As we enter the season of Lent and the twelfth month of this pandemic, I have been struck by the relationship between suffering and celebration. Recently I heard my English colleague, Emily Norman, share a presentation on “Celebrating Diversity” in which she showed how our Christian tradition holds the two in important tension. We celebrate the suffering of Good Friday through lament, mourning, and repentance; we celebrate the victory of Easter with joy, rejoicing, and hope.
Emily made the connection between the two even more distinct with these powerful statements:
Crucifixion without Resurrection = No Power or Hope
Resurrection without Crucifixion = No Justice or Peace
My strange encouragement to you this month is to embrace suffering through lament, mourning, and repentance. We have been battered by this pandemic, and even though we are making it through, we have lost much, and our students may have lost even more.
Likewise, I speak on behalf of the Christian school colleagues I meet with virtually on a weekly basis as we wrestle with the suffering of marginalized people in our communities. We wonder, can we truly celebrate without acknowledging the suffering of others? Can we truly rejoice without repenting of our own sins as well as the sins of past generations? How can we usher in God’s justice and peace through our work?
As an avid reader of the Old Testament, I am consistently reminded that when the Lord turns the people of Israel to himself, there is a call for deep repentance--repentance not only for the personal and corporate sin of the time, but also for the sins of prior generations. A significant example is when Daniel personally repents for his entire nation as he pleads for God’s redemption:
But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. We have refused to listen to your servants the prophets, who spoke your messages to our kings and princes and ancestors and to all the people of the land. –Daniel 9:5-6
Ecclesiastes also tells us that there is a time to cry, to grieve, as well as a time to lose. Maybe, just maybe, for a short while we should embrace the suffering caused by the pandemic and our people’s histories. And unlike Job’s friends, perhaps we’ll be willing to sit amongst the suffering for a period while we wait for a time to rebuild, laugh, and dance.
Because of both the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, we can both lament and pursue a better future.
In the next newsletter: more about the hopes and good work to come!
CACE Senior Fellow