On Palm Sunday, I spoke about the cycles in the Church year. And I spoke about the cycles that are part of each of our lives. There are transitions from the happy expectation of a Palm Sunday to the unknown of Gethsemane, to the disappointment of Good Friday. The ups-and-downs of life are all re-presented in the liturgy of Holy Week and Easter.
It is a transition from one to the other. It may not all go smoothly or directly in sequence. A step forward, a step back. But then, two steps forward.
We're not meant to get stuck in any one part or at any one place, particularly in Gethsemane or on Good Friday. It may certainly seem like that though with this global pandemic that has thrown a pall over the entire world… and now the concern of a new pandemic. It's like being stuck in Gethsemane… or even at Good Friday.
People can get stuck in Gethsemane. A parish can get stuck in Gethsemane.
That's not the model that Jesus gives us.
But, we do get stuck. When that happens, especially when it persists, I find a good question to ask myself is, "What benefit do I get from not moving on. And, you know, there can be unconscious benefits - or what a person sees as a benefit to hanging on. One could be avoiding the pain it costs to do the work it takes to move on, to descend into a place where we worry we won't be ok.
Jesus almost got stuck himself in Gethsemane. After all, he was human as we are. You remember what he prayed, "Father, let this cup pass."
But, he did move on. He stepped out of the Garden of Gethsemane after being alone during a sleepless night. No doubt very frightening steps to tread. There are steps that are daunting in the cycles of life.
The core of the Christian message is that Jesus shows us the Way.
He shows us how to trust and how to have faith that we are not alone, that we are not abandoned when we step forth into the darkness of our Good Fridays. When we let go as did he.
Jesus shows us that we will not be overwhelmed, that we will not fall totally apart. He shows that you have to go through Good Friday to get to Easter! And, so he shows the Way from life to death and up out of the darkness into new life.
The Christian message and Jesus' Easter promise to us is about Eternal life. The Christian message is always about the Resurrection. The Christian message is always about light out of darkness, life out of death, new life from trusting to let go …
The model points beyond the temporary ups-and-down… into forever. It points the way out of Gethsemane into the unknown of Good Friday … and on to the life of the Resurrection.
There's another part to all this too, you know. And it is a very crucial part.
It is forgiveness.
Forgiveness goes with the Resurrection. "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do," Jesus says.
Forgiveness means you can begin again in the new life with a slate wiped clear and clean. Remember always that, in the steps beyond Gethsemane into the depth of Good Friday, there is forgiveness.
There is forgiveness simply because you are forgivable. You are forgiven because of Jesus' sacrifice and because you are so loved. That's also the experience of Resurrection.
Forgivable and lovable, the essential ingredients of Resurrection and new life on your steps now and along your steps into forever.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen!
And .. empowered from the courage to let go in Gethsemane, the people echo with joy and with a new understanding for freedom, "Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!"
Happy Easter! "Christos aneste"
The Reverend W Glenn Empey