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Playing in the Tension

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

March 30, 2023

As I write, thousands of people are pouring into downtown St. Louis to celebrate the first day of the St. Louis Cardinals 2023 season. Opening Day is a big deal for Cardinal fans, whether they can be part of the festivities in person or can only take it in from a distance.

The day will include everything you would expect; a massive pep rally, Fredbird, the Clydesdales, a ceremonious first pitch, and finally, baseball will be back! For many of us, the start of a new baseball schedule reminds us that the seasons have rolled around as they should. The dreary days of winter are over, and all is right with the world once again.

If only. We know all too well the many troubling things in our world. And yet, there is always hope. A friend and colleague often shares surprising moments of goodness with the words, “I shall see good in the land of the living,” a reference to Psalm 27:13.

After witnessing the tragedy of another school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, earlier this week, we are perhaps even more aware of the great tension we live in. Good abounds in our world. And there is much that can and should trouble us and bring us to our feet in a cry for justice.

We will enter more fully into that tension as we move into Holy Week and Easter. This Sunday, April 2, we will join the celebration as Jesus enters Jerusalem. We’ll wave our palm branches and shout, “Hosanna!” We’ll join the pep rally even though we know the parade will end in tragedy.

On Thursday, we will hear Jesus’ commandment to “love one another.” We call the day Maundy Thursday with a nod to the Latin word “maundy,” meaning “commandment.” As we revisit the meal in which Jesus gave these instructions to his disciples then and now to us, we will also watch as someone close to Jesus chooses to betray him.

On Friday, we will watch Jesus walk into an unfair trial and a sentence that leads to a horrific death. We will call it “Good Friday” because we know that even as he suffers, Jesus will show us the very meaning of infinite love and grace. We will be in mourning on Saturday, knowing that Sunday is coming, and we will shout “Hallelujah” because “Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!”

Our faith story is one of undeniable tension. On the one hand, there is joy, hope, and promise. We can see good in the land of the living. And yet, resurrection is not complete. God’s kingdom has not yet returned to earth. Work is needed, and we, as followers of Jesus, are called to be fully engaged in that work.

Looking at the pivotal moments of our Easter story, we have many opportunities to be on the sidelines. We can be observers, occasional fans who show up for the big moments when spirits are high, and hope abounds. There is another option. We can embrace the tension. We can and should celebrate the good. We can and should lament all that still needs our attention and intervention. We can live faithfully in the tension because we believe the promise we have heard. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

Peace, Pastor Linda

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