Each year about this time I get very confused. Several “Bible Churches” have Easter Egg hunts on the Saturday before Palm Sunday. They seem to just blow away Holy Week although the events of that week take up about one-third of the New Testament. Have we outgrown the need for Holy Week? What do we miss Holy Week? Can we just say “Forget it?” Could we just say to Jesus, “Don’t bother with all that pain and ridicule – we don’t need it any more? Go have a nice week and be blessed.” You have heard the mantra. Where can I begin? There is that haunting sound in the back of my head talking about No Cross No Crown. Or Ruel Howe’s book Man’s Need and God’s Action. Does man have a need for which the only solution is God’s action?
I think of the Zebedee boys wanting prominent seats in the kingdom of Jesus, or their mother asking for them in one account. Do we still have people who want the power and prestige and do not see it as a calling to serve others? I think so.
I think of the Scribes and Pharisees meticulously observing some religious laws and using others to kill a man. They had to make sure the bodies did not hang of the crosses on the High Holy Day Sabbath. Do we still play those religious games with religious rules? I think so.
At times we forget the basis for some of our religious actions. Just this Good Friday I saw choir and clergy filing in for worship and bowing to the altar. We have forgotten that the bow was to the Real Presence reserved in a tabernacle on the altar, and the ambry is off on the side. They are empty with the sanctuary light extinguished. (There may be a chapel of repose – and that from a graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary!) But people still go through the motions. It is a little thing, but shows our symbols divorced from the thing they are intended to symbolize.
What about the law to love God and one’s neighbor? That neighbor may be gay, sick with AIDS, homeless, starving – you name it. Who are our modern day lepers? Of course we blame them for being in their condition and justify our neglect of them. Or we are afraid of them. Be sure not to heal one of them on the Sabbath! Does anyone even observe the Sabbath anymore?
Many of these things I would call offensives have been taken out of the religious realm and put under the protection of the life politic. That does not mean that our political system will address these issues, only that when the prophet speaks to them they are accused of dabbling in politics.
And those pieces of silver, either as exchange media in the temple or in the pocket of Judas. Do you think we ought to tax that money? Let’s face it; our lives are more driven by commerce than by religion. “Those to whom much has been given, much shall be required.”
What about the prayer of Jesus that we all might be one? Religion has become one of the most divisive parts of our society. Count the number of “denomination” and “non-denominations” in your village. “And they will know you are my disciples by your love for one another.” Consider the collect for Good Friday to “behold this your family for which you Son was willing to be betrayed and given into the hands of sinful men …..” “Family?” Family fights are the most vicious of fights – church fights come in a very close second.
You may think that none of this has anything to do with your life. You may think that none of this has anything to do with the society in which you live. You may think that it is all someone else’s problem and does not influence you. You may be delusional. Or you may think that you above all of this – and I would call that hubris.
However, we could allow Our Lord to take all of this to the Cross and destroy it in his death. We would be as startled as the women who came early in the morning to anoint a dead body only to find a Risen Lord. But some people would not want to hear the religious testimony of a woman. Some religious rules would not allow it.