Holy Week. It’s coming. We eye it with a certain amount of trepidation. It is intense. It’s a lot of work. There will be extra everything. More music, more managing, more anxiety, more stuff. Palms will arrive in huge bunches. We will wrestle them into buckets. Children will slash them about in mock sword fight. We will begin the service by waving the palm branches and sing “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” We tell the story of Jesus riding into town to the cheers of the people . And just when hearts are riding high; everything goes wrong. What began the with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem winds up on Golgotha. In just a few lines of scripture, everything falls apart. The crowds disperse, the disciples flee, and Jesus is taken to the cross. It’s a tough transition to make in one hour.
Because many people skip the opportunity to really do holy week, or can’t because of work obligations, the church collapses Maundy Thursday and Good Friday into Palm Sunday. The lectionary moves us through the events us Jesus’s life and death on one Sunday; to get us to the story of his resurrection on the next one, Easter Sunday. Because, without getting to the cross, we can’t share the crown.
But for those who have opportunity to do the less condensed version, there is a great reward. To do holy week is to gather on Maundy Thursday with our neighbors remembering that Jesus ate a meal with his friends in his last week. We gather on Good Friday at the foot of his cross with his mother, with John and Mary, to simply be with Jesus in his hour of suffering and death, to watch with him and marvel at love so amazing, so divine, that it demands our souls, our lives, our all.
Then, very early, on Easter morning, we will rise, nervous, excited, wondering; how in the world can the resurrection of Jesus be preached in any way that can touch the sermon God is already preaching in him? And we will gather, giddy, happy, as dazzled and as dazed as the women who first ran from the empty tomb to tell their brothers, “He is risen! This service won’t be led, it will erupt from the hearts of those who come to proclaim, “Christ the Lord is risen today!” We have now become witnesses together of what God has done in him and is doing in us.
Holy Week, 7 days where the tissued veil between time and eternity becomes gossamer thin. Where memory and hope become heavily compressed. A sacred week where we not only walk with Jesus through his life but one in which we find Jesus with us in ours. In the midst of pain and grief, and in joy, we discover that we are loved by God. It is like no other time. It is a holy week.
Wherever you observe it, at the dish sink or a lofty cathedral, behind your office computer or skiing in Aspen; you dwell in Holy Week. Something is happening next week. A story is unfolding that you belong to, whether you recognize it or not. That is why we are invited to observe Holy Week. Because if you behold the Man of Sorrows there, the one hanging on the tree, you may look and find an empty tomb, and in seeing, find the new life God has for us and for our world.
Happy Holy Week. Rev. Linda Farmer-Lewis, Central United Methodist Church, Lansing, Michigan