Listening to the Baby is Easy. Listening to the Bird is Hard.
Today, Good Friday, I have Peter on my mind.
I have Peter on my mind, and that he denied Jesus not once, not twice, but three times.
I have Peter’s denials in my mind and I have his weeping, once he heard that bird, his weeping is in my heart.
These three days, we live them differently than we do the other High Feast of our Christian tradition, namely Christmas.
Christmas we gladly import into our own experience: sweet swaddled babies, images of tenderness and quiet and a surround sound of love.
Let’s recreate that.
Let’s do that.
Let’s be that.
But betrayal and death? Anxiety and grief?
Who wants to vicariously live that out, let alone admit that we do all the damn time?
And so we tend not to.
We hear the stories read on Palm Sunday and we wave our palm branches like we are enacting a play, and we get quiet as we hear how the story both winds down and winds up. We sneak a listen like flies on the wall as the drama of a meal gone simultaneously awkward and deep is told. We wish that Peter could count and stop at two, have a metanoia moment, a “whoops, that was close,” and ‘fess up to his friendship with Jesus. We cringe at the ring of the nails, and we pucker at the thought of the vinegar touching our palate, and we wonder at (and may even whisper ourselves) the wail of Jesus’ feelings of forsakenness.
And then we go and we whip up a feast, and we color and hide eggs, and we lay out our Easter best, and that’s that.
It is best, we’ve latently decided, to keep the story of these three days at safe bay.
It is best to keep it there, and then, and not transpose and transport them to here, and to now.
But when we do that, you see, we deny not only the enduring import of the passion more or less safely rendered in text and music and preaching and table; we also deny ourselves the painful, cleansing weep that Peter sobbed when he realized how he denied Jesus.
Those ashamed, convicted tears that washed his face and washed his soul, searing both with repressed truth that his love for Jesus was true and solid and worthy of trust—when, it turns out, when it was convenient, when it was safe, when it didn’t threaten to harm his life, or his way of life.
See, we’d prefer to deny that we are Peter.
But we are.
Every time that we deny the hungry food, the stranger welcome, the sinner forgiveness, the sick healing, we deny Jesus.
When we deny them food, and welcome, and forgiveness, and healing, we are denying them their humanity.
When we deny them that, we are simultaneously denying them our own.
We deny that all are made in the image of God.
And (do you hear the bird croon?) therefore, when we deny another their humanity, we deny God.
Babies are easier.
Birds are harder.
Listen to the babies cry before the bird cries out.
Then, this Good Friday, stop living in denial.