Last week I arrived at Phoenix House for my regular chaplaincy routine, which is how I’ve come to think of it: routine. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing. My weekly visits to one of Quincy’s largest addiction treatment facilities are incredibly meaningful and important. I’ve also been doing it long enough that it feels routine. Except last week. Because when I arrived for my regular visit and the regular staff opened the regular front door — I walked into a situation was anything but regular. I walked right into the middle of a father’s eulogy for his son. There was actually a memorial service happening in the main lobby and all of a sudden my familiar routine took on a whole new meaning.
It was a powerful reminder about the value — and limits — of any routine. Routines can be great tools for personal & community formation; including everything from diet & exercise to prayer & fasting. Routines are really good, until we start paying more attention to our routines than our relationships. I think that’s what got my attention last week. I was more focused on my spirituality workshop (routines) than other people (relationships). I wasn’t prepared for a raw, utterly personal memorial service that shook up my weekly routine.
There’s something about Easter that works the same way. Because Easter invites us into a raw, utterly personal encounter with the God of our faith. And here’s the interesting thing: our journey to Easter happens in the midst of our weekly routine. You could say it’s even more routine. At Easter our liturgy is more focused, more orchestrated, and more intentional. But when we arrive for our regular liturgy and the regular ministers perform their regular routine — we walk into a situation that’s anything but regular. On Easter we walk into the middle of a burial service for Jesus, only to find that his body is no longer there. All of a sudden our weekly routine takes on a whole new meaning.
This year, let me invite you into the familiar routine of Holy Week. But also, let me invite you to be watching for the surprising way that God shakes up our most familiar routines with the raw, utterly personal presence of Jesus. Let me invite you to join Mary, Peter, and the Beloved Disciple as they find themselves retracing their most familiar routines only to find that they’ve been infused and transformed by God’s presence in the risen Christ. And then, let me invite you to join Mary Magdalene, who went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”
The Rev’d. Eric M. Hillegas