A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Highs & Lows of Holy Week

It's only Wednesday in Holy Week and I have already experienced God's presence through the highs and lows of these days leading up to Easter.  A pastor once said that every Holy Week has a different feel for him.  This has been my experience as well.  I think of Holy Week as a roller coaster of emotions.  Maybe the reason for this is that when we reflect on those final days of Jesus, we become more aware of who we are, who God is, and who we can become. No wonder that it often feels like a bumpy ride with lots of twists and turns.

Just look at the book ends for this most important week of the Christian year. We begin with hailing Jesus as King on Palm Sunday and it concludes with us feeling numb and grief stricken as we watch Jesus being placed in a cold tomb. And yet, we come full circle as we are awakened on Easter Sunday with the aroma of Easter lilies, white altar cloths, and those wonderful words, "He is not here. He is risen!"

Yes, Holy Week leads us through a wide range of feelings, thoughts, and emotions. The events of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, help us to come face to face with the reality of loss, sin, and death in our own lives so that we can embrace the new life and hope that is waiting for us just around the corner. 

Here are some of the roller coaster emotions I've already been feeling this week.

The Highs:
  • Celebrating Palm Sunday and Jesus' entry into Jerusalem this past Sunday morning!
  • Spending time with our youth group on Sunday night as they learned about the Passover Meal and the meaning of Holy Communion.
  • Driving down to Cincinnati with my wife and daughter to pick up our daughter's wedding dress and celebrate her birthday.
  • Attending an awards ceremony of two physicians at the hospital who helped save the life of one of my church members last year.
  • Visiting with a church member who has recently received good news about his cancer treatments.
The Lows:
  • Visiting with a church member who is in her last hours/days.
  • Finding out that a community member I recently met is also in hospice and nearing the time when he will pass away.
  • Getting a call that a long-term member of the church has passed away at 99.
Even though this week has already felt like a roller coaster, I have been reminded of God's presence and assurance that nothing will ever separate us from God's love. As I was leaving from visiting with the church member who is near death, a nurse asked if I would visit a middle aged man who is nearing the end of his life and doesn't have a church affiliation. She said he has been agitated and she thought a pastoral visit would help.

I entered the room and was greeted by his sister and his wife who were there by his bedside. They were appreciative of my willingness to visit. When they told me his name, I realized that this was someone who had recently served with me on a community board.  As I bent down to speak with him, I told him who I was and thanked him for the many ways he has been a positive influence in our community. I said, "You have done so much good. Thank you for the many people you have helped who struggle with addictions. You have made this world a better place. It's OK to let go and be with God. God loves you and promises to be with you always. Your family is right here with you and they love you. God bless you."

As I left his room and walked out to the parking lot, I wanted to cry. This man was only 59 and has done so much good in our community. I thought of the church member who is also nearing the end of her life. A heavy sense of sorrow filled my heart. It felt more like Good Friday than Palm Sunday. But then I thought about that nurse, who out of the blue asked me to visit a man she thought I had never met. I thought of the prayer we were able to have around his bedside as we were reminded that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God, not even death.

It may have felt like Good Friday to me in that moment but for some strange reason, Easter didn't seem that far away.

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