Next week is Holy Week. I repeat, next week is Holy Week. I know, I can’t believe it either. It really did sneak up on me this year. I’m not going to say I was too busy or anything like that, but I feel like Ash Wednesday was just the other day. So now, maybe like some of you, I am scrambling to prepare myself for what is to come: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, our Easter Eggstravaganza, and Easter Sunday itself. Even as I sit here and type this out I think I can actually sense my blood pressure going up. But regardless of how I feel or if I seem too busy, the resurrection still breaks through. I mean, think about that first Easter Sunday for a second. Do you think any of the players in this amazing drama actually truly expected resurrection? Mark’s gospel records it this way, “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb” – Mark 16:1-2 Everyone was doing what they had always done when something like death enters the picture and then, out of nowhere, the resurrection breaks through.
I am thankful though, that nature has an incredible way of reminding us even if we seem too busy or overwhelmed. Maybe it’s the increasing minutes of sunlight. Or maybe it might be like my back patio where the smell of blooming wisteria almost bowls you over. Or maybe it is even like the photo one of my friends from Michigan posted of a small flower fighting its way through the snow encrusted landscape. Whatever the sign might be for you, the world around us is never surprised by resurrection and new birth. It’s built into the very fabric of being of all that is. Yet for some reason we often become so busy, overwhelmed, anxious, scheduled, (fill in the blank with your appropriate adjective), etc. that we NEED the resurrection to break through in a way that reminds us that this is built into our very identity as well.
So maybe you find yourself coming into this Easter season overwhelmed. The resurrection still breaks through. Maybe you find yourself coming into this Easter season lost in grief and sorrow. The resurrection still breaks through. Perhaps you find yourself coming into this Easter season fearful of the future and the unknown. Guess what…the resurrection still breaks through. Whatever emotion or feeling or predicament you find yourself consumed with today still doesn’t stop resurrection from breaking through. For once the world was covered in sadness and sorrow from that which had taken place on Calvary and yet, Sunday morning still came and the universe was reborn because Easter broke through.
For those of us in the Christian faith this next week holds special significance. We call it Holy Week and it is ushered in by Palm Sunday, celebrated with Maundy (or Holy) Thursday, memorialized through Good Friday and finds its finale on Easter (Resurrection Sunday). For those whose lives revolve around the church or for those employed by the church this is also one of the busiest seasons of the year. There are multiple services to plan or attend, there is less time for preparation and yet this is also meant to be the holiest of times in the life of the church. It can all become a bit overwhelming. And sometimes it is hard for practitioners to find the sacred space in Holy Week.
I think getting back to the definition of the word holy might help us a bit in trying to find that space. Holy, at least in the original Biblical context, referred to something set apart for God i.e. something that belonged to God. Over time because of the way we thought about God and the dualistic nature of the world (thank you Greeks), we came to see clear divisions of that which was holy and that which was profane. And this wasn’t just a discussion of good vs. evil, holiness vs. sin, but life itself took on divisions based on the type of tasks that was taking place. However, doesn’t the world/cosmos belong to God? In her book And the Trees Clap Their Hands, Virginia Stem Owens writes, “All the world is a sacramental loaf. We are not-nor will we ever be, God save us-solitary intelligences spinning in the dark void of space.” In other words, all our life is (should be) holy as all of it is infused/connected to God himself. The apostle Paul put it this way when he was attempting to speak to the Greeks about this very thin in Athens. “For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.” – Acts 17:28
Holy Week is a special time in the life of the church. But so is the week after Holy Week. And the week after that. I love the significance of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter, but I also love that the same Spirit that speaks to and through us during these special times also wants to do the same on a Tuesday in July. So what am I saying? We need to be careful in categorizing our lives. With seasons like this it is easy to mark certain times as holy and others as not. Which in turn allows us to mark certain avenues/tasks in our lives as holy or not. When in fact all life is meant to point towards our Creator and His redemption story. Owens goes on to say, “Whenever we eat, drink, breathe, see, take anything in by any means, we are commanded to remember the sacrifice.” Our lives should be lived in a constant state of declaration that God is holy, we are his creations and we are seeking to reflect Him. So that not just one week is set apart for God, but life itself takes place in Him. May you find your life caught up in the Divine Romance not only this week, but for all eternity.
As most of you who occasionally read this blog know I am a very urban person. I am always up on modern lingo and so throwing out a title like, ‘where u at’ should in no way be surprising. In fact I am always hip to the jive talk of youngsters around me and therefore connect oh so well. But enough about my linguistic morphing, although it does lend itself to a certain subject I have been wrestling with as of late.
This last Monday I had my normal day off which I always look forward to. Usually my schedule on Mondays looks a bit like this…… And so you can see why I look forward to it. I usually just hang with my wife and kids and we just see where the day takes us. And this last Monday was no different, except that at the end of the day I couldn’t tell you what I did. I couldn’t tell you what funny things my kids did or said and I am not sure I can remember any of the subjects my wife and I talked about. I found myself at the end of the day asking if I was even present that day. It was just sad. But how often do we find ourselves guilty of this trap. How often do we find ourselves wishing that the day would just end so we can get on to the next one? The average human life span is roughly about 28,000 days and sometimes we find ourselves not even living those.
So why all my concern? It has to do with presence. You see, I think the thing that set Jesus apart (aside from the fully God/fully man thing) the most was his ability to be fully present in any and every situation. The writers of the gospels would put it like this, “…When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them…” – Matthew 9:36 or “…When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, Zacchaeus, come down immediately…” – Luke 19:5. It really didn’t matter what Jesus was engaged in, He was present. He saw the needs all around him in every moment and lived life in that fashion. One of my favorite verses in John goes like this, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10. And maybe that idea of life abundantly is life lived out in fullest presence in every situation.
It’s Holy week this week. The week that we Christians set aside to remind us of the passion of Christ and His resurrection. But I like to think it is also a week to remind us of God’s physical presence in Christ and continued presence through the Holy Spirit. And that because of that presence we are empowered to live fully present in every moment. After all, we only have 28,000 days…are we making the most of them or wishing them away. May you find a way to be fully present and live life more abundantly today for the sake of the Kingdom. And then you probably won’t have anyone ask “where you at” again because it will be apparent to all.