Friends, this last week was hard.
It was Holy Week. And Holy Week is hard. Wherever you are, whatever your role, if you ‘do’ Holy Week, it’s hard.
It’s emotionally, spiritually, physically draining.
And I did things way simpler than a lot of my colleagues. But that didn’t seem to lessen the toll it took.
Because the events of Holy Week, if we allow them, work on us regardless of how many services we prepare or attend, how many hours we spend in prayer and silent vigil. If we allow them, they will speak to our deepest fears, our most passionate loves, our most restless desires, our most secret pains.
I had another one of those sitting-on-the-floor-of-the-church-in-tears moments this week. This time, at 11.00 at night. By candlelight. Before the Triduum had even started.
And then came the descent into darkness on Maundy Thursday. The three hours of Good Friday. The reading of the words from Luke’s gospel after the crucifixion: ‘On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.’ The quiet locking of the church door. The whispered, ‘Shabbat shalom’ to passers-by as the afternoon eased into evening and the town began to calm. The long restless rest of the grieving Sabbath.
As evening fell on Saturday, I went upstairs to my study, looked around, and realised that there were boxes I hadn’t unpacked yet. Just a couple, shoved under a table. But they held the most personal items, the things that make a house a home. I’d left them. A sign that I could always change my mind. I could return to Scotland. Or move on. Here? This place? It wasn’t home enough yet.
I made myself a cup of coffee. Grabbed some scissors. And with a deep breath, I cut off the tape. I looked at all the little objects I’ve taken with me wherever I’ve gone. Many countries. Several homes. Countless friends. Lots of love.
Resurrection joy pierced my heart slowly this year.
It came when I realised the church building has become the place I come to to pray. Often. And I feel rooted there.
It came when I was welcomed as an equal at the altar at another church.
It came when, at the very moment I was feeling guilty for not giving the church its Holy Saturday clean and for forgetting to buy Easter flowers, I walked into the building to discover it spotless and fresh, with a huge bouquet of flowers on a table.
It came when I heard the Lord’s Prayer being said in several languages as pilgrims and visitors and friends gathered for worship this evening.
It came when I checked my phone and saw messages and emails and texts from friends and family all over the world, and I realised that home is where love is, and love has followed me here.
And it came when I sat outside after all the busyness and emotion of the week, staring out at the dark Sea of Galilee, sipping a gin and tonic, and realised that for the first time since I arrived, I wasn’t looking backward at what has been, but forward at what is to come.
Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!