During this Holy Week it looked like the hills of Tennessee could take flight with the feathered leaves of new wildflowers. It is a reminder that the tender glory of eternal spring can transform hillsides into ethereal visions. No less wondrous is the transformational nature of the journey we make from Good Friday to Easter. It is called the Pascal Triduum—the wondrous three holy days that carry us from Maundy Thursday through the Vigil to Easter. It’s theologically a package eatly ied up, but in reality it is not that easy to move from our places of devastation and abandonment. When we are in Good Friday space where hopes are dashed and the past is haunting, it’s hard to make our way to Easter. On Good Friday we stand on ground hard enough to hold a cross and hear Jesus cry out, “Why have you forsaken me?” This year as I watched the new life transform the old hillside I was reminded that Easter begins in that Holy Good Friday moment where we feel the truth of death. There we shed tears with Magdalen and wonder how t is possible in that hard dirt the seeds offering transformation are sprouting. It’s hard to hope for resurrection an imagine new green hills in the dead of winter. It was by chance that a few folks from the St. Augustine’s community in Nashville stopped by and peered into an abandoned church on the roadside in Ecuador a few weeks ago and saw a forsaken Jesus. He had fallen off a broken cross and was propped in a corner with downcast eyes and broken plaster legs and hands. Old abandoned dusty webs surrounded him. It was the epitome of forsaken and yet, even into this spac, bands of light shining through the iron panes offered a glimpse of hope. It was holy and beautiful—not in spite of its forsakenness, but because of it. It was holy because Christ was there in the center of it, present when all else looked lost. His arms without hands in the dapd air looked as light as wings. As the scene became a vision, I could see Magdalene take the first steps from the cross to the tomb. Even in the depth of her grie, even in her brokenness, a ray of hope did not leave her. With a faith embodied in perseverance and purpose, she caught a glimpse at love in forsakenness and kept hope alive.
The story of the Resurrection begins with the words, “While it was still dark….” The light had not yet risen on Jerusalem on the Sabbath. With perseverance and purpose Magdalene heads out to the body just as the first rays of light transformed grey to lavender like water to wine. The beginning of light was enough to see the stone rolled away and to run to Peter and John. As they race back to the tomb with the murky light of dawn, they see enough to know Jesus is gone and they turn away. Mary stands alone with her tears and shadows. Her holy act was that she did not run away from the forsakenness, she stood in that holiness and reached for Jesus.
A thousand pieces of paper sat in our Chapel this Lent. Written on those pages were unspoken prayers, ministries and places where people felt the hard ground before their own crosses. Then slowly and with purpose children, staff, community members, young idealists, Magdalene graduates and every sort and condition of person folded the paper prayers into a thousand cranes. During this Holy week more people came and strung them all together so they could fl n the chancel. The transformation is as stunning as the new hillside of spring. It is as holy as the broken Jesus ready for flight. It is a hopeful and ancient reminder that we can begin Easter journeys with a feeling as lifeless as a piece of paper, and through purpose and perseverance in community be transformed into a vision of flight.
One of the newest residents of Thistle Farms who is in her twenties was shot six times by her perpetrator after he made bail this year. When I met her she said, "I know my new prosthetic leg and all that I have endured, all of this, is for a purpose. I am going to get strong so I can fly with you and share my story around the country. Women can heal and survive." I can already imagine her taking flight and like Mary Magdalene, running to the tomb with just the slightest glimpse of light. What begins as a horrific story of universal brutality in the light of hope begins a story of new life.
We can carry the holy oils of grief and walk towards resurrection on broken limbs with scrap pieces of paper. We keep walking and working with perseverance and purpose until we feel like we can take flight. We will fly away on some bright morning. So even while it is still dark, we can let the stone roll away from our hearts and feel new life pour hope into our grief. All those we love live on in the love and the memory of God. All we grieve is transformed into love. It is possible through our perseverance and purpose to sing, “when I die, alleluia by and by, I’ll fly away.”