Waiting for a family member to give birth is perilous business. We promise to pray for them, and though appreciative, our grown children wonder aloud what could possibly go wrong with the delivery of their first-born child. We who have been there and done that do not disavow them the innocence of their belief. Some experience is better left unspoken. Precarious hangs the balance between life and death for every new child entering the world, and for that matter, for every old soul leaving it.
Life is all the more precious for the blood and sacrifice that brings it to bear. No point in elaborating ahead of time on the suffering part. A woman in labor knows soon enough that moment when there’s no turning back, no changing of the mind. “Thy will be done” becomes a prayer of hope for survival. Never mind that millions of women journeyed these final hours and survived. Each pilgrimage to life requires the navigation of sorrow, that moment when the sense of being turned inside out for a greater cause overtakes her.
I imagine just such a moment for Jesus, arriving in Jerusalem to a festival crowd. Children, dogs, and extended relatives tumbled into streets burgeoning with holiday travelers. Passover preparations had begun; the lambs about to be sacrificed for the feast innocently munched their last grain. The crowd’s murmur intensified as a re-known teacher made his way into town. “Did you see Jesus? He’s apparently traveling right behind us. Let’s stop and wait for him. Perhaps he’ll have a message for us today, a kind word, a healing touch?”
In a matter of days, the adoring crowds now filling the streets would hunker down to cook, tell stories, and gossip about the extended family, in kitchens and courtyards up and down the valley. The leaders who plotted against Jesus’ life would engage in treachery while the crowd went home for the holidays. The parade that initiates Holy Week for Jesus soon vanishes, as Jesus steps alone into the misery of betrayal, desertion, denial and a lonely night wrestling with God for some other way. Then swift as car accident, the arrest, backstage trial and execution took place. The whole thing unfolded before the crowd blinked, and then it was finished.
We can’t wait to experience good news and new life to come. But not yet. For a little while more, longer than we’d like, we’re stuck in the middle of labor. There’s suffering involved. The outcome remains uncertain. While we know that most deliveries result in joy come morning, we’re eager to get this whole thing over with, and get on with the new life that awaits us on the other side.
Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
God’s grace, mercy and peace be with you,
Rev. Dr. Anna V. Copeland
Interim Senior Minister
Community Church of Vero Beach