You may have noticed by now, that there are some things I approach differently than some of my pastoral colleagues. This is not a good vs. bad thing—at least I don’t think it is. It is more a choice I make out of my own experiences in life and how I understand the underlying message of the gospels. When I post about some of these choices on Facebook, I will often receive comments to point out the error of my ways. And I am okay with that. I appreciate that we are working from slightly different contexts and values. And I can live with a bit of disapproval in the service of what I think may be more important in a particular place and time. Or maybe I am just a bit of a rebel. Or maybe I just have a strange personality bent.
One of these “quirks” is the way in which I choose to look at our liturgical seasons of repentance, penitence and self-examination. For example, some traditions—like not singing “Christmas” songs until Christmas eve, or retiring the word “alleluia” during the season of Lent—until the day of resurrection. These are traditions I respect but may not choose to follow. And there are more: like how do we deal with the “secular” additions to our religious traditions? Do we cast them out into outer darkness and choose to set ourselves totally apart from cultural conventions?
Good theological food for thought. Personally, I always appreciate the paradox of being in the world and not of the world. Especially when we are trying to communicate a gospel to people who do not share the hundreds of years of tradition and practice that are so much a part of who we are as institutional church. Can they hear the story if we insist there is only one way to tell it?
We live in serious times. Brené Brown writes that every morning when we get up, we check the news so we know what to be afraid of today—and who to blame. It’s hard. It can be overwhelming. In counter-point, I would like to make a case for the need for whimsy.
Lent is a time for serious reflection. Holy week—even more so. We observe the loneliness of the story of Jesus moving toward Jerusalem and his sacrifice on the cross. Jesus stands apart from the kind of leadership the people of God have come to expect. He walks alongside the poor, the marginalized, the forgotten, the infirm. And he speaks truth to power. It gets him killed. This is heavy stuff. And, as we walk through the story this week, we will look closely at what it all means as we re-tell the events of so long ago.
But there is also another thing to keep in mind this week. In the midst of the darkest times, there are moments of light, even humor that help us to hold onto hope. One of my favorite characters created by Terry Prachett says, “laughter helps things slide into thinking.” I believe Jesus knew how to use the absurdity of situations and the frailty of our human emotions to do just that. Take a closer look at his interactions with the disciples and antagonists this week. Jesus did this well. Hard things can be dealt with if we hold them lightly. A bit of whimsy can lighten the load. And sometimes humor can create a space to hear hard truths.
So, I invite you to walk with me through this incredibly packed week– of joy and laughter of disappointment, anger and fear. Friday we will sit at the feet of the cross. We will wait in silence on Saturday in suspense. But don’t throw out the Peeps and Chocolate bunnies—there is plenty of room at the Easter table for them as well.
Blessings and peace, my friends. Pastor Nancy