Today, I invite you to a holy Holy Week.
If you were here, or at any other Episcopal church, on Ash Wednesday, the Celebrant invited you to a holy Lent. We wore ashes on our foreheads to remind us of our mortality, of our sinfulness, of our humanity; to remind us that it is only by God’s gracious gift that we are given everlasting life. The ashes we wore were made from burning the Palms that we blessed last year, on this day, as Lent was ending - these palms which we wave this day to honor Jesus and welcome him to the holy city. On Ash Wednesday, we began our Lenten journey of self-reflection, introspection, and penitence that is now nearing its conclusion. Next weekend, we will celebrate Christ’s resurrection. But before doing so, our Lenten journey will take us through Holy Week - the time when we share the Passover feast with Jesus and fear for his life, when we watch with him in the Garden of Gethsemane, when we deny knowing him, when we shout for his crucifixion, when we witness his death on the cross, when we try to live with the void that is left in the world without him. Yes, we will find the tomb empty. Yes, we will meet him on the road to Emmaus and in the house outside Jerusalem, and we will know that he is risen. But not yet.
Today we begin this final leg of our Lenten journey, as we ride with Jesus into Jerusalem, knowing all the while what awaits him there. Don’t cut short your Lenten journey. Don’t jump from Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem to his resurrection. Yes, we will share in his resurrection, but that resurrection is empty, unless we also walk with Jesus through his passion and death.
What happens between Sunday and Friday? Sunday, when a bystander tells his disciples that of course they can take the colt if the Lord needs it; of course, they can use a room in my house to celebrate the Passover; Sunday, when the people wave palm branches and lay their cloaks on the ground to welcome Jesus to Jerusalem; Sunday, when they acclaim him King of kings and Lord of lords. And then Friday, when we participate in his condemnation.
More important than welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem today, is welcoming him into our hearts - letting Christ fill our hearts with the love of God, letting him shine a healing light on all the dark places that we’ve discovered during our Lenten introspection. If we can integrate Christ into our daily lives - our everyday lives - then we won’t end up waving Palms on Sunday and shouting, “Crucify him!” on Friday. We won’t find ourselves worshipping him on Sunday, then like Peter, deny knowing him on Friday.
In our Holy Week liturgies this week (Tenebrae on Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday), we find the heart and soul of our entire Christian year as we glory in the transforming cross of Jesus. We “re-collect” and retell our stories, our corporate memory and understanding of what Jesus experienced in Jerusalem. We live it with him: the Last Supper, the washing of feet, the crucifixion, the death, the entombment, and then finally the resurrection.
Just as you were invited to a holy Lent, today I invite you to a holy Holy Week.