Throughout Holy Week, I invite you to see the awesome strength of love unfold in the life of Jesus – a love that is stronger than the violence and the powers of this world, a love that is stronger than death, a love that includes and does not exclude, a love that reconciles and heals, a love that changes the lives of you and me. Notice too, during this week, how Jesus’ sacrifice is not intended to change God’s mind about humanity. It is about changing humanity’s mind about God.
Palm Sunday — On this day, as Jesus enters Jerusalem humbly on a donkey, Pontius Pilate enters in grand style with his horses and heavily armed troops. Pilate is there to “keep the peace” at a time when the city is overflowing with those who are gathering for the Passover. He will keep that peace by crucifying anyone who might oppose the Roman Empire. Two parades – one offers a new way of living and creating a world of mercy, compassion and hope, and another parade celebrating power for some and oppression for most.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday — During these days Jesus teaches in the Temple. Perhaps the whole key to the drama of Holy Week and why Jesus becomes so dangerous to the Roman authorities and the Temple leadership lies in the “riot in the Temple.” Many theologians have written insightfully about this event. One book I recommend highly is Rabbi Jesus by Bruce Chilton. The money changers had replaced the area of the Temple where the Gentiles could worship. That is why Jesus screams, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations, but you have made it a den of robbers!” On an even deeper level, Jesus was challenging the whole “sacrificial system” of the Temple which was intended to appease a God who did not need appeasing. It avoided the divine calls of their own prophets down through the centuries who proclaimed, “Is this not the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?”
Maundy Thursday — Could it be at the Last Supper, as Jesus gave away his Body and his Blood, he was bringing about a great escape? Oh yes, Jesus really died the next day, but before Pilate and his executioners killed him, he had already given himself away. Jesus had given himself to us – Body and Blood. His mission would continue to live even as he died because he made us the Body of Christ; we are the ones who continue to do what he did. Pilate could not kill the mission of Jesus.
Good Friday — Theologies of the Cross have many dimensions. One dimension I heard in a sermon by The Rev. John Osgood several years ago. He said “the reason we spend hours and hours praying before the Cross, is to instill in us that when we see the Cross we see suffering. That means when we see suffering, we will see the Cross.” In other words, in the suffering of this world, we will see Christ present. We will see Christ; the one who did not run from the cross but embraced it so there will be no place that is ever God-forsaken.
Easter — Easter is the life changing reality that with God nothing is impossible. As our Presiding Bishop has said “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is about the eternity of hope.” It is the eternal “Yes!” of God to all that is and will be. Love is stronger than death. This truth – this gift of life that never ends – allows us to live and love in freedom. We open ourselves to new possibilities, to new hope, to new ways of living. And, isn’t that Resurrection – a new way of living?
We can share the resurrection when we ask the hurting people of this world the same question the risen One asked Mary Magdalene: “why are you weeping?”
- Resurrection begins when we ask immigrants and refugees, “Why are you weeping?”
- Resurrection begins when we ask the families who have lost loved ones to gun violence, “Why are you weeping?”
- Resurrection begins when we ask our earth dying of global warming, “Why are you weeping?”
- Resurrection begins when we ask people of color, “Why are you weeping?”
- Resurrection begins when we ask transgender persons, “Why are you weeping?”
The Great 50 Days
Remember Easter is not a day but a whole season. It seems to me that we give an ample effort to the holy season of Lent and to the great feast of Christ’s passage from death to new life. We don’t tend to plan the Easter season with equal energy or passion. What might mark these days with great joy in your congregation? How might your prayer deepen with gratitude for the mystery of Easter? We can start with Easter 2.
Easter 2 is for the survivors – the remnant who never miss a Eucharist no matter how “high” or “low” the celebration. What if we kept the momentum of the resurrection in our life together and made Easter 2 a joyful, engaging event? It’s good liturgy and it’s good for the mission of Christ’s Church, so I encourage you to transform “Low Sunday” into “Momentum Sunday.” Bring the choir back. Keep the liturgy highly spirited. Consider having an adult education class on Sunday morning about the basics of prayer and the varieties of prayer for those who might have come to church on Easter for the first time in a long time.
- “How to Pray” or “Prayer 101”
- “The Five Bible Stories Everyone Should Know”
- “Why the Church Makes a Difference in the World.”
Have ministry tables in the church hall to provide information about the many things your church does. Don’t slow down when the Resurrection invites us all to New Life in Christ. Expect them to return.
My prayers are with all our congregations, with all our ministers – lay and ordained – as we prepare to enact the most sacred mysteries of our faith. Be as certain as I am that we who have died with Christ will be raised with him in glory. This is our faith. This is our most precious truth.