We have just about made it through our long wilderness journey in Lent. With Holy Week nearly upon us, our Lenten pathway has not been easy nor straightforward. Instead, Lent is a season where we are challenged to offload our baggage, to re-think our assumptions and prepare to be changed.
There is a lot about life in the Church that has Lenten vibes these days and it is NOT just since the pandemic. If I am honest, I can see the “Lentiness” all the way back to the beginning of my time in ministry. Things have felt scarce. There has been a sense that something is lost. In my first call interview in 2009, people were talking about “getting people back” and returning to what the Church once was. These refrains have only gotten louder over the 14 years following. It is the perspective of a community knowing that they have entered a spiritual wilderness and are looking to go back to where they came from.
The thing is, we need this wilderness time. We need the wilderness journey. We need to let a lot of our baggage go. We need to learn how to trust that God is leading even if we cannot see the way. We need to be reshaped for the Kingdom again, as we have had a habit of falling out of shape for that work.
Now that we complete our Lenten journey for this year, we still have to walk the walk of Holy Week. Lent doesn’t land on Christmas Day the way Holy Week lands on Easter Sunday. Instead Lent arrives at the most important week of the year for Christians, and the most difficult.
The Holy Week story is hard and long and tiring, but it is necessary. We tend to compress the story into short phrases most of the year: “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”
But Holy Week takes the time to live the narrative.
We stand along the road waving palms as Jesus rides into Jerusalem.
We hear the Passion According To Matthew, Mark or Luke to begin the week.
We gather with the disciples at the table of the of the Last Supper, with feet washed, and bread and wine shared.
We try to stay awake through the night of betrayal and we go with Jesus as he is arrested, tried and sentenced.
We help to carry the cross to Golgatha and we weep with mother and son as Jesus breathes his last.
We hear the Passion According To John on Good Friday and wait for the first day of the week to go with the women to the tomb.
We do this to remember the long story during all those other weeks of the year. We take our time so that, when we worship a crucified God, that we know what that means. So that we know who washes us at the baptismal font, and who feeds us at the Lord’s Supper. We linger in the stories so that they come to mind when we skim through the details in the Creed, or the Pastor references them in a sermon some time in November, or when we are sitting in Bible study trying to unpack just what God’s promises are rooted in.
Holy Week imprints the story of the Passion into our bones. It becomes a part of us and we of it. So that when we become Easter people on that First Day of the Week at the empty tomb, we know how we got there. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t quick. But Lent and Holy Week do transform us – each year – into the Body of Resurrection that we are called to be.