One Foot Stuck in Lent

 Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church, Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
Friday, April 10, 2020
Good Friday

The Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday with Veneration of the Cross

Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church's Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday (April 10 at 7:00 p.m.)Celebrant: The Rev. Adrienne HymesMusic: Ms. Gina SpanoCantor/Vocals: Ms. Katherine KnippelLay Reader/Camera: Mr. LeGrand Jones

Posted by Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church on Friday, April 10, 2020

In nature, the seasons of the year—winter, spring, summer and fall—provide a clear context for where we are in the calendar year as the world turns. Those seasons, independent of our needs and wants, come and go whether or not we are ready for them to do so. Indeed, the seasons come, and go, at their appointed times ordered by God.

Like the seasons in the natural world, the church’s ancient liturgical seasons come, at their appointed times, ordered by the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. These seasons in the church provide the context by which Christ’s faithful people, today, live and move with the ancient rhythm of the body of the Church across the centuries. There is a rhythmic pulse that changes tempo and mood with Feast Days, Holy Days, Fasts, special prayers and even seasonal blessings—all of which are at once set apart and interrelated.

On Palm Sunday we were clearly put on notice that Holy Week was upon us and that the long journey through the Lenten wilderness would soon end. The penitential color of purple will be replaced with the purity and brightness of the color white. The hymns will reflect the joyful celebration of the risen Christ, and the rejoicing sounds of the alleluias—silenced during Lent—will return.

But we’re not there yet. With the rapid onset of the Coronavirus plague, humanity has been shockingly and traumatically reminded of our mortality, and Lent feels like will linger beyond its appointed time in the church calendar, encroaching on the Easter season. The anticipated clear-cut movement from Lent to Easter, this year, has been disturbed and the rhythm rudely interrupted. The penitential color of purple, has not yet been replaced with the hopeful color white.  No, on this night it is a sorrowful and mournful black.

For 40 days we have been anticipating leaving the wilderness of Lent, as Jesus left; he didn’t get stuck there; his mission in obedience to God’s will pulled him out it. Certainly the pandemic has created its own spiritual wilderness experiences for people, but the universal human suffering caused by loss, grief, helplessness and the stench of sickness and death is not unique to this pandemic.

The question we must ask is deeper than, “How can I make it through this crisis?” Faithful people must ask the question, “How can I stand firmly in Easter when one foot is still stuck in Lent?” The first question is about fear of the power of sickness and death to take life; the second question is about Jesus, who by his death and resurrection, overcame death so that all may have life eternal.

The gift of the ancient church is that in the midst of the constant, chaos and instability of this temporal world, the church’s seasonal rhythm, its steady beat, points to the one, eternal and unchangeable God who brings order out of chaos. It points to Jesus, the One who overcame death and rose to life again.

This pandemic will end but not without forever leaving its mark on the fabric of humanity. This mournful day on which Jesus died on the cross is called Good because his blood left the eternal mark of salvation on the souls of humankind.

In her book, entitled, Hallelujah Anyhow!: A Memoir, (Church Publishing 2018), the late Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris reflected on her experiences of confronting racism, sexism and other challenges in society—“isms” of which the church was not immune. She lived through the dangerous struggles of the Civil Rights movement and the painful conflict of women’s ordination in the Episcopal Church. Throughout the seemingly insurmountable challenges, Harris met the obstacles with the cry of rejoicing, “Hallelujah, Anyhow.” Facing those struggles with faith and courage, Harris developed the resiliency needed to keep moving forward in God’s call for her life. In obedience to God’s call she became the first woman to be ordained a bishop in the Anglican Communion in 1989. Bishop Harris died on March 13, only a few weeks ago.

Tonight we stand at the foot of the cross, each with our own, unique, relationship with Jesus. Precious relationships that are at once set apart and inextricably interrelated with others as the one body of Christ.  Sisters and brothers, I am keenly aware of the impact this pandemic is having on our individual and collective spiritual health. Do not lose heart. Remain prayerful and faithful.

Remember that our baptism unites us to Christ in his death and in his Resurrection. And, even with one foot still feeling stuck in the treacherous wilderness of Lent 2020, choose to keep moving forward, leaning into the ever-steady, comforting, seasonal rhythm of the church. Choose to believe that though you may cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God is with you, and nothing can ever separate you from the love of God in Christ. Choose to be faithful to Jesus, who promises abundant life now and life everlasting when this fleeting life is over. Choose to rejoice in the midst of THIS darkness and fear and shout, “Hallelujah, Anyhow!”

AMEN.