Few of our studies generated more positive response than our Lenten series based on Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved. I’ve had quite a few emails and calls from people saying how much his approach to faithfulness has moved them. This week, he pushes us toward a way of being that demands active engagement: “When the totality of our daily lives is lived ‘from above,’ that is, as the Beloved sent into the world, then everyone we meet and everything that happens to us becomes a unique opportunity to choose for the life that cannot be conquered by death” (136). His thoughts are especially poignant at this juncture, when we are—quite literally—returning to life, reentering a world we can no longer control with masks and distance and protocols, resurrected into the messiness of mundane uncertainty, where latent fears of strangers and randomness can’t dominate our every thought and move.
For two years we’ve lived on-demand, clicking our way through each day, struggling to keep our physical and emotional and spiritual needs met from a distance. And there’s been much speculation about what life after COVID will be like. Will we prefer private dining and home entertainment and out-of-synch faith practice? Or will this two-year wilderness—the longest Lent of our lives—heighten appreciation for living from above in real-time engagement instead of the less nourishing on-demand way we’ve settled for?
This Sunday we remember how Jesus—facing certain death—took his people into the city that would try to destroy him. He could have opted for on-demand distance: keeping a low profile, celebrating Passover quietly at home, avoiding friends and foes alike, preferring the safety of his own rooms and routines. Except Jesus couldn’t live on the down-low. He and his followers marched into Jerusalem without shame, live and out loud. When the nervous set scolded them, Jesus rebuked his critics, saying, “If they were silent, the stones would shout!” Yes, living from above is noisy and inconvenient and personally demanding. But if Jesus’s supporters had checked in at their convenience, there would be no Palm Sunday… no live event that points toward what happens when we choose life that cannot be conquered by death.
We have sterling opportunities for live, real-time religion this week—Thursday’s Zoom study and Sunday’s live, in-person worship—with more coming during Holy Week. Time’s up for on-demand survival religion. We’re stronger when we’re joined in real-time, living from above together. I look forward to seeing more of you in person, on time. You’re a vital member of this Beloved Community!
Peace, with much love,