This is what happened at the end of Good Friday, according to the Gospel of John.
John 19:38-42 NIV (adapted by Nelson) – The Burial of Jesus
38 After Jesus was crucified, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but he kept it a secret because he feared the Jewish leaders. 39 Nicodemus, the man who had visited Jesus at night, went with Joseph. Nicodemus brought seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes. 40 They took Jesus’ body and wrapped it in strips of linen with the spices. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden there was a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 They had to be quick, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and they could do no work after sundown, in accordance with the Jewish custom of Sabbath. Since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
Then, there is a silent place. A whole day of rest, Sabbath. John doesn’t write a word.
Yesterday was Good Friday. We call it good because Jesus died for our sins on that day, but we are the ones who betrayed, denied, and crucified him. Each of us has sinned, and each of us has a part in his death. There are no innocents. But although there is nothing we can do about the death of Jesus, the Good News is that there is nothing we NEED to do about it either. Because God has saved us by grace. Jesus died for our sins, and God raised Jesus from the dead.
Upon receiving God’s Grace, it is our response that matters. We testify by the lives we lead. And I remain convicted and convinced that heaven has not arrived and that there is still work to do. Some of that work is to bring the blessings of clean water to our brothers and sisters in Africa and Asia. We cannot see them. And often times they are not even in our thoughts. But we are washing our hands and flushing toilets with water that many people would be glad to drink.
We are a people of tremendous wealth. Water comes to my house (into many rooms); I don’t have to go far to get it. I am probably never more than 30 feet away from water. And it is available at the turn of a handle. I don’t have to worry about it being sanitary and drinkable. Meanwhile, the average woman and child in Africa and Asia has to walk 6 kilometers (3.6 miles) to get water. And the bare minimum you need is 2 gallons per person per day. If you would like to wash your food before you prepare it and wash your hands before you consume it, you will need about ten gallons each.
I have looked at pictures of these women and children carrying huge jars of water on their heads and thought, how beautiful, how strong they are. But now I know this is back-breaking, lumbar crushing work.
From this perspective, with respect to water, for me, every day is a Sabbath.
So, I came up with this idea. I think of it as the “un-Sabbath.” It is the day you hike 3 km for all the water you will use for the day, and you hike it back to your house. Or you make a picnic out of it. And you use the water for everything you need. This would be a voluntary suspension of privilege. It is a chance for the earth to rest from the demands that we place on it without even thinking. It is a chance for you to be mindful of the tremendous wealth you possess. Would you hike to a park to use the water that comes out of a public fountain? This is the next challenge. One that I am not ready to take up.
How did I wind up with this crazy notion that by donating a few dollars I could make a difference? Well, it started with a running injury. While training for the LA Marathon, I wasted my own God-given gifts of running. I was selfish. I was short-sighted. And I was stupid. I ran too far, too fast, too soon, and wound up injured, in pain. I was side-lined as 26,000 other people ran the LA Marathon. It hurts me to admit this to myself, to confess it to you.
But, instead of getting what I wanted, I got to experience the joy of giving my body a chance to heal. God gives the gift of healing, too.
So, when my own goal was lost, God gave me a new goal. I decided I would be my own charity runner. I decided that since I could only run a few miles, it would only cost me a few dollars to pledge a dollar a mile to a cause I care deeply about: getting clean water to people who live a life that I can’t imagine.
But how do you solve such a big problem? It has been estimated that with five years of time and about one hundred billion dollars ($107,000,000), we could fix the problem of the scarcity of sanitary water. And that is part of the miracle God worked in me. I am not trying to solve the whole water problem. I concentrated on solving the problem of being a rich, greedy man in a world full of people suffering and in need.
Then my dream got a little bigger. With some encouragement from several friends and the buy-in of my wife, we decided to put together a little run/walk for Holy Sabbath, Easter Eve. It was so much fun. I got to pretend to be a race director, a bunch of my friends got together, and we raised $717.40 to combat the problem of water scarcity, giving the proceeds to Water for South Sudan.
I do not count on absolute success; I count on God’s Grace. I am simply giving my money, and letting God (and Salva Dut) take care of the rest. The story of the loaves and the fishes and the feeding of the 5.000 is the thing that opened my eyes to this truth: If you try to solve the big problem of feeding 5,000 people, you sometimes forget to share the fish and loaves you have. You forget to solve the small problem of your own greed, your own lack of imagination. Let God provide the miracle.
Prayer God, today we are mindful of at least one gift we often take for granted: good, clean water. It is so basic and so important. Too often, we forget that many of your children, our brothers and sisters, have to work hard for water. And they suffer and die too soon from lack of it. God, forgive our thoughtlessness and apathy, and grant us the courage and persistence to help bring water to all your children. Amen
Tomorrow, we will celebrate Easter. Here is how John tells the story.
John 20:1-2 (NIV) The Empty Tomb
20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the beloved disciple, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
Truly, truly I tell you… Jesus is raised from the dead. That happened about 2000 years ago. And I swear that God is still loose in the world. And if you want to follow Jesus, you might just find him on the run.