Looking at the lame beggar, Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give to you; in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” (Acts 3:6)
On Monday of Holy Week, about four hundred Episcopalians, lay people and clergy from Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, converged on Washington, DC, to walk the Stations of the Cross as a prayer against violence. We gathered in front of St. John’s Church, in Lafayette Square, huddled together in thickly-falling snow. Then we turned toward the White House and began to pray: “As we take the journey of the cross, we remember that we are buried with Christ by baptism into his death and raised by him to newness of life. May our walk speak to the hope that we will challenge violence — in our world, in our society, in our churches, in our homes and in ourselves.”
Station by station, we walked toward Congress, following a cross through streets that were cleared for us by the police. After about half an hour, the snow turned to a cold rain. We kept walking. Because this is a small church, I kept encountering people I knew in the crowd: Wes Smedley and Kate Heichler, who were classmates of mine in seminary. Sandy Stayner, who mentored us all in priesthood. My friend Sheelagh from New Jersey. Winnie Varghese, whom I’d met years earlier in Los Angeles. Priests from DC. Parishioners with whom I share worship each Sunday. A host of bishops, soggy in purple cassocks. We prayed; we talked; we caught up on one another’s lives. We ended the walk, a soggy crew, piling into the parish hall of St. Mark’s, Capitol Hill. Kind volunteers handed us steaming cups of hot soup and sandwiches, as we sat at long tables much like people at any soup kitchen, glad for warm food and shelter from the storm. Later, we renewed our baptismal convenant and our ordination vows, sitting in a damp circle in the church. Simple, stripped down, heartfelt.
Although it was Holy Week, it was an Easter experience, for Easter is when Christ frees us to witness. He does not only free us from death, but for himself. He frees us to stitch the broken world back together, one prayer, one kind deed at a time.
And he gives us company, so that we do not have to do the work alone. Friends old and new, faces that enter our lives for a time or for long years, companions to inspire us and make us laugh and goad us on. And churches! He gives us those, too: places of shelter and of safety, where we can be warmed and fed when we are weary and in need of renewal.
We live between the cross and resurrection, between pain and hope, between the reality of our broken world and its astonishing beauty. That is the territory of Easter, until the last great day. Veronique Pozner, the mother of Noah, who was killed at Sandy Hook said that his sister is “scared that she’ll forget what her twin Noah sounded and looked like. She said to me the other night, ‘Mommy, if I forget what it was like to play with Noah, does it mean he’ll forget me too? I don’t want that to happen. When I’m happy, I want him to know it.'”
What we know in Christ is that nothing is forgotten. No child. No woman. No man. Nothing that has ever been is forgotten.
Neither are we.