Dear Friends of Second Church,
With Holy Week and Easter quickly approaching, I hope you’re planning to join us for some of the most significant services in the Christian year.
The emotional arc of the week begins with the joy of Palm Sunday, then becomes poignant and somber for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and finally ends with the surprised hope of our Easter Sunrise service and the exuberant praise of the Festival Service.
It’s a lot of church, I know—and that can set up an odd sense of “should” for many people, who feel as if they should want to be there, or maybe: who feel as if they should want to want to be there.
The week invites us to reimagine the last days of Jesus, and to put ourselves, sympathetically, in the swirl of how the disciples felt as it all unfolded before them.
No wonder people are inclined to pass, even if they won’t quite say so (at least to their pastor).
It’s true I value each of the services as well as the full package of them all.
And yet, for those who won’t be there: I do get it.
Given what we know of swirling emotions, and of how little it takes to stir us up, as it is, some of the deepest promise of faith is for a measure of equanimity through it all.
If so, who needs remedial exposure to soaring and crashing, hoping and despairing on alternate days? Life is already like that.
Asking for more is just being a glutton for punishment rather than a connoisseur of Christ.
I hear that.
I would also say that it isn’t my experience, and really isn’t the experience of most people who actually attend.
It’s not some vaguely triggering drama.
Because surely it is also true that there are times in our lives when the Christian story really hits home, and we are able to hear it in a new way.
This is especially true when we listen to the story together in community, and we realize what it must be like for others whose stories and circumstances we know to be listening beside us.
The pain of loss, the puzzlement of the unexpected, the hope around a new beginning are always in the room whenever the Gospel is proclaimed.
We sense that in one another.
The deeper affirmation is that the love of God is also there between us, continuing Christ’s own redemptive work as we learn to bear one another’s burdens and to rejoice in one another’s joys.
Holy Week and Easter remind us that, in fact, faith does not offer us equanimity, but rather company—a confidence that whatever we go through, we do not face it alone.
Where two or three are gathered, he is always in the midst of us.
Living into what that offers and asks of us is fundamental to becoming a Christian, remembering how Jesus taught us that to welcome one another is to welcome him.
With its wide range of emotions, we may not exactly welcome Holy Week.
But each year, it helps us learn how eagerly God yearns to welcome us.
See you in church….