Dear Risen Lord disciples:
So this is Holy Week. Like last year, the pandemic mocks our longing for packed-house festival worship. It’s even felt a bit like a never-ending Lent since then. Something is wrong. A sickness. Sin. Death. Unlike last year, however, there is clearly a light coming at the end of this long Covid tunnel. It feels more like Easter is coming, even though we won’t be able yet to safely “pack the house” this coming Sunday. Still, it finally feels like something new is coming. And soon. Spring. Resurrection. New life.
Holy Week every single year holds before us these striking contrasts of dis-ease and wholeness, death and life, sin and salvation. Holy Week began yesterday with Palm/Passion Sunday, with Jesus riding into Jerusalem surrounded by shouts of glory, only to be left alone to die on the cross, abandoned by even his closest friends. Mark’s gospel presents Jesus in his complete human vulnerability: agitated, grieved, scared, forsaken. Though we lament Christ’s suffering and all human suffering, in this week that marks the core of the Christian story, we also look in expectant faith for God’s salvation.
Here's another lens to look at those contrasts this week: Many of us have passed this long, “Lenten” Covid-time with table-top puzzles. Holy Week is always a time to ponder a puzzle – a puzzle that starts with high hopes and hosannas but quickly descends into the depths of betrayal, pain and torture, suffering and death. Jesus knows full well that this is the cup his Father would have him drink. Obedient to the end, Jesus endures it all for us.
While we would concoct theologies of glory, only a theology of the cross will do. The puzzle at hand is the mystery of salvation, the bizarre grace by which God is revealed not in power and glory but in self-emptying, sacrificial love. It is this, and only this, that saves us from sin and death. To save us from sin and death, the sinless One dies. I cannot fathom why God would do this for us. I can’t puzzle it out. All I can do is look upon at the cross in wonder, love, and praise.
The story of Holy Week is not a puzzle to solve. It is a mystery that embraces us, a new breath moving us from death to life. It is the truth we need for this time as we finally begin to emerge from the pandemic. Too many people around us and around the world are not yet vaccinated. We can be voices of reason and encouragement, advocating care of neighbor. We can remember that God is hiding in plain sight in the midst of suffering and death, reminding us that they do not get the last word. Jesus made sure of that on lonely Golgotha long ago. Thanks be to God.
A Blessed Holy Week to you, Risen Lord disciples. Be well, friends. You are loved.
Be well, friends. You are loved.
Pastor Dave Schreiber