Christmas and Easter are both times where we experience Christ's solidarity with us. At Christmas we focus on the incarnation, of God taking human form and living a human life to experience in the flesh all that we experience. This is usually a warm and glowy time where we feel hopeful about God being with us.
During Holy Week and Easter, we walk through the reality of that incarnation and the pain and suffering that Jesus experienced as a human in his atoning work for humanity. We experience the hope that all things will be made new in the love of Jesus.
Julian of Norwich says, “God loves with a power that is deeper than sin, that heals all wounds, a love that binds humanity to God forever.”
For many, the season of Lent is a time to grow closer to Jesus by experiencing self-denial or fasting. Another practice is to connect with the suffering of another. How can we enter into a time of empathy in offering ourselves to carry burdens or understand the pain of another? We have to get outside of ourselves to do this and set aside our own needs and feelings.
Dr. Steve Harper experienced this transformation in using the season of Lent for fasting and prayer for a deeper understanding of what the Bible says about human sexuality. This intentional time led him to a more profound understanding of scripture as well as a more genuine empathy for people in the LGBTQ community. He writes about his experience in his book For the Sake of the Bride.
Rev. Jim Harnish recommends the practice of reading the book The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone every Holy Week. He says this:
Dr. Cone wrote that during the lynching era, Black Christians "told the story of Jesus' passion, as if they were at Golgotha suffering with him ... just knowing that Jesus went through an experience of suffering in a manner similar to theirs gave them faith that God was with them, even in suffering on lynching trees, just as God was present with Jesus in suffering on the cross ... They found in the cross the spiritual power to resist the violence they so often suffered." (p 73-74, 21-22))
Describing his own experience, he said "The cross helped me to deal with the brutal legacy of the lynching tree, and the lynching tree helped me to understand the tragic meaning of the cross." (p. xviii) He asks the disturbing question, "Can American Christians see the reality of Jesus' cross without seeing it as the lynching tree?" (p. 63)
Michelle Blanco, a member of the East Central District Anti-Racism Task Force shared this video on solidarity. She is vulnerable about her experience as a Latina in a predominantly white organization. View video.
Father Richard Rohr shares this reflection about how we are transformed by our suffering - not by bearing it apart and alone, but by recognizing our universal connectedness with each other and God.
Enter into an experience of solidarity in the pain of another during Holy Week. Here are some ideas:
Visit The Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida or the Orange County Regional History Center to learn about the lives and struggles of those who came before us.
Watch the movie 13. Click here to view for free.
Read about the work of Keep the Children Alive in working with the children suffering in Ukraine.
Read about the work of Bobbi Bear in working with children experiencing sexual abuse.
Some other ways to enter into solidarity through the mission partners we have at Tuskawilla UMC:
Volunteer to serve at Hope Helps
Watch videos and read about the work of Zoe Empowers
Later on this month, attend the Cost of Poverty Experience.
I will engage in several of these experiences this month and pray that God will deepen my sense of empathy and solidarity for others.