Sunday, April 10, 2011

La Resurrección

On the last day of Messiah Lutheran Church's trip to Guatemala, we traveled by van from Antigua to Guatemala City, following our hosts, The Reverends Amanda and Horacio Castillo, pastors with La Iglesia Luterana Agustina de Guatemala (ILAG.) Our journey on this Sunday would carry us to one of ILAG’s congregations, the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection.

La Resurrección sits in one of the ravines that lie like deep opened graves across Guatemala City. This particular ravine is known as El Tuerto, a part of Zone 1 of the capital city. Parking our vans at the top of El Tuerto, we began our descent. On crumbled, narrow and mismatched steps we descended past cinder block homes with tin roofs rusted. Through narrow catacomb-like passageways we carefully maneuvered until suddenly we were at the church. Two large black metal doors, like those of a mausoleum were cracked open just enough beckoning. Through the opening emanated the light of La Resurrección.
Inside we were welcomed by a colorful altar, paraments, flowers, candles, and gracious, smiling people. This place felt alive. A young boy stood at the side entrance flirting with whether or not to come in. A rooster that crowed periodically outside added his voice to the liturgy. The liturgy, although in Spanish, felt familiar. There was confession and communion, readings and a sermon, prayers, hymns and even a remembrance of Baptism. 
There was just enough familiarity and more than enough warmth and light to make our group feel right at home.  Which meant, on that Sunday morning in La Resurrección, we were united. Our living Lord stood among us bringing us peace and making us one. We were one body, recipients of the same life giving word and the same bread and cup. Along the right hand wall next to the altar, a banner affirmed this union. A single cross with the Luther’s Rose, beneath which were two churches, one entitled ELCA and the other ILAG. At the bottom of the banner, the words “Unidos en Cristo.” During the service, as is “our” custom, we shared the peace of the Lord. The members of La Resurrección were not shy. They hugged us, all of us, and our hearts burned within us.

Before we left to make our way back up to our waiting vans, I thanked the congregation. I thanked them for their hospitality and for the privilege we had to worship with them. I also assured them that we would remember them in prayer. They had, after all, already prayed for us that very morning. As we made our leave, I thanked one of the patriarchs of the church and he gave me a strong hug in return. Looking me in the eye, he said something in Spanish, something that sounded very much like a blessing. 

Then we started our walk out. Back up the narrow, uneven steps, past the cinder block, past the barbed wire, the sewage water running along the path, the rooster and the mangy dog. We were climbing up, like those who once were dead, but now, having encountered our living Lord, were rising up from the grave.
La Resurrección reminds me that there in the tomb-like ravine of Guatemala City, our resurrected and living Lord stands among his people. There, in all the places where death seems to reign, is where our living Lord promises to be. In the ravines like El Tuerto or even here in the valleys of East Tennessee, in the tall buildings of Knoxville or the high mountains of Guatemala, everywhere death thinks it holds the upper hand, that is where our Lord brings his light and peace. This Easter and always, our resurrected, living Lord is rolling back the stone, opening up the grave-like doors trampling down death, bringing life. That is the promise of La Resurrección. We, who once were dead, now having encountered our living Lord, are rising up from the grave. And Unidos en Cristo, united in Christ, we live.


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