I’m trying to make sense of today.
I think the sermon went well, but I’ve had more post-sermon mental backlash than I’d experienced in a really long time.
It isn’t about me. I know that. God does what God does through a sermon. The preacher does her or his best and then, ideally, leaves it to God to work in people’s hearts.
But most preachers I know deal with some version of this. Many don’t take Monday as their day off because it’s just too easy to spend the day stewing. “Ideally” doesn’t tend to work the way one would hope.
Today after church, I spent the majority of my socializing time talking with Sasha, the daughter of Gerry, who died recently. She’s still in a lot of pain. During my sermon, describing the women followers of Jesus who went to the tomb Sunday morning, I said, “Have you ever woken up, felt good, felt normal, and then remembered? Maybe a tragedy, maybe a horrible situation, and it hits you again as you’re waking up, a brick to the face. You wish you could have stayed oblivious for another 30 seconds, just to not have to remember how bad things are. But they are and forgetting doesn’t change it.”
Sasha gave me a thumbs up and a huge head nod from her seat, which caught my eye and I could affirm that yes, she knows exactly how this feels, suffering the loss of her father.
So we talked a lot after church. She made a horrible joke and laughed hard at it and it was so good to see her laugh. But we also talked about her fifteenth birthday coming up, which is so important in Nicaraguan culture. She said, “I thought he’d be there with me.” She started to cry, hard, and I got over awkward and put my arm around her.
A friend drove us home after church because our car has broken down again. We stopped on the narrow road so I could buy avocados from the older woman whose table is there.* But she wasn’t at her table. Another woman, holding her baby, was covering it. I bought two avocados (avocados=points in my marriage) and was returning to the car when I saw the older woman crossing the road. She’s very hunched. Her voice doesn’t really work, a very quiet croak. And she gave me a huge hug.
I buy avocados from her, every chance I get. I talk a little with her every time we see each other, whether or not I buy avocados. But it’s a brief interaction, walking to school or stopping to say “hello” on my way home. She’s on the other side of the table from me. Yet today she was so happy to see me and the hug, and her huge beaming smile, made my Easter, and that’s saying something.
I love this warm culture. I don’t love everything about it, especially the things I still don’t understand, but today Jesus in the form of this beautiful, hunched, loving, nearly-voiceless elderly woman gave me a hug in the street and Easter was real for me. It’s Sunday. The resurrection happened. God is alive and living in Managua. She sells avocados on the narrow street. And she hugs gringos for no reason, just because she’s glad to see them.
I spent a lot of time with my family. That’s why I didn’t play ultimate today. We got along as well as we do and talked and laughed and teased and snapped at each other, as we do. We missed our eldest in Los Angeles. We hunted for eggs and ate pie.
Then, when we were preparing for “family movie night,” a neighbor from up the street showed up at the door. She was in tears. She needed to talk with Kim. What you can’t understand about poverty unless you see it up close–or live it–is that nothing works for you. You’re working too many hours to try to feed your family and your drunken husband shows up just long enough to take the food you’ve got in the house and then, because you are working so much, your child is going unsupervised and the influence of the other kids is toward taking drugs and making terrible choices. What do you do? Work less? You can’t. Have your husband take care of it? Ha. Ask your family for help. She did, and they were awful.
And so she shows up, needing to talk to Kim, and Kim can’t solve the problems–we can’t solve poverty’s grinding attack–but Kim can listen and care and pray and try to think through possible solutions.
And that’s Easter, too. She is Jesus, as well.
Today, I saw Jesus at least three times. She cried twice. Once she smiled and hugged me. I couldn’t solve anything. I celebrated Jesus rising from the dead. I mourned with a girl whose father is dead. She asked me if I’m still telling people about him. I am. I gave the sermon I had, I believe I gave the sermon God gave to me, and I both held back from saying things that might offend and offended people with things I said.
Step back. You know what’s going to happen next. You know what they’ll find when they get to the tomb. Go split screen in your mind. Picture this is what the women are talking about, this is the mood in their rooms as they light candles to go out in the dark to perform the last act of service, the final gesture of love for a man who can no longer do anything for them. Was he wrong? Were his teachings false? Was his belief in God too hopeful? Did God fail him? Do any of those questions even matter now that he’s dead?
Their hearts are heavy as stone and they’re trying to follow through with an act that is the right thing to do but in the end what does it mean for this dead man? And they’re going to an empty tomb. They’re minutes away from encountering angels. They’re about to find out that everything, everything has changed and Jesus wasn’t wrong about any of it. They just couldn’t grasp what he told them.
Easter means that although we’re still talking about taking care of Jesus’ body, Jesus has risen from the grave. We’re still discussing whether they’re going to come hunt us down because we followed him. We’re asking one another, “Who will roll away the stone?” We’ll get answers, and so far beyond the scope of what we could have imagined.
Happy Easter. Was yours strange, too?
*Picture old metal table, half the size of a card table.