Sunday, March 28, 2021
Dear St. Luke family,
This Sunday we begin Holy Week. When I was a child, we went straight from the “Hosannas” of Palm Sunday to the jubilation of resurrection on Easter. As someone asked me a few years ago, “Why would we want to revisit the events of Holy Week when we know how it ends?”
It’s a worthy question. I suspect there are many good answers, but I’ll give you mine:
The stories we hear during Holy Week show us that Jesus’ life, teachings, choices, and most especially his fidelity to God increasingly challenge the powers of this world. He moves from being a nuisance to being a threat. I do not believe God required Jesus to die or wanted Jesus to die. I believe Jesus was willing to stay true to the truest truth he knew: the love of God for all people. His death was the natural and human consequence of that fidelity. As he makes his holy way toward a very human death, God’s love for the human family is revealed to us in its fullest. The message is not that suffering is good, or that God wants Jesus or anyone else to suffer. In fact, we learn that suffering is tragic, the opposite of God’s will. It is my belief, based on what we see of Jesus in Scripture, that God weeps when God’s beloved children suffer. And so, we learn that there is no place we can go, no depth to which we can plunge, no farthest shore to which we can flee, that God is not with us. Nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even death. What could possibly be more meaningful than to gather for worship again and again in the span of a week to remember, give thanks and stand in awe of God’s wondrous love?
There is also the issue of contrast. To journey with Jesus to the depths of betrayal, denial and crucifixion also has a way of raising our spirits to new heights on Easter morning. When we call out, “Christ is risen; he is risen indeed!” it rings with a more exuberant joy and resonant truth because we have experienced the darkness.
At St. Luke, we will gather on Maundy Thursday at 7:00 p.m. on Zoom. “Maundy” comes from the Latin word that means “mandate,” and it refers to the new commandment Jesus gave to his disciples in the Upper Room – that we love one another as Jesus loved us (John 13.31-35). We will observe Maundy Thursday with communion, contemplative Taizé chants, and prayers. And we will gather on Good Friday at noon on Zoom with music and art that retells the story of Christ’s crucifixion, and centers on the seven last words of Jesus.
But first, we will worship together this Sunday, Palm Sunday, a day of irony on which Jesus is celebrated as a king, but we know what’s coming. The crowd shouts “Hosanna!” which means “Save us!” or “Rescue us!” in Hebrew. Scott Black Johnston asks, “When we wave our palms and boldly cry out, ‘Hosanna,’ do we dare imagine what we really want God to save us from?” Maybe Holy Week is a chance to explore that question.
See you Sunday,
Grace and peace,