Welcome to the beginning of Holy Week.
Holy Week is a powerful time in our church year and within our life of faith, but it is also a challenging week.
I have been thinking about how our gospel this morning (and week) is exactly what creates best-selling novels and movies. It has the full range of human emotion.
It has the joyful and triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
It has the hope of Jesus’ followers. The hope that he was the Messiah, the Anointed One, that they had been long awaiting to reunite the tribes of Israel and to take his throne establishing a reign that would not end.
It has the betrayal from one of the most inner-part of Jesus’ circle (of disciples/followers).
It has the denial of another from the most inner-circle of Jesus’ disciples.
If you noticed in our scripture this morning, the disciples and those following Christ are mentioned “at a distance”. It is as though they wanted to separate themselves from the one that would be shamed and disgraced by death upon a cross. Crucifixion was considered the most disgraceful death in the Roman Empire, which was reserved only for non-Romans, the worse criminals, and those who had committed treason against the Roman Empire.
Our scriptures this morning end with ‘Good Friday’.
Christ died upon the cross. Christ’s body laid in the tomb.
The problem, though, with novels and especially Hollywood is we have become accustomed to expect the “happy ending”.
I have a friend who said I do not need to worry about spoiling a book for her because she reads the last chapter first and THEN goes to the beginning of the book.
This got me thinking about a book within a series that is also a movie (series), therefore I will not give ‘spoilers’ BUT the book ends not-so-happily ever after although not quite as devastating as possible. The movie, however, changed it to the happy ending we have come to expect with the heroes saving the day.
We like to re-write or fast-forward to the happy endings, which we try to do during Holy Week.
We want to skip the “Passion Sunday” of today.
We want to skip Maundy Thursday, because we know it leads to Good Friday.
We want to skip Good Friday and Holy/Black Saturday, in order to get to Sunday morning.
This is less of a sermon than it is an invitation into the journey of Holy Week.
I invite you to take that journey.
I invite you to Maundy Thursday, when we receive the Great/New Commandment from Christ to love one another as HE first loved us (no loop holes). We also receive Jesus’ instruction for washing feet (a symbol of humble service) and Holy Communion.
I invite you to Good Friday. Come! Be prepared to leave all your burdens at the cross. We will leave all our betrayals, our denials, and all those times that we have been “at a distance” from God.
We all want to fast-forward to Sunday.
We all want what Martin Luther called the theology/theologian of glory.
- Let us stay in the theology/theologian of the cross.
- Let us stay within the darkness of this moment.
- Let us ponder our betrayals, our denials, and our mockery of Christ.
- Let us sit with our own sin and our desire to keep this part of the story “at a distance”.
- It is this story that our faith is built upon.
- It is this story that reminds us no matter what human emotion or experience your enduring Christ has been there.
- Although God does not want us to suffer, God is ever-present in our moments of suffering.
This is why Holy Week is important.
This is why I invite you to fully enter into the story.
This is why I invite you to NOT rush through it to the last chapter (Sunday).
This is why I invite you to NOT rush to the “happy ending” we know and expect.
BUT, I invite you to STAY PRESENT.
My prayer is that:
- We immerse ourselves into this story of Christ.
- We see ourselves as the Judas and Peter.
- We see ourselves as the High Priest and the Crowd.
- We see ourselves as the disciples and women standing at a distance.
- We can embrace the moment the curtain of the temple was torn AND a centurion, a Roman, a Gentile, a non-believer in this ‘King of the Jews’ was the first to proclaim Jesus as God’s Son upon his death.
May we all hear the centurion’s proclamation in the midst of the darkness of the passion, crucifixion, and death pondering it in the darkest moments we endure as well as in those moments of joyful glory. Amen.