In my previous post, I raised two questions. The first, “what perplexes you most about leadership?” will help shape coming posts, but will not be considered here. The second question though, “for those of you who are Christian, what is on your mind at the start of this Holy Week,” I reflect on myself here.
I am not sure that Holy Monday inspired me to wear a crimson colored shirt and gray suit, but that’s what I am wearing as I prepare for my Monday’s meetings. Going through my head, I am excited. I am excited at the prospect that what I have been a part of as a start-up might now be really gathering the traction needed to make our work a reality. I am excited that my in-laws are coming to visit over the Easter weekend and to experience all of the fun that Holy Week is, especially in one of my roles as a worship coordinator and choir director. I am excited that my favorite holiday of the year, Easter, is less than a week away. I am excited because my wife is doing awesome things in her job and is being continually challenged and growing. It sure seems like a lot of excitement is going on!
This excitement though reminds me of Holy Week. There was a whole lot of excitement on what we now celebrate as Palm Sunday as the crowds gathered and waived their branches of palm and laid their cloaks, or rocks on the path at the sight of Jesus coming into the city of Jerusalem. Shouts of “Hosanna” could be heard all along. But as a pastor aptly surmised yesterday, “how quickly people turn.” From the shouts of praise, the people turn their backs and abandon Jesus. Peter, his beloved disciple, denies him three times, and Jesus is betrayed and ultimately crucified. And as the gospels seem to narrate, this all happened within the matter of a few days. It puts things in perspective for someone who lives in Minnesota and has a beautiful sunny day, and then wonders, “when and where is the other shoe going to drop?” All of this great excitement and good news can’t just continue on with something not so good happening right? Christians know that this happens during Holy Week with Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. And that’s why, in some ways perhaps I fear my excitement. I fear that I am forgetting something I have to do, that I have overlooked something, that I haven’t always striven for excellence… you know how these fears grow.
In spite of all this fear and anxiety, especially that which comes with Holy Week, there is at the same time the mystery, majesty, redemption, and reconciliation that comes with the sunrise on Easter morning. New life comes out of death. Hope comes where only despair had been. As Rob Bell said, “love wins.” We know this story well. And its because that we know the whole passion story- the praise and excitement of Palm Sunday, the finality of a last supper and then fearful prayer and betrayal in the garden on Maundy Thursday, the sham of a trial(s) and crucifixion and death on Good Friday, the darkness of Saturday, and the resurrection we acknowledge on Easter Sunday, that we know how all of this is related. New life can only come out of death.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet, is that the congregation where I am employed is in the midst of a transition, currently being led by an interim pastor as they discern who they are as a congregation and from that whom they may be led to call to be their next pastor. I believe that churches in the midst of transition and challenges have to come to grips with the fact that “the way things were” is not a good enough justification to continue doing what ever they might be doing, and to do ministry today and tomorrow (that goes for any congregation, and organization for that matter). The world changes, peoples’ needs change, and the way the church meets these needs must change with the needs. What does not change is that the church is there to meet the needs, as it should be. The way this is done may change in its approach or social action, but it is still grounded in confession and forgiveness, reconciliation and the redemption that we find in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection (not just one piece of these, but all three of them together).
I guess, in a long winded way, as Holy Week begins for me, it helps me center myself in the hope that I find in Christ. It helps me know that its okay that I may not have all the answers, or not even know the right questions to ask, and it helps me when I feel tons of excitement as well as when facing the worries about the “other shoe that may drop.” But, I find comfort and hope that I am not alone in this. Christ did the hard part by beating death, once and for all. Now its our chance to more distinctly remember this and appreciate it, but also to acknowledge what this means for us in our daily life. For me, this means that it is okay to hope and be excited that things will work out with the start-up I am a part of. It is also okay to hope that the worship which I have helped draft for this week will be engaging, thought provoking, but most importantly allow the people to feel and draw near to God in worship, prayer, mystery, despair, suffering, and hope. The human condition gets its prime presentation during this week of the church year, and this for me, is why church and the congregation can be and is still relevant today to the individual. If the church abandons its ability to understand, appreciate, and speak to the human condition, it has lost any hope of being “the body of Christ.” Christ took on the human condition for a reason. Let’s not lose sight of that- in its many interconnected emotions, paradoxes, and dichotomies.
So, how are you feeling at the beginning of this Holy Week? What are you thinking about?
Blessings to you on your Holy Week journey.