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    High-Life Assistant Director
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    High-Life/Children
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    Director of Children's Ministry
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    Director of Community Development
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All That Is Fair: Were You There?


Let’s pretend you are standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon.  You look to the opposite edge many miles away.  Your gaze moves from the horizon down to the raging river thousands of feet below.  You follow every twist and turn of the landscape, every variation in color and light, every tree, every squirrel, every bird… the scene surrounds you.  It wraps you up in a cosmic bear hug.  It makes you feel like your senses are just too small to receive it.  Your head feels like it’s spinning off your shoulders desperately trying to take it all in.  Then, you take a few pictures…

Let’s also pretend that you still use a film camera.  You wait with eager anticipation for the photos to be developed, remembering the awesome power of the experience you had.  A few hours or maybe a day of waiting and reminiscing.  You’ve recounted your trip to your friends dozens of times already and you’ve only just returned the day before.  Its impact is profoundly imprinted on your memory and you can’t wait to go back.  Until then, settling for a eucharistic remembrance in pictures and stories of glory will have to be your surrogate.  The pharmacy calls, your images are ready…

Stretching the speed limit a bit, you earnestly make your way to pick them up.  A few rolls of film from your day at the canyon and a heart full of anticipation.  Maybe you’ll feel that same feeling again?  Maybe the belonging sense of smallness will return and you can be overcome with delight and gratitude.

Swipe your card, grab the envelopes, and head to the car.  As soon as you sit down at the wheel you start flipping through the photos.  They’re wonderful!  Better than you’d imagined. Most of the time on a 24 exposure roll, you’d be lucky to get 3 good shots, but almost all of these are phenomenal.  You captured the setting sunlight in exaggerated ways, leaving an artistic impression of something other than what you remember, something even beyond nature, almost spiritual, enhancing your memory of the day.  But as lovely as these pictures are, something’s missing…

That same feeling didn’t rush back to you.  Why?  Is something wrong with you?  Are the pictures not as good as you think? 

No, it’s just that experiencing something first-hand will always yield a greater impact.  Any attempt to rehash an experience will fall short of actually being there.  It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to recount in words, pictures, music, dance… Nor does it matter if the experience was massive or mundane, painful or pleasant.  At some point, our attempts at bringing people into our remembrances will fall flat.  It is the natural limitation of being separated from each other’s hearts and spirits by flesh and bone…

There was this one time in human history, when a man came saying all sorts of crazy things about himself and his father in heaven.  He lived among us as one of us, yet not one of us.  He taught to multitudes.  He worked miracles.  He had deep relationships.  He said he was one with the father.  As if the limitations of his humanity had been bypassed.  How can a bag of flesh and bone be one with the father?  Don’t you have to die first for your spirit to be free to be in union with its creator?  He could never quite make us see exactly how that was possible.  Until…

He looked up to heaven from the cross of a thief and said “It is finished.”  The temple veil tore, just like his body, removing the inherent barrier of flesh and bone.  He was buried, and on the third day he rose again from the grave.  That Grand Canyon oneness that no frame can capture, because we are individuals divided from each other… Jesus himself became that road back to oneness.  Back in the day, we depended on someone like Moses to describe the glory of the lord to us, to bear witness to the burning bush, to be the mouthpiece of the law.  But now, we have Jesus.

“Jesus said to him [Thomas], ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’... ‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father’”

Easter is so dramatic, so huge.  All of our remembrances fall profoundly flat.  The very best songs, sermons, and soliloquies we can muster just do not carry the impact of what it must have been like for Mary Magdalene, Thomas the doubter, Simon Peter, and everyone else who witnessed those events.  Our hearts are bigger than the canvas on which we paint. 

This year during Holy Week, it’s my prayer that we would all recognize the limitations of what we do to celebrate these events.  But at the same time, remember that our hearts were made for God himself.  The images are not the thing itself.  The hymns we sing are only a retelling.  Jesus, not pictures, is the thing.  He is the Grand Canyon.  He fills our bottomless hearts.