Today is Maundy Thursday and as many of us contemplate Easter in times of unprecedented global crises, I'm impressed upon by the palm branch on my breakfast table.
Yup, that's the one.
You see, last Sunday a member of our pastoral team gifted us with a package of materials intended to aid our Easter liturgy during this time of social isolation. So, shortly after its arrival the branch made its way to our kitchen table where it now serves as a reminder of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the religious, social and political challenges it brought. Much like our new decoration, Jesus' entry initiated a process from which there was no return and, today a unique feature of the branch on my table caught my attention and caused me to have one of those classic Enneagrammatic Five moments of colossal integration.
The branch is wilting.
And I remembered... A few years ago Science Mike and Micheal Gungor were reflecting on the subject of Evolution via Natural Selection when Mike said, "The will of God is cell division". I nearly cheered when I heard it as, in typical Science Mike fashion his framing distilled an array of theological implications into an axiom so profoundly elegant in its encapsulation of life, death and resurrection, that I can't help but see Easter in a new light because of it. Right here, on my kitchen table is a palm branch that may even be following the same trajectory of biochemical decay as those laid down before Jesus' donkey over 2000 years ago and, in the same way that the life slowly drained from these over the course of Holy Week, so did Jerusalem's stability in the face of Jesus' ministry.
Hits a little close to home, doesn't it? Jesus - infected with divine awakening and love (Kingdom of God) - steps off a donkey and upsets the delicate balance of an unhealthy society (Matt 9:12). Meanwhile, not long ago Covid-19 stepped off an airplane and forced us into an awakening of our own. Is it too much to see Christ in the Coronavirus? Do you see Life enrobed in Death? Perhaps we're meant to in this socially-distanced drawn out Maundy Thursday of our own - perhaps 2020 is our Last Supper and final Selah before a death of another kind.
You see, much like my wilting palm branch, new life is foreshadowed in death as the branch's decaying biomass is literally the raw material from which resurrection emerges and, as Covid-19 sweeps through our communities I can't help but seek wisdom as to the nature of the death into which we're being called. It seems to me that we're invited to contemplate our own demise alongside Christ; and that if in the past our Maundy reflections were theological and spiritual - today they're profoundly embodied, real and physical.
But there's good news, as learning to see life in death - Christ in the pandemic - opens us up to an entirely new kind of relationship with death. One in which we learn the sublime humility of welcoming as death a friend, rather than an enemy to be feared and conquered. Contrary to much of our tradition, death's defeat is not accomplished by overcoming but by following Christ's example of welcome and surrender on the cross. Ken Wilbur calls this "Include and Transcend" - his way of talking about life's helical nature. In the same way that the palm branch's decay in my compost bin is the raw material for new growth, so Christ's crucified body is the raw material for his resurrection and our embrace of the struggles brought by Covid-19 is the raw material from which a new way of being human will emerge.
The question is, what will it look like?
Perhaps Covid-19 isn't the first time the world changed from humble beginnings. Perhaps also, there's Love flowing through all this that helps us count the cost. For now, it's okay to be sad. It's okay to sit pensive and tense as things are afoot. But please, like Jesus' entreaty to his disciples in the garden on the night he was betrayed, Wake Up and Stay Awake!
We cannot afford to go back to sleep.