Pastor Devin Strong, Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church.
Soon we will enter the most powerful week of the Christian year, Holy Week. This year it begins on April 10th as we celebrate Palm Sunday, also called Passion Sunday. This is, of course, the day when Christians remember how the crowds gathered and marched, cheered and hollered, as Jesus entered the holy city of Jerusalem.
The teacher and miracle worker was finally taking it to Washington, the seat of power, where he could really make a difference! In the world of the Bible, this is a day filled with exuberance and hope. Maybe this Jesus is finally the one who will change people’s lives for the better. Maybe he will lead a rebellion that will push the occupying Roman army out for good.
For us, too, Palm Sunday is a celebration. We wave our palm branches and keep the tradition alive by shouting “Hosanna!” which means, “Save us, now.”
Perhaps we will march around the church parking lot and watch the kids play. It’s a fun day. Then, many of us will skip straight to Easter, the great celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and the empty tomb. Partly we do this because there are school activities and work obligations. It’s a busy life.
It’s hard for anyone, including your pastor, to have energy for all the services of Holy Week. But we also skip to Easter because it’s hard to face the dark parts of the week.
We prefer to go from party to party. However, when we do that, we miss the essence of Holy Week. Christians will also gather for Maundy (Latin for “Commandment”) Thursday, where we remember Jesus’ Last Supper with his friends and his charge to the church that we love one another. It was a sacred meal that gives rise to our tradition of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. Sometimes believers imagine what it must have been like to be there on that special night and hear some of the Lord’s final words.
Other times we do not want to dwell in the sadness. We do not care for final things.
Then there is Good Friday, the day when believers watch Jesus die on the cross. It is dramatic and gut-wrenching.
Countless Christian movies have tried to depict the event in graphic detail. Christians are grateful for the Lord’s death on our behalf. (That’s why we call it Good Friday), but we don’t want to think that we could do such a thing to God’s Son. It’s an awful, sad day that calls for introspection and honesty. No wonder we prefer to skip it.
Easter is filled with such joy! Jesus is raised. The power of death is beaten, and we celebrate the Christian promise of eternal life.
There is also a chance to buy a new outfit, hunt for eggs, and if you are lucky, get a free breakfast at church!
In all of our busyness and excuses, in all of our worship and our fun, let’s not miss the deep arc of the Christian message this Holy Week: Jesus may not always be the God that we want him to be, but he enters completely into the human story, offers himself to us, dies for us, and rises again.
The world hates endings, with good reason, but in the Gospel, every ending carries in it the seeds of new beginning. God wins! I hope that you will find a way to experience all of Holy Week this year.