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March 25, 2013 |

A Broken Hallelujah

BY Jen Hatmaker

My friend Amy is a hot mess in December. At the slightest mention of the Baby Jesus, she dissolves into weepy, sentimental tears. She hangs red curtains in her house, plays Christmas hymns on an eternal loop, and falls apart every day until December 26th. Do not even make eye contact with her in church during the Christmas season. Her poor husband Brad practically has to sedate her to make it through. It is simply her most tender holy season.

Easter is mine.

I keep thinking this will be the year I manage without feeling painfully raw. How many Easters in a row can I plainly come undone? Apparently, infinity. For instance, at church yesterday, a few folks simply read the Passover story out loud in sections between songs. That was our whole church service, beautiful and haunting. I was assigned the passage about Jesus in the garden, asking God to take the cup from him. The other readers delivered their Scripture in clear, strong voices. I, conversely, croaked and cracked and bawled and inserted eternal awkward pauses and blubbered through my entire part. (I sat down by Brandon and said, “Well, I think that went well.”)

The story of our redemption breaks me. I simply cannot get over Jesus. His humanity moves me beyond words. His suffering shatters my heart. His courage leaves me undone. I am aching, so gratefully devastated. By his wounds I am healed, but his scars mark me too, and I am tender to the touch. The story that crushes me also saves me, and there is nothing to do but worship through the tears.

Easter will always be a broken hallelujah for me.

I want to ascribe to Jesus all the glory he was denied when they mocked his kingship and crushed his body. The crown of thorns, the robe on open flesh, the taunts of false worship, the sign above his head ridiculing his position…I find myself declaring his authority in defiance; Jesus is King, Lord of All, The First and the Last, The Bright and Morning Star, The Head of Every Man, I AM. May his glory eternally surpass his suffering, for he has saved the world and saved our lives. Let all the earth rejoice, for the Lamb became the King and grace beat back the darkness.

His kingdom come, his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

This is the week Jesus rose to his task and split history in two. This is the week he rode on a donkey, cried in the garden, suffered on the cross, rose into glory. This is the week that sinful, broken humans were granted a pardon, justified to perfection and set free. It is too miraculous for words. Songs and sermons fail us; we huddle at the cross, overwhelmed by the punishment that brought us peace.

It is with a heavy heart that I join hands with my brothers and sisters, fellow sinners saved by this grace, and come collectively before the Light of the World, declaring our broken hallelujah. We bow in heartbroken reverence, thankful grief. We want our lives to scream WORSHIP, for our Redeemer lives and his kingdom cannot be shaken. Jesus reigns and we are his. There is nothing else to say. It is finished indeed.

Family, what does worship look like in light of this miracle? How do awe and wonder and gratitude and humility mark our lives as we honor the cross? As I’ve said before here and here, it seems barely worth mentioning that chocolate bunnies and fancy new dresses not only miss the gravity, but miss the point. I daresay the American response to Easter is insulting, devastating even.

Jesus gave us a hint during his last week, providing an appropriate response for us, understanding the cross would wreck and ruin and confound his followers. He laid a plumb line, offering a responsive script that would stand the test of time and culture and millenia:

“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:19-20)

My body, broken for you…do this.

My blood, poured out for you…do this.

And lest we imagine it means anything less, anything cheap, John tells us Jesus stood up from table, the King, wrapped his waist, knelt down, and washed the filthy feet of his disciples. The least the greatest, the last first, the humble soon to be lifted. The Savior the servant, turning the rules upside down and changing the template for the rest of history.

My body, broken…do this.

My blood, poured out…do this.

For me.

What does this look like for us? How do we worship in light of this Savior? For it is past time we, too, turn the rules upside down and change the template. Broken and poured out, may it be. Oh that his people would mimic the cross in worship this week, bypassing plastic eggs and patent leather shoes for servanthood, responding in a way befitting the sacrifice.

What if we calculated the money we’d spend on new clothes, anything having to do with a bunny and chocolate, and used that investment for great good, pouring out for someone in need of mercy? Maybe instead of matching outfits from Dillards, we invest in family t-shirts benefiting someone’s adoption, someone’s mission for Christ. Perhaps rather than time and energy spent on ourselves, we ask: “Who can our family serve? Where can we put our hands and hearts to use in Jesus’ name?”  Who in your city desperately needs hope but won’t find their way to the sanctuary Sunday filled by people dressed to the nines?

Where does the gospel need to go?

There is no better question to ask in response to the cross where Jesus was broken and poured out and the gospel was sealed. May we do the same in remembrance of him, not cheapening his sacrifice with self-serving, invented practices or neutering the miracle by missing the point entirely.

Church, let’s bring Jesus’ hope into the darkness this Easter – the lonely street corners, the strip clubs, the shelters, the prisons, the sad places. We can push back the darkness, because God “in his great mercy has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Good has triumphed; Jesus won the day.

Jesus, our Almighty King, our brother and Savior, is in glory, his suffering is done and our salvation is secure. This is our celebration. May Jesus find the Bride honoring the cross exactly like he told us to, for we are so terribly unworthy but somehow, miraculously, against all sense and reason, we are saved.

“…to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”