In a few days, Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday. We will gather outside the church with palms, and, in an attempt at Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem, we will carry palms and sing hosannas and shout. We will try to be joyful, sound trumpets, worship. But we can’t escape the reality of what’s coming: the crucifixion, death, betrayal, the tomb.
God is a great ironist. It is in the cross of Christ, a symbol of torture and intimidation, that God chooses to show love. It is in the death of God’s Son that God chooses to call forth life. Thus, the quagmire of life, through which we slog and lurch toward our human goals, God shows to be death.
I don’t know which is the real mask: the suffering and death of Jesus, which either reveal or hide God’s love for us, or the beauty and goodness of the created order which holds even the resurrected Jesus, usually hidden from our eyes. Both revelations conceal as much as they reveal. Perhaps no other Sunday makes this tension so evident as Palm Sunday, in which the celebration of the coming King is ultimately going to turn to a hopeless fantasy. Jesus is not a knight with a gleaming sword. Yet no knight, whether equipped with a sword or a nuclear weapon, has ever held so much power as the power of God’s love for this world, made know in this unarmored, unadorned, weak, and doomed Jesus.
This world is beautiful, and the people and creatures of all kinds that live here are also beautiful. It is also dying. Yet God loves it so much. I believe the irony of the cross, in which Jesus makes the real suffering and death of the world his own so that he can share with us the life he lives with God. The irony takes the blurriness of this world’s woe and turns it into a vision of total redemption.
That’s the beginning of our Holy Week focus this Sunday. I hope you can join us.
The Rev. John Flack