As we approach again our celebration of the most holy week in human history, we experience gratitude, humility, awe, wonder, reverence, penitence, adoration, conviction, encouragement, destitution, guilt, hope, and love. Our vocabulary reaches its limits as we seek to articulate the depths of how the divine grace engages our spirits.
The hymn writer asks, “What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend, for this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end? O make me Thine forever; and should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.” (“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” verse 3)
The point of Holy Week is not to explain it, much as we preacher types feel called to do so. The point of Holy Week is to be captivated by its truth, such that our lives are drawn into the Strong Love that is there laid bare. Hence, our love for Him re-orients everything.
What Jesus does in Holy Week unleashes us a completely new way of seeing the world. New Testament scholar N.T. Wright comes to the end of his recent work on the crucifixion of Jesus, The Day the Revolution Began, with compelling clarity. After 415 pages of brilliant articulation of biblical insight and missional implications, he comes to the final page and seeks to pull it all together. I share his words here:
“The cross itself, in short, stands at the center of the Christian message, the Christian story, and the Christian life and mission. It has lost none of its revolutionary and transformative power down through the centuries. The cross is where the great story of God and creation, focused on the strange story of God and Israel and then focused still more sharply on the personal story of God and Jesus, came into terrible but life-giving clarity. The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was a one-off event, the one on behalf of the many, the one moment in history on behalf of all others through which sins would be forgiven, the powers robbed of their power, and humans redeemed to take their place as worshippers and stewards, celebrating the powerful victory of God in his Messiah and so gaining the Spirit’s power to make his kingdom effective in the world …. Celebrate the revolution that happened once for all when the power of love overcame the love of power. And, in the power of that same love, join in the revolution here and now.” (Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, 416.)
The eternal companion of the Crucifixion is the Resurrection. On Easter Sunday, the victory of Jesus is demonstrated in the inestimable conquest of sin and death that breaks forth from the empty tomb in the person of the risen Lord. Now, His identity is revealed so that all the world can know and be blessed by His saving love. Now, those who see His glory are convinced of His Lordship over all creation. Now, the last word over everything is no longer death, but Jesus, as the fullness of God’s revelation.
From this perspective, we are given a completely new way of seeing the world, and we are called to live into this new way in our relationships with one another. Thus, the Church is raised up to be the people of the risen Lord and to live in His light above all else.
At the recent Bishop’s Convocation on Prayer, our keynote speaker, Dr. Juanita Rasmus, said something that most of us are feeling these days. She said, “We are living in challenging times, for our church, for our nation, for our world. This is a mighty fine time to be living a praying life.” In the midst of the perplexities and conundrums that constantly seek to confound us and distract us, we are blessed to be the people who live a praying life, who have come alive through the events of Holy Week that reverberate by God’s Spirit into every generation. It is a mighty fine time to serve a mighty fine Lord. We have been blessed with amazing Good News so that we may share that blessing in this anxious, troubled world, and the lives of people who are also anxious and troubled. God has called you and me to be the agents of His holy love through His Church. This world-saving mission will not be accomplished in any other way, no matter how many the distractions may be. May we find the strength, the center, the peace we need to live for Him amid every challenge, and thereby know and share the life that is worth living.
Grace and Peace,