Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 – The Seventh Wednesday in Lent
Finding A Way Home Through the Fog
Every year during Holy Week we relive the story of Jesus’ last days with familiar apprehension and dread, as He moves relentlessly toward the cross. We travel his path as He enters Jerusalem peacefully, riding a gentle donkey, surrounded by a cheering, elated crowd in a parade of nonviolence. In contrast, we learn how Pilate orchestrates his entrance on the other side of the city, riding a mighty warhorse, accompanied by armed Roman soldiers, in a parade of implied threat. Jesus spends this last week confronting the combined powers of the political and religious hierarchies of the day through his ministry of love, healing, justice and righteousness. The Roman rulers and the Jewish high priests perceive Jesus as a threat. They collaborate to trap Him. Despite His courage, His persuasive arguments, and His words of truth, Jesus makes decisions that lead to the cross. Knowing the results of these events through Scripture, we want to intrude into the story and find a way to change the outcome. Instead, we participate in the thick fog of confusion, fear, and cowardice experienced by Jesus’ friends and enemies. We see the horror of the Crucifixion, but not the surprise of the Resurrection.
Since I am always seeking a metaphor for descriptive purposes, I often compare my yearly journey through the fear and frustration of Holy Week with a boat ride through a dense fog in Maine. I was invited by a friend to explore a remote, heavily wooded, uninhabited island. As we traveled in his small motorboat, we enjoyed an offshore breeze, giving us sunshine and a horizon so sharp that it looked chiseled against the sky. After securing our boat in the island’s sheltered cove, we hiked through the woods in strangely diminishing light to the cliffs on the eastern side of the island. When we reached the cliffs, we discovered that the offshore wind had shifted to an onshore breeze. That other wind had brought a dark, cold fog bank so thick that we could barely see each other. We rushed back to his boat. Since my friend never carried a channel chart, a compass, or a horn on his boat, we had no survival tools to help us. Consequently, we devised a sketchy plan to find our way home.
After deciding to search for specific landmarks at sea to direct us, we set out in the fog. Our first destination was a treacherous series of ledges called The Hypocrites. The Hypocrites look like sharply pointed stalagmites reaching up to find imaginary stalactites. They are noted for their ability to tear apart ships that inadvertently strike them. I stretched out on the bow of the boat with my face close to the water in an effort to find The Hypocrites before they found us. In spite of our tight, tiny circle of visibility, I saw the first rocky spire before we hit it. We used these ledges to aim ourselves toward another island. If we misjudged its location, we would get lost at sea without any reference point. We found the island’s shoreline and followed it to an unseen lighthouse on an adjacent island. Its foghorn was excruciatingly loud, reminding us needlessly that the fog was impenetrable and the waters dangerous.
The most ominous part of our trip awaited us. To get home, we had to cross a busy water route that merchants and pleasure boats choose because it offers a sheltered passage. We also had to avoid the rocks and ledges off of a peninsula, marked at the moment by invisible channel markers. We could neither see nor hear anything beyond the shrieking foghorn. As we gingerly crossed this busy passage, we expected to be broadsided by some large ship. Nothing hit us. We looked for the expected rocks and ledges. None appeared. By this time, the fog had drenched our hair and clothes, leaving us shivering and afraid. Our sense of direction had failed us. We were lost. Even though we believed we were progressing toward the open ocean, we had to keep moving.
Suddenly, brilliant sunshine blinded us. We had unwittingly motored out of the fog bank into the clear visibility of the bay. With joy and gratitude, we embraced the glorious light, the sun’s warmth, and the gift of preserved life. We observed the same chiseled outline of trees and homes that we had noticed in the morning wind, but in this light the whole world looked new. Glancing behind us, we saw, crouched at the mouth of the bay, the mountainous, dark fog bank that we had escaped. The soft, off shore breeze was blocking the fog’s access to the bay. Despite our mistakes, we had been blessed with a way home in the fog.
I compare the struggle through the fog in a small boat to our difficult journey through the events of Holy Week. After retracing the Holy Week stories, we face Good Friday with dread. We see nothing ahead but a fogbound future of grief. Then on Sunday, we, like Jesus’ frightened followers, receive the unexpected gift, the blinding light of love at the Resurrection. During the Easter Vigil, we demonstrate this shocking shift in our faith history. While I watch the glorious transformation of the church at the end of the Easter Vigil, I remember that sudden burst of redeeming light beyond the fog bank. Out of the darkness of the church, light floods our holy space, revealing flowers and joyful worshipers. The choir begins to sing “The strife is o’er, the battle done, the victory of life is won: the song of triumph has begun. Alleluia!” I am once again surprised by Easter.
– Susie Sprowl, Christ Church Parishioner
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