|Pilate washes his hands of the whole thing. I saw this randomly on a building in Volterra, Italy|
Jesus knew what would happen to him in Jerusalem. But he went there anyway. He went there because he believed that God would bring something beautiful out of the death-dealing ugliness he was going to experience.
He believed that he would be the vessel through which that beauty would shine. He believed true life and freedom would show through because he was willing to be obedient to God, the God of love, the God of abundance, the God of peace and eternal life.
He would not dodge the consequences of a life lived among sinners and outcasts, the poor and needy, the ones who were sick and the ones who were out of their minds, and even the ones who were dead, to heal them, to restore their inherent dignity, to bring them back into life. He would not avoid the consequences of being willing to leave the 99 together in the wilderness in order to rescue the one that was unlucky or stupid enough to have gotten itself lost.
And he was not really surprised when the 99 ended up turning against him.
Since this is the heart of the matter, I invite you not to simply jump ahead to next Sunday, to Easter, but to spend awhile with this holy and intimate time, to come closer during this Holy Week as we revisit the last days of Jesus’ life on earth: to hear his commandment to love on Maundy Thursday; to witness on Friday his vulnerability before the dark side, his willingness to die rather than to resort to violence and revenge.
During Holy Week we will see the best and the worst of life. We will see overflowing love and we will see disfiguring hate. We will see faithfulness and we will see abandonment. We will see displays of power and we will see utter degradation.
But most of all, at the heart of the matter, we will see truth.
This year, our world has been turned upside down as we approach this most holy time in the church year. We are used to observing Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter the way we usually do. Together. In church. We have our favorite parts of each service, our favorite music to sing and hear. And the lens through which we look at the events of that last holy week in Jerusalem is this year the lens of living in the midst of a pandemic, shut out of our church, unable to gather with our friends and family. We are living in a time of fear and anxiety. Will we stay safe from sickness, will our families be safe? What is going to happen to us when our savings are depleted or our work dries up? What Jesus will go through, and what we will experience as we encounter it not at church but in our homes at our own sacred spaces, has something to say to us in our special, uncomfortable situation both as a community and as individuals.
This year we will observe Holy Week at home using liturgy that is based on our traditional worship but has been adapted for this time. We will hold a vigil the night before Easter, again at home, which may be a new thing for some of us. We will worship together (at the same time) but apart (in different locations). We will celebrate Easter Day by watching a service from another church perhaps or by making up our own thing (because we can) - and then gathering online to say Alleluia.
So, this is a time for wonder, for discernment. Where is God in this time of love and death, and vigil and, finally, resurrection? What will we see this year that we have never seen before? What will we experience that is new? What is the new thing that God is doing among us even as we are dispersed and fearful?
Today we are standing at the gate of Jerusalem, and it’s time to go in and to look for the truth that God is preparing to show us now, in this time of our exile.