Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Word that Dispels all Darkness: Staying Near Jesus in Holy Week

On the Mount of Olives by Nikolai Ge

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, when giving his nobel prize speech, said, "One word of truth will dispel a world of darkness."  This is the Solzhenitsyn who suffered long years in the Russian Gulag, where the darkness was formidable.  It was a time when hope seem buried in the snows of Siberia along with many of the people who tried to uphold truth and beauty.

Today as our world darkens with the violence of militant Islam, the distortion of gender and the meaning of family, with persecution and peril, with our own fear and cowardice, with selfish ambition, and greed, the Word is spoken that has and will dispel all darkness.

In case we are tempted to give in to despair or to wonder what God is about, God himself shows us. The word he speaks is himself given up for us all.  There is nothing he will not do for us.  In the Garden of Gethsemane on Thursday, we will be with Jesus as he cries out to be saved from this hour. On Good Friday we will be at the cross where Jesus willingly offers himself to be betrayed by friends, stripped of influence and dignity, and humiliated so that in his death we could have life.

In the same way that in creation God spoke a word, and light exploded into all that was formless and void, Jesus' broken body is the one Word of Truth that explodes into history, dispelling our darkness.

Holy Week is the time to set aside all suspicion of Jesus, all ways that we doubt God's love.  He does not deserve it.  It is time to crush the head of the serpent who is always asking us if God has not withheld something good from us.  Holy Week is the final Word that he will withhold nothing.  He will lay down his very life for us.

We may be with Jesus in the Garden grieved and heavy, begging God for relief and to save us from this hour.  But he is with us, and if we stay with him, we will also share in the deliverance that does come because it is for us. Jesus asked to be saved from that suffering.  God answered his prayer by saving us.

We may be with Jesus at the Cross, broken, feeling forsaken, cast aside, more dead than alive.  But he is with us, and if we die with him, we will also share in his resurrection.

During Easter Vigil, when we are waiting at the tomb for some miracle, some hope, we can be confident that we will encounter Jesus.  We may not recognize him at first, but he will speak our names, and we will know him.

In November, my husband and son were in Nigeria, a country in which the persecution of Christians is a daily reality.  One day they were at Archbishop Ben Kwashi and Mama Gloria's compound where sixty orphans have been adopted and been given the Kwashi name.  Some bishops' wives had traveled there to help out and pray.

At one point, they were having a prayer meeting in the courtyard, and the Spirit was moving.  One of the bishop's wives said, "I would like to pray for all of the children who saw their parents murdered in front of them.  If that happened to you, please come forward, and we will pray for you."

All was silent.  My husband and son were paralyzed.  Were there truly children here who had suffered such an atrocity?  And if they were here, would they ever come forward?  It was silent and still for awhile.  All of a sudden, a small girl, maybe eight years old, stepped out, tears streaming down her face.  Then another, and another, until twenty five children were standing in the center of the courtyard.  By now, all were in tears.  The magnitude of this suffering in the lives of children seems insurmountable.  Did these Nigerian women gathered to pray believe that God could dispel such horror inflicted on the hearts and imaginations and lives of little ones and bring a resurrection?

Apparently, so.  They have faith in a God who wins out over evil.  They all circled around these children, all those mothers.  And they began to call out to God to bring his healing light to encircle and infill and uphold these children that now are his.

And God is doing it...through miraculous prayer moments, but also through the simple love in day in and day out meals and schooling and care from the Kwashis and others.

When we have questions, sometimes no number of words can satisfy.  The only answer to such evil or despair is only THE WORD, which is the incarnated Christ.  In Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, the character of Orual is writing her complaint to God.  And when she finally gets to face him with her accusations, she finds that it all turns to naught in her mouth.  Then she says this:  "I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer.  You are yourself the answer, and before your face all questions die away.

May we know again this Holy Week that Jesus has the last word, and he utters it with his very life, holding nothing back.

                       Crucifixion, Nicolai Ge
Crucifixion by Nikolai Ge

Stay close to Jesus, and you will share in the dawning light that will dispel the darkness, not only from the world, but from the very corners of your own soul where his light can seep in.  This is accessed simply by being with Jesus in confidence that his light is greater than the darkness of your confusion and doubt.  May your journey with him this Holy Week bring you into resurrection light.