Dear Friends in Christ,
The extent to which you experience the pathos of Holy Week will be the extent to which you experience the joy of Easter.
In most churches, attendance on Easter day far outstrips the week prior. And it’s understandable. The people who come to church only on Christmas and Easter have chosen the best days of the year, haven’t they?
And yet the triumph of Easter, without context, is what Deitrich Bonhoffer called “cheap grace.” We do not have to earn the gift of new life, of course—but we cannot fully understand it without the bittersweet acclamations of Palm Sunday, without the tender love and shocking betrayal of Maundy Thursday, without the comfortless trauma of Good Friday.
These are not easy services. They are not easy logistically—church on a weeknight? In the middle of a workday? And they are not easy emotionally. My grandmother always stayed home on Palm Sunday because she was so uncomfortable with the dramatic reading of the passion and the congregation’s part, “Crucify him!” We don’t like to feel guilt, shame, pain, or loss.
But this week is an invitation to invite God into the full range of our human experience, and an invitation to meet Jesus in the full range of his humanity.
Come on Palm Sunday and grapple with what it feels like to publicly profess Christ, walking along the Russell Road sidewalk, in a way that seems both wonderful and awkward. Come to the quiet services midweek, to the darkness of Tenebrae, and take the time to become aware of what is happening. Come on Maundy Thursday for the vulnerability of bare feet and the tenderness of love. Come on Good Friday to name the unspeakable losses that haunt us. Come on Holy Saturday and admit the emptiness we would rather ignore.
And then come to see light out of darkness. Come for Easter, and your joy will be complete.
Yours in Christ,