Hope in the midst of a perpetual Holy Saturday
Creating community with folks who are living outside is often like entering into a world where it is always Holy Saturday; the day in the church calendar where Jesus is dead, all hope is lost and the possibility of renewal seems at best foolish and naïve. The death of hope is in fact, quite literally, yesterday’s news.
I’ve always found hanging on to hope to be a difficult task, because when I’m honest with myself, the world looks pretty bleak. As I listen to the news the question of what kind of broken planet we are leaving for my daughter and her generation haunts me. I don’t even need to cross oceans or peer into the future, the planet we inhabit right now looks very scary.
And instead of just moving quickly on to resurrection I want to wade a bit more into how messed up and hopeless our world looks, instead of just skimming quickly over it. Recently Oregonian reporter Anna Griffin, sat down with Street Roots Editor Israel Bayer to talk about what she learned working on an amazing 8-part series on the state of homelessness in Portland (both the series and the interview are amazing and I strongly recommend reading them both). In the interview she says something that, as my Quaker friends say, “spoke to my condition”:
Going places and seeing children is the worst. I have a story coming out next week on family shelters. The lack of hope among many parents and just knowing it’s going to be many months before they get something permanent — it’s heartbreaking. I don’t know how anybody who pays attention to homelessness in our community doesn’t end up heartbroken.
A couple weeks ago while walking around downtown I met a man living outside, I’ll call him “Gary”. Gary got a huge smile on his face as he had a chance to interact with my daughter (she joins me each Tuesday downtown), trying to and eventually succeeding in convincing her to give him a high-five. As we chatted he started talking about his own daughter who is 31 years old and how he had no way to contact her to tell her that he’d been diagnosed with lung cancer and the doctors had told him he needed to start saying his goodbyes. I’m 31 and mom is going through a hard 2nd round of chemo with lung cancer and his story struck me in a place of my own pain. And there is nothing I can do besides just sit with him and cry together. There are days I hate this work, not because it isn’t meaningful (it is!) but because it can be so emotionally draining.
This, to me, is where we find the real business of Resurrection Sunday. The story the Gospels tell us is one not of Jesus preaching “pie in the sky, when you die” but instead God joining humanity in solidarity, in the worst that the world has to offer. Saying that lack of affordable housing, and “you can’t sleep here”, and hunger, and the rain, and cold, and “Not in my backyard”, and yes, even death, those things don’t get the the last word. And they invite us to live as if that were true, even in the midst of the mess we find ourselves in.
My friend Wes said it so perfectly on Facebook this morning:
Easter is about more than one human coming back to life. It is about all creation being set free from the vicegrip of empire and becoming what the Creator intended all along: an overflowing, joyous, abundant, outburst of Love that cannot be contained – even by death. The compost is part of the Uprising!”
Christ is risen.
Let us live our lives as if he is risen indeed.