Holding the Space: A Reflection on Bright Week

For some reason, the idea of setting the first week of Easter apart as “Bright Week” has grown more important to me over the years. It conjures for me images of open windows, refreshing breezes, singing birds, and leisurely coffees. But most of all, it brings to mind the idea of spaciousness. After all the drama of Holy Week and Easter Sunday, Bright week offers a deep breath; the world feels fresh and new, a blank canvas for God to create something unexpected. It makes me wonder what will God do next.

Perhaps oddly enough, the idea of holding space for what God will do next has also been at the forefront of my thoughts this week about the COVID-19 pandemic, which, of course, hangs over everything these days. We’re at a point in the outbreak that may be called ‘the end of the beginning’; there is still a lot we don’t know about what the future is going to look like or when it will come. Our natural tendency is always to rebuild what was before, to get ‘back to normal’ as soon as possible. And while that’s natural, I have to wonder if it’s a missed opportunity. After all, this has exposed so many of our assumptions about the world as comfortable and convenient lies. Does ‘back to normal’ mean covering the old lies back up? Or can we create a new normal — one that’s more honest and better for more people?

The interesting thing about the Resurrection of Jesus is that it isn’t an ‘undoing’ of the crucifixion. There was no going ‘back to normal’ after the horrors of Good Friday. Jesus isn’t simply brought back to life in the same way that he had raised Lazarus from the dead, raised to the old life only to die again. Jesus is raised to a wholly new kind of life, the ‘life of the ages’. For those of us who follow Jesus, the call is for us to be plugged into this new life even as we live in the old world. This is hard, since it means that, to paraphrase Paul, we have two forces in us pulling us in opposite directions. But it also presents us with a unique opportunity; for it’s only those who live in both the old and new realities who are able to transfigure the old through the power of the new. We neither give up on this world because ‘that’s just the way it works’; nor do we build gated communities for ourselves to protect ourselves from the world. Instead, we live fully in the here-and-now, ‘in the world but not of the world,’ to transfigure it — like yeast working its way through dough, light shining in the darkness, salt bringing out the flavour of a meal, or the force of green bringing life into a barren parking lot.

None of this is about the power of politics or money or our agendas — these are the tools of the old world. It is rather a call to radical listening and discernment, a call to hold the space for whatever God is going to do in the world, in and through us. That means patience. That means waiting. That means having the humility to recognize we may not have the answers. And so that’s hard.

But it’s also beautiful. It’s a space to breathe, to rest, and to imagine new possibilities, to dream God’s dream.

And so, as this Bright Week winds to end, I hope we can hold this space and not rush to fill it. After all, God isn’t finished with us yet.

I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert. (Isa 43.19)

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