This is the shortest verse in the Bible. John 11, verse 35.
This is the story where Jesus is grieving due to the death of his friend Lazarus, already laid in the tomb having been prepared and wrapped for burial.
Jesus wept. Jesus had bodily functions such as blood, sweat and tears. He grieved even though he later raised Lazarus from the dead, an action causing an uproar in part that led to his execution. It is the week before Passover where Jews make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Jerusalem, occupied by Rome and also a volatile climate of competing sects and philosophies
Constant. Pouring. Softening.
The day begins with the soft pattering of rain on the rooftop right outside my window. Dawn emerges gradually as gray light matches the shade of the state road in front of my house. The sound of tires slicing through the rain is intermittent at first and as the morning breaks, becomes as constant as the rain.
In a city, 10 hours from where I live in Johnstown, Pa, Nashville, Tennessee, otherwise known as “Music City, USA”, and also The Buckle on the Bible Belt, yet another school shooting in the USA takes place.
3 children and 3 adults are murdered.
Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9, a daughter, a third grader.
Mike Hill, 61, a custodian, father to seven children and grandfather to fourteen.
William Kinney, 9, a son, a third grader
Katherine Koonce, 60, head of Covenant School
Cynthia Peak, substitute teacher, mother of three.
It continues to rain all week. It is the week before Holy Week.
Two days later, schools, and universities, both public and private throughout the state of Pennsylvania go on lockdown due to threats of school shootings and bombs, later this is determined to be a hoax. This included the pre-school class of my grandson and the university where my daughter is in graduate school.
The rain continues. Waking up Thursday morning to another gray day of rain, the enormity of how we continue to exist in the cycles of violence shreds my nervous system. I cannot begin to imagine having a conversation with my five year old grandson about school shootings and lock down drills.
Every week, he shows me the letters he is learning to write. There is something so tender about early writing, the different sizes of the letters and the way they occupy space with some letters giant and others not so much. My heart cannot contain a world where Anthony learns letters and also huddles in a corner in a preschool room with all the brightness and excitement of learning a dim afterthought to surviving preschool.
Sunday, Palm Sunday, the sun shines, seemingly oblivious to the past week of rain, the weariness, the tornados in Mississippi, the grief and shock lingering in many places and spaces.
Walking my dog, both of us eager to get out after many days of rain, in a park by my house, I found the park full of people and dogs. Gravel crunches beneath my shoes as I walk forward. There is hazard tape blocking part of the trail where the sheer fury of the wind cracked open thick branches of a maple tree. The sun, ever hopeful, accentuating the blueness of the sky draws out the beginnings of buds on the trees.
Across the park there is a gathering of families, possibly a church group around a cluster of picnic tables. Someone is dressed as the Easter Bunny and there are children running and laughing. I cannot see details but I am guessing there is a hunt for bright plastic Easter eggs perhaps filled with candy or other desired items.
Holy Week. A week marked with betrayal, violence, grief and denial.
Are we stuck here or will we find our way back to life?
April 4th, 55 years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in Memphis Tennessee. The Poor People’s Campaign and institutionalizing nonviolence were priorities he was bringing his organizing around before his untimely death.
Rev. Dr. King’s widow Coretta Scott King established The King Center, a center where people and organizations can invite transformation of unjust systems through cultivating a Beloved Community mindset.
This mindset includes a deep and principled commitment to loving through hard spaces.
Reading these words, exploring this mindset, I can feel deep into my gut, this is what moving from a culture of death to one of life resembles.
Jesus constantly challenged the dominant culture and the competing factions for power, not by establishing a new order that was reinforced by kings and principalities but by blessing and centering the poor, children, women, and other outliers, and by using images from farming and women’s work in his teachings. This was a clear threat to the established order. Jesus also lived the Way of Peace. His responses to violence were creative and affirming of life.
His Kingdom was Upside Down.
Holy Week, the yellow forsythia stands out in contrast to the gray skies. Here we are straddling the spiral of time in the valley of the shadow of death and cycles of violence and upheaval. Rooting and grounding into Beloved Community mindset in the face of evil invites us to sit at the table with those who would persecute us to find our cups overflowing with goodness and mercy.
Rejecting the culture of death is not passive. It is not merely removing guns, it is replacing the culture of mass weaponry with relationship building that molds grit and grace to be with people in hard spaces and places, transforming fear into love.
Beloved Community mindset is also unpacking the violence of systems, powers and principalities to live into a world where all Beings have access to resources to thrive, can freely and safely navigate in their bodies and be able to live in peace.
This is so Hard.
This takes great courage and practice.
This is also how Love Wins.
This is the Holy Work beyond Holy Week.