Psalm 104: 14-15 (NRSV)
You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,
and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine,
and bread to strengthen the human heart.
Mark 19: 9-15 (NRSV)
Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.
Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.
Some of my fondest memories of college are of those nights my roommates and I spent applying face masks, sipping cheap wine, and snacking on sweet treats. Often, these girls-nights-in occurred at the end of a long, hard week; other times, we had cause for celebration. Regardless of the occasion—whether we were tending one another’s hurts or sharing in one another’s victories, whether we were laying on the couch crying to sad movies or making up silly dances in the hallway—I remember those evenings as holy and I honor those female friendships as sacred.
I like to look back on these moments and think about the presence of God with us. Perhaps that is why these verses from Psalm 104 make me smile. I give thanks that the God who is “wrapped in light “and who “rides on the wings of the wind” (Psalm 104:2-3) has also provided simple and nourishing pleasures for the purpose of gladdening and strengthening our human hearts. God was with my friends and I as we pulled cookies from the oven, swapped clothing and jewelry, and shared our joys and sorrows. God saw our faces shine with laughter and tears.
This week, as we enter into the season of Lent, we are reminded that we were formed from the dust of the ground, and to dust we will return. Some may find the season and rituals of Lent bleak, but the lectionary texts for this week are filled with vibrant language about life, growth, renewal, and resurrection.
I pray that the inspiring nature of these texts will sustain us throughout this season. Perhaps, as we prepare our hearts and minds over the next several weeks to confront the injustice and violence of the cross, we should remember that God cares deeply for our well-being. I am not implying that we should rush ahead to the resurrection. Certainly, we should enter into the gospel narrative and create space for us to express shock and lament; however, we should also become well practiced in tending to our needs, supporting one another, and breathing life where there is death.
I am sure I am not alone in losing sleep over the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Such news surely deserves our attention and warrants a response. Fear and anxiety are natural and appropriate reactions—we should be moved to pray and to act for the sake of our neighbors.
And yet, sometimes the strongest act of resistance against evil is the resolve to keep on living and loving even as we are driven to exhaustion and hopelessness. I sense that Jesus becomes frustrated when we give ourselves over to despair or let the overwhelming scale of the world’s problems consume us. Mary Magdalene announces to the disciples in Mark 16 that Jesus has appeared to her, yet they refuse to believe her. Jesus finds them sitting at a table, stubborn in their despondency. They had lost their capacity to hear and believe good news.
I relate to the disciples just as I relate to Meg Murray, the beloved heroine of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic novel A Wrinkle in Time. The third installment of the series, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, is set in Meg’s adult years during the Cold War. Meg cannot fathom how her family can sit together around the dinner table and enjoy one another’s company as if this crisis were not taking place. Her father provides some words of wisdom and comfort: “The world has been abnormal so long that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to live in a peaceful and reasonable climate. If there is to be any peace or reason, we have to create it in our own hearts and homes.” (29)
So, let us find those with whom we can create homes and with whom we can cultivate peace and reason. Let us find those friends who will sit with us in sadness and silence and who will wait with us in the midst of fear and uncertainty. But also… let us find friends who will interrupt the mourning and weeping and bring home good news of hope, joy, and resurrection. And when they do, let us join them in believing it and proclaiming it.
Madison Boboltz graduated from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, TX in December of 2019. There, she studied religion at Logsdon School of Theology. Madison became acquainted with the work of BWIM when she participated in the annual Texas Baptist Women in Ministry Conference in 2018, which provided a supportive and affirming space for her to discern her call to ministry. Currently, Madison is attending seminary at Boston University’s School of Theology and is working toward ordination in the United Methodist Church.
L’Engle, Madeleine. A Swiftly Tilting Planet. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 1979.