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Open doors – a reflection for this season of Lent, Easter and Pentecost

We are now in the season of Lent, contemplating the Lord’s journey of suffering, his passion, his Via Dolorosa leading to his crucifixion. But this year’s season of Lent is different. Suddenly we experience suffering and existential fear; we are faced with our own vulnerability and temporality; it came very close to each one of us; it’s real!  It is within us, but also tangible around us. It is not only an individual experience, but collective – all of us are equally caught in the grip of a dangerous pandemic, a global crisis.

A central element of this crisis is our uncertainty. We really do not know what will happen; we cannot make any future plans, not even one day ahead. We dare not imagine what the impact of this global crisis will be. We are not used to this, because we normally plan our lives ahead; we are so used to feel in control of our own destiny! We had our future in our own hands, or so we thought. But now, all of a sudden, within a couple of days, our whole world changed dramatically, probably permanently so. And we lost control…

Those of us who are in responsible positions, leaders on different levels of society, like pastors or teachers, may also experience that we are disempowered, stripped of our customary competency. We are forced to stay at home. We cannot even lead church services, or comfort our flocks as we normally do. But even if we could move freely, what would we do? What would we say? We have no answers, nor credible explanations.

The Book of Revelation was written in apocalyptic language, precisely for times like these. It takes the reality of suffering and fear very seriously – no sugar coating or easy answers. It confirms the reality of our world’s brokenness.

But – and that is the gospel – within the suffering and fear, it opens a door; it helps us to see the unseen, and therefore gives real and steadfast hope.

Isolated on the Island Patmos, the Spirit spoke to John and he turned round to see the voice that was speaking to him: “And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man …” Amongst us, amongst communities and churches, amongst the fear and suffering inside and around us, someone is moving, keeping the lamps alight, holding us is his hands, holding us together. And this someone, that John learned, is familiar with suffering.

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid’.”   (Gideon van der Watt)