A few months ago, I talked with a minister who knew people who were killed in the Sutherland Springs church shooting in Sutherland Springs, TX. When I asked this minister how he was feeling regarding the event, he replied,”
“I’m just fine. My friends are with Jesus now! “
I could appreciate the sentiment of this theological conviction, but I found myself thinking “this doesn’t say much about the pain and the loss of having someone you love no longer living, especially someone who has died as a result of violence or who has died early in life.”
There are Good Friday and Holy Saturday events that fill our lives. Someone goes to the doctor, and they get news of carrying a terminal illness. You see a good friend one day, and the next you learn that they have died as a result of a car crash on their way to play cards with friends at church. You are engaged to be married, and you are happier than you’ve ever been; and then your fiancée announces that he/she want to break off the engagement because there is no longer love you !
How does the promise of new life in the Resurrection get us through these Good Friday and Holy Saturday experiences? Dr. Serene Jones, President Of Union Theological Seminary ,has recently observed:
“ The strength of a community resonates as much in its capacity to grieve as to celebrate. “ ( Reconceiving Hope Conference, Austin Theological Seminary Austin, TX 04 /13/ 2018. )
This becomes a challenge due to the fact that quite a few Christian congregations are not that good at allowing for expressions of lament. This can be attributable at times to a theology that emphasizes triumphant resurrection. Here the notion is that the Resurrection beats everything that human life can toss the way of a believer. Like Job withstanding all of the plagues and hardships, we are asked to trust in the Resurrection Of Jesus, and therefore all hardship and loss will be conquered.
Again, while I affirm that the Resurrection does indeed point to the reality of eternal life with God, I’m not sure that it follows that we disregard all hurt and suffering as if it is nothing.
For someone who has a lost a child due to ectopic pregnancy – fetal loss or someone who has endured sexual assault, these types of losses are very real and speak to the destruction of not only personal safety, but also personal identity as well.
Prof. Joel Baden of Yale Divinity School has remarked that:
“The phrase from Genesis of “be fruitful and multiply “ has been understood historically as a sign of divine blessing, obligation and that infertility has been viewed as failure, sin and cosmic brokenness. Baden argues that this text ( Genesis 1:28 ) would be better understood not as having the obligation to procreate but rather viewing the people of God as being blessed in the future, that their talents and accomplishments will be viewed with favor and with blessing “ ( Ibid ).
Dr. Serene Jones has noted that women who have experienced loss or sexual assault will confer and support one another in women’s bathroom stalls. But the imperative becomes how do we bring the cries of women and men, who have experienced the pain of infertility or sexual violence, out of the bathroom stalls and into the space of the sacred pulpits and public spaces ?
The Holy Saturday experiences in our life will suggest that Jesus is dead, but God still lives. God holds death within God and God holds this all. The story of Jesus after the Resurrection has Jesus walking with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and they don’t recognize him, only until they see the breaking of the bread. ( Ibid )
There is hope in the prediction of a future that we can’t see.
The Resurrection indeed transforms all lives and all creation. We need the courage to talk and walk with one another as we move through the Good Fridays and Holy Saturdays of our lives, and know that God will make our lives new and whole this day and always.
May it be so.