According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the word “weary” is defined as “exhausted in strength, endurance, vigor, or freshness.” My friends, I don’t know about you, but I am feeling especially weary as we meander down this Lenten weary road. There has been so much death around me; around many of us.
In October, a seminary classmate/friend died. In November, my favorite high school English teacher, drama director and mentor died. Just a few weeks ago, my dear friend Ben died. And then today, one of my beloved seminary professors also died. I don’t need to look very far this Lent to be reminded of those words we hear every Ash Wednesday “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Throughout life, we experience death in a variety of ways. But sometimes, like this Lent, people are taken before their time while others live a good and faithful life. The reality of death is that it is painful, hard, exhausting and grief weary. Death also reminds us that, as my friend Bryant said in his sermon last week, that we are given these people to love on this earth. But ultimately that heaven and being united with Jesus is the end goal because we are God’s beloved.
I will admit that is hard to see when people are taken from us way too soon. We would much rather have them with us in this world. We find ourselves proclaiming “This sucks!!!” Because the reality is that the world is filled with cancer and other illnesses that take those we love away from us way too soon.
So this Lenten weary road is filled with grief for myself and many others. I find myself wanting to collapse onto the road. Yet I know that if I get back up and keep meandering and trudging along, I will make it to the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. I will see and be reminded that “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there (Clarence W. Hall).” Only God has the power to overcome death and the grave.
However, the tears are still wet upon my face. I find myself wanting to take the pain of death and losing someone dear to us away. I cling to the promises that we are all beloved saints; called and claimed in the waters of Baptism. “You are a baptized child of God; whatever else you are remember that you are that, for that is the basis of whatever else you are.”
Both in life and death, we are intertwined with the community of saints before and after us. I will forever cling to the image of 80 plus of us linked together as we stood around Ben’s urn and commended him to God’s care. A tangible reminder of the cloud of witnesses linked together in time and space.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”–Hebrews 12:1-2 (NRSV)
Trusting in this promise, I will do my very best to lay aside every weight and sin that clings so tightly. Yet on this Lenten weary road, with tears still wet upon my cheeks, I will continue to journey to the cross and then eventually to the empty tomb. A reminder once again that death does not have the final word, but that God does. And because of that promise, I can picture heavenly racquetball matches soon taking place, broken bodies restored to wholeness, and so much more. For it is at the empty tomb, that my tears come not for death, but for the promise that life and resurrection hope that emerge out of Jesus’ own life, death and resurrection.