We are nearing the end of our Lenten journey, and this one has been unlike any other, as we've all been traversing a new kind of wilderness. We have found ourselves losing more than we expected—the familiar routines of office and school and home, the familiar gatherings of friends and church and community. Some have lost jobs, some have lost loved ones, some are even now fighting for their lives. We have surrendered more than we ever imagined.
And yet, there have been invitations—and we have accepted them with more grace some days than others. Invitations to greater communion in these prolonged days in close quarters. Invitations to new ways of being church, and friends, and community to each other. Invitations to new practices, self-examination, understanding, and compassion. Invitations in the soft spring winds and the in warm sunshine and in the cool rains. Invitations to set aside our own expectations and surrender to what is—and what will be.
Through Holy Week we are invited to allow God to further shape us into the image of Jesus. To align our hearts with the suffering of Jesus as we move ever closer to the event of the crucifixion. Now, while the whole of Lent has been a journey toward the cross with Jesus, Holy Week is where we experience this journey with the greatest intensity.
We begin with Palm Sunday (also known as Passion Sunday) the feast day that commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It falls this Sunday—the Sunday before Easter—and marks the beginning of Holy Week, our final week of Lent.
When we hold the triumph of Palm Sunday alongside the grief of Good Friday, we wonder how things could have unraveled so spectacularly. How did we go from the triumphal entry to the cross? How did the glorifying throng that welcomed Jesus with shouts of Hosanna become a bloodthirsty mob that demanded his death?
The people had looked for a Messiah who would bring martial deliverance from their mortal enemies—a strong and unfailing ruler who would bow to no man. Instead, they were given a suffering servant and willing sacrifice. A king who knelt to wash the feet even of his betrayer. A man who laid down his life in atonement for guilt and sin. They did not have the eyes to see, nor the ears to hear, nor the hearts to receive such an invitation—they could not recognize it for what it was.
From this side of history, we have the advantage of knowing who Jesus is and what he is about. We know what lies on the other side of the betrayal and the cross and the tomb Still, every day, there are other invitations that we miss. Because they aren't what we expected. Because we're looking for something else entirely. Because we simply can't imagine abundant life on the other side of this.
Holy Week this year will not be what we envisioned six months or even six weeks ago. Yet there is an invitation to approach this ancient dance in a new way. Where we would have gathered to wave palms and shout Hosanna, our sanctuaries may be darkened and empty. We may find ourselves, instead, taking up paper palms before a computer screen at home. Where we would have feasted with throngs of family and friends, we may find ourselves in ones and two and threes, discovering new ways to welcome the coming Messiah. Where we would have found the end of ourselves and our expectations, we may find an invitation to new and abundant life.
May we have eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to receive each invitation Holy Week brings.