She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’
Easter is an immensely joyful time for those who believe and trust in the good news. We celebrate what has been accomplished for us, in spite of us. But, at best, this account of resurrection – of new life brought out of the sure grip of death — is perplexing for those who have never had faith and deeply painful for those who have had faith and then lost it. Easter is for all people but perhaps most especially it is for those with nothing to hope for. For those who are dying on the inside.
Last week I met a woman who has been chronically homeless for at least 12 years. Her health is poor and she suffers from schizophrenia and God-only-knows what else. I was with a team of compassionate folks who know her, who on a regular basis seek her out on the street where she lives in an attempt to connect her with resources – food, shelter and health care. She is delusional but she is very sharp. She took one look at me, sized me up, and knew I wasn’t part of the regular HOPE Team that looks out for her.
“You’re not a doctor,” she said. “You’re not wearing a badge.”
“No ma’am,” I said very slowly, buying time. I didn’t want to tell her I’m a priest.
Then she asked me point blank: “So, what are you?”
I fudged a little, told her I am a pastor.
“Ohhhh,” she said, “so you’re here to make me feel bad. You’re here to make me feel guilty.”
“No, ma’am. Not at all,” I hoped to reassure her. “I just want to meet you.”
Church has done a number on her, a number on so many deeply wounded souls. That afternoon, I was glad to not be wearing a collar.
I remember watching my friend Aaron, a couple months ago, speak straight to the heart of a woman, Kim, who was hunkered on a curb one night in downtown Atlanta. She wondered why we were there, handing out water, sweatshirts, peanut butter crackers. Taking an interest.
Aaron knelt down, looked her in the eye. “God loves you. You maybe haven’t heard that in a while. That’s why I’m here.”
She blinked back at him through tears. “But I’m drinking,” she explained.
“God might prefer that you not drink,” he tells her. “But that doesn’t diminish his love for you one bit. You are precious to God no matter what.”
Later that evening, when we passed along the way, not far from where Kim sat hunkered with some companions, she called out to us. “I love you guys.”
I have a hunch that Kim saw Jesus in Aaron’s eyes that evening; but I know for sure that I saw Jesus in hers.