Into the Unknown

A kiss. A simple kiss, and it was done.

The officers stepped out of the shadows towards Jesus, who had been praying in the garden.
And in a few moments, it was over. Everything that the disciples had been working for seemed worthless. The Messiah they had been hoping for was arrested, accused of blasphemy and rebellion.

“Why did he go so willingly?,” the disciples began to think to themselves.
“We could’ve taken them.”
“If he WAS God, then couldn’t He have stopped this?”

His followers - his closest friends - dispersed and went into hiding, including Peter - who remained close enough to hear what was going on but far enough away to not be tied to Jesus - who ended up denying that he even knew the man who had changed his life, the fear of being connected to this massive disappointment overcoming his love for the man who stood on trial for his life.

They watched in disbelief as the tables turned, and one by one, their prayers seemed to go unanswered. They looked on in horror as they watched their leader - the man they believed was going to save the world - tortured, mocked, spit on, crucified, and killed. Everything they knew was over. All of the dreams, the hopes, the promises - gone.

Within the next 48 hours, I can imagine the thoughts and the talk:
“Can you believe we gave it all up for Jesus? We left our jobs! We left our communities!”

And now the only thing that they had left was a dead body and dashed hopes with a fear of what the future held in store.

Nobody seemed to know. What they did know is that the Jews were threatening to kill and harm them as well - and so they went into hiding, not knowing when or how it would be safe to go out again.

Sound familiar? The past several weeks have been a test of our ability to trust. And quite honestly, it’s not always a test I’ve been passing. The temptation to point fingers and blame, especially in the world of social media, seems to get easier and easier, especially if you’re sitting at home watching any number of the news broadcasts on.

Jobs have been lost and workers are being furloughed. Everything that we thought we knew has been turned upside down. I don’t have to tell you, because you’re experiencing it right here with me.

So I guess the big question is, how are you spending your Holy Week?

My home church, City Church of Long Beach, posted earlier this week that “this might not be the Holy Week that we wanted; but it might be the Holy Week that we needed.” Sit with that a while. What does that mean to you?

For the disciples, they felt like what the world needed was a Messiah that would conquer the world. They felt like what they needed was an overthrow of the Roman government. Someone that would save the world and establish a world where God would be in charge. But with Jesus’ death… that all seemed so distant. If only they knew how Jesus’ death was only the beginning. If only they could begin to look outside of their own lives into what they had just been called to.

We can look with hindsight and judgement on how the disciples managed the time between Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday, but if we look at where we are as a society in this - or even where we are personally in this time of uncertainty - I’d venture to say that we’ve been acting very similar. It’s human nature. Our worlds are filled with “what if” questions - and in an effort to gain some sense of control we turn to things like hoarding, arguing on social media, and demanding our right to gather. We look for ways to push the limits - much like a kid who has been told to not cross a line on the ground. They’ll inch closer and closer, all the while, keeping their eyes on you knowing that they’re testing you. As a parent, you look back at them and sigh, knowing that they’ve completely lost the spirit of the rule, right? It’s not so much how close they can get to the line as much as it is that the line is there to protect them, whether it’s from a punishment or from getting run over by a ride vehicle at the local theme park. To keep them safe. (Side note: yes, those lines are there for the protection of you and your children. Please take note of them.)

If there’s a lesson I’ve been learning today, it’s the importance of finding God in the moment.

Yes, even in the uncertainty. When Jesus died on the cross, God was there. In our own homes, God is there. If I look to the future and wonder, I find myself scared. There are so many unknowns. So much fear. If the lockdown is lifted, will I still be in danger with a compromised immune system? How long will I be out of work until the theme park industry returns?

But I don’t have you tell you about the fears out there. You know them all too well. What I believe God wants us to know in the moment, though, is that this fear that we feel? The fear of the unknown? It’s not new. It was the fear of uncertainty that followed his death on the cross. Don’t believe that you’re going to be okay when this is over? Welcome to the club - it’s the same doubt that plagued Thomas after the resurrection. And yet here we are.

We might not be able to gather in our respective places of worship this Easter Sunday, but perhaps it’s a call for us to reach inside the fear and doubt to trust that there are promises of resurrection. That even when we don’t have control, God is in control. It’s not easy, no. And there’ll be times when we look back and wonder if it was better when we allowed our lives to be controlled by worry and anger. But one step at a time, we’ll get there. And we’ll reach our own Easter in His time.

That’s the hope we have in God.

It’s not about judgement. It’s not about exclusion. It’s about recognizing hope. The hope that is there all along. The hope that was lived out by example through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. There’s not a magic prayer to pray. There’s not a sacrament that you need. It’s a simple recognition of that hope and accepting it as a reality in your life. Perhaps that’s the step you need to take today in faith. It doesn’t matter who you are - gay, straight, trans, cis, citizen, or immigrant - God’s love is for everyone. And in the midst of the uncertainty, God’s love is there to offer you comfort and hope. And perhaps, just maybe, that’s the Easter experience that you’ll need this year.

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