This year I participated in Maundy Thursday (celebrating the last supper and the events that lead Jesus to the Cross), Good Friday (remembering the actual suffering and death of Jesus), and sunrise Easter service where we celebrate the victory over death and the Resurrection.
Each of those observances were deeply moving and powerful for me.
And they made me wonder as well. How does this actually apply to me? To my neighbor? To my fellow humans who don't share my faith?
And a secondary question that hung in the air for me while contemplating this day-- If Jesus died for all of us… why do we have a tendency to try to separate ourselves out from each other?
I had the good fortune last May to travel to Israel and see the actual places on earth Jesus' story unfolded. There in Jericho where Jesus went to pray and fast is a lift that carries tourists to the top of a cliff where there is a small church cut out of stone that is supposedly on the very place Jesus sat. On the ride up Bill and I sat with a mother and daughter and our guide. The mother and daughter were visiting from Gaza. They were both beautiful and gracious. And it turned out they were in the midst of grieving a great loss. The mother was a widow. Her husband and the father of her child was killed in violence in Gaza.
There was a recognition for me, for Bill, for our new friends that we belonged there together, that we were part of this same human family. We prayed together in that place where Jesus went to be alone and commune. Palestinians are a people I feel I was taught to despise. They are "othered" by many in this country and the truth is they are just mothers and daughters and fathers and brothers all trying to live and thrive and give their gifts of hope to the next generation.
The truth is the whole of the human family in in that same work. Not because they confess Christ as their savior. Not because they belong to our same university or church or race or gender. Not because we approve of their choices or morals or political opinions. Just because we're humans. Just because we are alive together and reside on this planet.
The more active our faith becomes, the more we have to recognize the fact that humanity itself will rise and fall together. The more active your faith, I think, the more universalist you become.
For me, this is how the cross relates to everyone, whether you're Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist, Pagan--wherever you fall in belief or non belief we are descended from the same civilizations that created these sacred archetypes. This story is OUR story.
We participate every day in the work of crucifying our own hope, our own Messiah. It happened just today in Pakistan. Women and children mostly, in a beautiful innocuous public park were playing, loving each other and bomb went off killing over 50 innocent people. Fifty six people and parts of hundred's of souls ripped into grief and unimaginable pain. It happened last week in Belgium. In our zeal to force an individual agenda, humanity keeps killing our best hopes.
However, for me the message of the resurrection and the power in the empty tomb resides in our species in those dark moments. Before the dust even settles we RISE. We rise and go back to lift each other. In those purposeful moments we rise against the tide, against reason, against our safety and against sometimes our lives we rise up to keep the light of hope alive in the world. Our lives becomes so simple in a tragedy, we are face to face with our humanity.
We rise when we recognize our ability to do something about pain or suffering. We rise when we step up to pay for the groceries someone can't afford. We rise when we intervene to help someone who feels invisible. We rise when we love each other well. We rise when we see each other in all our flaws and shortcomings and choose to love deeply and honestly anyway.
The message of Jesus the teacher, the brother, the Savior belongs to everyone. It is a human story. It has been told for generations. It resonates in all of us because we are meant to recognize what is the same in us. As we move forward as a society we rise against the zeal of bigotry, of racism, of single-mindedness and passive faith. We rise to be saved into the transformative body and wholeness of creation.
The Grace of God means there are no people beneath us, there is no one we need to build a wall to keep out. It means we are all worthy of a seat at the table.