Picking Up the Pieces

I was 13 years old when we experienced our first hurricane/tropical storm in Biloxi, Mississippi. We had been there about two years, living a block and a half off the Gulf of Mexico. It was the most idyllic place we had ever lived. I was old enough to become immersed in the culture, the environment, and the beauty of the area.

As the storm blew in we sheltered in our home. Darkness and the worst of the winds came at the same time, so we were unable to see much of what was happening outside. But the sounds were stunning and threatening. I remember hearing limbs break and debris blowing around the neighborhood. Power was gone within the first 30 minutes. Radio broadcasts were silenced. The wind blew for hours, screaming. The rain poured and pounded the windows, doors and roof of our home.

Dawn and a subsiding of the winds came at about the same time, and we began to venture out of the house to survey the damage. It was stunning. Streets were blocked with debris, power lines were on the ground, some still charged. Cars were damaged by trees, and the roofs of most of our homes in the neighborhood sustained significant damage. Some porches were torn off of the small houses we all lived in.

The hushed silence was broken only by the voices of neighbors checking on one another, and the early efforts to begin to arduous process of picking up the debris.

In the years since I have weathered other storms, including the horror of 9/11, walking in silence up to the still-smoldering remains of the World Trade Center Twin Towers. I stood on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico again, surveying the disastrous results of Hurricane Katrina. I have seen the aftermath of tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunami’s, and floods. One thing that seemed to characterize every experience was the necessity of “picking up the pieces.” It was most often done in relative silence, people obviously stunned and uncertain about what to do next. In the early stages following a disaster, before organized efforts at relief and rescue are initiated, the atmosphere is one of silent, hushed uncertainty.

As I have thought about Holy Saturday in this year of the Coronavirus Pandemic, I have thought of what the disciples must have been experiencing on this day. Jesus had been crucified, had died, and was buried at about sundown. Now it is the day after. The dawn has come, but the day is still hushed, silent, uncertain, filled with fear.

That is not unlike what our world is experiencing. We are five weeks into our “shelter-in-place” request. By now the “adrenaline rush” is over. The deep weariness of spirit that has begun to creep into our world is beginning to take a toll. For the first time for many Christians, Holy Saturday has a resonance with our own experience. We have never faced it quite like this before. This year, one that will likely be remembered for generations, life has stunned us with a depth of uncertainty that is difficult to manage.

But, tomorrow, Easter Sunday, is coming! We will still shout, “He is Risen!” Some of our neighbors will respond, “He is Risen, Indeed!” Our churches, most of them still participating in neighbor-love by conducting worship via electronic media, will still be able to sing and shout the good news. The darkness of sin and death are defeated! Oh, we still live in a broken world, and COVID-19 is still rampant, but the promise is still being fulfilled! Christ is Risen, Sin is defeated, the long night of death and disease is being brought to an end. We don’t know all the details about when the brokenness will be ended, but the healing has already begun. God’s promise to restore, redeem, and heal will still come true, and Life will triumph over death!

Oh, right now it is still Saturday! And we, with hushed tones and uncertain steps, are trying our best to pick up the pieces. But Sunday is coming! And Jesus will return! And Earth and Heaven will be united in one brilliant and stunning Reality!

Thanks be to God!

Jesse Middendorf

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Jesse Middendorf

Executive Director of the Center for Pastoral Leadership, Nazarene Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Missouri. General Superintendent Emeritus, Church of the Nazarene Pastor for 28 years, in administration for 17 years. Retired, but still going!

4 thoughts on “Picking Up the Pieces”

  1. Thanks Jess – good to get your perspective on this – you’ve seen a lot and been through a lot – I listened to/watched, read several Easter week reflections – still wondering how Christians will respond going forward –

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    1. Thank you, Tom. Some of my memories include you, as you will remember. I am talking to a lot of pastors, and am convinced that the length of this crisis is going to have an impact we are not prepared for. If it takes 30 to 40 days to embed a new habit, what will have been so altered as to be un-remembered. It could also be that a slowly developed trauma will have long-lasting effects. I would love to talk with you about some of this.
      How are you doing with your treatments? I have thought of you and prayed for a good report!

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