384 Easter Sunday: He is risen, let us wait in hope.
Day 384 Easter Sunday April 4th, 2021
What Matters in a Time of Pain:
Jesus is journeying with us towards resurrection, and will heal all the hurt and will renew us in a special way. We continue the journey in hope, and I wish to meet again, not virtually but face-to-face.
An Easter Meditation by President Najla Kassab
Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.”
But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.
By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” —Matthew 26:6-13 (NRSV)
We are in the Holy Week. This week has always had great meaning in the Middle East, since pain and struggle has always been a vital part of our Middle Eastern identity. Many of us were born at the time of war and were raised in struggle. This is the situation of many of our churches in the Communion and around the world who are struggling with daily suffering.
But this week is totally different this year. There is a different kind of challenge, pain and struggle. I tried to understand why we are troubled in a special way? What causes our pain as individuals and groups?
The story of the women who came and broke the alabaster jar of very expensive perfume on Jesus’ head is a key story as we meditate on Jesus’ journey towards the cross and resurrection—since what she did for Jesus was an act claimed by Jesus as preparation for his burial.
“She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.” We find in this story a strange attitude from Jesus. He preferred that the expensive perfume be poured on him rather than giving the money to the poor. Jesus turned things upside down. What he said here sounds not consistent with his regular teachings to the disciples. It is a stand that is not in harmony with what we expect from Jesus.
Jesus poses a difficult question, just in his last days on earth, a question about what is the most valuable at the time of pain? As if lessons that we learned and lived in the life of the church are subject to question when people are suffering.
Jesus in his answer invited his disciples to think in new terms when faced with suffering, to rethink and be renewed on the way to the cross.
As if Jesus was opening their eyes that living our faith is not an easy equation that applies for all, but rather to take the challenge and try to discover the good news in the middle of suffering.
In reading this story, it is important to note that the story happened in the house of Simon the Leper. It says, “While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper.”
We usually read this story focusing on Jesus and the women, undermining that Jesus was in a house of a leper. We do not focus on how Simon was reacting with all that was happening. In these days a leper was marginalized in the society; no one dared to get close to him; when present in public, people will shout, “A leper! A leper!” so no one draws near to him. Jesus was ready to challenge the isolation that the society imposed on the leper.
Whether the leper was healed by Jesus, as some commenters claim, or not, in Jesus visiting Simon he was healing the society from prejudice and judgmental attitudes.
We have long called to cross the border to our neighbor. With Covid - 19, we are learning to love our neighbor by staying away. When we used to close our worship services by asking the people to go out. Today, we ask them to stay in. We are not as appreciative to the good Samaritan who took risks.
For sure, to be wise in the time of coronavirus is needed, and safety measures are inevitable.
But I believe that our struggle today relates to the new shaping that we are going through as individuals, churches and organizations, where we are called to discover anew the good news with new imagination and new strategies. It is not a time of simple answers but new equations where we discover how to be like Jesus for the people today.
It is a time for new answers; our eyes will remain on the difficult question,
“What matters in the time of pain?”
At this difficult time as a Communion we remain in solidarity together to answer the question together and revisit our commitment to communion and justice with a renewed mind. We all will come out of the struggle not the same, but pray that this time of isolation has given new insights, new longing to each other and firm commitment that we will overcome.
At this Holy week, we know that what makes it Holy is not the pain, but rather that our Lord is journeying with us towards resurrection, and our Lord will heal all the hurt and will renew us in a special way. We continue the journey in hope, and I wish to meet again, not virtually but face-to-face.
He is risen, let us wait in hope.
Najla Abou Sawan Kassab is an ordained minister in the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. She was elected president of the World Communion of Reformed Churches
Christ is Risen
He is risen indeed!
We are baffled by the very Easter claim we voice.
Your new life fits none of our categories. We wonder and stew and argue,
and add clarifying adjectives like "spiritual" and "physical."
But we remain baffled, seeking clarity and explanation,
we who are posperous, and full and safe and tenured.
We are baffled and want explanations.
But there are those not baffled, but stunned by the news,
stunned while at minimum wage jobs;
stunned while the body wastes in cancer;
stunned while the fabric of life rots away in fatigue and despair;
stunned while unprosperous and unfull
and unsafe and untenured. . .
Waiting only for you in your Easter outfit,
waiting for you to say, "Fear not, it is I."
Deliver us from our bafflement and our many explanations.
Push us over into stunned need and show yourself to us lively.
Easter us in honesty;
Easter us in fear;
Easter us in joy,
and let us be Eastered. Amen.
By Walter Brueggemann, from Awed to Heaven, Rooted to Earth - March 25th, 2013
O Happy Day
Aretha Franklin - Amazing Grace (Live at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, 1972)
Father Serafim Chanting in Aramaic during Easter
ANNOUNCEMENT #1: From Annette Lomont
You are well aware of the situation at the border, I’m sure. What you might not know is how great the need is for donations at all the service centers along the border. Right now I can only tell you about the needs at Sr. Norma’s Humanitarian Center in McAllen,Texas. A little later I’ll share any information that I get from other service centers.
The Humanitarian Center is in need of cash donations, but also some clothing, specifically the following items:
Children, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Women, (simple ones) medium
Men, t-shirts, medium
Women’s leggings, medium or one size
Cash and clothing donations should be sent to Rosa Pallais at the Center at the following address:
The Humanitarian Respite Center
111 S. 15th Street
McAllen, TX 78501
If anyone is interested in volunteering at the Center, please contact Sr. Norma’s secretary Michelle Nunez. Her phone number is 713-702-4088 and her email is email@example.com.
Thank you very much for caring about our sisters and brothers at the border and being willing to help them at this difficult time. In closing, I want to share this article about the plight of the migrants and why we do what we do.
Much love, Annette