not really the God that we want, most of the time. We don’t usually want the God who will forgive the unforgivable, welcome the unworthy, claim the outcast and the undesirable. We want the God who will consult us, who will follow our rules of inclusion, who will engrave the invitations to the Table to suit our notions of in and out. Fortunately, both for us and for the world, that is not the God we get.

Instead we get the One who, knowing his betrayer is at the table, welcomes him anyway. And pours out the cup, for him. The One who, knowing that his best friend, Peter, is about to deny him, breaks the bread, and blesses it, for him. The One who know us: knows that we are exclusive and narrow-minded; knows that each of us is, like Joe, just barely getting by; that each of us, like Joe, is hauling around a burden that is far too big and far too heavy and far too unwieldy; and knows that the moments when we appear to have our pain and our grief and our sorrow and our guilt under control, those moments are the exceptions and not the rule, those are the moments when we are hiding the truth, from ourselves and the world; knows that we are all of us in danger any moment of dropping those appearances, that at any moment that Mac truck could careen out of control and take out half the room with us. And knowing all of this about us, this One, this God through Jesus Christ welcomes us to the Table. And breaks the bread and pours the wine. And reveals God to be far less concerned with setting up tests and waiting for us to pass them, and far more concerned with opening doors and breaking down walls and welcoming the broken people that we are, now.

The new pope, Francis I, made headlines this week, when he announced that he will change the Maundy Thursday routine at the Vatican. While his predecessor celebrated the Maundy Thursday mass by ritually washing the feet of 12 retired priests, Pope Francis will instead visit a juvenile prison facility in Rome, where he will wash the feet of 12 prisoners, 12 criminals, 12 unworthies. Like this pope or not, this is a powerful statement he is choosing to make. To remind the world that this is the God that we are dealing with, the God who goes out to find those in need of God’s love, not the God who waits in a basilica for those who are worthy enough to find their way in.

In a few moments, you will be invited to come up here for a foot-washing. It will be a simple act – no soap, no oil, no pedicure. Just a splash of water and a towel. It will be a bit awkward, rather uncomfortable. But you are invited to come, just as you came to your baptism, just as you come to this table each week, as you come to this table tonight – broken, impossibly burdened, doubting, longing, unworthy, narrow-minded, just barely getting by. You are invited to come, and be served, to receive this reminder that this table, this basin, this community, this One, this Jesus, this God, is for you.

A Tale of Two Kings

Once upon a time, there was a people called Israel. They were a tribal people, descendants of twelve brothers, the sons of a man called Israel. They had all travelled together for a long time, escaping from slavery, wandering in the wilderness, conquering a new land, and settling down there. They were scattered around this land, each tribe in its own little section, and they had a loose confederation. They would come together for defense, or to help each other, as was needed. If they needed a leader, they chose the one best suited to lead for the moment. If there was a dispute, they chose the wisest to settle it. They were a free people, bound, not to a king, but to their God, the God who had led them out of slavery and had taught them how to live together in freedom. Honestly, they had it pretty good.

But one day, when things weren’t going so well, they looked around at their neighbors, neighbors like the Philistines and the Egyptians and the Phoenicians. Those guys were all doing pretty well, expanding their empires, living in prosperity, showing off fancy palaces and warhorses and chariots. And the Israeli people thought, we’d like a piece of that action! So they went to the leader, a guy named Samuel. He wasn’t a king, we was just the leader of that moment, they called him a judge. So they went to Samuel, and they said, “Samuel, we want a King, like all the other nations have.” And Samuel talked to God about it, and came back and said, “Okay. Look. You know you have a king, right? Remember God? That One who brought you out of slavery and gave you all this land and all this freedom? Remember?” But they wanted a king like everyone else, so Samuel tried again, “You know this king is going to tax you and take your stuff and your labor and your sons for war and your daughters for concubines, right? Are you sure you want a king?” “Yes, we’re sure we want a king.” So he got them a king. Well, the first one didn’t go so well, but eventually after that false start, he got them a king, a boy named David. 

He was a great king, everyone still agrees, he was the greatest king Israel ever had, and after that first king, things went downhill. But even that first king, King David, even he did everything that Samuel had warned of. He took their stuff and their money and their labor to build cities. He took other men’s wives and daughters for concubines. Sure, he set them up in the eyes of their neighbors – they looked like a real nation, now! They had a king and a palace and warhorses and chariots, and they went out to battle and conquered new land, and the kingdom of David expanded and the Kingdom of Israel stretched all the way down to Egypt and all the way up across the Euphrates, and, wow! They are a force to be reckoned with! They can stand on the world stage, and be proud. All because of their king.

But this king was human, and like all humans, he was broken. He had a string of broken relationships in his life. With his friends, with his wives, with his children. He had enemies, even in his own family. And one day one of his sons, Absalom, decided it was time for David to retire. For years, Absalom worked to win the hearts of the people, and finally one day he acted, rebelled against his father, and claimed the throne. David was forced to flee from Jerusalem. He crossed the Kidron valley with his court and his servants, and climbed over the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went.

A thousand years later, give or take, Jesus of Nazareth, a descendent of David, came into Jerusalem. He came down the same Mount of Olives, toward the Kidron Valley. And he wept. 

The people greeted him as a king, bringing him a donkey to ride, lining the road, throwing down cloaks to carpet his path, shouting praises and greetings. He sure looks like a king! It’s what they want, what they expect, the fulfillment of the exact thing they asked Samuel for all those years ago, finally they will have their king! The one who comes in the name of the Lord, sure, but also the one who comes to conquer, to vindicate, to expel the oppressor, and establish a new kingdom, the Israeli empire, like back in the good old days! They know what they want! They want peace! And what makes for peace? A strong king, military might, economic prosperity. This is what they want, what they expect, from this king who comes in the name of the Lord. Oh, and a good measure of punishment and humiliation for their enemies, to boot.

And that is why Jesus weeps. Because they think that they know what makes for peace. They think that the vindication of the sword make for peace. They think that deeds of power make for peace. They think that this is going to be the good old days all over again. And they have forgotten. They have forgotten that David fled for his life, weeping for himself and his losses, that he fled to save himself and his kingship, that all his military might and worldly power led to nothing but power struggles and warfare, anger and division. They have forgotten that they once had a king, a God, who led them, not into cycles of revenge and conflict, but out of slavery and into freedom. 

And now God has fulfilled the promise of so long ago. God has sent them their king. But this is not the king that they want. This is not the king of their aspirations. This is the king that they need. The king that knows what makes for peace. This is God’s own self, the king that they had rejected, this is King Jesus, come to reclaim them as his people. Jesus weeps, not for himself, but for Jerusalem. Jesus claims his kingship, not by fleeing his enemies, but by confronting his enemies, by handing himself over to them.

We want a king. We want a God who will bring us vindication, who will lead us into prosperity, who will let us feel comfortable and satisfied with ourselves, who will punish others while patting us on the back. It’s just the way we are, human nature, perhaps? We want to dwell on the victories and the celebrations, we want to go from Palm Sunday to Easter without passing through Holy Week, we want to get resurrection without having to die first. But the thing is, we are all of us already in Holy Week. So many of us are already living there, bound by betrayal and brokenness, captive to grief and sorrow and pain and death. So many of us, so many of our neighbors, so many of our loved ones, maybe the person right next to you, maybe the friend who came with you today, maybe you yourself, are caught by the cycles of recrimination, of guilt, of vindication; are suffering because of what you have done, or are caught by the desire to see others suffer for what they have done; are grieving for a transition or a loss, of a job or a relationship or a loved one, and you can’t see how life can go on without that person or that living or that way of being. We are all of us, in some way, dying. Some of us are dying as our hearts break, or as our minds struggle, or as our souls wander; all of us are dying as our bodies move from dust to dust, in the cycle of life that rules us all. The journey from here is certain. We can try to ignore it, we can try to skip Holy Week, we can try to pretend that the betrayal of Maundy Thursday has nothing to do with us, that the death and pain of Good Friday bears no resemblance to our lives, that the loneliness and fear of Holy Saturday have never touched our lives. We can try to dwell here on the Mount of Olives, surrounded by palm branches, celebrating this worldly kingship. 

But Jesus doesn’t. Jesus pauses here, but it is only a pause. Because, though Jesus weeps for Jerusalem, this is not the end of his journey. He keeps on going, on toward the cross. He follows the road down from the Mount of Olives, and into the streets of Jerusalem, the streets where he will live out the worst moments of human life, he will be betrayed, and he will face pain and death and humiliation, and he will die. And he will show us what things truly make for peace: power that would give itself up for the sake of others; humiliation that would forgive its tormentors, even as they kill him; God who would come into the world precisely to reveal the fulness of God’s love, to show what true kingship is, to show us the freedom that has been won for us. It is only by going through all of this that Easter makes any sense. It is only by dying that you can rise again. What do you have to fear? You have already died with Christ, being baptized with him into his death. Follow him through, on through this Holiest of Weeks. Hear the story, bring your sorrows and betrayals and pains, bring them to the Table on Thursday, where Jesus will wash your weary feet; bring them to the foot of the cross on Friday, as Jesus invites us into God’s love; carry them into the grave, where they will rest on Saturday; and then leave them there, as Easter morning dawns on that empty tomb. The Resurrection is near! A new world is about to break through!