This reflection and prayer from our "Palm Saturday" service followed an exercise where we broke into groups and completed three "stations" of Holy Week. The Temple (Mark 11:15-18), The Garden (Luke 22:31-34, 54-62), and The Courtyard (Luke 22:36-42). At each station, prayers were gathered, and then used in this reflection/prayer.
Palm Sunday – the triumphal entry. This week began with Jesus, hot off the event of raising Lazarus from the dead, entering the city like new royalty, the people lined up and cheering, expectant and jubilant.
The triumphal entry was the beginning – people were ready to see great things. But the week unfolded very differently than anyone could have imagined, and five days later the cries of “Hosanna! Save us!” turned to “Crucify him!”
In between, Jesus journeyed through humanity’s web: relationship, love and betrayal, structures and systems, justice and abuses of power, power dynamics and loyalty, of fear and grief.
The king of all creation who breathed it all into being, and who entered it in flesh and blood to join creation from within it, was about to leave it. And his last week, last act, was to rip off death’s mask - to gasps of surprise and dismay - and expose how insidious and terrible it really is, and all the ways it masquerades in the world.
This was the week that the God-man trampled through the normal, ordinary world like an emotional bull in a china shop, and at every turn tore through facades to reveal death’s stranglehold on life: in injustice, betrayal, fear, in the decorum and respected order, in religion, and our own struggle between who we want to be and who we really are. One last Harrah to uncover the places that hunger for the healing and redemption of the kingdom of God.
The week that began with Hosanna ended with Crucify him exposed every place of dissonance and discord, all ironies and opposites we live with, and cover up, and maintain, and justify. It rubbed raw and revealed all inconsistencies and contradictions inside ourselves and in the world we’ve shaped, and left them out in the open, awaiting a divine response, while God himself hung dying in their midst.
And if they hadn’t seen it before then, or if they had been too tangled up with their own desires and preconceptions that they missed what it was really about, that week the disciples saw the very heart of God-with-us: they watched him rage at injustice, they watched him bend down like a slave and wash their feet, they watched him suffer and anguish in pain and fear at coming face to face with death – like most every one of us has done and all of us will do. They watched him forgive and love in the face of betrayal, and sacrifice his own life for each one of them and all of us.
If they hadn’t seen it before then, because they thought they knew what Messiah was, or they were clear on God’s agenda for the world, that week flipped them on their heads and left them stripped of all preconceptions and notions about the WAY God IS with us.
And so as we go into our week, suspended still between the Hosanna! and the Crucify Him! that both live within ourselves, trapped still, so often by death’s grip on our lives, may we see exposed in us and in the world the great contradictions and illusions that make us hunger for the kingdom of God. And may we too be stripped of our preconceptions and expectations, so that we may be surprised anew by the WAY God IS with us.
God with us, you are with us, and you walked that week of death in a way that let nothing lay hidden, allowed nothing stay disguised. We sit here tonight as your people, those loved and claimed by you, and also those in whom deep contradictions and struggles still live.
We sit here as those who love you and claim you as our God, and yet who, in the face of fear and opposition, find ourselves saying, as Peter, despite he deep love for you, did: “That man? I don’t know him; he’s not one of us.”
God we have often seen that we are not who we thought we were, and we see over and over that we are not who we wish we were, and this leaves us despairing and filled with regret and grief. In your mercy, Oh God, forgive us…
1(People’s prayers read out from the journal: “I am not who I say I am, forgive me…”)
And yet, in your grace, you continue to call us your own, to free us from fear’s hold, to cleanse us from the deep shadows of our inconsistency with the light of your love, and to nurture in us ever new and full life. You continue to call us your children, precious to you, and those who share in your life for the world. Thank you…
2(People’s prayers read out from the journal: “I am a child of God, thank you…”)
And as your children, God, we are so grateful for the ways you draw near to us in suffering, and call us to draw near to each other in our times of pain. We thank you for calling us not individuals, but your Body, your people, that we may be for one another strength when we are weak, faith when we fear, and hope when we despair.
Give us courage to stand with those in need in our lives, even when it makes us uncomfortable, or when we think we don’t have anything to offer. Give us the strength to sit vigil with those we love, especially….
3(People’s prayers read out from the basket: “With whom in my life am I being called to “stay awake” in their time of need?)
And may we have the courage as well, that you did, to say “I can’t do this alone”, and so to be your Body, and allow others to stand with us. Give us the strength to ask for others’ to minister to us with their presence, to share in our places of need, especially….
4(People’s prayers read out from the basket: “In what places of need in my own life am I being called to ask someone to “stay awake” with me?)
And by living in your light that exposes all darkness, help us to see the ways we give into the crowd, the mentality that makes us feel less alone in the face of death and so compels us to participate in its very perpetuation, the ways we too cry Crucify Him! when we get uneasy at what the light exposes within ourselves, or reveals the ways we have misrepresented, slandered and offended you in your very name.
Give us your eyes to see the world and its people in their beauty and complexity, in the love which you have created us for and the wholeness you intend, and may it fill us with your rage, your anger at how it has been warped and damaged, your rage about….
5(People’s prayers read out from the banner: “Over what is God raging today?”
In this time of Holy Week, trapped between the Hosannas we stifle and the Crucify Hims we disguise, Oh God, Let no illusions stand. Not the illusion of our own loyalty or integrity, not the illusion of religious purity or holiness,
not the illusion that God is distant and unfazed by our struggles, or that we can do it alone, or that things in the world are ok the way they are. And as we walk towards death and wait for resurrection, thank you Jesus, for walking this way with us.