Death is coming. We notice it in the signs and stories of Lent. We feel it in the pleas of the psalms. We brace ourselves for it in the building drama of Holy Week. Death is coming.
But death takes its definition from life. Without an experience of life, death loses its relevance. Without a vision for the life that was and the life that could be, the tragedies of life “as is” lack urgency. If we do not remember the summer and hope for the spring, we might make peace with the frozen grave of winter.
In the wake of the death and devastation of the Babylonian exile, Isaiah reminds the exiled people of interminable life. The promise of life after exile is made by the same God who first gave the people life and breath. The temporary death of their freedom cannot overcome the life already given and still to come. The hope of a leader who will cultivate justice is extended by the same God who unfurled the earth so it could bear fruit. The promise of a beacon to relieve despair is made by the same God who stretched stars across the heavens. Death and darkness cannot extinguish them. Death’s poison cannot taint life’s growth.
Yes, there has been death, sings the prophet, but remember the breadth and beauty of life. Remember the holy wildness from which life sprouted. Remember freedom that beckons even from a dimly burning lamp. Remember the promise that God holds us and keeps us.
Yes, death is coming this Holy Week, but remember that God’s love is already stretched out to the heavens. God’s faithfulness is already whispered between the clouds. Like perfume poured out extravagantly over dusty feet, God has poured the fullness of life across our dusty selves with the promise that more life is still to come.
For these reasons, O God, we praise you even when death approaches. For these reasons, we celebrate the abundance of life already given and look forward to the beauty that awaits us. Amen.
This week’s readings take us through the depths but then into the eternal light. We walk each step with Jesus, who suffers betrayal, abandonment, and death. But it is more than that. In his suffering, Jesus also enters into the brokenness of our human condition and feels our pain, such that on the Cross he even feels abandonment by God. He walks through the valley of the shadow of death because of God’s amazing, reckless love for us. This is the power of Holy Week. But that is not the end of the story. Jesus’ steps do not end at the Cross, for he walks out of the tomb! Now we can follow in his steps and participate in his new life. He is risen indeed!
Read Isaiah 42:1-9. How is God calling you to be a light? How does God empower you to follow God’s call to you?
Read Psalm 70. What is prompting you to reach out for God’s help today? In what ways do you ask for that help?
Read John 13:1-17, 31b-35. What acts of service does Jesus’ example in this reading move you to perform? Choose one act you will do today in remembrance of Jesus’ humility.
Read John 20:1-18. When have you, in the light of God’s love, let go of the way you thought your life would be in order to live a different reality that God intended for you?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.