“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” -Matthew 16:18
Resurrection. From the cold, cold clutches of death, it springs. And the gates of hell shall not prevail. Let all in earth and heaven sing …
And yet, I stand within these earthly gates of hell that swell with unremitting death and destruction. In neighborhoods where Murder and Mayhem need no introduction.
Where “the Church” lies asleep and is complicit in the reduction of dreams to ash and decay. And life fleets with illicit dismay.
Where the scorn of poverty looms heavy, like the stench of sulfur. And the children suffer.
I see crumbling brick houses neglected and battered. Neighborhoods where “life” once mattered. Callous corners where shameless drug boys wearing white T-shirts peddle. A Church that seems to have lost its mettle. I see addicted souls, wandering aimlessly in a heroin-induced stupor, down dreary streets awash in tears and blood. Streets too filled with hate and not enough love.
I see the glory of another Easter Sunday morn, rising across a forlorn stretch of land, where churches cluster but mostly bluster.
Churches where the resurrection story is recited in resplendent pomp and circumstance. Where choirs sing and banner wavers dance. While beyond their walls, poor black and brown communities gasp, clinging desperately to consciousness amid fading hope for one last chance. Golgotha — place of the skull — where suffering and sorrow today spill like sweat from pores.
And consuming waters of bleakness rise like a cresting merciless river. I shiver. At the gulf between “them” and “us.” Even as I remember the reason for this season.
I imagine that Calvary’s hill more than 2,000 years ago must have looked a lot like this. The circumstances this hopeless. This wretched. This abandoned. This unfathomable. This irreparable. This irredeemable. The human suffering incalculable.
And yet, resurrection. … From suffering and shame. From blood and pain. Eternal gain.
From the inhumane cruelty of the cross arose a transcendent emblem. A faith born from the teachings of a carpenter’s son from Nazareth who conquered death and the grave — who willingly suffered to heal “them.”
Who declared to His disciples after resurrection: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations …”
Resurrection. … I rejoice in resurrection. But I am troubled by the lack of reflection of the divine power we the Church claim we possess. All the while neighborhoods, where our steeples tickle the high heavens, languish in dire distress.
I wonder: If we really believe in Easter’s glory, why is the narrative of life and death in the hood the same old story? Or if Jesus Christ has commanded the faithful to carry the cross, why do we stay holed up inside instead of seeking out the lost?
Or in troubled neighborhoods where churches dot every corner, how can so much so-called light and darkness coexist? Why do the gates of hell seem so successfully to resist?
I stand within these gates and I see the living dead. I see entombed communities and the ravages of death, though visions of their resurrection swirl inside my head.
I see the lame and the blind, the captive and the poor. A people whose fates have been silently auctioned to the Grim Reaper who lurks just beyond the church’s doors.
And yet, by faith I see possibilities of so much more. I see a Church moving beyond the walls. A Church renewed by a resurgence of love, faith and power from God above.
I see resurrection. From the cold, cold clutches of death, it springs. And the gates of hell shall not prevail. Let all in earth and heaven sing …