Today is Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week for Christians around the world. As I prepare to take up my palms in worship this evening I am plagued by a question – what kind of Easter people are we?
Holy week is the last week of Lent when we follow Jesus through the gates of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday,
to the synagogue,
into the garden to pray,
to a dinner party,
to betrayal and custody,
on to the cross,
into the desolation of the Saturday unaware of the promise of the empty tomb.
If we really do buy the whole meta-narrative of the Prince of Peace why are we still having such a hard time responding to that Grace?
This holy season that is coming to it’s climax began with a call to an intentional walk with Jesus toward our mutual destinies at Golgotha. Maybe it’s just me but giving up chocolate, booze, carbs or fried yummies for Lent seems to be the easier route than the rocky terrain of engaging in and exposing ourselves to deeply transformative spiritual practices. I get a good running start every year, really I do. I’m all praying, and fasting and reading my devotional and then someone brings over a “really nice” bottle of wine or the latest oak-barrel craft beer, I sleep too late to light a candle and pray before work, I get all pissy about the language of the devotional and next thing I know my heart and mind have returned to my own sorry version of ordinary time.
And here we are revisiting Holy Week acting out what we like to call the greatest story ever told, but who are we on that stage?
We sure can get all amped up and engage in some kick ass palm waving as our new leader, healer, teacher enters the gates of the city. But when the hard lessons of the temple cleansing, vineyard parables and radical servant-hood of foot washing squeeze our comfort zone we like to skip right over to the wine and bread portion of Thursday’s program. Do we miss the depth and complexity of the story by rushing from hosannah to crucify him to risen indeed?
Where the hell are all those palm waving hosannahs?
Who are we on that day? Who are we today?
How do we keep getting manipulated by the religious elite, in collusion with the state to hang God on a cross?
Are we the fearful elite who plot death for one who challenges our comfortable status quo, the mocking soldiers, the masses controlled by fear deftly wielded by the state, the dumb-ass disciples who never seem to get it, the thief who sees and understands, the women weeping?
And on what seems to be an eternal Saturday, do we feel anything at all?
Can we comprehend the the astonished “what the hell did we just do?”
Do we feel the palpable “they’re coming for me next” terror?
Are we still in darkness and confusion, bewildered and convinced that our faith in this savior, liberator was misplaced?
Are we wallowing in the resignation that something new has not been done, will not be seen in our lifetime?
And what of Easter? Are we yet living into the promise of that day or are we still stuck somewhere between the violence of Good Friday and the bleakness of Saturday?
When the women come to us and proclaim the incomprehensibly good news, how do we respond?
Our response can and should be rooted in love. As Jesus himself told us before everything got out of control, love for God and love for our neighbor is the crux of the story, is the Kingdom come near. Because God loves us without reservation, because nothing, nothing, nothing can separate us from the love of God, even when we whip, strip and hang God on a cross to die, we are still loved and forgiven. Our response to this love is not only to love God as deeply and fully as we are able, but also to love our neighbor else as deeply and fully as we love God and ourselves.
After the horror of Friday and the darkness of Saturday can we even remember who Jesus said our neighbor is? I try to (but miss the mark more frequently than I like). Our neighbor is the one we would revile, the outsider, the one our humanly constructed religions and cultures have told us to fear, to hate. Our neighbor is the one we would not touch but none-the-less lifts us from our broken lives to carry us to compassion’s doorstep. If we are Easter people we are called to respond to grace of that scandalous day, that unwarranted forgiveness and unearnable love with nothing less than love.
When we can respond to God’s RADICAL grace with equivalent love and grace for all our sisters and brothers on this big damn blue marble then and only then will we truly be Easter people who will be lifted from the tomb of fear and darkness to declare – Christ has risen, Christ has risen indeed!