The Christian season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday (February 17) and ends on the Saturday before Easter (April 3). It is a 40-day period (Sundays don’t count in the 40) of reflection and action based on our relationships with God, each other and ourselves. The last week of Lent is called Holy Week where the drama and conflict in Jesus’ life reach an ultimate point. Holy Week is often the time when theological controversies about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection surface as well.
Barbara Brown Taylor, author, preacher and former Episcopal priest, reflects on the effects of conflict in the congregation she served: “Once I had begun crying on a regular basis, I realized just how little interest I had in defending Christian beliefs. The parts of the Christian story that had drawn me into the Church were not the believing parts but the beholding parts.
‘Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy…’
‘Behold the Lamb of God…’
‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock…’
Christian faith seemed to depend on beholding things that were clearly beyond belief, including Jesus’ own teaching that acts of mercy toward perfect strangers were acts of mercy toward him. While I understood both why and how the early church had decided to wrap those mysteries in protective layers of orthodox belief, the beliefs never seized my heart the way the mysteries did” (Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church, 109-110).
In conflict we may retreat to beliefs or standards outside us so that we are less vulnerable to others. That is not the approach of Jesus. Holy Week begins with Palm/Passion Sunday. It is a day that recognizes Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey and his betrayal, arrest, trial, conviction, abuse and death on the cross.
During Holy Week we see that Jesus does not hide behind anything to protect himself in the conflict because of his deep, abiding sense of God’s presence, and commitment to love. The story leads us to another beholding part while Jesus is on the cross, a day we call Good Friday.
“Now when the centurion who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’” (Mark 15:39)
Holy Week is full of divine-human drama. We experience a profoundly moving story that invites us to personally enter Jesus’ final earthly days, and behold love’s redeeming work in his death and resurrection. Logical explorations and explanations only go so far to describe God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. We are then left to wonder at the amazing grace and mercy of God. I invite you to find a way to walk through Holy Week with your home congregation or a church near you.
Pastor Jeff Williams
Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church
10295 Myers Lake Ave., Rockford