Thursday, March 29, 2018
This week I’ve been thinking about a film that was highly recommended to me, but that I’ve yet to see. It isn’t so much a matter of time. The film is a 30 minute short, so I can’t claim that excuse, even in this extra busy time of year. Nor can I claim it might be sub-par, as its 2003 release brought a lengthy list of festival nominations and awards. The problem is one of reluctance; of premature ache perhaps – and so now it’s progressed to a matter of avoidance, as I already know what I think is the most awful part of the story; and that’s the part I just don’t think I can bear.
The film is called ‘The Bridge’, translated from ‘Most’, a Czech title by an American writer and producer named William Zabka. Critics call it a ‘breath-taking, modern day parable’. With the primary storyline leading up to and then following the moment a parent makes the unthinkable choice between a child and a careening, crowded train, it is no wonder it has stayed active in some Christian media circles. It’s also no wonder that in those same circles it gets extra billing as we approach this Holy weekend. And yet, as one of my Emmanuel College classmates was fond to say, if I had my druthers, I’druther not. I’druther not bear witness to such a heartbreaking moment, even if that means jumping to the conclusion that I know the conclusion when, in fact, I do not.
I do know this: we are about to enter the most challenging moment of our Christian calendar. There may be other occasions that cause equally great theological consternation, but I cannot name anything comparable to Good Friday for its depth of pain and sorrow. Unlike a film or book, I cannot avoid its telling, and I cannot avoid the truth that there simply aren’t soft and fuzzy ways to re-tell it. Jesus died in one of the most painful ways imaginable, in a most public way. As Thomas Froese wrote in this morning’s Spectator, Jesus died alongside and in the same way that “criminals, would-be revolutionaries and others guilty of disturbing the peace of the empire died in ancient Rome. Crucify him. And him. And him.” Crucify Jesus, they did.
If ever there’s a story that I should know, this is it, right? It’s the crux of our faith, with no pun but language fully intended. And even as I attempt to hold myself in these Maundy Thursday and Good Friday moments, without skipping ahead to the Sunday conclusion I think I know, I realize again that there is still more for me to know. There’s more for me to accept and understand about an ancient story whose depth is beyond any 21st century musings. No matter how much I think I know about how this is going to end, there’s more for me to witness, so that I might be the kind of witness Jesus intends. As Thomas Froese also said, our witness is about proclaiming the paradox; the beautiful paradox where “the cross – that old instrument of pain and suffering… has remained through time as an unlikely symbol of God’s healing power in a broken world.”
The ending you’ll hear on Sunday is the one you’ve likely heard before. There won’t be any last minute script changes around here. But I do pray and I do hope that there will be a freshness and an insight that has not been known before. I’m humble enough to know that it won’t come from the preaching, or the music, or even the people. It will come from the communal commitment to tell of the power beyond our telling: the power of God’s Love to overturn death; to bring life through all despair. Such is the healing power of Easter, and I can’t wait to be part of it with you.
With love to you all, this sacred season and always,
“Easter changes everything.”