By Rev. Lois Punton
I enjoyed the St. Andrew’s weekly walks and conversations that took place leading up to Easter. Those participating have shared profound insights into scripture and faith. We have told stories of life, experience and faith as we have journeyed together from the desert toward Jerusalem.
We have walked along the tracks, in the marketplace, in the park. And with Palm Sunday, we all begin along the road into Jerusalem. The raucous crowd shouts “Hosanna” and offers blessings as Jesus makes his modest entry into Jerusalem. His way is paved with the fabric of cloaks and the green of freshly cut palm branches. He is welcomed with open arms, this man who would be King.
In only a few days though, the tone has changed dramatically. Jesus’ words and teachings become so offensive to the religious authorities that they are incensed to the point of looking for an opportunity to silence him permanently. Whatever his reasons may have been, even Judas is convinced that this may be the only option left. Finally, to the shouts of, “Crucify him, crucify him!!” the hero of the story meets his horrific, torturous end.
As we walked this past week, our path shifted from open and paved to an unpaved walkway leading us into a desolate place of grey, gnarled trees still standing, fallen trees and a clutter of rocks and branches. As we entered this area, one of us proclaimed: “Golgotha.” Indeed it was. There seemed to be no life in the place.
While walking we chatted about the times our own path has felt clear and paved, easy to walk. We wondered whether or not Jesus knew, for certain, where his path would lead. Or if, like often it is for us, he couldn’t always see where the path would finally lead. We talked about the times in our lives where the path was most difficult, times we thought a particular path had come to its end only to have it revealed that there was more ahead if we took another step. We also spoke about the times when it seems the path is pulled right out from under our feet, perhaps like it may have felt when the earth quaked as Jesus died.
The path Jesus and his followers walked 2000 years ago ended at a sealed tomb. As far as they knew, this was it and this was not the ending they were expecting but it was the end they had to face.
How many times in our lives –whether great, small or somewhere in between –have we faced an unexpected ending or what we saw as an abrupt halt to the path we thought we were faithfully following? It can happen in so many ways. A dramatic change in our health or that of a loved one, a career change or job loss, the breakdown of a significant relationship, a death –whether expected or not, a long distance move, an accident or some other circumstance that cause us to feel like the ground beneath our feet has fallen away and we have no sure footing and no clear direction. In that time it might seem that the only thing before us is a sealed tomb.
The sadness, grief, and loss can be overwhelming. It is possible to get stuck at the sealed tomb. Yet, we are an Easter people. We have the advantage of knowing this isn’t the last step on the path. God calls us to step forward even though it seems the path is gone. As we take that next tentative step, the stone begins to roll away revealing an opening where God urges us to step to find the path of new life. The path is different from the one we knew and we may not be able to see very far ahead. Sometimes the first few steps are taken completely on faith that the path will appear. But we know the stone is rolled away. So we step out, trusting in God’s promise of hope and new life.
We are an Easter people. We know we must journey from Palm Sunday through Holy Week –Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the darkness of the sealed tomb. Time and again we have discovered that this is actually where the story unexpectedly begins, again. We hear the story, we see it, we experience it. Resurrection. New life. Hope. God’s promise.
The resurrection story begins again and again as we step out in faith to discover the next path.
May God bless us on our journey together.
By Rev. Lois Punton