It is Holy Week, which is good news if you gave up eating chocolate for Lent (for now there is less than a week ‘till you can bite the ears off a chocolate bunny); but Holy Week also can be a lot of work, and I don’t just mean for people like me, Talitha, Noël, Marcia, and Kim. Holy Week, when observed, involves a lot of spiritual work as well.
During Holy Week we move from the boisterous resistance of Palm Sunday to the painful passion of Good Friday, pausing along the way to experience the intimacy of the last supper and the emotional agony of Jesus’ prayers in the Garden. It is a spiritual roller coaster that involves a lot of time in church expressing lament and contemplating the less-than-joyous side of life.
So why do we observe Holy Week? Haven’t we evolved past the notion that religion should be downcast and guilt-inducing? Should we not walk on the sunny side of the street, and with Bobby McFerrin quote Meher Baba while singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy?” In fact, many Presbyterians skip Holy Week, going straight from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday without thinking twice.
But I happen to think it’s good to embrace the solemnity of Holy Week, especially for those of us increasingly living in a winner-take-all society, where money trumps morality, political power decides what is true, ratings matter more than substance, and where being a “loser” is the worst thing that can happen to a person. In such a society as ours, Holy Week reminds us that love and faithfulness matter more than wealth and power, and that God meets us in our brokenness, in our sorrow, and in our suffering. The message of Holy Week is one that we never will hear from Wall Street or Mar-A-Lago or Washington: God’s grace is not the exclusive property of those who are successful and happy. God’s grace abides and extends to us even—and especially—when we need it the most: when we are hurting and hungry and longing for hope.
And that’s good news because no one is happy all of the time. No success leaves us feeling eternally satisfied, and no amount of money imparts permanent happiness. We all need to feel God’s presence in times of sadness. Holy Week reminds us that God walks with us in times of trial.
So please join me in the work of observing Holy Week. We will have service on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, both at seven in the evening. I hope to see you there.