“But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.’” (Matthew 28:5-6, NRSV)
I'm writing this message with Easter Sunday in mind; however, I'm also aware that there is still much to go through this Holy Week before we get to the resurrection. I'll continue my Lenten discipline of studying The Unvarnished Jesus by Brian Zahnd and will lead the final session on Wednesday at 6:00 pm. On Thursday at 7:00 pm, I will present some live teaching from the sanctuary on Understanding Maundy Thursday. Although it won't be the usual service of Holy Communion, I hope that it inspires and encourages you as I reflect on the Last Supper. Then, on Good Friday, we'll stream a Tenebrae Service (Service of Darkness) as we present an adapted version of "The Cry of the Whole Congregation," a reader's theater written by Walter Wangerin. This presentation will be a moving remembrance of Holy Week through scripture readings, music, and dance. The service ends with the stripping of the altar and the sanctuary fading to black. Then, we wait through all of Saturday until we finally get to celebrate Jesus' resurrection from the dead!
It is tempting to go from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday without reflecting on all the encounters Jesus and the disciples had with the powers and principalities of this world during that last week. The stories of Jesus' final days recorded in the gospels enlighten us with insight and information about what God was up to in those days as Jesus's actions demonstrated the heart of God.
The calloused reactions of the Roman and Temple authorities were matched by the inability of the disciples to grasp the Divine drama that was taking place right before their eyes. If we can ride the rollercoaster of emotions that is part of Holy Week, then our joy will be heightened when we are finally able to celebrate the resurrection on Easter Sunday.
This Holy Week will undoubtedly be one of the most unusual Holy Weeks we've ever observed. As we long for normalcy, hope emerges in the kindness and gentleness of others. The compassion of others reminds us goodness still exists in this world. That's the Easter story. When we're dealing with the disruption and the uncertainty of this pandemic, the angel says, "Do not be afraid." Indeed, we have nothing to fear for the Living God is with us. That's the Easter story. When the darkness threatens to overtake us, we can confidently look to Jesus; for he is risen and bringing light wherever he goes. That's the Easter story. Don't be fooled by the shadows of Holy Week, for they represent only the illusions this world portrays as truth—but they are not real. That's the Easter story. So when you are afraid or get discouraged, whisper these words: "He is risen." And if you listen carefully, you might hear the saints who have gone before reply: "He is risen, indeed!" And then, be not afraid.