“This week is kind of like your superbowl, right?”
A friend said this to me the other day after she’d asked about what my week is like this week. I’m a worship pastor, and this is Holy Week, the busiest time of the year for me. But the metaphor felt funny, like someone handing me a gardening glove when I’m about to get a chicken out of the oven. I’m not a sports guy, for one, but aside from that, the goal of this week isn’t about a competition; the “win” is providing space for people to engage the story of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus, Son of God. The goal is giving God space to give new life to our congregation.
But how many of us begin this week already tired? I know I did. There are so many things to do this week - multiple rehearsals, arranging parts, finishing tasks I’d forgotten about or that had gotten buried, planning for things that come AFTER Easter, extra worship gatherings … there are so many things. And in the midst of it all, normal life stuff with family, finances, and maybe, just maybe, eeking out some time for myself so that I don’t go completely insane from stress.
And in the midst of all of the tasks, the stress, the WORK, it’s easy to get caught sleeping. Oh I don’t mean that I’m actually asleep - though I could stand for a few more hours of rest every night - but the tasks and the stress themselves can be like sleeping on the job for a pastor. It’s easy to forget - especially in this season - that I am first and foremost a child of God. While my responsibilities include creating space for other people to engage the story of God, to find their place in it, to worship together, what often happens is that I forget to create space for myself to do the same.
It’s a bit like a restless, fitful, tense sleep from which I wake up more tired than before. When we fail to create that space in weeks like this - especially in weeks like this - we are very much the worse for wear, and our leadership reflects that. When we do not take the time to wrestle with the incarnation and crucifixion and resurrection - in this week, of all weeks - we do ourselves and our congregations a disservice.
This time, of all times, can provide evidence of just that: incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. It starts out so innocently, a job for which we were built and which we love - an incarnation. But then the tasks start piling up - the extra hours away from our families and extra services and the anxiety of wanting to get it just right for our guests and church families - and we end up drained, lifeless, entombed … crucified. Our resurrection might come a little too late, after Easter’s already come and gone, and our families or churches have to slap a little life back into our drained, listless forms.
We take the time now to die to ourselves and let God breathe life anew.
I’ve been reading the book of Ezekiel every morning. I don’t know why I chose it, other than the fact that I wanted to read something I’d not read much before, and I’d remembered some pretty interesting imagery about spinning wheels and angels with four faces. When I got around to chapter 37, this (slightly) more familiar story popped up:
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.’”
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet — a vast army.
Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
Maybe this week your bones are dry and weary, your hope feels dead and buried. Maybe there’s more going on in your life than just the exhaustion of holy week and all that it can bring. Maybe this week you identify a little too much with the valley of dry bones, or with Jesus being whipped by the cat of nine-tails or hanging on the cross. Maybe all you want is to lay in a tomb so that it’ll all just be over. If that’s the case, it’s time for you to put down the to-do lists, the meetings, the tasks, the rehearsals, the work, even your bible for just a few minutes. Take some time to
God’s got this. Let Him breathe new life into your dry bones, and wake you up before this season is over. May your resurrection come now, that God may do through you amazing things in all of the events and the people you lead.