The Covenant

Let me begin my being really clear on who this post is for: These words are for people who consider them Christians and are committed to the tumultuous and risky calling of discipleship. If you’re in the midst of figuring, or oftentimes refiguring, faith out, these words are not for you. These words are also for the people who have taken the time to grieve. If you haven’t, take a wander through the Book of Job. Meditate and chew on it. I have a series on suffering, and a playlist for lament if you’re looking for further resources.

When I was thinking and praying about what to speak into this moment, what kind of answer can even be given in the midst of yet another mass shooting, yet more innocent little children killed, yet another trans person who is the shooter, at a time of already unimaginable grief and tragedy for the queer community as bill after bill after bill limits trans individual’s ability to exist, I needed some time and some inspiration. What can be said, accurately and honestly, in the midst of all of this complex tragedy?

The word that God put in my mouth was not an immediately helpful one. It was the end of Joshua 24:15:

… but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.

Joshua 24:13 NRSVue

This verse comes towards the end of Joshua, a semi-historical book documenting Israel’s conquering of Canaan, with the help of their leader Joshua and the hand of God. Chapter 24 comes at the end of a warning Joshua, in his old age, gives to the Israelites. He urges them to preserve the purity of the people of God and to preserve the Hebrew God as the only God worthy of their adoration. He reminds the Israelites that the land of Canaan has been given to them, not earned, an important distinction to keep the Israelites humble and obedient. Then, in an act of obedience, Joshua holds a covenanting ceremony to renew the people’s promise to God, and in turn, God’s promise to the people. In chapter 24, Joshua begins by retelling the story so far:

Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in its midst, and afterward I brought you out.

Joshua 24:5 NRSVue

The story of IAM setting God’s people free has become a frequent source of comfort and challenge for me since July of last year. It began as a testament: God can do impossible things. Then, it changed into a celebratory reminder: there is nothing a tyrant can do but grasp at earthly power.

How do we respond to life under tyranny? First, we should give the tyrant an opportunity to free us on his own accord. In Exodus 5, Moses and his brother Aaron give Pharaoh the first of God’s message to him: Let my people go. In response, Pharaoh not only refuses, he makes the enslavement of God’s people harsher.

That same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people, as well as their supervisors, ‘You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will pay attention to it and not to deceptive words.'”

Exodus 5:7-9 NRSVue

Don’t miss this first lesson, friends; when the tyrant tightens the reigns, freedom is imminent. But it’s also important to note here that asking the tyrant for freedom is acceptable in the sight of God. By all means, call your representatives and demand a more just world. With hope and humility, they will relent. But we also shouldn’t be surprised if the heart of a tyrant hardens into repeated refusal.

After numerous plagues, the Israelites flee Egypt. In a last-ditch power grab, Pharaoh and his men pursue the fleeing Israelites. The Israelites turn on Moses, enraged that they’ve escaped just to die in the wilderness. But Moses replies:

Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today, for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.

Exodus 14:13-14 NRSVue

Friends, I am as sure as I have ever been that God is a firm foundation to build your life on. I am as confident in the shadow of the tyrant as I was in the Promised Land: God frees and God conquers enemies. All we have to do is suppress everything our brains tell us not to do: be still, rest in the assured deliverance of God. Pslam 27 reminds us of the same war tactic: we become brave by being still. We are children of the Almighty God; we do not need the weapons of the world to conquer. Our victory is assured.

The issue with politicians and Pharaohs is that they earnestly believe their earthly power is enough to make us afraid. Maybe they’re right, maybe you are afraid.

I am.

Some person in a suit genuinely believes they know your body better than you do. They are passing laws to sentence people to death, to force people to come out, to stop taking life-giving medication, to stop being who God has called you to be. Just like the Israelites, we find ourselves backed up to the edge of impossible water, watching our captors pursue us, certain we are going to be slaughtered in an unfamiliar land, or even worse perhaps, an unfamiliar body. This is a death and a violence worth being afraid of.

And yet, in the midst of our fear, we hear the whisper of Moses, the whisper of David’s song, the whisper of our very God: Keep still, hide in his shelter, Know that I Am God.

As you move through these next few weeks and months and years of increased transphobia, gun violence, and chaos, rest assured that the God who created you is also fighting for you. The tyrant doesn’t win.

Let us also cast our minds to Easter: death itself doesn’t win. What fear can these feeble, power-hungry men offer us, especially in the end:

Then comes the end, when he (Christ) hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and very authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

1 Corinthians 15:24-26 NRSVue

Point #1: How do we respond in this moment of overwhelming grief and anger? We remember that the authority of death and of ruler hold no true power over us, just power that is tangible.

After Joshua reminds the people of the power and faithfulness of God, he instructs them to revere and serve God:

Now, therefore, revere the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt and serve the LORD.

Joshua 24:14 NRSVue

If you’re struggling to embody the first point, friends, it’s about to get a lot harder. I’m not preaching to you; I’m preaching to myself and hoping some of this self-talk is useful to someone besides me. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, offers some thoughts on how we as Christians can respond faithfully to persecution, how we can sincerely and faithfully serve the L-RD.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be arrogant, but associate with the lowly, do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the LORD.’ Instead, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink, for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 13:14-21 NRSVue

As I read this passage over and over again, I want the way of Jesus less than ever. To be a disciple of Christ is going to cost us everything. Every intuition, every comfort, every morsel of food and drink and sense of fairness. To put this back in terms Joshua could understand, we have to put away the gods of our ancestors. We have to choose a different path than vengeance. We have to want peace more than we want justice, because we know that true justice flows out of peace. Again, I say: I want the way of this Jesus less than ever.

And yet I am simultaneously convicted of little else in this moment than that the world needs more Jesus. We need more of his gentleness, more of his submission to suffering, more of his counter-cultural peacemaking.

If we want to sincerely and faithfully serve our God, we have to feed our enemies. There isn’t another path. We have to overcome the vast and deep and profound evil in our world and faith communities by viciously committing ourselves to self-sacrificial good.

Here is another thing I am convinced of in this moment of profound suffering: I do not have control over very much. I can’t solve gun violence. I can’t cure transphobia. I can’t eradicate suffering in all of its forms from the face of the earth. Joshua acknowledged the limitations of his ability to commit the tribes of Israel to the covenant of the L-RD:

Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living…

Joshua 24:13 NRSVue

As I picture this scene play out in our modern context, I can hear Joshua name different gods: social media, guns, mental illness, {political party}. You can choose, right now, to serve that god. If the fight is too difficult, if the thought of feeding a gunman or a politician is too much for you to stomach, go find a different god worthy of your worship. I can’t make that choice for you, or for my senator, or my president, or my pastor.

But as for me, and as for my future house and family, queer and complicated and beautiful, we will serve the L-RD.

We’re going to do some rejoicing in the midst of celebration, and we are going to mourn alongside those who mourn.

We’re going to try to not repay evil with evil. We’re going to try to make peace and live peaceably even with the tyrants who live above us.

We’re going to heap some burning coal on the heads of some people.

Come, Lord Jesus, and make a way for us in this barren wilderness. Give us our daily bread, that we might remember our place and have the tools to be peacemakers in this wild world.

Point #2: How do we respond in this moment of overwhelming grief and anger? We decide that whatever god our nation and our neighbor is serving, we will serve the LORD.

Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition Bible, copyright © 1989; 2021 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America and are used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Bryce Van Vleet is the #1 selling author of Tired Pages and Before We All Die Let’s Have One Last Chat by the Fireside. He also hosts the podcast Death in Dakota and sells poetry art here. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Like him on Facebook or follow him on Instagram and Goodreads.

The Tyrant

We’re supposed to give up our love for them?

Knock at the Cabin

It is not enough only to have martyrs for the faith, people willing to die for the thing they believe in. We also need people willing to live under the threat of death, to endure a long life of suffering. Martyrs receive maximum suffering over the shortest amount of time. The ones who live endure varying amounts of suffering over a long amount of time. In evangelical America, many are willing to die for their faith; few are willing to live, to stomach what it means to endure.

You have heard in said in recent weeks that there is a revival in America, a reawakening of the Spirit on this land. I believe this is true; I can feel it in that hollow space carved into my heart. The Tyrant is tightening his gallows. Laws are being passed and censorship is sweeping our communities. The limits of grace have been set forth by human hands. The Tyrant is getting anxious. It is always, has always been like this. Darkest before the dawn. Defeat makes tyrants desperate.

I believe that there is a revival in America. I believe that God’s about to free some captives and fell some tyrants. I believe that I’m about to find myself in the wilderness, but that my children are going to feast on milk and honey. I believe that freedom is coming for the captives and I’ve felt it for a while.

For too long, though, I believed that captivity would be coming for The Tyrant. I needed to believe that my righteousness and my rightness and my rage would be redeemed. In Matthew 21, we see Jesus’ rage as he flips over the tables in his Father’s temple, condemning in righteous rightness. Rage has a holy and celebrated place in our worship. But rage is not the thing that saves the world.

Don’t miss this, friends. Rage cannot save any of us. Rage is balm for the suffering, a reminder that they are seen. Rage is a warning to repentance, a reminder to The Tyrant that human authority is just animated dust waiting, again, to crumble. Rage is important. Rage is necessary. Rage is not the thing that saves the world.

“While we were still sinners,” Paul writes, “Christ died for us.” The rage of God was righteous. It was right. It was deserved. It is only because the rage is inflicted on the undeserved. It is only because grace is undeserved that the world is save. Sacrificial love, which is a fancy way of saying suffering, is what saves the world.

God is on the way to loosen chains. God is on the way to set the captives free. God is on the way to fulfill good promises.

Promises that require suffering. Good that requires love. Freedom that requires the purging of righteous rage for peace and love that make no sense.

To follow Christ is to surrender everything – even rightness.

I don’t want to live in an equitable world or a just world. That isn’t enough for me. I want to sit at the same table as my captor. I want to look in his eyes. I want to know him as my brother.

Rage can’t do that. Only love can save the world.

Bryce Van Vleet is the #1 selling author of Tired Pages and Before We All Die Let’s Have One Last Chat by the Fireside. He also hosts the podcast Death in Dakota and sells poetry art here. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Like him on Facebook or follow him on Instagram and Goodreads.

The Resurrection of Relationships

To get caught up on the story so far, visit our Instagram. I had originally meant to split this up into three posts but just couldn’t swing it.


My flight touched down and I flipped airplane mode off. I sent a text to my mother that I landed safely, then opened Instagram to post a picture I had taken on the plane. (Don’t raise a boy in a Facebook world and expect him not to think he’s interesting). I had a dozen notifications in my DMs and more were coming in. I clicked the message icon and saw the profile picture of a dear friend who was home visiting family. I knew instantly what was going on and started praying every Psalm I knew as the flight attendants urged me off the sparsely occupied plane.

A few days later, I’m sitting on a different friend’s couch talking about his friend preparing to come out as gay. “I will never forget the fear on your face,” he says to me, recalling a night a decade or so ago I was doubled over on a sidewalk in Denver crying harder than I had in years. I had just come out to him and I knew that nothing I could ever do would shove those words back in my throat. I was no longer on a precipice; I was freefalling off the cliff and waiting to discover if I would fracture or be caught. “Throughout my life, I had never felt like I could lose everything just for being who I was,” he said. It was a perfect summation of what that night was like for me all those years ago.

Everything you know, everything you’ve built, all your little houses of cards could crash down in one moment of honest, simple, truth telling.

My Instagram friend was standing on the cliff about to jump. For years, this person has been trying to tell their parents a very simple truth. This trip, it was happening and they were asking for advice. Their native language doesn’t have a word for “gay” so on top of the fear, there was a tangible logistical obstacle. We spent the night making plans, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

You don’t have to be gay to wrestle with the fear of lost relationships. About a week after the couch, I saw a new friend as she was getting coffee. I had a mask on and was completely out of context out in public. We catch eyes and greet each other. As she goes to introduce me to her friend, she pauses right before she says my name and panic floods her eyes. We chat and say goodbye. She instantly texts me and says she swears she knows my name; she just had a brain fart. I completely understood and assuaged her of her guilt. “Oh thank god,” she texts back instantly. “I was so worried I ruined our blossoming friendship.”

The threat of broken connections is everywhere, all the time. For me on the sidewalk, my couch friend wrestling with how to come out, my Instagram friend fumbling for a series of words that convey his feelings, my friend in a coffee shop forgetting my name: we were all terrified of losing relationships. Why? What’s so great about them?

In the second Genesis creation myth, God tells The Earthling, “It is not good for man to be alone,” a verse and philosophy I’ll wrestle though in our next series. For today, though, I want us to think about the table, a symbol of Maundy Thursday. Jesus is terrified of death and in his final days, it’s the comfort of his friends he not only looks for, but eagerly seeks. Relationships matter because when we’re in our final days, we seek the comfort of the people who know us. And sometimes, the people we love prove our fear of loss justified.



In his book, The God of the Garden, Andrew Peterson writes about a time in his life he’s angry with, and feeling disconnected from, God. On a whim, and desperate for connection with the Holy, he heads to a silent retreat where he is greeted by a cold shoulder of an already silent God. On the last day, when he has already given up on breakthrough in his empty, broken relationship with God, he walks to the car with his bags when he’s stopped by a literal signpost beckoning him to explore some statues deep in the forest of this abbey. There, he finds a depiction of Christ on Good Friday that he describes like this:

Dead in the center, frozen in the gray light, was the statue of a man in deep desperation. This was no classical, pietistic display of a barely human Christ. No, this was different. He looked to have stumbled to his knees. His back was arched, his head was thrown back. His hands covered his face so that his elbows were splayed out. His friends were asleep, and all the dormant trees were sleeping, too. Not even his own creation kept watch with him that morning, as he knelt in the terrible silence of that lonesome forest.

The God of the Garden, Andrew Peterson, page 154

For Jesus, the table was a symbol of the deep love and bond of friendship. But in the garden, his friends fail him. When he asks them to simply stay up with him, to pray on his behalf for comfort in the face of death, they fall asleep. This passage from Peterson was so convicting to me, tangibly feeling the failing of relationships, the pain of facing painful fear completely alone. I see so much of myself in that fear and disappointment, in the anguish of sorrow alone. In a few more moments, one of his best friends will betray him for a bag of coins, not just ignoring his fear of death but leading him to the cross directly. Have you been betrayed? Backstabbed? Mistaken an enemy for a friend?

Another of his best friends will deny he knows Jesus thrice. Have you felt forgotten or neglected by friends? Have they chosen politics or religion over you? Jesus’ relationships fail. The cross then makes any chance of reconciliation impossible. His relationships faltered, then failed, then died with no hope of revival.


The Harrowing of Hell is a controversial doctrine that suggests that, while he was dead, Jesus preached the good news to the dead in Sheol. Some theologians argue that he just liberated Old Testament figures like Moses and Rahab. There are even some who depict this event as Jesus running through hell specifically looking for Judas, his friend and betrayer. I don’t know where I fall on any of this in terms of truth but truth is not the thing that always matters. If we believe in the truth and extremity of Jesus’ death on Good Friday, I really can’t think of a better depiction than the human Christ running through the chaos of hell to hold the hand of his betraying friend in an unimaginable display of grace and mercy. Mercy even here.



Sometimes, when you’re standing on a cliff about to come out, you do and you fall and you hit the cement floor at 50 miles an hour. Your friend leads you to your executioner and robs you of reconciliation. Is there any hope that you can wipe yourself off the cement and climb the mountain and learn how to love someone again? Is there any hope you can run through the pits of hell just to embrace your enemy?

Easter Sunday is the biggest celebration in the Christian liturgy because it is the end of all our doubts, the crushing of every fear. It is the hope that rivals every ounce of hopelessness. The answer is yes. He makes dead things live again. He makes dead people rise and repairs broken relationships to fullness. His friends are mourning, gathered together to grieve the loss of their leader and closest friend when suddenly Jesus appears. The relationship is repaired and the disciples are overcome with joy.

On Ash Wednesday, I challenged us to reframe sin as a collective problem in addition to the individual problem. On Easter Sunday, I want us to think not just the death of our sins and our restoration with God. I want us to also think of the restoration of relationships with those we have wronged and those who have wronged us, but the work of reconciling our collective sins. I believe he makes dead things live again. This Easter, I want you to think about a relationship that has broken or is fracturing that you’d like to have restored. God ultimately gives and takes away, but I believe that if we do the hard work of forgiveness and reconciliation and perspective-taking, if we partner in vertical relationships with God, restoration is possible. If we don’t get it this side of heaven, I believe we might walk out of the process more merciful, more loving, and more patient.

And that kind of love and hard work is never wasted.

Bryce Van Vleet is the #1 selling author of Tired Pages and Before We All Die Let’s Have One Last Chat by the Fireside. He also hosts the podcast Death in Dakota and sells poetry art here. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Like him on Facebook or follow him on Instagram and Goodreads.

The Miracle of Tin

I sat in an Easter service last night and the pastor said “Whatever the world says about you, the cross says you’re loved.” Often, in Christian circles, we use the phrase “the world” when we mean “those outside of us.” I sat in my chair on the balcony, looking down at all the people in the room dressed in their casual clothes, their Sunday best, their jeans and their dresses and I thought about how the people at the feet of the cross have always hurt me more than they’ve healed me. That the world has often been the only voice telling me I was enough, while the Church shook its head in disgust. If we look at communities around the world, I think we’ll see this trend holds true. That the church is the body going into places and communities and preaching how worthless they are. That they’re too gay, too sexual, too Indigenous, too Black, too angry, too happy, too sad to belong here. That, yes, we are all sinners but at least we’re working on it and you’re not. That, yes, we are all images of God, you’re just an uglier and duller one.


The principal miracle of Easter is that Jesus died and Jesus rose again and all of us get to live happily ever with him. But this miracle of Easter is not without its hard pill to swallow for those of us who do not feel safe around Christians. I spend a lifetime in sorrow from the hurt of Christians and my reward for surviving that is an eternity with them? That the people who took me to court to ensure they never had to serve me food will sit beside me at the feast. That the people who mocked my voice will join theirs with mine in refrains of Hallelujah. That the people who shamed me will drop their chains with mine.

I think about Jesus on the cross who cries out “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” The people who called Jesus slurs, who whipped at his body, who killed him to maintain political power didn’t know what they were doing? That all seems very intentional to me. That pain feels personal. And then, one or ten or fifteen or sixty years later, those people died and have spent the first part of eternity looking at his Jewish, brown, kingly face.  And it isn’t weird or painful or hard or sorrowful for any of them.

I think about the Marys who preached the first Easter message to men sitting in the same pew as pastors who spent their whole life thinking and saying that women couldn’t speak to them.

I think about Jesus’ great-great-great-great-great grandmother knitting cloth in heaven with all the other sex workers and the suburban mothers who called them whores.

This, too, is a miracle of Easter. That we spend our whole lives beating each other to death with our theological correctness, with our political truths, and our heresy-labels to gatekeep the Kingdom we ourselves are immigrants to just to discover we all end up together for eternity.

The miracle of the tin roof is that one day I will sit with other Christians and it will not be like hiding from lightning. It will be like sitting on a porch swing on a summer day, listening to the way the rain hits the roof. You can keep your mansions and the piles of gold and the health, and the dried eyes. I’ll just take one day sitting with my people and knowing down deep in my bones I can stay.   


Bryce Van Vleet is the #1 selling author of Tired Pages and Before We All Die Let’s Have One Last Chat by the Fireside. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page). Like him on Facebook or follow him on Goodreads.

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Mercy Will Not End (Part Two)

As I look out into the softly falling snow, and see the hundreds of empty church buildings and streets, it’s hard to forget that Easter isn’t quite the same this year.

A few weeks ago, when the lockdowns began happening and the once booming metropolis I lived in transformed, overnight, to a small neighborhood, void of the markers of city life, I began to get worried. Would life ever return to normal? Would I die from this virus? Would someone I love?

As a world, we had fallen asleep in one plane of existence, and awoken in another. We’re stumbling through a darkness wondering when, and if, the light will once again return. Perhaps, then, this Easter isn’t so different at all. Perhaps we’re right where Easter is supposed to land.


There are two primary emotions the women who discover the empty grave experience throughout the four accounts: fear and confusion. In the first account, as told by Matthew (Matthew 28:1-8), an earthquake shakes the tomb open and a lightning strike brings down an angel. In typical celestial fashion, he lets the women know they shouldn’t be afraid. Jesus has risen, and the women run to tell the rest of the disciples the news “afraid yet full of joy.”

In Mark (16:1-14), the women had their routine changed. Instead of spending the Sabbath with Jesus, they go with spices to cleanse his corpse. They face immediate confusion when they realize neither is strong enough to roll away the stone from the grave, and again, when they arrive and it is removed. Their confusion turns to fear as they enter and find a man sitting up in the grave that held their friend, one of many zombie experiences in the Bible. This time, the women run away in fear, “shaking and confused, saying nothing to anyone because they were afraid.”

Luke (24:1-12) tells us a similar story of the women approaching the grave for the preparing of the corpse but this time, the grave is truly empty. The women stand in a confused awe until two men appear out of nowhere and “the women were frightened and bowed their faces toward the ground.”

In John, Mary discovers the empty tomb and, panicked, alerts Simon Peter and another disciple, who confirm the strange and terrifying event. Mary returns later, alone, sobbing, no doubt scared, confused, and frustrated with the taking of the Lord’s body. In fact, she accuses a gardener (who turns out to be Jesus) saying “If you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” She is desperate for an answer, for a way forward, for something to make sense.

If you find yourself like these early disciples, afraid, confused, unsure, you’re simply having a case of the Easter mornings. It’s okay to be afraid when you experience something scary, to be unsure when you discover something new, and confused when everything you thought you knew has changed.


As I walked to work all those weeks ago, scared and confused about the mostly-empty streets I walked along, Ellie Holcomb’s “As Sure as the Sun Will Rise” started playing. I was struck by the meditation on mercy, but also on the homophone of the upcoming holiday:

As sure as the sun will rise,

And chase away the night,

His mercy will not end. His mercy will not end.

As sure as the Son rises, the dark is chased away. The mercy ceases to end, even in death. Even after it.

Gloria and Bill Gaither wrote the hymn “Because He Lives.” They illustrate, in the final verse before the chorus, the day that we ourselves face the ultimate fear, the ultimate pain:

And then one day

I’ll cross that river

I’ll fight life’s final war with pain

And then as death gives way to vict’ry

I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know he lives

There is pain, and fear, and confusion. There is death. There is a crossing of a bumpy and treacherous river.

The tomb can be empty even though the fear lingers. The tomb can be empty alongside the tears. The risen God does not shy from your confusion and hurt.

But one day we shall again see the lights of glory. We will, again, know he lives. We will sing of the mercy that never ends.


The Very Last Things (and what comes after)

white flowers
Photo by Alena Koval on

Part Two: What Comes After

It’s early when the women gather. Honoring not just their savior or God, but their friend. The man they laughed with and cried with. Who washed their feet and who washed his. They’re probably, understandably, emotional. Holding one another up as they walk with their spices and love – for each other and their dead Messiah.

It’s women who preach the first Gospel message, to the male apostles who couldn’t believe it and thought the women were hysterical. Jesus was alive, supposedly. He destroyed death. Descended into the pits of hell to preach to the old guard, popped by to say hey to his friends, and then levitated into the heavenly plane in front of a crowd of thousands (You can say Jesus isn’t the Son of God, but can you really say he was lame?)

His last words still retained meanings, but they morphed into a far richer meaning with his death and resurrection, and how we should live while he did Jesus-in-heaven things.

Continue reading “The Very Last Things (and what comes after)”

The Sting

On a rocky hill, the crowds have dissipated. A Roman commander sits on this bed, head in his hands, nauseous and thankful for solid ground. The brown, perfumed body of a carpenter is sealed behind a boulder. Two women sit in stunned silence across the rock. They are cried out; their faces dry and stoic.

Elsewhere, a man wakes his best friend’s mother from a fitful sleep. She thinks not of sustenance but of stables and sheep, though she can still taste the peeled hard boiled eggs and lentil soup from her previous night. The two repeat the Tziduk Hadin. The rock is something they can cling to. She gets up and takes her position on a stool in the entry way of the house. Greeters come, bringing her baskets of food. She says all the right words, but feels the emptiness she did all those years ago, when she lost her son at the temple. Perhaps she too cries out to God. Perhaps she feels forsaken.

A curtain flaps in the wind. The spirit of the Holy One seeps out through the tear. It is coming, will be swallowed down in gulps of river water, illuminating darkness, strengthening, sustaining, challenging. But before the Hope comes there is weeping. And silence. And food given to a grieving mother staying in the house of her son’s friend.

Friday offers us a portrait of forgiveness and difficult grace. Sunday offers us hope and a challenge. But Saturday gives us nothing but ritual. Saturday gives us a guard and grief. It gives us silence from God and our textual fathers. It is the cliff hanger that lingers just long enough to trick ourselves into believing that we know the ending. It is hopeless and unsure.

It’s easy to preach about Sunday because it feels good. Sunday is where each of us wants to be. But the reality for many of us is Saturday. It’s doubting and waiting for fruition. No one asks for Saturday yet it is given to us just the same. This Easter, if you can only see until Midnight on Saturday, there’s a place for you in the message of the Gospel. Sunday is coming, eventually, but remember this:

Sunday is only miraculous because the depravity of Saturday was so real.

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