Wednesday of Holy Week

Isaiah 50: 4-9a; Hebrews 12:1-3

Do you ever read scripture and say to yourself or out loud, “YES!” ? When you see words that feel true, or resonate with you in a new and different way? That is how I felt when I read the passages from Isaiah and Hebrews that we are spending time with today. Weariness is something that I been struggling with a lot lately. Maybe it’s the current political climate, the state of the world, or the weariness that comes with Holy Week, but I find myself yearning to be on the other side of Easter. Sometimes I really do wish that we could just skip the hard stuff and go right to the celebrating. But that isn’t the way it goes, and after reading these passages again, I saw a new hope emerging.

As we find ourselves in the middle of Holy Week, we are nearing the end of the journey, and we have reached the point where the true weight of the cross comes to bear in ways that are tangible, visceral and painful. And for many of us, this adds to the weight of the world that, on a lot of days, feels heavier than needed. But as we sit in this place, days before Good Friday, and days before ultimate death and darkness set in, I find solace in the idea that Christ could see the joy set out before him — even in the midst of carrying the burdens of the cross and the sins of humanity ­— Christ saw the joy ahead, and even in weariness, pain, fear, sorrow and ridicule, Jesus kept going. Hear me, I am not saying Christ was happy about it, or that he didn’t hate what was happening to Him, but regardless of how He felt, Christ chose to keep going for the sake of joy, joy that was ahead of Him, and would extended to each of us. 

I think that is important to remember, not in a way that diminishes the weariness, pain, sorrow and ridicule we may face, but as a reminder that Jesus has also endured so much of what the human experience brings. He had been betrayed, ridiculed, shamed, misunderstood, mis-named, disregarded, and unfairly condemned. I don’t know about you, but the fact that Christ experienced so much of the hardness of humanity, and chose to keep going, gives me great hope. Christ knows our pain. Christ knows our suffering. Christ knows what we carry and invites us to lay it down. Jesus invites us to look at him and recognize that the joy that was laid out before Him was also meant for each of us. Yes, you and me. 

The author of Hebrews wrote this as a word meant to sustain the weary, and I want to echo that today. Lent is a season where darkness can seem to be darker, where the quiet of reverence and preparation can feel like we will never rejoice again. But in the midst of Holy Week, be sustained knowing that we journey together, and that we have a cloud of witnesses to sustain and protect us, and to help us continue when the weight of the journey becomes too much. 

There is joy laid out in front of us. It is ours to receive, for our race is not yet done, and “The Lord God has given (each of us) the tongue…to know how to sustain with a word (they) who (are) weary” (Isaiah  50:4). God has given us what we need to endure this journey, and to help others endure along the way. 

So as we journey closer and closer to the Cross, what weighs you down, what clouds you from seeing the joy laid out before you? Or what keeps you from receiving the joy that is meant for you? As we approach the cross, we are given the opportunity to lay that down, and to walk away changed, to walk away living fully into our identity of beloved children of God. As my friend Bruce Reyes-Chow says, it is just that easy, and just that hard.

I struggle with the Cross, and all that it embodies, and I struggle more so with what the cross says about our collective humanity and propensity to hurt one another. But I am encouraged to read again that even in the midst of His death and dying, even on the Cross, Christ modeled a different way for us. A way that looked beyond the cross, beyond the shame and ridicule, and offered grace in the face of the worst of ourselves.  

And I am reminded that we are offered this new way, not for us to journey alone, but so that we might find ourselves in the midst of community. Be it a cloud of witnesses protecting and sustaining us, or a call to be with those who are weary and in need of a word of hope and grace, the words of Isaiah echo in my mind and heart with the call, “Let us stand up together.”

This is our rallying call, and what helps us to reclaim the hope that is bubbling up to the surface, in spite of our baggage, and all that we carry in this season of Lent. We are called in the face of darkness, pain, injustice, and weariness to claim the space that Christ created for each of us, and to embrace the joy that is surely on the way. 

So in these final days of Lent, as we journey closer to the cross, I encourage you to be in community with one another. Find a way to gather, to eat together, to laugh together, to pray together, find a way to do the hard work of waiting and preparing in community. And if that isn’t possible, let this devotional be your community, and may it be your reminder that you are not alone, and that you are beloved. 

Let us stand up together, and as we arise, may we see, receive and experience the deep and abiding joy that Christ saw ahead of Him, and in turn, offered to each of us. 

You are loved, Peace be with you. 

Rev. Pepa Paniagua is an ordained pastor serving in North Texas, and a MoreLight Ambassador. Pepa is currently the Executive for Outreach and Education at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Dallas, and the founding pastor of kin•dom community- a multi-denominational/ecumenical new worshiping community dedicated to radical inclusion and welcome. A native Californian, Pepa is learning to enjoy life in Texas, but she misses the mountains and the sea every day. Pepa and her wife, Kelli, have three dogs who keep them on their toes, and constantly remind them why they can’t have nice things. 

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