Imagine a dinner party, one with family and friends. The laughter, the smiles on people's faces, the joy of the memory of it. Then something totally unexpected comes as a scent on the air, strong and sweet, it is love in its wonderful way.
When I started to think about this dinner party in my own life I thought of Lui South Sudan. Of being gathered in the outdoor kitchen making a meal. Putting the bark and spices in the tea water for breakfast. Coming in the afternoon to have the first hot bites of Mendezza and smell them frying. Hearing a story from Isaac or having Rachael teach me Moru and try to say it like a Moru because the same word is emphasized differently in order for it to mean something different. The night the kitchen workers and I ate greens and rice and the Ruth and Mora laughed because I used my roll and fingers and ate like a Moru. The night we skipped together to the gate and said goodnight, wound together as sisters.
See all these memories bring such joy and such deep, grievous sorrow. As new reports came this week of terrible atrocities in South Sudan. I don't know if any of the women are alive or in the bush or at the Ugandan refugee camp. I don't know where the pastors are that I taught. I don't know who is dead or who is alive. All I can do is anoint all of them in prayer. In Gods love committing them to Gods care.
Isn't this the story today? Wedged in between two stories of death. Lazarus was dead in the chapter before and Jesus raised him. Probably a good reason for the dinner party. Then Mary comes anointing Jesus with expensive perfume, costing a year's wages. Couldn't that money have been better used, asks Judas. Jesus' response is you will always have the poor, but you won't always have me.
When we traveled to Lui we had no idea about the magnitude of the war that would follow. Every day I am thankful for the memories of time spent with those who may be no more, with those whose lives have changed. This joy and profound sorrow makes this conflict real in ways it doesn't to others. These are real people with real lives with real children and I know their names. In the way of the cross we are not promised escape from death, we have to face death.
Around the table breaking bread, the symbol of death, of complete and utter shame. A traitor of the state, a disappointment to Jesus own people, Jesus died. There is no way to go towards Easter without it. I don't know what Lui's Easter might ever be. I do know that they walk the way with Jesus now. The best we can do is to anoint them daily in our prayers and not be afraid. It is the love of God come down and made real again in the Cross. Amen