Today is Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week. I know people are all over the place on this week. Some love it and it is one of the most important weeks in the church calendars. Others aren’t feeling too holy and are struggling, gearing up for those He is Risen! posts on Easter Sunday that trigger all kinds of painful feelings. Others are everywhere in between, a mix-of-bunnies-and-Jesus-and-just-happy-the-sun-is-shining-more-this-time-of-year.
Palm Sunday is one of my favorite days of Holy Week because it reminds me of the contrast between what we want and what is good for us.
The people lining the street in Jerusalem weren’t waving palm branches and yelling “Hosanna!” because they thought Jesus would walk the way of humility and sacrifice.
They weren’t cheering on someone who was going to stumble toward the cross.
They were praising him because they thought he’d be a strong and conquering king in the ways they wanted him to be strong and conquering.
To me, this week is all about church and systems and the good news and humanity and sociology.
It points to our patterns.
It points to our desires.
It points to our denial.
It points to our please-save-us-the-way-we-want-to-be-saved-ness.
It points to our draw to hierarchical systems,
It points to our complicity with power and might.
It points to why the ways of Jesus will always be so against the grain and will cost us so much more than we think.
This week has been a challenging one for me in a lot of ways. I had skin cancer surgery (nothing serious but troubling because it was recurring and deeper and more invasive than I’ve ever had before–more on that tomorrow). I also got news of being removed from a collaborative writing project that’s already done and printed because the major Christian bookseller in the world doesn’t believe that female lead pastors are biblical (more on that coming soon, too). On top of that, I felt the weight of some hard conversations with amazing friends who are doing truly beautiful work on behalf of the kingdom and can never get the ongoing support and financial safety net they so desperately need to continue.
It all just feels so gross to me sometimes.
The tilt of power.
How people on top keep “winning” and stay safely separated.
How unhealthy racist, sexist, classist, us-and-them power keeps perpetuating itself.
How people keep voting for Donald Trump, like, really voting for him.
As much as I sometimes feel sick to my stomach, it’s also saying something important I hope we can listen to.
The downward spiral of Holy Week is a beautiful and sacred gift to me and is one of the reasons that despite all my shifting faith and crazy unraveling, I still believe in Jesus and can’t seem to shake him.
He turned it all upside down then and he’s still doing it now.
It didn’t make sense then and it doesn’t make sense now.
It cost everything then and it costs everything now.
I have weeks where I want to get in my imaginary red convertible and drive west, leave the faith, and never return again.
And then I start thinking about my own story and my friends on the margins of life and faith, too.
The least, the last, the forgotten, the struggling, the doubting, the trying, the not-qualified, the not cool, the not rich, the not hip, the not savvy, the not-all-kinds-of-things-the-world-says-we-should-be.
And I smile.
Then my heart fills with a weird unexplainable Hope because in this beautiful weird not-what-we-think-it-is story, the last are first.
The one sheep is worth leaving the 99 for.
Mercy is more important than sacrifice.
Life is about descent, not ascent.
Strength is weakness.
Love looks like the cross.
Palm branches burn up and turn to ashes that we rise from.
Yeah, it’s not what we think week.
And to me, that’s really good news.
For those that might be new here or are wanting to dig in a little extra this week, I wanted to share some old posts centered on the different days on the walk toward Easter.
- kings – Oh we need to re-think our addiction to kings!
- what’s inside the bunny – And what spiritual maturity actually is…
- receiving – Some thoughts on John 13 and why it’s so much easier to give than receive.
- the simple, messy, complicated art of friendship. Yeah, all roads lead to friendship and Jesus embodied this for us.
- the cross – “Victory needs a new definition.”
- formation friday – the cross – Because our faith is ever-transforming, it is sometimes helpful to consider, “What does the cross meant to me this year?”
- scapegoats – One of the most telling aspects of human beings in groups.
- friday-saturday-sunday living – I love thinking about life in this rhythm.
- victim, survivor, thriver – This is another rhythm of the Friday-Saturday-Sunday of Easter Weekend that I come back to a lot.
- when easter is hard – Reality for many these days. If you are in the middle of a faith shift and don’t know which end is up on Easter, know you are not alone.
- easter hope(less) – When we long to feel the stirring of new life again.
- she can’t be silenced – An easter morning post for sheloves magazine from a few years ago. On the other side of silence is life.
- resurrecting – “It’s not an event but a way of living.” I hope for ongoing resurrection in my life in all kinds of ways. What’s resurrecting in you this year?
Also, my friend Christine Sine always has all kinds of goodness this week at her site, Godspace.