by Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister
Some days it feels like everything is crashing in all around us.
The last seven days alone are, for me, a case in point. It began with a tremendous crash in my house while I was in the middle of a video conference. The rack system in a large closet chose that moment to spontaneously rip from the wall, spilling everything hanging and sitting on it out into one colossal mess.
A few days later, I got the unhappy message that our Conference website had crashed, temporarily shutting down one of our most critical hubs for resource-sharing during this pandemic. But all of that pales to the frightening news I got today…My beloved, wonderfully sassy, 100-year-old grandma is not well in a nursing home in Iowa, and of course our family isn’t permitted to be by her side. So we check in together constantly and we lift our intense prayers and we anxiously wait for test results and whatever will come to pass….
My experience is by no means unique. We’re all experiencing our share of ‘crashes’ during this pandemic. We are each struggling with a hundred new challenges, nagging fears, annoying ambiguities, and unanswerable questions every single day. Our need to gather with family, friends, and our church communities to draw strength from one another is frustrated by the greater public need to physically distance ourselves. And our emotions see-saw endlessly from one extreme to the other, sometimes within a single hour!
Perhaps our own present sufferings allow us to enter into this Holy Week differently than we have in the past. The pleading prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane sounds a bit like the prayers we ourselves might now be uttering: “…if it is possible, let this cup pass from me…” Maybe our own isolation and loneliness during this time help us more profoundly see how deeply alone Jesus must have felt as his journey neared its conclusion. And maybe we now find in his suffering some reassurance that God knows our sorrows, too, is acquainted with our griefs.
Suffering – whether that of Jesus or our own – should never be romanticized. It is wrenching. It is real. And sometimes it just needs to be quietly acknowledged as truth for the person who carries it. As we travel this Holy Week path, though, we do know this much more…
Suffering is not the end.
It isn’t the end of our ancient faith story, and it won’t be the end of our personal stories. The end is life. The end is victory over the worst we can imagine. The end is persevering, indistinguishable hope.
The end is Easter.
O God of persevering hope, come alongside us in our suffering during these days of pandemic and loss. Soften the landing of our daily crashes. And at the end of every day, point us firmly toward your Resurrection promise of new and glorious life. We pray it in the name of Him who has gone before us in all this. Amen.