holy week 2017: a cold & broken hallelujah

Today is Holy Saturday, the day between the death of Jesus and tomorrow’s celebration of Resurrection. A day of grief. A day of lament. A day of despair. I know so many grieving right now–loss of parents, jobs, ministries, relationships, health, and a host of other things. Grief is weird, unpredictable, often lonely.

I also know a lot of people grieving the loss of church and faith-as-they-knew-it this Easter weekend. This used to be a happy day, but now they dread it. It’s become a disorienting day, a day where the reality of everything they’ve lost when it comes to faith and church is most evident.

Today I wanted to honor the reality that while tomorrow Social media and churches will be abuzz with “He is risen!” and “Hallelujahs!”, there are a lot of people who aren’t feeling it this year for all kinds of different reasons.

The I-don’t-knows piled up.

The limited have-to-believe-it-a-certain-way-or-it’s-wrong theology has run its course.

The hypocrisy and entanglement with politics has pushed them over the edge.

The divide between hearts and heads just got too wide.

The loneliness while sitting in a crowd week after week too tiring.

The lack of compassion about divorce and addiction and sexuality and death and all kinds of other real struggles too painful.

There are all kinds of others reasons why people find themselves on the outside of all they once knew. However, I want to remind everyone that just because many aren’t sitting in pews this year it doesn’t mean we are sucked into secularism and are only talking about the Easter bunny.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Rather, so many have spent countless years, hours, heart, time, and energy investing in the churches over the years. True believers, dedicated leaders, faithful followers of Jesus, people who knew the Bible inside and out and loved God and people with their whole heart, the first ones there every Easter Sunday.

There’s still a deep desire for faith, it’s just that all of the old tricks aren’t working anymore. 

This group is often forgotten on this day–Ex-church-folks who long for the connection, community, and hope that Easter offers but can’t bring themselves to walk into any of them this year.

It would be easy to dismiss them, and say “Well, they just need to get over it, it’s just one hour” or “We can’t let them ruin our fun” without acknowledging that it really stinks when the luster of Easter erodes and you find yourself out on the fringes of everything that once was familiar.

When the thought of walking into a church makes you feel a little sick.

When all of the words to the songs seem silly.

When you’re not sure what you believe about a lot of things you used to believe and so what’s Easter supposed to mean then?

When the predictability of the sermons, messages, and the whole kit-and-kaboodle could cause an allergic reaction. 

When nothing related to “church” feels safe or good right now.

For many, Easter is a happy beautiful redemptive day, and I love that about it. I never want to take away from another person’s joy.

I personally love the mystery and hope of the Jesus story and the way of the cross transforming into resurrection.

I don’t need to stuff or hide my own personal feelings about Easter to take care of those struggling with it.

However, I do think I’m supposed to care about it because these are my brothers, my sisters, my friends.

On this day of grief, I wanted to say something out loud about this reality for many instead of ignore it. 

To remind my friends that even though I do have my crazy community that is still a safe enough spot for me to celebrate Easter, I hurt with you for the loss.

To acknowledge that it’s real and not crazy.

To say out loud that I really wish there were better options to hold a sacred space for this season of the spiritual journey that felt familiar enough.

To honor that it really sucks when the system hijacked so much of the good stuff and we don’t know quite yet how to get free. 

To respect our stories and remember that they are always unfolding, transforming, and I truly believe that God’s got us no matter what. 

To remember that sometimes all we’ve got, in the words of Leonard Cohen, is “a cold and broken Hallelujah.” 

Most of all, my hope is that if you are hurting or feeling lost this Easter, that somehow, some way, some unexpected slivers of hope and resurrection come peeking through this year in mysterious ways and you feel less alone.

Peace & love from Colorado, Kathy

//

ps: The other posts from this Holy Week series are listed here.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

8 Comments

  • Thanks, Kathy. For the validation. For the encouragement. For the hope. For the honesty. I feel this ‘broken hallelujah’ more keenly this year than in years past. I think it’s coming to the 7th stage of grief over the loss of ‘church.’ In trying to lean into it, I also feel a little acceptance/hope creeping in that ‘church’ will never looked like it once did; but I can find spiritual community life. And so many people still in that system don’t understand that it’s not just a phase for me. And I’m not a backslidden heretic. And I don’t necessarily need space (unless they are trying to manipulate me back into the ‘family system’ …). Not many know how to process this journey with those of us who have lost everything once dear. Not many are patient, kind, humble. So appreciate your heart for those of us in the in-between. :0)

    Reply
    • sorry for my late response on this. i’m so behind, but i hear you….letting go of so much of what was is a brutal process. even after all these years, i feel it too, the weird loneliness, along with the freedom that comes through it. hugs!

      Reply
  • THIS. Thanks for these words. As always, you point me to the Light.

    Reply
  • Thank you Kathy. You brought tears to my eyes as this resonated so deeply with how I am feeling this Easter Morning. My heart still celebrates the joy of the Resurrection but also grieves the missing connection of a faith community. Thank you for making sure people like myself feel heard and know that we are not alone. Happy Easter

    Reply
    • thanks, leah. i apologize for my late response. it’s been pretty nutty around here but i am glad that somehow these words resonated on easter morning. peace from colorado.

      Reply

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