Funny how it sneaks up on me, even though passing through Lent should alert me. For your Holy Week I want to share something I wrote many holy weeks ago.
Holy Week 2017 (1984)
Back in 1984, I was asked to write the February to April Forward Day by Day , the Episcopal 'meditation for each day' that I'm sure some of you are familiar with. Looking for something else (isn't that always how it happens?) I found a copy of that publication.
So, for my sharings with you for Holy Week, I am going to copy those musings and ponderings by a much younger man. I've read them over and still stand by them after all these years.
May your week be truly holy....
Luke 19.28-38 “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Are you waiting for the parade? It's coming, you know. God is going to pass by.
I wonder how God will come—like a victor returning from war with armies and tanks and drums and cheers?
I wonder how God will come—what will God's parade be like? Maybe like a circus parade with strange beasts and exotic costumes and clowns to make us laugh.
I wonder how God will come? Will God's parade be like the World Series' heroes, waving to the crowds from the back of a huge flatbed truck, brushing the ticker tape away?
Maybe it will be a solemn parade, like the funeral of some great person—slow and stately, with much respect and the uncovering of heads. Do you think that will be it?
However God decides to come, it will be a glorious thing. God's parade witll be grand and spectacular. Something we'll never forget!
….Wonder what's happened? Do you suppose there was a mistake? We've been waiting so very long and no one has come by yet except for that sad man on a donkey and those silly people waving branches.
I'm sure it was suppose to be today. Where is God's parade?
Mark 11.12-25 “So they reached Jerusalem and he went into the temple....”
Jesus walked into the Temple as if he owned it. He walked right in and threw the merchants out. They must have been dumb struck at it all; they had a right to be there; their wares were necessary to the sacrifices of the faithful. Then a stranger upset the tables, scattering doves and coins. They must have been too astounded to protest, too surprised to fight back. From all Mark tells us, they did not resist their eviction.
Even the officials—the chief priests and scribes—did not oppose him. He must have seemed like a man possessed, aflame with holy passions, acting as one would act on coming home to find robbers in his house.
And so it was. Jesus went into the Temple as if he owned it, as if he had come home.
Mark 11.27-33 “Jesus said, 'I will ask you a question.'”
When Jesus came again to the Temple, the authorities had collected themselves and confronted him, demanding to know why he was doing the things he was doing. “What authority have you?” they asked.
Jesus was a master of answering a question with another question. He knew what they were up to. He knew they sought to trap him by forcing him to say too much. The rope was available for him to hang himself. So he replied by asking them a question about John the Baptizer. Jesus' question had a noose in it for their necks....
The people were standing near, straining to hear. The chief priests were stymied. They could not respond for fear of the people.
Jesus won that round. He continued teaching in the Temple. He had come home.
Mark 12.1-11 The stone rejected....
Jesus had come home, home to Jerusalem, home to the Temple of God's people. But in the parable of the wicked tenants, he revealed that he knew he would not be welcome and that he knew why.
For the time being, the chief priests would leave him alone. But their time would come soon enough and they would have their revenge. The people too, would turn on him and demand his life. Those who had welcomed him home with palms and hosannas would jeer him as he carried his cross.
It must have been with much irony that Jesus spoke of the son murdered, the stone rejected. It must have been with great sadness that he spoke of the wicked tenants. They were his people, the chosen of his Father. With great pain, he must have watched the scribes slip away.
The circle was complete. He had come home to die.
Mark 14.12-25 “You will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water....”
“My name is Asher of Jerusalem. I have seen strange sights, heard strange words in my time. But none so strange as today. Some Galileans followed me to my master's house from the well. They asked for a room for the Passover. My master is a tight fisted, cautious man, but he showed them the finest room and bargained much too generously. Then, when they were gone, he told me I would wait upon them during their meal.
“While they ate I watched from the shadows. They had a master too. He spoke4 wild, unbelievable words. He called the Passover loaf his body. He called the cup of blessing his blood. Crazy talk! I have never heard such things before.
“And yet...yet, as I listened, his eye caught mine and he smiled a gentle, calming smile that seemed to try to draw me in. He was holding the cup and he lifted it toward me, as if to say, 'for you also, Asher'.”
John 19.38-42 “A disciple of Jesus—though a secret one....”
(Nicodemus speaks.) “My heart is broken now. My friend Joseph and I have buried the prophet from Nazareth. We did so at great risk. Neither of us has taken such a chance before. Always, our talks about his teachings have been in secret. We dared not discuss it with the other leaders. They would have turned on us. We urged moderation in the councils. We urged them not to act—but they would not hear of it. Our words were like smoke to them...like the wind that blows.
“I carried the spices myself. I anointed his cold, broken body. And I felt my heart breaking as I touched him.
“What can I do now? It doesn't seem to matter anymore—the rituals will be hollow today. My heart is not in them. My heart lies broken in the tomb.
“Why did he fail us? Where are his promises now? Where is my rebirth?
“His promises are like wind. His promises are as broken as my heart....”
Lamentations 3.37-58 “My eyes weep ceaselessly, without relief....”
Most of us have lived through the day after the burial of one we loved.
Such days are long, pensive and painful. The light of the sun holds no warmth. The air itself seem fragile—as if moving too fast would break it. Food tastes sandy and does not satisfy. Favorite things hold no comfort. Conversation falls helplessly between us. Calls from friends seldom come and when they do they are awkward and strained. There is nothing to do that makes sense.
The day after someone has been buried has the quality of a bird flying into a window on a cold morning. There is no help, no relief to find.
The friends of Jesus could find nothing to do on that first Holy Saturday. They wandered like shadows within the room where they were hiding.
Finally, as darkness came, the women began to gather together spices to take to the tomb at dawn. At least in that they found some crushed comfort—it was something to occupy their time.
Luke 24.13-35 “Did our hearts not burn within us?”
Alleluia, Christ is risen!
Imagine the warring emotions in the hearts of those two disciples on the way to Emmaus.
First, the still fresh pain and despair at losing Jesus numbed them. And the fear that they were being sought by the authorities chilled them. They imagined themselves wanted criminals, co-conspirators with an executed man. (Could that be why they journeyed from Jerusalem—to feel safe?) Finally, the women's story of the empty tomb tore them apart with confusion and disbelief.
The stranger on the road hears them out and then, incredibly, lectures them on how the scriptures give meaning to all that has happened. A new emotion to deal with, new feelings smoldering in their much too burdened hearts.
At bread's breaking, all comes clear and bright. They see at last and the burning of their hearts at the stranger's word bursts into flames of hope.
They race back to the road—back to dangerous Jerusalem—back with hearts overflowing with joy and the message: 'The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!'