Entering Holy Week

Palm Sunday, April 1, 2012

by the Rev. Lera Tyler

After hearing the dramatic reading of Palm Sunday, we might say: “Here ends the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark.”  We could – and probably will – return to church next Sunday morning and hear the happy ending. We will be dressed in our Easter attire, and we’ll join in the fellowship and fun of fiestas and egg hunts and candy-stained hands.  We’ll send the children to flower the cross, and we’ll sing those glorious Easter hymns.

Between these two Sundays, however, the great drama of our faith moves forward with wrenching honesty and power. And on this last Sunday in Lent, we are invited into this drama by experiencing, at a deeper level, the story of Holy Week.

The Christian Church invites us to participate in the story of God’s great, all-out effort to bring lasting salvation and hope to God’s beloved world.  Just as the Church invited us into a Holy Lent, the traditions of the Church now invite us into the deep and dark experience of Jesus’ last days.  

We are encouraged to live in the story individually and within Christian community, so I offer a few suggestions.  Begin by reading (again for many of you) the passion story from Mark (Chapters 14 and 15). It will only take you about 20 minutes, even at a moderately thoughtful pace.

Then reflect on the events and again enter into its drama mindfully and creatively. Imagine yourself one of the persons you find in the story. Here are some suggestions:

  • As one of the women who followed Jesus from Galilee, prepared the Passover meal, and dared to watch the crucifixion;
  • As one of the people in the crowd who shouted hosannas as Jesus rode into Jerusalem and who then became confused and disillusioned as he was tried for treason;
  • As Peter who in great fear denied Jesus and ran away;
  • As Judas who had become fearful of being on the losing side and greedy to be on the winning side;
  • As the curious serving girl in the courtyard who challenged Peter’s lie;
  • Or as the centurion who had seen enough in his career to recognize courage and unquestioning commitment to a higher power.

Here are other suggestions:

  • You might imagine yourself kneeling beside Jesus in your own lonely places.
  • You may find yourself grieving for Jesus and for all those who have abandoned you.
  • You might allow yourself to say, “Where is God?” as Jesus hangs on the cross and you voice your own doubts about God’s presence when you have needed God.
  • You might pray with Jesus, plea to God for comfort for your own trials, pray for compassion for those who hurt you, and ask for new life in this hour.
  • You might examine whether your identity as a follower of Jesus is hidden from others.

You are encouraged to make time to participate with your Christian family as it gathers on Maundy Thursday to honor the unquestioning love of God and to be reminded that Jesus commanded us to love one another as Jesus loves us.  You are encouraged to present yourself: your feet to be washed and your hands and hearts to receive that last meal together, and then to sit in silence witnessing your surroundings being stripped of all signs of Jesus as he disappears in Gethsemane’s darkness.

You are encouraged to pray in community on Good Friday, during the hours of the crucifixion or during the darkening twilight of death. You are encouraged to attend the Easter Vigil as your community, through biblical narratives and baptismal waters, casts out of the darkness of death and receives the light of Jesus’ resurrection.

We, who identify ourselves as followers of Jesus, are called to follow him.  This week he leads us, through the haunting path of sacrificial love, toward the sure hope of our salvation.  Along the way we are called to witness our story: as real as suffering and death are, they will vanish in the bright light of Easter’s dawn.

The Rev. Lera Tyler is assistant rector at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, San Antonio TX. She preached this sermon on Palm Sunday, April 1, 2012. Reach Lera at ltyler@tom1604.org or leave your comment below.

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