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Travel with me for a few moments, if you would.
Imagine first a time when you were present with a crowd anticipating the arrival of an important, maybe historical figure. I remember being invited to be a part of the audience that got to hear President Obama deliver his last public speech before leaving office – and the hours we waited in line before he arrived. I remember the thrill of him taking the stage after that long wait – and then the amazing experience of listening to him reflect on his time in office.
Now imagine you are part of the crowd waiting for the arrival of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem. Imagine the anticipation as you wait for hours, and then the thrill of seeing him and being up close and next to him as he passes by you.
Pause now as we shift gears.
Imagine now a protest rally you have been a part of. Who or what is generating the anger you feel as you chant with the crowd? Was it part of the Black Lives Matter movement following the murders of Michael Brown, Brianna Taylor, Freddie Gray, or George Floyd? Was it to protect and preserve the right for a woman to choose her reproductive options? Was it to claim the rights of the Earth against the threat of climate disaster? Remember the chants, the collective outrage, the shared need to lift your voice up and be heard for a cause.
Now imagine that you are in the crowd chanting “crucify him!” Yes, I have been a part of crowds whipped into a frenzy of protest – like the one Jesus faced when Pilate marched him out. I don’t mean to suggest that the protest rallys we attend are the equivalent of mob violence – but I do want us to get a sense of what Jesus faced when he was put before an angry crowd; and the closest I have ever been to knowing what that would look or feel like are the protest rally’s I have participated in.
Now imagine a time when you were unable to be present as a friend suffered. Those are hard times for me to recall. I think back on times when a friend shared with me how they suffered, and what they went through – and I left that wondering why I didn’t see it and why I didn’t reach out and what I could have done to ease their burden had I known.
Now think about Jesus, alone before Pilate and thinking about the disciple that betrayed him, the disciple that denied knowing him, and the disciples that fled – one even running off naked because his cloak was grabbed and he feared being identified as a disciple of Jesus. Think of Jesus walking the way of Golgatha, the via dolorosa. I have walked that pathway, and been to the Garden of Gethsemane. How lonely Jesus must have felt as friends and disciples abandoned him to suffer alone.
This annual rehearsal of the events of Holy Week are an emotional roller coaster ride. They open with the euphoria of a king entering the city and end with his crucifixion, all while his followers betray and abandon him.
Wherever we find ourselves in this story, it is painful to rehearse. We get to Easter, there is no doubt about it. But holy week is always a stark reminder that whatever Easter joy is there to be had can’t arrive without living through some hard days first.
Feel all the feels this week. Experience everything you can throughout this week. Wait for the joy of that Easter morn which comes as a relief and a respite after the most intense array of liturgical enactments we could imagine. And center the story of, and the experience of, the one who incarnated love but died an enemy of the state. And let all of us, like Jesus, embody love, even when it comes with a heavy price to pay on this, our journey Into the Mystic.
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