Reflections to start the week
Monday, March 30, 2015
What makes holy week holy?
As the sun cracked the horizon this morning, I’m pretty sure it had no sense that this day differs from any other. The gulls on the beach, my dogs on the morning walk don’t know one day from another. This morning’s news may be unusual, bleak, distressing, but the reports do not seem to indicate that there’s anything particularly special about this week. More and more in our culture, people will set out this morning for school and jobs without a sense that this Monday is distinctive or peculiar.
But for those whose spiritual journey unfolds in the Christian tradition, for those who reckon themselves followers of Jesus, following closely, or at a distance, this Monday begins Holy Week. What makes holy week holy? I don’t know what association you have with the word “holy”. It may conjure images of pious (and unappealing) people. You might not say it, but you may well think of them: I don’t want to be one of those folks, a.k.a., holier than thou. But the word suggests something that is set apart, and so this Monday matters to followers of Christ because it’s our most special week. To start the week, ask yourself why it’s special, why it’s set apart.
The week tells a story. The journey that began with Ash Wednesday now nears its destination, as Jesus arrives in Jerusalem. (Did you enjoy singing those hosannas yesterday?) Throughout the week, the story of Jesus unfolds: his final hours with his disciples, his encounter with religious and political authorities, his challenge of their institutional life, his suffering at the hands of good people, the desertion of disciples who deny and betray, the loneliness of the suffering, the pain, physical and otherwise, the end of life. We walk that way with Jesus this week. Or perhaps we don’t, treating it like any other week.
It matters that we walk through this week, this annual observance which serves as much as reminder as instructor. A friend, a priest I admire, posted this note on Facebook a couple days ago, as he considered his several homiletic opportunities: “Preaching in Holy Week forces you to really decide what you believe about Jesus and the Kingdom of God. I am thankful for the responsibility every year.” The gift of that responsibility is certainly true for all those privileged and challenged to mount the stairs of a pulpit this week. But it’s true for all who are called to proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ. In other words, it’s true for all of us.
This week is special. Theologians sometimes speak about the “scandal of particularity”, how God remarkably, mysteriously chooses to use special times and spaces and people to further divine purposes, holy purposes. This one week set aside each year, one out of 52, may well be a case of this holy “scandal”.
This week is special. Use it to decide, or at least to explore what you believe about Jesus and the kingdom of God. Let the several liturgies guide you in that process. Take in as many as you can. Carve out quiet time. Make this Monday in Holy Week matter by claiming that this day, this week is indeed different. This day is not just another day. It begins a journey that will end with Easter joy, when the sun breaking the horizon signaled new life, resurrected life.
– Jay Sidebotham
The Collect for Monday in Holy Week:
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.