By Gwen Gustafson-Zook, minister of worship at Goshen College
Reprinted from Lenten Devotions
SCRIPTURE: Luke 24:1-12 (NRSV)
The first weekend of the semester on an unseasonably warm and sunny January afternoon, I stood in a circle with students at a student leaders retreat. We were engaged in an intense game of “Ninja,” a game involving quick, deliberate movements. When my turn came around I quickly took a big step toward the student on my left. Unfortunately, the deck we were standing on was a bit slippery and I landed on the ground as the classic “pop” from my hamstring immobilized me in pain. I became very dependent on the students around me and on the grace of colleagues in that moment and over the next days and weeks of gradual recovery. The incident slowed me down, making me significantly more aware of pain; pain that we live with daily and pain that is a part of being human; pain that is superficial and pain that burrows to the core of our beings; pain that is physical and pain that is profoundly emotional; pain that we bring on ourselves and pain that is the result of injustice; pain that is personal and pain that ripples far beyond the initial point of trauma to effect the whole of communities, of countries and, indeed, of the world.
The story that we proclaim and are invited to live into each Easter is a story that begins with very deep pain, very profound suffering, cosmic despair. It is a story that calls us, like the women who accompany Jesus through the final days of his suffering, to be present to the anguish, the fear, the pain; to tenderly pour the oil, to bake the bread, to lovingly accompany, to hold one another, to weep and, yes, to prepare the spices and ointment – to do the very hard work of suffering together. But the story doesn’t stop with the pain-filled suffering. The empty tomb, while confounding initially, leaves us all with a glimmer of hope. Could it be that the pain and despair and loss and injustice do NOT have the last word? The good news of Jesus Christ is that our lives (and indeed the lives of all with whom we share this existence), in all their struggle and pain and brokenness and frailty, are framed by this profound, persistent and perplexing hope. Therefore, we carry on, with eyes wide open to signs of life beyond the suffering and pain. Christ has risen! Hope endures! Alleluia!