Charles Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities famously begins, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.”
Dickens’ words are in my head because we are coming to Holy Week, a week that has Good Friday crucifixion and Easter resurrection, truly the worst of times and the best of times. We live post-Easter so ostensibly we live in the best of times. We humans are imperfect, though, and fall to the lull of false idols and are quite clever in convincing ourselves of only noble intentions, refusing to see just how much we allow ourselves to live in a Good Friday time. A time when the innocent are crucified just as Jesus was crucified by the Roman Empire, an empire that lived by the ways of death, weapons of war, and state-sponsored murder while falsely calling it the Peace of Rome.
We live in a Good Friday time, watching over the decades as our school children are killed as sacrificial lambs, as well as church-goers, country music attendees, soldiers on military bases, shoppers in malls. We’re now five months past the church shooting in Texas, five years after Sandy Hook, eighteen years after Columbine, thirty-four years after the McDonald’s massacre in San Ysidro (1984 - the first mass killing I remember, which was my senior year of high school). Plus far, far more, and yet nothing has been done. We haven’t even been allowed to have a conversation about it. “Now is not the time,” we are told, as though we should shun the truth until it’s convenient for us. As a follower of Jesus, I believe that the time for truth is always right now.
Yet the week I am writing this, a dog died in an overhead bin on an airplane and already a senator has introduced legislation to keep it from happening again. Immediate action for a dog, but we are forced to helplessly watch our children, neighbors, teachers, fellow church-goers or concert-attendees murdered while Pilate washes his hands and offers prayers. Surely, the worst of times, an age of foolishness, a season of Darkness, a winter of despair. This is against the gospel of Jesus Christ and the good news of Easter.
But like the times of Dickens, we are also in an age of wisdom, an epoch of belief, a season of Light, and a spring of hope. Truth-speakers are calling us back to the way of Easter and away from the ways of Good Friday. The student Walk Out happened this week, students rising up to say #NeverAgain and demand that we adults fix a problem we have been complicit in allowing for far too many decades. Women (and men) have been rising up to say #metoo, exposing their abusers and calling for an end to normalizing sexual harassment. The Black Lives Matter movement is raising awareness of the many ways racism plagues us. Millions have marched and continue to march supporting science, women, the environment, and the many who are left behind. Local governments are passing laws that state and national ones won’t, supporting the Paris Accords, sustainable energy, living wages, school safety, better health care, less imprisonment, religious diversity, protections for minorities.
An Easter movement is happening here and abroad, an Easter movement elevating hope, life, and love, and it gives me great hope. We have a young generation demanding a better future, we have formerly silent voices demanding to be heard, and some who hold power admitting their abuse of that power who are starting to listen and invite in these new voices. As a pastor of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God who came to liberate and bring hope, life, and love, I find that this is, in so many ways, an Easter time, which is surely the best of times.