I missed Lent this year. Instead of journeying with an Adam Hamilton study focused on the final hours or a cross-shaped Bible study, our congregation entered into a Season of Storytelling. The conversation was rich. The ability to sit and listen was a gift. But, I don't feel like it brought me to the cross.
I missed Lent this year. Unlike my parishioner Mary Elizabeth who can hardly wait to eat a cookie and some candy come Sunday because she has not had it for 40 days, I did not let go of one specific thing that I love.
I missed Lent this year.
At least I thought I did. I thought I had missed it until this Holy Week commenced. I now realize where Jesus has me, and it is one step closer to the cross.
My eyes have been awakened this week to all the places where his name is still crucified. I have listened many mornings to the beat of a drum outside my office window, a drum that keeps marchers on step as they go around a circle arguing for better wages from a drywall company doing work in the building upstairs. It's a fine argument to make. But not when the argument is being made by homeless people who are marching for a union and being paid anything but a minimal wage.
I went to the cross on Tuesday. My spirit was already vulnerable as I had been working on my Good Friday sermon. There is something about preaching on this day that is so real and so painful. My mind was at the cross as I exegeted a passage and sought to discover how the final words from the cross, "into your hands I commend my spirit" could be made tangible in the lives of those who will gather downtown today. But I soon found my spirit coming to the cross, too.
At some moment on each day this week I have been working for equality in our United Methodist Church. I have been working, praying, and communicating for ways in which doors that are currently shut might be opened to LGBT United Methodists and those who will soon come to our churches. Each day, through emails and conversations, I have been aware of what a struggle this is - of how strong the opinions are on each side. Each day, I have been aware of the hurtful comments that are made - how mud is sometimes slung back and forth from both sides of the aisle. And, each day this week I have been reminded how even people who stand on the same side of the issue can somehow figure out how to oppose one another - to discourage one another instead of encourage one another. There have been times this week when I have wanted to toss my hands in the air and let it all go - not my call to this struggle and not my love of God - but my love of an institution. The struggle is so painful. But, I am reminded that there are thousands of people who have been struggling a lot longer than me. They have not given up. I am also reminded of how my life has been much easier - I am a straight, white person who has always been accepted, after all. And, through the push of Jesus, the journey to the cross, the shouting voices that call us to do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with God, I am not giving up either.
The cross is such a mysterious place. My colleague in the city has done a sermon series on all the theories that describe what happened there. There are a million of them. We can disagree on what exactly happened and the reasons behind it. But this I know. I know in my heart that Jesus came and showed us how to live - how to love extravagantly, how to go to the margins, how to let go of our lives so that God could have our lives. I know that Jesus willingly went to the cross. He went to the cross to show that death would not have the final answer. He went to the cross to show who was in control. He went to the cross, and he preached prophetic words even from that place - telling a thief, yes a thief! - that even the thief could enter God's kingdom that day. He went to the cross and continued to share words of love even from the place of crucifixion. He went to the cross and demonstrated to us what it looks like to embody the words, "Take up your cross and follow me." He was crucified - not for being bad - but for being so incredibly good. He was crucified for taking something - for taking power away from the fists of this world's ways.
And then he rose. And his resurrection is what tells me that no matter what might be happening today, there is always another way. No matter how many people walk without the basic necessities or the care or the dignity they respect, there will come a day when all of God's children will have shoes! No matter what today holds, I know that the ultimate tomorrow is held by God.
I've journeyed to the cross. I'm ready to stand with him there from noon to 3:00 today. I'm ready to go to Golgotha. But God, when it's all over, please, please give me the courage and the wisdom to not just walk away and celebrate Easter but to take up the crosses you continue to call me and our church to carry. Show us, once more, who is in captivity and waiting to be freed. Show us, God, who needs your resurrection power - the power that shows us who really is in control. Take us to the cross.