One way to look at this coming Holy Week is to divide the week into parts. When we do, we can more clearly see how the pattern of the events of this most special of weeks actually mimics the process of faith in our own hearts and minds. The week starts with Palm Sunday. On this day we remember Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem where he was hailed by the multitudes as a promised deliverer who would set things right according to a vision put forth by the culture. Let's call this part "naive confidence". This is the confidence we have when he hope in a kind of god who merely fulfills wishes. This god becomes the "candy man" who just gives us what we want, whether it is helpful for us or not. This faith is unable to pass any test of living in broken world. The real events of our lives will crack this fragile faith rather quickly; we are limited beings and simply can not have what we want all the time. We can not demand that a god create the world of our own fantasies or nostalgia. This god who showers convenient parking spaces and sports team victories whom people lay their cloaks and palms before will soon disappoint. The message of Palm Sunday for me is that the people of Jerusalem were not actually worshiping the man on the back of the donkey. They were worshiping an illusion.
As the week progresses Jesus begins to shatter that illusion, after all didn't he say that he was coming to bring the truth? He cleanses the temple of its misuse, he teaches in ways that provoke religious people right, left, and center. He teaches disciples that following God may actually be a risky and an even dangerous endeavor at times. Though he reminds them that God will faithfully see them through, the disciples naivety will only allow them to focus on the danger. By Thursday, Judas is totally disillusioned and Peter not far behind, as one will betray and one will deny. Today many of us may say that we have become disillusioned with faith and religion, but is not the reality that we have just had our false gods and illusions shattered? Perhaps we have hoped too much for the wrong things. We have hoped for predictability and control, when God wanted to give us His guidance and peace. We wanted to be masters of the universe but God offered us the opportunity of a blessing to be part of a wider group of His people. By Thursday we see where our wills butt heads with the will of God.
By Friday there is only one question left "Why?" Jesus calls from the cross the words of Psalm 22: "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?" It is the quintessential question of humanity. It is the moment of the Bible where we truly understand that God has become on of us. The world is not the way we want it to be and we wonder if we are just left here to die as Jesus was upon his cross. It is the question that arises out of our human despair. This is the moment where our sin and separation from God are most apparent. This question is so disturbing that most will spend their whole lives avoiding it. Some will run away and live a life in denial, others will protest and say that nothing really matters anyway. This is the dark night of the soul. Yet in this darkest of nights that has invaded the day a voice calls out. "It is accomplished!"
Still in a questioning mode, some women go to the place of the dead to look for Jesus and find the stone rolled away and a messenger of God telling them that He is not here. God has given the Answer! The women and other disciples will still grapple with the answer to the question asked on that Friday. It will take some time for them to be emotionally ready to realize the truth. The truth is that God has rolled away the stone, torn the veil, and cleansed the evil that separates us from the source of all life! The Answer will be made plain that God has not forsaken us at all. He was with us all along, trying to get through to us as we walked around trying to avoid him. Those who have seen and heard the Answer will soon see that the hand of God was gently carrying them through the darkest times all along. Now it would be the time to celebrate the life that God will provide abundantly. Easter is the day when our eyes are opened to the reality of God's love for us and our world. It is the day when we realize the truth that we have a God that wants to be with us but will not force Himself upon us. On Easter we learn the truth that John the Evangelist learned Easter day "God is Love".
I hope you can see that the map of Holy Week is an outline of the human heart as is progresses from rebellion into faith, ignorance into knowledge, despair into hope, loneliness into peace, sadness into joy. In my own faith life I have felt all of these things at some point or another and not always in the order listed above. Many times I have regressed or returned into the emotional and spiritual places that I have thought i had left along time ago. It is for this reason that I need Holy Week and Easter. I need those words spoken over me "He is Risen!" They drive home the love of God straight to my heart and I can see once again how God has been with me even in my darkest and loneliest nights. So out of my thankfulness for the God who has loved me so much I would like to put my best into this Easter and I invite you to do so as well. We would love to have you with us at Holy Cross as we live the hope we have in the light of Christ this Holy Week and Easter.
May you have a blessed and joyful Easter.
Keep the Faith,