dimanche, avril 09, 2017

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

After a warmer than normal February and a March that featured the only substantial snow of the winter, we have been gradually working our way towards spring in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Today held the promise of temperatures in the upper sixties, abundant sun, and a plethora of daffodils, grape hyacinths, and trees bold enough to show more than a little bud at last.

Of course, it was also Palm Sunday, the beginning of the holiest week of the Christian year, marked by Christians all over the world.  This year, as a friend told me last night,  Orthodox Christians marked Lent and will celebrate Easter at the same time.

Palm Sunday, the commemoration of the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, should have been marked with palms, chants, and triumphant songs.

But we learned, as we awoke and got ready to make the drive to church, that in Egypt, for Coptic Christians, it will be remembered today for violence, sudden death, and desecration that had all the hallmarks of the terror group Isis (they later took responsibility for perpetrating the two bombings).

Isis has a particular hatred for Christians. Strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi had told Christians in Egypt that he would protect them.  As in Syria, where many Christians have allied themselves with Assad for roughly the same reasons, such promises turned out to be no bulwark against a remorseless enemy whose agents are willing to blow themselves up to cause maximum destruction.

This week also featured a hideous attack, likely by Assad, on his own people, first with banned chemical weapons, then with barrel bombs.  While the victims were probably not Christians, they are, men, women, and children, just as dead.

As we gathered outside the sanctuary of our peaceful church,  children stood next to their parents, friends near friends, couples singing cheerfully in the warmth of the late morning sunshine.  The spectre of violence that haunts so many communities that morning was not generally within the realm of our experience.

But as our rector reminded us in his sermon, safely tucked into our pews once inside, suffering is at the heart of the Christian message. There is no way but through it.

Yet it seems, often, that though we may experience great pain as individuals, the suffering of Christians in America is an echo of the horrors visited upon other nations.

In a larger sense, we are all part of the same community - to forget the Coptic Christians of Egypt in the ruins of their churches and the glassy-eyed children of Syria would be to betray the message of l0ve and empathy that is at the heart of the Gospel.

Of course, betrayal is also part of the journey of Holy Week. I hope that we do not forget, when we arrive at Easter morning, that our joy is only authentic if it includes a tireless determination to work to ease the suffering of those who cannot, and will not, rejoice next Sunday.  This battle is so fierce - today we heard, if we were listening, the echoes of the warring arms of the night, with morning just a promise away.