A few years ago, a colleague went to see the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. The next morning he showed up at church to recount his experience. He had been seated in the second row of the mezzanine. Right in front of him sat a family with children of middle school age. As the musical unfolded, they followed closely in the program. It apparently was totally new material for all of them, parent and child alike. So who is this Pilate guy? Whose side is Judas on? And Herod? Are they good guys or bad guys? What did Jesus do that made everyone so mad? And why does Mary Magdalene sing that sweet, sad song?
Somewhat smugly, the group of church folks sat around a conference table clucking about the signs of the times. The old, old story we knew so well was, well, not well known in many quarters. For many, it may not be an old story at all. Perhaps that’s a failure, with blame to be assigned any number of places. Perhaps it’s an opportunity.
As we begin this week, try this. Join that family in the front row of the mezzanine. Imagine you’ve never heard the story of Holy Week before. With a nod to Marcus J. Borg, quoted below, hear the story, read the Bible, meet Jesus again, walk through Holy Week as if for the first time. There are a couple ways to do that.
To begin, read the story. Set aside time with the gospel passage assigned for each day of Holy Week. If you’re not sure where to find those readings, go here. You’ll find readings for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, insights into events that lead to stories told on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Day. These include the last supper, Jesus’ prayers in the garden, Jesus’ arrest and execution, his burial and finally the good news of Easter. Try this act of imagination. Wonder what it would be like to read this material for the first time. Ask God to give you new eyes.
Second, get to church. Make a commitment to walk through the week by participating in liturgies offered each day. Imagine you’d never been to those services before. What do you notice? What is perplexing? What touches your heart? They have been polished over centuries. As they tell the story, they build on each other to dramatic effect. The experience of Easter will be richer for having joined other pilgrims on the week-long journey. Discover something new, something you haven’t seen before. If you’re not part of a faith community that offers these services, find one. As the prayer for today (below) indicates, that journey may well help you find the way of life and peace.
And finally, be of service. Make this Holy Week holier in this way: Ask God each morning to place before you an opportunity to reflect the love of God at the heart of this week. As hymnody tells us, this week is about asking the question: What wondrous love is this? It is about surveying a wondrous cross where love and sorrow flow mingled down. It is about singing a song of love unknown. It is about coming to know that love in some new way. In the mystery of our faith, the mystery of this week, we come to know that love when we show that love.
I offer these Monday Matters each week in the confidence that Monday is the day we get to put faith to work in the world. This Monday matters more than most, as it begins our most Holy Week. Join me in praying that for each of us and all of us it will be an occasion to experience grace and mercy in some new way, to find that the way of the cross is actually the way of life and peace.
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. Amen.
The gospel of Jesus – the good news of Jesus’ own message- is that there is a way of being that moves beyond both secular and religious conventional wisdom. The path of transformation of which Jesus spoke leads from a life of requirements and measuring up (whether to culture or to God) to a life of relationship with God. It leads from a life of anxiety to a life of peace and trust. It leads from the bondage of self-preoccupation to the freedom of self-forgetfulness. It leads from life centered in culture to life centered in God.
-Marcus J. Borg,
Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time
Rather, the way of Jesus is the way of death and resurrection – the path of transition and transformation from an old way of being to a new way of being.
– Marcus J. Borg,
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