In need of Holy Week

March 21st, 2016

In the midst of an incredibly divisive and tense political season, this year I find myself in need of Holy Week more than ever. Perhaps perversely, I’ve always looked forward to Holy Week. This is, after all, the pinnacle of the church year, leading up to the reason we are here as Christians in the first place — the resurrection. Holy Week and Easter don’t have the same kind of secular consumerist baggage as Christmastime, even with the emphasis on candy and bunnies and egg hunts, and so it’s easier to privilege the actual religious observance (which I say as someone without children, so your mileage may vary).

As a college student active in campus ministry, walking through the events of Holy Week and Easter forged us together as community. We waved palms and shouted, “Crucify, crucify him!” together. We washed one another’s feet. We ate the Last Supper and stripped the altar. We kept vigil near the Reserved Sacrament, trying to stay awake just one hour with Christ. We fasted. We walked on our knees and pressed our foreheads in prayer to a splintered, wooden cross. We gathered around fire near midnight to hear the story of our salvation in Scripture and song. Some of us were baptized, and then we shouted, “Alleluia!” After our Easter Vigil, we broke our Lenten fast with large bowls full of ice cream sundaes. On Easter morning, we showed up blurry-eyed to a church full of lilies and families in their Easter finest. Later, we would adjourn to someone’s house for a potluck supper.

In retrospect, it was as close of an experience to what the early church might have been like as I’ll probably get. Through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we were bound together as the Church, as Christ’s body. Now, as clergy, I have the privilege and blessing of inviting others into these life-changing, faith-deepening days, though most people will not enter into this full journey. In order for people to get the crucifixion before the resurrection without attending Good Friday services, Palm Sunday is also Passion Sunday.

This year, I find myself deeply in need of Holy Week. My soul is desperate to experience what is really real. I long for the cross’ critique of worldly power particularly in this political season full of divisive and dangerous rhetoric. By entering into the worst possible moment, the death of Christ at the hands of empire, and knowing that is not the final word, I can take comfort in our current moment. The worst thing is not the final thing.

On Easter morning, the tomb will be empty, not because Jesus’ body was stolen, but because he is risen. Love triumphs over death. Freedom triumphs over slavery. The bonds of sin and evil and death are broken in the resurrection. Nothing is hopeless. All is not lost.

There is much in our present world that might drive us to despair. Fear and anger appear to be the propelling forces in our dialogue (or lack thereof). The specter of nuclear warfare is ever-present, and the prospect of endless war seems quite real. Many hope for the end of this election cycle in November, as if that will be a place where our divisions end. Christ is calling to us now, to walk with him to the cross and beyond, to place our hope in the power of the empty tomb, to be forged into true Christian community. This year, every year, we need Holy Week.

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