I avoid inconvenient unpleasantness, like suffering and death. I wonder if that is what keeps a lot of Christians from attending Holy Week services – Jesus’ suffering and death. Besides, we know how the story ends. Perhaps I haven’t done a good job helping them understand. Honestly, the cross is an unpleasant image.
We won’t get Easter without the crucifixion. I’ve thought a lot about that. I feel uneasy. I’d rather dispense with unpleasantness and go right to unbridled joy. I’d rather resist identifying my own sin and guilt. As I stare into Jesus’ face, look into his eyes, I also see into my heart. I realize I am one who could shout, “Hosanna” today and cry, “Crucify” by Friday. After all, they were good religious people. I’d rather not see, nor even name my sin, even if God knows what’s there. I hate to admit I can be self-centered, defensive, self-righteous and stubborn, and like Flannery O’Connor prayed – “I don’t love you nearly enough, God.” I hate to admit false gods can own me. I want you to think I am more worthy than I know I am. After all, I get paid to at least act spiritual. I fear I am not enough, have not done enough, won’t ever be enough. I have to face a dark truth that I am as sinful and twisted away from God as those who did this. Yet if we don’t stand here, we’ll never realize what it means for God to so love us. Jesus thinks we are worth suffering and dying for – a huge burden for him to endure, and for us to carry. So it’s not just Jesus who must die here. We die, too – to our sin, pretensions, masks, and false self-illusions so that God can raise up new life in us.
That’s why a little fear, shuddering and trembling before the cross is necessary so God can get to us and resurrect us – now, not just the day we die. Some don’t confess personal sin and the evil we do together until they are coming down the home stretch. Unnamed sin will eclipse the light of God’s love and grace. That may be the key to getting to Easter faith: speaking our sin, repenting, relaxing into God’s hands, and praying grace is for real. It’s at the cross where our sin and death are met with divine love and life eternal. Stand here this week where they crucified our Lord. Imagine where we’d be if God didn’t love us so. Let it cause you to tremble, tremble, tremble. Are you there? Will you get there, really? It’s Holy Week – time we do.
The Rev. Dr. C. Steven Teague, Rector