April 7, 2021
by Pastor Dan
And what a holy week it was!
From the triumphal entry of Palm Sunday (rung in so stirringly by Nate’s solo) to the dawning of new life on Easter (heralded by Joyce, Wendell, and so many others in between), my spirit felt alive. Fizzing, like a drive-through soft drink where they pull a little too heavy on the carbonation lever.
This time of year, my grandmother used to always “spring has sprung, the grass is riz. I wonder where the birdies is?” Well the grass still needs to do some riz-ing, but I’ve definitely found the birds; they’re singing in my trees from sun-up until after sun-down. This is a time of new life we’re entering into, and it means Easter is well-put in our church calendar. The world is facing its own resurrection. The resurrection of Spring, and—slowly but surely—a resurrection into what we are hoping will be a COVID-free world. I can feel that new life on the tip of my tongue, and as a thirty-something I will hopefully soon be feeling it on the tip of a needle as well. I look forward to the months to come, where the world will hopefully soon match my Easter spirit.
But there is another saying—one that’s probably a little offensive, but I present it here for historical context: “It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.” It’s a reference to a character at the end of Wagner’s 1876 opera Götterdämmerung, Brünnhilde, who sings for twenty minutes and leads directly into the show’s epic finale.
The saying itself… well, I like the way Wikipedia puts it: “It means that one should not presume to know the outcome of an event which is still in progress. More specifically, the phrase is used when a situation is (or appears to be) nearing its conclusion. It cautions against assuming that the current state of an event is irreversible and clearly determines how or when the event will end.”
It’s a saying that—had it been coined by the time Jesus lived, which it wasn’t—could have been applied to the first Holy Week. The Disciples thought it was all over on Good Friday when Christ died, but—as a more sensitive saying puts it: “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” The lady had yet to sing, and the Grass had yet to riz.
Götterdämmerung is an opera about the end of the world, and its ending is perhaps less hopeful than the ending of Holy Week, but it is full of its own beauty, too. It reminds us that the saying cuts both ways: you can’t count good out until it’s truly over… but you can’t count bad out yet until it’s over either.
As we look forward in hope to our 2021 resurrection from a 2020 full of Good Fridays, let us not be careless. As our “situation is nearing its conclusion,” let us be careful not to “jump the gun,” to add in yet one more cliché. The realization of our hope is so close now, but to get from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, even the Disciples had to sit through Holy Saturday. May we continue to be safe, compassionate, selfless, and caring with all of our actions, so that when the final notes of this pandemic are sung.
Together, we can bring Christ's word and work to the world.