Holy, Holy, Hectic, Harrowing

April: Easter

The very high highs and lows lows of Holy Week are a pretty good metaphor for life itself. 

On Palm Sunday, the first day of the Jewish week, Jesus rode into Jerusalem  on a young donkey provided by a secret supporter. The animal is traditionally viewed as a symbol of Israel’s royalty. Jesus’ reception could scarcely have been more enthusiastic. Palm fronds and garments were strewn at his feet, the cheers and joy of the crowd were unreserved. 

Jesus, ever aware of those around him and their needs, called to one of his many admirers, a short, despised publican who had clambered up a sycamore tree to get a better view. He gave him incredible news, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide in your house.” During that visit, this wiley tax collector promised to give half of all he owned to the poor, and to return four times the amount of anything he had taken from others illicitly. Savoring the earnest repentance and commitment to make restitution, Jesus said, “This day is salvation come to this house…for the Son of man is come to seek and save that which was lost.”   

And all that week the Savior continued to seek and to save, teaching through the parable of the talents that we should be  confident in using and sharing all gifts we have been given, whatever those gifts are, generously and unreservedly to help and bless others, and build the kingdom of God. As we do, our gifts and their impact will be multiplied. 

Jesus took time to celebrate the Passover with his disciples; he broke the matzoh, he explained the meaning of the ancient tradition and what it foreshadowed, he washed the feet of his followers to provide an example of what it meant to be a servant leader, he went to pray on the Mount of Olives, asking that the cup of agony might pass from him, if possible, but accepting his responsibility to do the will of his Father. 

He was betrayed, and still he healed the servant of the high priest. He was belittled, but still he knew who he was and why he was here. He was bludgeoned but still he prayed for those who perpetrated such unspeakable travesties. And then His body gave up the ghost and He was buried in a tomb by those who knew He had indeed been Savior and King. The week that began with such adulation, by Friday, was filled with darkness and despair.  

I don’t know about you, but I have seen life go from high hopes to deep sadness in a very short time. It is perhaps a necessary part of our mortal path to realize we don’t control the fates that deal out cards of unmerited happiness or incomprehensible sadness with what seems like reckless abandon. Holy week feels like that at one level. The thrill of Israel recognizing and shouting Hosannas to the Lord. And then the horror of hearing the same crowd clamor that The Son of Daddy(Barabbas) be released, and the Savior be crucified.  

It can all seem so unacceptably wrong and irrational. But if we take Jesus at his recorded words…there is a reason for it all. There is a plan and a purpose to our lives that will ultimately make sense. 

Like the dizzying delights of Holy Week, with so much of brightness and joy and wonder, our lives can be graced with times of beauty, celebration and sharing. Like the despair of the dismal tomb, our lives will certainly be darkened by unpredictable disappointments and death itself. 

Like the sequence of Holy Week, our lives can swing perilously from times of great delight and joy, which feel like heaven itself, to times of drag-you-down despair or drudgery. But, if we, like Jesus, are willing  to surrender our will to the Father’s, with resolute determination, there will be a day, a blessed day, an Easter morning, when we, and all we love, rise up, like a glorious sunrise, to experience eternal love and neverending joy in a world without end. Though destiny, our divine destiny, may take us in directions we never would have chosen, we can take strength from knowing that even Jesus pled three times that the cup of the crucifixion pass from him. We are invited to shoulder our burdens yoked with the Savior himself and thus lighten the loads of our own customized traumas. Our fourteen year old Bichon Frisée, Baby Beau, often seems to shamble along. But once in a while, almost every day he marches to the beat of a different drummer. He picks up his paws and prances and scampers as if he hears some secret music. We need to be willing to do the same, put our shoulders to the wheels and push along while still listening for the music that’s just for us, and dance.

Holy week ends with a great and glorious promise.  Nothing and nobody ready to repent will be lost, for our redeemer’s suffering and sacrifice will have sought and saved us all. 

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