It’s Tuesday. Tuesday of Holy Week. We’ve passed Palm Sunday, and now we wait. We wait for the climax of our faith as followers of Jesus. Really, there is nothing bigger than the end of this week, a time we call the “Triduum,” or “the Three Days.” Maundy Thursday – Good Friday – Easter!
So Tuesday – a day of anticipation – expectation – and waiting.
But for me, this day has another meaning. Twenty-two years ago, on the Tuesday of Holy Week, we held the funeral for my Dad. In 1997 Holy Week was in March, but it was Tuesday of that week. Just like today…
A funeral on Tuesday of Holy Week has lots of significance. We are between the short-lived exuberance of the Palm Sunday, and the passion of Good Friday. Kind of like life. We live a life that bounces from temporary joy, to deep and profound grief. Yet, like Holy Week, we do all that with an eye to what is to come, to the empty tomb of Easter. There, in the victory of the resurrection, we are embraced by the unexpected and un-imagined victory over death, the victory that turns our world on its head and restores life, this time to its fullest.
Ironically, my Dad’s last sermon, written as a short devotion for Palm Sunday, to accompany the reading of the passion story, and never delivered, said just that. We hear the story of Palm Sunday and the “Hosannas,” followed by the suffering and death of Jesus.
But back to Holy Week, 1997. Dad died on Friday. Friday night was a short night of sleep. Too much, just too much.
When morning came (way too early), I woke with a tune in my head. Rod Stewart’s “If We Fall in Love Tonight.” The album of the same name had been released the previous November. Not a big hit, but it was out there. And that morning, it was all around – or at least around me.
Pain, flows like a river, just keeps on livin’
with all them memories
Shame, you’re so heartbroken
now you’re scared to open and give your love again
And now anticipation waits for love
Will it be everything you dreamed this time around
I know you have your doubts
but I won’t let you down
Darlin’ if, if we fall in love tonight
you’re gonna be alright
your heart is in good hands
Darlin’ if, if we fall in love again
on me you can depend, if you could take a chance
Open your heart and let love, love again
[Spoiler alert – it made for a great Easter sermon that year!]
Think about it. Imagine these words. Imagine them spoken by a loving God, a God who in the midst of this week, is about to make his move, the move that will change humanity for ever. Yet, at the same time, in the midst of this week, a God who is hurting, yearning to bring life to his children, to embrace them even in the midst of their brokenness.
So, hear the words, spoken to you.. .“Darlin’, if we fall in love tonight, you’re gonna be alright…your heart is in good hands.”
I heard those words 22 years ago. In the midst of my grief, my pain, my emptiness. Stunned and in shock, there was the promise. The promise that even as my world was shattered, God was there, embracing me and restoring me to life.
“Darlin’ if, if we fall in love again on me you can depend, if you could take a chance. Open your heart and let love, love again.”
There, in those words, is the point of this week. From the passion to the cross, and then to the victory of Easter, God is at work. And the God at work makes a promise. God promises that you will be all right.
Even in our brokenness, even when we are scared and overwhelmed, wondering where we can find hope, God acts…God restores…and God speaks – “I know you have your doubts, but I won’t let you down…on me you can depend.”
I learned the truth of that 22 years ago. I heard those words, spoken to me in the midst of my sorrow, in the shadow of the cross and in sight of the tomb. I also heard those words, spoken to my Dad. The promise that through the cross and empty tomb, there is “nothing in life or death that can keep us from God’s love in Jesus Christ” (Romans 8:38-39).
But since then I’ve learned two other truths. First, that I’m human, and again and again, I lose the truth, the truth that I’m going to be all right, that God will not let me down.
Second, the truth that my heart continues to be in God’s hands, even when I’m being very human.
And that too is what this week is about. Yes, God is at work in Jesus, in the cross and the empty tomb. God is changing the world, renewing and restoring life.
But God is also holding my heart in his hands. Even when I’m not so sure, even when doubts seem to overwhelm me.
And not just me. You too. Do you hear the words, words spoken to you, from the cross, at the entrance to the tomb? “Darlin’, if we fall in love tonight, you’re gonna be alright…your heart is in good hands.”
Listen to those words. Spoken to you. Spoken to me.
Twenty- two years ago, spoken to my Dad.