Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, the most sacred week of the year for Christians.
Normally this is also the church’s busiest week of the year. Choirs will have spent weeks rehearsing not just for today and Easter, but for special services on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
Normally the altar guild is setting up for each of these services, and spending hours polishing silver, ironing linens, hanging banners. Flower guild members are working magic with beautiful blossoms and greenery. Loaves of communion bread are being baked. Acolytes, lay readers, and lectors are rehearsing their parts. Bulletins for five different services are being printed and folded.
Normally this week is like the Super Bowl of liturgies, a time when we pull out all the stops, put forth our best efforts.
That’s the way this week normally is in the life of the church.
But this year, nothing is normal.
The pandemic sweeping through our community, our nation, and our world has upended our lives – changing how we live, how we work, how we go to school, and even how we worship.
It seems ironically fitting that this pandemic has hit us in the season of Lent, a time when the church calls us to reflection and penitence, a time when many of us practice self discipline by giving up something that we normally enjoy.
This year those Lenten themes have been taken to an extreme we could not have ever imagined when the season began in February.
A Facebook post I saw this week summed it up well – “This is the Lentiest Lent I’ve ever Lented.”
One of the most prevalent metaphors for Lent is the wilderness. Wilderness is not only a place, it can also be a state of mind, a time where it can be difficult to sort out perceptions and reality, where nothing seems certain.
In the wilderness our illusions that we are in control are stripped bare, the structures and routines that form and support our lives are suddenly gone. It’s a place of uncertainty and chaos, where anxiety abounds.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
And so, strangely, this is an appropriate way to be walking through Holy Week, stripped of all the trappings with which we usually celebrate, our most treasured structures and routines suddenly gone.
This year all we have left are the stories.
Each day this week we will hear them.
Stories of fear, isolation, and death. Stories of a world turned upside down. Stories of cowardice and courage. Stories of grief and love.
Even if you have never been to Holy Week services before, I invite you to join us as we come together through the gift of technology to walk the Stations of the Cross on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings.
Join us Thursday as we gather around the table with Jesus on the last night of his life.
Come with us to the foot of the cross on Friday as Jesus breathes his last.
Hear the stories of God’s saving grace throughout history on Saturday night as we keep vigil.
Go with the women to Jesus’ tomb next Sunday morning,
I invite you this week to lean into these stories. See how they resonate in a different way this year. See how these ancient words speak to our current situation. Hear what God has to say to us.
May this Holy Week be the holiest and most memorable of weeks for us all.
And finally, Madeleine L’Engle, reminds us of what our response should be to Christ’s coming into our imperfect world and lives in “First Coming:”
God did not wait until the world was ready, till...nations were at peace. God came when the Heavens were unsteady, and prisoners cried out for release. God did not wait for the perfect time. God came when the need was deep and great. God dined with sinners in all their grime, turned water into wine. God did not wait till hearts were pure. In joy God came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt. To a tarnished world like ours, of anguished shame God came, and God’s Light did not go out. We can not wait til the world is sane to raise our songs with joyful voice, for to share our grief, to touch our pain, God came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!