This Sunday, with Palm Sunday, we enter into a strange “Shelter in Place” Holy Week. In the Old Testament, God made provision for the Passover, which Good Friday and Easter Sunday fulfilled, to be moved on the calendar if and when God’s people couldn’t gather together to celebrate it properly. I contemplated making a proposal to move our Holy Week celebrations to a time when we could celebrate it properly together – with our Good Friday Dinner and Easter Egg hunts. But I decided against that. Right now, I think we especially need Holy Week. We have lost and missed so much during this time of isolation and quarantine. We need Holy Week, and we need to celebrate the joy of the resurrection on Easter Sunday.
This year, I encourage you to enter into lament, especially as we walk through the week together. Enter into the sorrow and take your pain, loss, and struggles to Jesus. Lament the loss of graduations, trips, special events, business, jobs, and community. Lament the loss of lives. Our denomination is joining with others to call for this Good Friday to be a special day of fasting and prayer. You can read more about that here. Good Friday is a day of lament. Also, rather than sending out a whole week of Daily Worship Devotions on Sunday night, I’ll send each day’s out in individual daily emails.
As I approach Palm Sunday, I always return to the words of a poem by Edward Shillito, titled “Jesus of the Scars.”
The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak;
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.
There are 3 categories/types/offices of leadership that regularly show up in the Bible: Prophet, Priest, and King. This triad describes not only the 3 “offices” or roles in the Old Testament which were fulfilled in Jesus, but also gives three decent functional personality types. Prophets speak truth (often calling for change). Priests care (and point us to God). Kings oversee, organize, and lead (as a representative for God).
I admire bold-speaking prophets, even when I don’t agree with them. I am drawn to compassionate priests, even when I’m not feeling a need to be cared for. But I have a lot of ambivalence towards kingly folks. I think most people do. Prophets pass through town. Priests are there when my head is bowed or my shoulders sag. But Kings….they are around too darn much. Kings are great when you need a leader. But who needs a leader when he’s not in crisis? (i.e. I want a Priest, not a King, most of the time). Just think about the Presidential cycles throughout history. We put them on a pedestal when we want things to be different. But it doesn’t take long for us to want to push them off. Almost every President finished their term with low approval ratings.
We see this ambivalence with Jesus the King, especially in the story of Palm Sunday. Jesus is welcomed into Jerusalem as the King and exits as a criminal. He is greeted with accolades but leaves in a hail of hatred. As we enter into this story, we find ourselves in the crowds. We have great ambivalence towards God, don’t we? We are servants and rebels. Friends and enemies. Often in the same day.
Take some time to read John 12:9-26 and reflect on how the various groups responded to Jesus the King. Then take some time to consider how you yourself engage or disengage with Jesus’ Kingship.
Yours in Christ and in lament,
Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead and He shouldn’t have done it. He’s thrown everything off balance. If He did what he said, then it’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can.
Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find.
And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists. Father Mapple, in Moby Dick.
There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.” C.S. Lewis on Pride, Mere Christianity