How is it with your spirit? Truth be told, I arrived at this Holy Week a bit weary. It’s been a long winter here in Minnesota and it’s not over yet. However, for the first time in 25 months, the congregation I serve was able to meet in person for Palm Sunday. It was a fitting beginning to Holy Week, though an exhausting one.
In contemplating all that is contained in this week, I realized that it runs the full course of human emotions, with complicated layers. It’s no surprise to me that the disciples fell asleep while praying in the garden, leaving Jesus alone at a time when betrayal, disappointment, and fear of what was coming had to have been super intense. Who can bear witness to all of that?
Even knowing the story that is unfolding this week, it’s challenging to keep watch, keep awake, and bear witness. And if you are like me and arrive at this week tired, troubled by the events of the world, struggling to carry the weight of grief and personal concerns, then you might be wondering if it would be better to skip from the celebration of Palm Sunday to the bigger celebration of Easter.
I recommend going through the whole week, day by day, because only by participating in the whole story will we find wholeness amidst our own brokenness. Palm Sunday is a parade of celebration. It is also political protest. And it is a funeral procession. This allows us to be filled with joy, or guided by anger or pain, or waylaid with grief. Where are you at the beginning of this sacred week?
By the time we get to Thursday, we will need to be washed in humble service. The reminder that Jesus put himself before no one and that no one is more valuable than anyone else, may be timely for you. Do you need to be reminded amidst the harsh chaos and betrayl of the world that every human being has innate value as God’s beloved? Or maybe you need to hear again that call to serve all our neighbors with humility and grace?
Then it is Good Friday, the day when we remember how easy it is for the world to reject and destroy Love. Fear. Anguish. Loneliness. Grief. Isolation. These are some of the emotions of the day. Perhaps Good Friday feels like so many other days for you. You are not alone.
Holy Saturday is a reminder that the world goes on in the absence of Love and it isn’t very nice. War, hatred, violence, fear, death, and division rule this day. It’s hard to inhabit this space and tempting to jump right to the end of this story. Yet, if we do not remain here for the day, how can we build solidarity with our neighbors whose reality is filled with the devastation of oppression, hatred, and violence?
We all know what happens on Easter morning. We celebrate Resurrection. We glory in new life. There is a promise for us all here, especially for those of us who barely make it to the empty tomb, those of for whom emptiness seems a constant companion. Death and destruction are not stronger than Love. We can’t appreciate this message if we don’t travel through this week, taking it all in, and finding our own place in the story.
However this week goes for you, remember that you are not alone. If the joy of celebration is more comfortable than the agony of betrayal and violence, give thanks to God. If you get caught in the depth of grief, loss, and chaos, breathe deeply and know that God is with you, right there in the muck and the mire of it all – there is a flicker of hope.
This week has all the feels. Wherever you find yourself, remember that there is no place we can go in body, mind, or spirit that God has not been, is not already there waiting to accompany you. Jesus endured all the feels of this week, in part, so that we will always know the Love wraps around us in every moment, especially in those times when we ask, as Jesus did, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”
May God’s blessings guide you and sustain you through this Holy Week.
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is an author, and the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, video series, and books at Beachtheology.com