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Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Via Dolorosa

The Via Dolorosa. The way of pain or grief. It is the route in Jerusalem that Christ walked on his way to the cross. We walked it as we wandered through Jerusalem last April.
And every year during Holy Week, we seek to walk through it in our own way. Several worship opportunities emerge throughout the weekend of Easter. Thursday of this week has a name, Maundy Thursday, lifting up the Last Supper that Christ spent with his disciples the night he was betrayed. Friday has a name, Good Friday, good because while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And Sunday of course, has a name, Easter, Resurrection Sunday, the day we celebrate Christ's victory over sorrow and death and claim the new life that awaits us in Christ. But Saturday. Saturday has no name. Saturday has no service. Saturday is a quiet day of sadness as we live with death while awaiting the resurrection. Perhaps Saturday is the day when the Via Dolorosa comes more painfully close to our lives.
Our family has seen its own share of moments on the via Dolorosa. For the past 9 years we have experienced 6 significant moments on the via Dolorosa in our lives. In March 2009 my brother passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack. In July of 2011 Doug's oldest sister died of cancer. In April of 2013 my mom died of cancer. In April of 2014 my dad died of complications related to a twisted colon and cardiac issues. In May of 2015 Doug's youngest sister died of cancer. And now, just 3 days ago, in March of 2016 Doug's beloved father died at the age of 88 after a long and wonderful life. Each death has brought deep sorrow and left gaping holes in our lives. Each death has been buoyed however by our abiding faith and the faith of our loved ones. It's Friday but Sunday's coming has been a mantra that we've hung onto throughout these sorrowful seasons that have come at us at a too rapid pace. Each death has brought the sting of walking on the via Dolorosa once again but also the renewed knowledge and hope that the empty tomb does follow. But even in the midst of the hope that Easter brings, there is grief and sadness and longing. And so in many ways, the poignant nature of this sorrowful Saturday when we wait in darkness for the dawning light of Easter morning to break through, it is appropriate to take time to acknowledge the spaces in our lives where we feel loss. Where the hope that we cling to feels just a little bit out of reach at the moment. Where sadness reigns for the time being.
Christ's anguish in Gethsemane assures us that he is indeed
with us in ours.
     Author Philip Yancey observes that “in a real sense we live on Saturday, the day with no name. Human history grinds on, between the time of promise and fulfillment. Can we trust that God can make something holy and beautiful and good out of a world that includes genocide and war, violence at the hands of angry terrorists, inner-city ghettos and jammed prisons (and deaths of family members)? Yes, it can be said that it is Saturday on planet earth. And in so many ways we do live out our days on Saturday, the empty, in-between day with no name. And yet, we are assured that we don't have to wonder if Sunday will ever come. Christ's resurrection offers us the promise of a new life not only beyond the grave but beyond the grave circumstances that often dot our live. Christ's resurrection does not offer us a free ticket away from life's disasters, however, it does provide the knowledge that Christ can and will transform all of our darkness into a shining light that will eventually be filled with a joy that no one or no thing can ever diminish."
I will use that quote in my sermon tomorrow and I am clinging to it today, when the passings of our family members is fresh. When the sadness of celebrating the joy of Easter without these loved one is hard to take sometimes. When the sorrow of death makes us feel empty. Yes, we wait, we wait with anticipation for the time when the empty tomb will fill our empty places with a hope that will not end. 
And so on this sorrowful Saturday, I offer these final thoughts: Peace to the memory of Paul Fondell. I often said to people that Doug's father is the nicest person on earth. There was no guile in Paul, only gracious, gentle, tender kindness that he showered on others with tremendous humility and grace. He joins the Lord he loved so deeply, his beloved daughters Debbie and Jan, and members of my immediate family, Ted and Rose Ann and Bill Mullen. Thanks be to God that the resurrection is real to them...renewed and restored from earthly bodies that had broken down. And thanks be to God that the resurrection is real to us as well...in due time. For today, I will sit with my sorrow and be thankful that it does not have the last word.