Death’s Sting and Defiant Alleluias

“O death, where is thy sting?”

Well … how about Sri Lanka?
Doesn’t death have, literally,
a hell of a sting in Sri Lanka today?
It has almost become a commonplace
to expect such violence during Holy Week.
Churches in Pakistan, Egypt and Nigeria,
all attacked in recent years during Holy Week.

The symbolism is, of course, demonically cruel.

You want to walk the way of the cross?
Let’s make that devastatingly real for you.
You want to celebrate resurrection from the dead?
Let’s visit violent death upon that celebration.
“O death, where is thy sting?”

Well … how about on the streets of Toronto?
Doesn’t death have, literally,
a hell of a sting in the opiode overdose
emergency on our streets?
“O death, where is thy sting?”

Well … how about at 25 Charles Street East?
How about in the month from a hell
that our beloved friends as Sanctuary have endured?
I know, I know, dear friends,
this is a hell of a way to celebrate Easter.
This is a hell of a way to sing,
Alleluia, the Lord is risen!

But without the pain of death’s sting,
the celebration of resurrection is little more
than cultural sentimentality.
The resurrection song that speaks most deeply to me, this Easter Monday,
is Emmylou Harris’s “The Pearl.”
Our path is worn our feet are poorly shod
We lift up our prayer against the odds
And fear the silence is the voice of God
Tired, beaten down, praying against the odds,
recoiling from the sting of death,
no wonder we “fear the silence is the voice of God.”
And yet, with Emmylou and against the odds, 
We cry Alleluia, Alleluia,
we cry Alleluia
It is true …
Sorrow is constant and the joys are brief
The seasons come and bring no sweet relief
Time is a brutal but a careless thief
Who takes our lot but leaves behind the grief

All the Easter celebrations in the world
do not erase the sorrow.
All the Alleluia’s we might sing
will not fully dissolve our grief.

Friends, it all hangs on Easter.
It all hangs on the resurrection.
It all hangs on life overcoming death.
It all hangs on love overcoming hate.
It all hangs on hope overcoming despair.

But this is no cheap hope.
This is not an easy faith.
And this is a very costly love.

And so we sing Alleluia with broken voices.

With tears of sorrow mingled with joy,
we proclaim, with defiance,
Alleluia. Christ has risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.
Brian Walsh
Brian is an activist theologian, a retired CRC campus minister, the founder of the Wine Before Breakfast community, and farms with Sylvia Keesmaat at Russet House Farm.He engages issues of theology and culture, and has written a couple of books you might want to check out. His most recent offering is cowritten with Sylvia Keesmaat and entitled Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire, Demanding Justice.

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