interlude III – march newsletter: pilgrimage

greetings, loved ones & peace to you all. i write to you in the sixth month of this year of intentional service that i have been privileged to experience here in south africa. i am sending love to you from this side. i hope that your days have been filled with love& light, alongside the fullness that comes with this experience we call life.

as time continues to do nothing but progress, more so than at any point in this year thus far, there’s a need to remain present. remaining present is at the center of many of the challenges in the remaining duration of this year. not so much being alert for the sake of doing so, but keeping an awareness that allows my body to not lose out on the life that is being lived right here, right now.

remaining focused on the collective body that is this community.

this body i am walking alongside has entered into a sacred space – lent.

for as long as i can remember, i have been observing lent with loved ones. if you had asked me before this year how i would describe the lenten season, i would’ve told you that it is our journey to the resurrection. i have long believed that easter was the moral of the lenten story – the culmination that defined the whole.

in my time here, the body has presented a counter-narrative to that long standing belief of mine.

thus far in this time of lent i have come to not only see validity in the journey to the cross, but see that in many ways, the journey takes propriety over the resurrection. to see the last supper & good friday as more of the vital part of jesus’ story to be told is radical to me.

you may remember my conversation with a go-go about how many people of christian faith here in south africa cherish good friday more than they cherish easter. everything i’ve experienced thus far in this journey validates that notion. i’ve also come to believe that this is true, because i find the south african story to resemble the lenten story.

both stories are about a pilgrimage to the fullness of freedom.

this year has been quite the intense lesson in south africa’s past, present & future – none of which can be spoken of individually without naming the way the others have given it shape& form. in this same way, this body i’ve called home for over six months now has shown me that the lenten story is of the same ilk. the lenten story, in all parts, define it’s true meaning & virtue.

i’ve come to see that not only does my community’s story resemble the lenten narrative – they very much embody it. moreover, the reason that this community embraces good friday fully is because they are waiting for a good friday of their own.

good friday is not the end of the story, of course, but it in many ways is it the culmination in the story of redemption in jesus christ. it can never be over looked as a monumental benchmark on the road to freedom.

when i use the word freedom in this context, one’s mind may challenge the claim – if apartheid has come to an end, how then can it be said that the body has not yet experienced freedom?

i would say that holding humans captive is not always overt – it also can be subtle denial of the promise that true liberation holds. when looking at the narrative told of christianity before the life of jesus, we see that while humanity appeared free, bondage still held a captive vice over the body. on that good friday, when the spear was placed in the heart of jesus & he exclaimed “it is finished,” freedom was then released. in that light, while some may look at apartheid as the metaphorical good friday in the south african story, it can be said that the fall of that empire 23 years ago was a step in the pilgrimage to freedom, but not the culmination.

the witness is in what the eyes see when traveling throughout this country. issues of food & water deprivation, poor medical care, disease, racial caste, etc. all point to the fact that the culmination has yet to come. full culmination is found in the equity in all lives. humanity is not a privilege – it s a right.

the death of jesus on the cross was the direct statement from god that all humans deserve the grandeur of relationship to god – not just pharisees, chiefs & high priests – the entire scope of humanity, including the marginalized body.

this journey has humbled me thus far. to experience the folding posture of bodies as they enter the sanctuary, the trembling in the voices as hymns are sang & sermons are preached, & the grief that fills the room during times of worship has caused me to do as such – not out of resignation, but in an appreciative solidarity to what this pilgrimage means to the body here. i would be selling this time short if i weren’t to say that this season has shown me the heart that gives this community life – the life is the pilgrimage to freedom. not to say that the body looks at life as a problem to be solved, but instead as an experience to be felt in full.

the good friday that is scheduled on the calendar this year & the metaphorical good friday for this body will come & will be met with thankfulness & remembrance. i look forward to this day anxiously, but strive to join this community in just being here in the midst of right now.

the culmination of my pilgrimage here will also come, but on this day, i’m in the midst of it & there’s no need for me to be anywhere else, but in the embrace of these arms that have clinched me tightly thus far as i witness alongside the body this beautiful struggle.

as we continue to journey to the cross, i pray that you find peace in the entire story also. not only in the story of lent, but the story of your life. if anything i have found here, it is to experience the entire process that is this life. this life is a pilgrimage,& though we many not know in full where this path is leading us, the journey can never be solely summarized in the goal, it must be known that the journey has as much to do with the story as anything else. grace & peace to you as continue to walk. though your feet may get weary, there is rest beyond the river. amen.