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Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Challenge of Holy Week


Were you in church today for Palm Sunday?  We were.  Visitors at a new church it was a nice morning with a good feel and a fresh challenge to the participants.   

Rev. Wallace Smith, the pastor, did a neat little presentation designed to help the worshipers get into the excitement of the original Palm Sunday experience.  Hosannas, palm leaves and garments lain on the altar by the participants.  Wallace spoke as a member of the disciples and guided us through some of the emotions of the day.  

What really struck me occurred toward the end of the service, as he was guiding us to the discussion sheets in our hands, he made a comment about Holy Week, and especially that first Holy Week.  Wallace said (in my paraphrase):

“Holy Week includes not only the excitement and joy of Palm Sunday, but also the struggle, sorrow and uncertainties that came on Thursday night and Friday… and yet the whole range of experience all came together as part of the plan.”  

Then as he went on, there was also the awareness that the same is true of any person following Christ…it isn't always the joyful Hosanna moments, but sometimes we experience the moments of panic, uncertainty and hardship, still part of the plan.

Not to run it into the ground, but what in your life is NOT that way?  When we get married, we never marry a perfect person, only another human being like ourselves, one who has faults and makes mistakes.  We experience the joy of the wedding day and the adventures of a honeymoon trip, but when we get home, somebody still has to take out the garbage and scrub the toilets!  Even the experience of having children, which is sometimes used as an illustration in the Bible, is a mixture of hardship and pain, followed by joy and wonder.  Of course, later on, they become teenagers, which on it's own has a mixture of joy, wonder and challenges. 

Our jobs, our families, our yards, our churches, our relationships….almost everything in life is a mix of the exciting and wonderful things blended with the difficult or even troubling moments.  

The same is even true in the midst of a divorce or as we put life together afterwards.  When one comes out of a torturously bad marriage, some of the divorce process can feel very freeing, but there are moments every day, if not every hour, that can be overwhelmingly hard.

Reflecting on all this makes me remember the Serenity Prayer that Reinhold Niebuhr wrote…the part that all too often gets left out of the middle that goes like this:

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;

We may wish things were always rosy, or that something that is very hard would not be part of our lives, but to be at peace with God and ourselves, we need to take the world, our marriages, our spouses and children, our jobs…to take our world as it is, not as we wish it was.  God will make things right later on, but for now, it is just the way things are, and God promises to help us through it all.  

One of my college professors, Michael Tweedt, once pointed out that mountaintop experiences would not be so incredible to us if we didn't also spend times down in the valleys of life.  Personally, I hate the valleys, but it is part of how things are.  

Thanks Wallace, for helping me remember that the ups and downs of my life were embedded and paralleled in the last week of Jesus’ life on earth.

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