Cast me gently into morning

On Easter each year I set my alarm for a few minutes before sunrise so that I can listen to this song by Sarah Mclachlan, Answer. One year I heard this song during holy week, and I heard these words in an entirely new way:

“Cast me gently into morning

For the night has been unkind.

Take me to a place so holy

That I can wash this from my mind–

the memory of choosing not to fight.”

All of a sudden I was thinking of the stories of Jesus on the cross, and the coming Easter morning. One of the ways I understand the cross is that Jesus was put to death for rebelling against authorities and teaching strange things that people didn’t understand and felt threatening to their way of life–especially those in power. And he chose to not fight, so that he didn’t participate in the systems of death and power. He couldn’t participate in those systems he spoke against, or none of it would make any sense. He had to live and die in a different way.

One year I saw Sarah Mclachlan in concert, and she introduced this song by saying she had written the chorus years ago and never had any verses, and she furthermore didn’t know what the song was about. From up in the balcony of Benaroya Hall, I wanted to shout. I know! I know what it’s about! It’s about death and resurrection. It’s about this story of Jesus on the cross, and people yelling up at him: “If you are the son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross” (Matthew 25:40). Its about going through the hell of all that rejection and pain and choosing not to fight. It’s about Easter morning and rising up from that death into life. It’s about the Holy.

And, as she sings in the verses of the song, “It will all be worth it—worth it in the end.”

(This year, sunrise in Denver is at 6:32 AM, when this was posted. I’ll be up way before that.)

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If you’re going through hell, keep going.

I guess Winston Churchill said that. Someone else once said (and someone else put it on a card) “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

These are the two quotes that keep sticking in my head during Holy week, especially on this day, the Saturday before Easter. If you’re going through hell, keep going. I don’t know what Winston Churchill meant by this but it seems to me to say something about death and resurrection.

What the hell? That’s always the question. On Huff post this week there’s an article about what Jesus did in those three days between death and the empty tomb. Some parts of our tradition talk about descending into hell, and there are various thoughts about why, or what he was doing there. I once had a friend ask me, “what the hell did I ever do that was SO BAD that Jesus had to go to hell for three measly days so that I don’t have to spend an eternity there?”

Well, it’s a good question, but one that is a little bit lost on me. I don’t really believe in this physical place of fire and brimstone with a dark overlord best depicted in the South Park movie. But I can tell you this: Even in my own life, I have experienced really dark nights; I have gone through hard things that felt like the end. That felt like Hell. We all have. I imagine genocide feels like hell. I imagine war feels like hell. I imagine devastating earthquakes and tsunamis feel like hell. I imagine it feels like hell when you go through those things and nobody seems to care enough to help.

I also know about the dark voices in my head that keep me (as Martin Luther would say) curved in on myself, unable to offer my best self to the world. And that can feel like the devil. So we have these stories that personify and animate what we experience in life, because it’s the truth. Sometimes life is hell, and sometimes those voices that keep us down feel like evil incarnate.

So maybe when we hear the stories of Jesus being put to death on a cross, and then going to hell we can get it. The cross is hell. And Jesus went there. Maybe we can come to understand not that Jesus went there in your place, but instead that there is nothing you can experience and no place where you can go where Christ isn’t there with you.

And then the resurrection—which we experience as well. We know from our lives that it really is true—that life keeps going, and that in the end it will be okay. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

So if you’re going through hell, keep going. It’s not the end.