Someone recently said that I seem angry lately, that I’ve become decidedly negative, my demeanor abrasive and combative.
For a split second I thought that he might be right, but realized almost immediately what was happening. He had indeed recognized my symptoms accurately; it was the cause that he didn’t or couldn’t understand because it’s the kind of thing you can’t easily tell from a distance.
My well-meaning friend didn’t realize that he was dealing with someone grieving deeply.
Anger and grief look a lot alike from the outside. They both feel similar when you’re on the receiving end.
That’s what’s been going on here in my heart for a long time—a grieving.
That’s what this faith walk has felt like lately: a funeral for a friend.
I and so many others like me are mourning a tremendous loss, one so profound and so disorienting that it’s altering the very eyes with which we see the world, and the way we think and talk and live and pray.
We are Christians, looking around and facing the most horrible of realities:
It feels like Jesus is dead.
He is dead to a modern Christianity that so very often seems fully content to call itself that, without the slightest trace of Christlikeness.
What passes as Christianity here in America often bears no resemblance to the humble, gentle Nazarene rabbi, who came armed with no cash, no building campaign, no megachurch, no lobbyists, and no army; only the greatest of good news on the planet, and an extravagant heart bursting open for every weary soul that crossed his path.
That, and a call for those who would follow him to die to self.
When I look around at the faith so often proposing to be Christianity these days, that Jesus seems gone.
Jesus isn’t just dead, but he’s had his identity stolen posthumously, too.
And yes, it makes us angry—not simply because we want to be angry, but for the same reason death always brings anger. We want back the loved one that we’ve lost.
We’ve been robbed of dreams that we had and promises we were told growing-up.
We grieve for what once was.
We grieve for what could be and what we fear never will be again.
So yes, for far too many of his people, this is a eulogy for Jesus within Christianity.
It is a time for the shedding of tears and the tearing of robes.
It’s a day for sadness and confusion and fear.
It is the frantic, urgent, pleading for what seems like a hopeless lost cause: life from a tomb.
And it might all be quite hopeless, except for one thing: We are a Resurrection people.
Our very story is one of a wailing wake for a dead friend, a dark and desperate in-between—and then a wild, joyful dance in front of a rolled-away stone.
We too, pray that this is where we are right now: in the wailing and waiting before the dancing.
We still strain to believe, that we who seek and follow Jesus, are mourning in the predawn hours; overwhelmed with darkness now, but about to be blinded with the radiant light of hope, one that will leave us speechless and in awe, and once again turn the world upside down.
We too, pray for our coming Easter.
We pray for Christianity’s rebirth.
We pray for a Jesus resurrected, here in the very faith that bears His name.
We don’t assume to take anything back for him from anyone. We just pray that he’ll take it back from those who’ve held it for ransom.
We await a gorgeous morning where he’ll come back to life and reclaim what is his. And when He comes back to life in this faith, he’ll turn over the tables and loudly drive out all the charlatans and liars who’ve sold his name and bankrupted his children.
He’ll once again call out all the self-righteous religious leaders, who’ve built empires and fortunes upon the backs of other people’s sins; who’ve become insulated morality policemen instead of close and caring shepherds.
He’ll bend low again to caress every sad, sobbing, filthy soul that has been unseen and untouched for so long and pull them to himself.
When Jesus is fully resurrected in Christianity, he and it will give the good news back to the poor and the hungry and the hurting, and remind the first and the high and the privileged, that they may miss out when the afterparty begins.
When the Church is fully alive with Christ once again, it will reject politics and power and position and recklessly throw open its doors, allowing itself to be willingly looted by the starving, broken, discarded people who have been on the outside for far too long.
When Easter comes to the Church and to the faith, its people will carry only the good news again. It will be their sole agenda.
But that is not what is—and so that is why we grieve.
That is what we wish and wait for: the near impossible, yet still possible resuscitation of our joy.
So yes, we are sometimes angry now.
We are sometimes distraught.
We are mourning something precious that we’ve lost, and we’re rightly pissed-off because funerals spent talking about someone, are never as good as parties spent dancing with them.
We tired of talking and talking about a Christ who we no longer see. We want to dance.
Yes, we grieve a religion that often seems dead, and yet still cling to the slimmest of hopes that an Easter Sunday is still within reach.
You who grieve the loss of Jesus, in the very faith that bears His name: Be encouraged.
He is in the resurrection business.
Grieve. Wait. Hope.
Pray for Sunday.
Joy is coming.
We will soon dance again.
We all will dance again.