Imagine if you went on a rollercoaster ride that began, as most rollercoaster rides do, with a steep incline to a dizzying height and then… just took you on a scenic tour of the heights – no terrifying plunge, no thrilling twisting or inverting, no exciting anything! While the view might be incredible and the experience serene (and truth be told, this sounds great to me!), without the dips and the turns, without the highs and the lows, it just isn’t a rollercoaster ride.
The experience of Holy Week is a lot like riding a rollercoaster. If you don’t engage in both the highs and the lows you miss out on something. If you jump from the Hosannas of Palm Sunday to the Halleluiahs of Easter you miss out on something – something important. Without the lows of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, Easter Sunday is just Palm Sunday with lilies, and if the lilies are the only difference, then we have missed out on the profound power of the greatest event in all of history.
For me, a part of what makes Holy Week ‘holy’ is the full range of emotions I am invited to experience. The excitement and hope of new possibilities contained in Palm Sunday. The bewilderment and shift in understanding at the Last Supper and the anger of injustice and deep self-questioning resulting from the post-Last Supper chaos of Maundy Thursday. The utter brokenness, guilt and despair of Good Friday. The dark and empty silence of Holy Saturday. And finally the wonderful surprise and abiding gift that comes unexpectedly on Easter morning.
Holy Week touches upon every aspect of our humanity, and reaches into all of the significant emotions in life. Holy Week lets us know that in and through Jesus, God has been everywhere that we have been or will ever go. The God whose work is significant enough to be called ‘holy’, knows the pain of loss, knows the ache of betrayal, knows the joyful surprise of unanticipated possibilities, knows the darkness of death, and knows a hope that grows despite all evidence to the contrary. Most of all, Holy Week tells us that God will never be finished with us, and that there is no place so broken that we will ever lose God’s mercy and love!
My prayer for all of us this year is that we will open ourselves up to the richness and the depth of Holy Week. By all means, come for the highs of Palm Sunday and Easter, but don’t miss out on the experience of God’s faithfulness even in the darkest moments of our human condition. It is when we open ourselves to the depths of human sin that we discover the magnitude of God’s mercy and love.
See you on Sunday!