Remaining

posted Apr 16, 2022, 7:17 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,


Greetings of peace to you. 


On this Holy Saturday, I offer you this reflection.


Remaining

When I was a hospital chaplain doing my Clinical Pastoral Education, I was often called to the bedside to be with families that were grieving over the sickness or death of a loved one. Being a chaplain was one of the best-worst things I’ve ever done in my ministry. During that time, I learned one of the hardest lessons I needed to learn: I was not there to fix it, to make them feel better or tell them everything would be okay. I was being asked to listen, to remain, to hold a space of love and grief, and to be a witness to the Holy that was there in their presence.


In our passion reading from yesterday, Jesus’ friends and family were witnesses to the horrible death of their friend, a death many of us would find unfathomable.  Jesus was dead, and yet, they remained behind and alive. The presence of his absence must have been thick in the air.  For surely, wherever the disciples went, remnants of Jesus and his life were still present.  I wonder, did they hold the cup he offered them on that last supper, turning it around in their hands? Did they find the cloth that he used when he washed their feet discarded in a corner? Were some of his tools as a carpenter lying around the room? Could Mary still feel how he had felt in her arms when he was a baby? What sayings of his came to their minds? Did his words, “remain in me, remain in my love” echo for them, as they replayed over and over the last days leading up to his death? The feeling of ambiguous loss, where the person is not physically present but emotionally so, must have haunted Jesus’ friends and the disciples, as the remnants of his life and the spectre of his death hovered over them.


This space of the in between is where we find ourselves on this day. We are reminded of the ambiguity of loss. We live between death and resurrection, between the now and the not yet of the soon coming reign of God. We are in the presence of absence, and yet, while we remain in this absence, we know that God is with us; that God suffers with us, and has suffered with us. God holds us, and promises to never let us go.  God remains with us, not making the pain disappear or the grief cease to bear down upon us, but God, in God’s infinite love, helps to reduce the hold that trauma has upon those who suffer.  


Before Jesus is killed, he tells his disciples that he will be leaving, and in his absence he will prepare a place for them. That place, as it turns out is not far away. Instead, he tells them that their hearts will be the home; they will become the site in which God will come to dwell.  And then he says, ‘Remain in my love.’  They are being asked to do more than just believe in him after he is gone; they are being asked to be the dwelling place of the hope given to the world. And so, on this Holy Saturday we, like the disciples, are placed on the other side of his death and asked to witness to love here and now. We are asked by Jesus to remain in me; remain in my love.


I look forward to worshiping with you on Sunday as we celebrate the glory of Christ’s resurrection. But for now, we remain.


In gratitude for the privilege of being your pastor and the holy call of loving you,


Pastor Trish


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