By Kristine Blaess
Several years ago, I attended a World Council of Churches conference in Arusha, Tanzania. 1200 Church leaders from every denomination you can imagine and from all over the world came together to consider the topic, “Transforming Discipleship.” The talks were fascinating and sometimes challenging, and the workshops were interesting. But the golden part of this experience for me was sharing meals and evenings with Christians from around the world and hearing their stories.
My new friends told stories of returning home to bombed-out buildings in their towns in Syria,
of the remembered terror of crossing the border from North Korea to South Korea as a child,
of friends and fellow church workers being murdered in the Philippines,
of children hiding in the jungles of Tanzania to avoid the violence at home,
of hunger in the slums of Brazil,
of fathers being kidnapped in Guatemala,
of the post-war years in Hungary,
of watching your 5-year old child, living in Bethlehem, cower in fear on the floor of your car.
And as I listened to these stories, I watched the news coming from our own country, and our own city, and you all who I love here, and the thoughts and presumptions of my own heart, and I was horrified.
Russian historian and novelist Aleksander Solzhenitsyn wrote in The Gulag Archpelago, “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. The line separating good and evil passes. . . right through every human heart — and through all human hearts.”
There is much to weep over out there in our big wide world. There is much to weep over here, too, and home. And there is the line cutting through each of our hearts – none of us innocent, all of us complicit in the suffering of the world and the suffering of our own families and selves.
There is much to weep over.
So in Arusha, for four days, I wept.
We arrived here to church this Palm Sunday morning to celebrate. We celebrated Christ’s triumphant arrival into Jerusalem — the King of Kings making his homecoming.
But our celebration soon turned to horror, then weeping, as we realized what the King of Kings coming home would mean. The King of Kings took on the form of a slave. Beaten and scourged he has humbled himself, obedient even to the point of death — even death on a cross.
We have seen him, our Lord, now, hanging on a cross, weeping for Jerusalem and weeping for us. He poured out his life for us. He poured out his life for us, because the line runs through each of our hearts.
None of us is innocent. All of us are complicit.
He poured out his life for the world, because the line runs through all the nations.
Indeed, the line runs through the heart of the cosmos, and everything around us, all of creation has found itself enslaved by the powers and the principalities that at every turn undo God’s life and freedom.
As we witness Christ here, hanging on the cross, we are witnessing not just a death prompted by love for each of us and for the world, although that is what it is.
As we witness Christ here, hanging on the cross, we are also witnessing the cosmic battle between God’s power and will for life and the powers and principalities that would swallow this creation in darkness.
As we enter again this week into the story of Christ’s death and emerge next Sunday into his resurrection, we are entering again into the great drama.
It was on this battlefield — the battlefield of the cross, where the clash between God and the powers of death finally came to its head. And it is here, on the cross, as Christ poured out his life for the world, that God finally revealed his glory.
The cross is the place where God won the victory over death.
So, the line that runs through my heart and yours? The suffering in our families and neighborhoods and cities and nations? The line of good and evil that runs through creation? Weep over it.
And turn your eyes to the cross this week, where you will see God pour out his life to win the victory over death.
This is what glory looks like. This is where the renewal of creation begins. This is where your new life is granted to you — a gift of love, a gift of grace, a gift for the world.
The Rev. Kristine Blaess is rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Murfreesboro, Tennessee.