April 2009

Staying with the Moment.

In all the services in Holy Week, the period from Palm Sunday through to Easter Sunday, I am constantly in a dilemma. The problem is this:- How do I encapsulate the rollercoaster of events and emotions of this momentous final week of Jesus life and make clear the importance of these happenings for today. At first this sounds just like the kind of job that a preacher should at least try to accomplish every Sunday. But the problem is more acute because unlike almost any other time in church life, perhaps apart from Christmas, there is a definite timeline of episodes. It doesn’t really matter when one looks at a certain parable or old testament story, but in Holy Week all the gospels have a plot that progresses the story. And the tendency is to rush to the ‘conclusion’ rather than stay with the incident and see what they have to say to us.

From the triumph of entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday; through the clearing of the temple on Monday (in some gospels) and teaching in the temple on the Tuesday and Wednesday; to the Last Supper and Betrayal on Thursday; on the Friday of Trial, Scourging, Conviction and Crucifixion; and finally to the wonder of the Resurrection on Sunday; there is so much there that whatever event or snapshot is being looked at, there is a tendency to be overwhelmed.

I guess this really happens the most on Good Friday. It is really hard to stay with the crucifixion, with the pain, the loss, the rejection, and not to find we are already hurrying on to celebrating Easter Sunday two days early. It’s uncomfortable to go out of a Maundy Thursday or a Good Friday service and dwell on those events for days. To linger with hurt, death and doubt.

So much of life we spend in ‘limbo’ or worse. Great and happy events take place but there are also times when the darkness closes in. The experience of this last week of Jesus life mirrors what we experience in our daily lives. We have doubts (like Gethsemane), we suffer, and I wish we could hurry to the resurrection.

Holy week isn’t always an easy time. But I guess, neither is life. And when you are in the middle of the hurt its only through faith that we know that, eventually, there will be a resurrection. And the joyful celebration will be even the more profound.