Jesus emptied himself. – Philippians 2:7a (NRSV)
I wonder how our churches will be faring today, this Thursday before Maundy Thursday, amid the post-ongoing-uncertain pandemic season. I wonder, in the time between my writing and your reading, if springtime hope will be our reality or our longing. As we Christians prepare for Holy Week, will we feel safe to be together?
I wonder what Easter will be like at the church I serve. Who will feel the need to come—and who will feel the need to stay away? Perhaps you wonder, too.
I wonder about other things, too. Even if we have a full house on Easter, who will be missing? Who has died? Who has moved away to be closer to family? Who has left because the pandemic changes of church life couldn’t meet their expectations or needs in this troubled time? Who has felt abandoned by or angry at God? What chairs or pews will be empty—by social distancing or by absences?
But one thing I don’t wonder about in the Holy Week ahead is the story we’ll share, especially the part about what the disciples did. I don’t wonder at all why, when the love and faith they once had ran out, they couldn’t keep from betraying or denying him, or simply vanishing into the night and abandoning him.
I don’t wonder about any of that because I know what it’s like to run on empty—empty of hope, of faith, of love—when all one wants to do is run away. Perhaps you do, too.
The other thing I don’t wonder about is that somehow, and for some reason, this Christ Jesus whom Paul wrote about from his prison cell, chose to “empty himself” so he could enter fully into our human life. I don’t wonder about it, because what else could a truly loving God do?
Thank you, God. Amen.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Parts 1 and 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.