Preached on 29 March 2015 at St. Luke’s Memorial Church, Tacoma
Palm / Passion Sunday, Year B
And so we begin. That was a lot to take in. Let’s take a moment or two to just sit with all that we have just heard; to allow it to sink in.
It’s Holy Week. With all of its emotional extremes, it can be disorienting. It would be so much easier if we could just be given an orderly unfolding of events, like the evidence board on our favorite crime show where everything fits into place and makes sense by the end of the hour. But our story isn’t like that.
How quickly the crowd shifts from shouts of “Save us now” (that’s what Hosanna actually means), “Messiah, save us, deliver us” changes to cries of “Crucify him!” To us, it’s disorienting; but to the people gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover, their holiest of days, it must have felt chaotic; terrifying.
It’s natural to want to understand it – perhaps so we can somehow control it or fix it or make it so Jesus doesn’t have to die or so we don’t need salvation. Maybe it could be a do-it-yourself project, if I only understood how it worked. It’s not that simple. Why did Jesus have to die? How does his death and resurrection save us? How do they save me? These are real questions – what does Jesus’ death and resurrection mean to you? How do you experience the salvation of Jesus? Each of us has their own answer and it changes as we go through life.
As much as we would like to understand, any explanation diminishes the story. It makes it small, manageable – and it loses its power to transform us. It loses its power to save.
So, instead of trying to understand, I invite you to experience it; enter into it. In the coming week, spend time with the story. Reread it. Perhaps, even imagine yourself in the story, maybe as an observer, maybe as one of the named participants. Is there a part of the story that draws you in? Maybe it’s the triumphal entry. Or when Jesus is having dinner with Simon the leper and the woman comes in and anoints him. Perhaps it’s at dinner with the disciples in the upper room. Or praying in the garden. Maybe you’re with the servants and Peter warming themselves by the fire in the courtyard of the high priest. Or with the women, watching from a distance.
This week, I encourage you to spend time praying and meditating with the story, maybe praying the daily office or Morning or Evening Prayer. You can even do it online. You can spend all week with one passage or you can work your way through today’s gospel or use the lessons appointed for each day in Holy Week Walk with Jesus on the way to the cross. Worship with your community in the special liturgies, Maundy Thursday, the Good Friday liturgy at noon or the Tenebrae service at 8 on Friday evening.
This is Holy Week. That’s not a title, it’s a description. It’s time outside of time; time set aside by God, for God. Allow yourself to experience the holiness of the week. Allow yourself to know the holiness of your life – your everyday life, not something separate. And if that’s too hard, start by noticing the holiness of the life of someone you love – your child, your grandchild, your spouse, your parent.
This holy week, walk the way of the cross. Walk with Christ in holiness of life.