Dear People of the Diocese of Kootenay, as I write this at the end of February, the world is watching in horror as war unfolds in Ukraine. I am wondering how I can possibly say anything joyous about Easter when it feels like evil is being unleashed once again.
Through Holy Week, we will walk once again through the story of Jesus dying at the hands of the oppressive powers of Rome: this year with fresh images of another cruel tyrannical force trying to subjugate people. How do we proclaim Easter hope in the midst of this? I realize though that this is precisely what it means to be people of faith, that in a time of uncertainty, in times when the powers of death seem to be overwhelming, we retell, and re-live, the Great Story of Death and Resurrection. We stand in awe of Jesus’ trust in commending his spirit to God. He quotes Psalm 31. This is the prayer of trust we say every night at late night prayer: “Into your hands, I commend my spirit.” We hear the witness of the first Disciples that Death did not ultimately triumph, that Death is not the last word, and Life burst out of the tomb. We add to that Great Story our own witness that Jesus is alive in our midst; that the Spirit of God enlivens and renews us when we gather to worship and when we go out into the world to serve. I pray that in spite of how things are in the world, you will enter the great drama of Holy Week and Easter with a renewed and deeper sense that God is indeed at work bringing new life. Joy is not a feeling dependent on outward circumstances but rooted in an abiding confidence in God’s bringing new life in all circumstances, God bringing courage, fortitude, endurance, stout-heartedness, grace and love.
A Holy week prayer practice: When you read this issue of the Highway, it will be almost Holy Week. A spiritual practice I would recommend during this week, as we follow Jesus through the last days of his earthly life, his walking toward the cross, is to plan your own funeral. Holy Week confronts us with our own mortality. When God chose to live in our midst as a human being, that choice included death, as death is part of being human. Our culture tends to avoid discussing death. It is an act of faith, knowing God is faithful to us even in death, to plan our funeral. It is, of course, also an act of care for our loved ones, to make a will, to leave clear instructions, choices of readings and hymns that speak of your life and your walk with God. Your loved ones will feel assured they know your wishes. Discuss your plans with your priest, and ask them to put your instructions in a confidential file in the parish office. Leave the instructions with your executor. All of this is a witness to your faith.
“In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.” Thanks be to God.
May you have a blessed Holy Week and a Joyous Easter!
Yours in Christ,