Wednesday, February 14, 2018

To Prepare for Easter is to Fail

 To prepare for Easter is to fail.
            Behold upon your brow, a sign of a broken and contrite heart. A sign like hands uplifted revealing blood, admitting to murder. Iniquity pressed as ink, blotting wide upon the page.
            Preparing for Easter is being open about failure, about sin, about falling short—acknowledging and revealing we are mortal and immoral—at times we do wrong, or fail to do right, on account of the limits of our sight and experience and life–and sometimes we do so out of spite, embracing malice, living into a malnourished morality.
            Yes, such a truth is revealed upon us—a conscious admission of guilt, a recognition, even just on the surface level, that all is not well with our soul all the time—that we fail. This, an entryway to the long hallway leading to Easter.
            To prepare for Easter is to fail.

            To prepare for Easter is to fail.
            It would be easy enough to stop at the doorway, this moment or this day, in which personal limits and evils are on display…
            But Ash Wednesday opens up to Lent, and Lent insists upon asking those questions of religion… religion says I’ve externalized my guilt in quiet ritual on a Wednesday—but prophets like Isaiah and our Messiah Jesus points to the ways religion hides things even as it seems to reveal—a mark on the brow hides the sincerity and intentions of the heart.

            A whole society, insincere—false fasts, holy days, wholly hollow. Religiosity the camouflage for oppression… sure, I hurt the least of these—but I sure love Jesus. Alms, fasting, prayer… they only are holy when justice, freedom, generosity and mutual aid are their center.

            Or perhaps we do not live in a society strapped to the Spiritual—and it is instead self-congratulation that stymies our spirit. We’ve bought into some blaspheme that says, “look at the rigor of my contrition and the rightness of my practice. I have picked up habit after habit—that will make me holy… can everyone see it and either yearn to be me, thus proving I am ahead of them in the faith, or are turned off by my piety, thus proving themselves impious sinners.
            Yes, those two sides of religion—using it to sanctify societal sin, saying collectively “hey look how religious we are, and look away from how we treat people” OR using religion to become self-satisfied, self-righteous… these two temptations are present with us the moment we mark ourselves and turn our face toward Easter… we are caught up in a terrible tension in these 40 days, it’s the danger of this journey—to be more aware of our intentions, to look deeper than we would normally do at how sincere we are about this whole Jesus thing. Lent calls us to question the purity of our mind and explore those things deeply hidden in our hearts.
            The outward act revealing what is hidden, causes us to question what we hide in the act of revealing—isn’t that strange? Its like when you put a precious possession in in a secret place—and it is lost because you can’t remember where that place is…
            God help us, we can tie ourselves in knots as we journey through the dessert of these 40 days… God help us if we seek to reach the throne of glory and attain the resurrection through our Lenten discipline.
            To prepare for Easter is to fail.
            To prepare for Easter is to fail.
            You can’t prepare
—all of Hebrew Scripture didn’t prepare God’s people for the strange revelation of God’s work among them
—living for years with Jesus didn’t prepare the disciples for the jolt after jolt they experience in every major event of his ministry—the resurrection most of all—Easter most of all, unprepared
—Scared women at the tomb, unprepared
—Peter and Thomas, Stephen and Paul—unprepared.

            All of this, revealing our Immorality and Mortality, reflecting upon our sincerity and intention—Alms, Fasting, Prayer… can leave us clinging to nothing, in fact that may be what it is meant to do, if done well—leave us failing, faced with Sin and Death—and that’s where he finds us—we are found by Jesus in the failure of Sin and Death—the one hidden in Sin and Death, for our sake—makes of us, of all that we reveal and all that we hide, our total self found in him—makes of us the righteousness of God.
            Paul, in his sinful fit of rage, Stephen at death’s door—there is Jesus.
            Peter in his betrayal and Thomas in his doubting—there is Jesus.
            The mourning women showing up to wash the corpse of their Rabbi—there is Jesus.
            We gathered here—some acutely aware of how close Sin and Death are to us… there is Jesus.
            Some struck by their closeness only upon reflection… there is Jesus.
            Some weaving in and out of awareness… there is Jesus.
            All of us preparing to be unprepared, all of us in the process of failing, and in so doing finding the one who has already found us.
            To prepare for Easter is to fail.