Bishop Bard explores the “roller coaster of human emotion” we feel during Holy Week. Calling these seven days “a deep dive into human experience,” he encourages all to embrace resurrection.
Dear Friends in Christ in the Michigan Conference:
We are entering the most significant week in the Christian year, Holy Week. What makes it holy?
Considering this week’s events sends one on a roller coaster of human emotion and on a deep dive into human experience. There is joy and jubilation as the week begins. There are moments of tense confrontation. There are conversations containing deep wisdom; the greatest commandment is to love God and love your neighbor. There are moments of intimacy, the washing of feet. There is shared food. One finds in the week failure, betrayal, violence, injustice, and death.
It is a good week to understand something about “emotional granularity,” to use Brené Brown’s term. So much human emotion and experience are encapsulated in this time we call “Holy Week.”
So, what makes it holy?
What makes anything holy? God. Frederick Buechner writes that to say something is holy is “to say it has something of God’s mark on it” (Wishful Thinking). To call this week holy is to see that God is present, and the heart of God’s presence, if the teaching of Jesus during Holy Week is to be believed, is love.
God is present in this week of jubilation and joy and conflict and wisdom and intimacy and sharing and failure and betrayal and violence and injustice and death. Holy Week is holy because it reminds us that God does not abandon us in our failings, betrayals, and injustices. Rather, God finds ways to speak wisdom, to create intimacy and community, to shine love.
And it is at the end of this week that we proclaim God is most wonderfully and powerfully present.
At the end of this week is Easter and resurrection. Not only does God refuse to abandon us in our failings and injustices and betrayals, but God is able to bring forth new life. Injustice, failure, and death are all overcome through resurrection. God raised Jesus from the dead; this Jesus — who spoke wisdom, touched others with healing, stood against injustice, formed beloved community — lived love. Holy Week is especially holy because in it the power of God’s love is seen as the power to overcome and the power to bring new life.
This year’s Holy Week arrives amid a world at war, a world marred by violence, a world of deep and dangerous divisions, a world where too many go hungry, a world of enormous disparities, a world where watching the news can be an exercise in pain management. And many of us feel the creep of death, discouragement, and weariness in our souls. And we know moments of joy, beauty, love, intimacy, community, and tenderness.
This Holy Week, take time to hear its story again. Wave the branches. Take the bread. Drink the wine. Let the water wash the weary places in you. Listen to the cries of Good Friday. Weep the tears. Feel the stone rolled over the grave. Most of all, let your soul sing, “Christ the Lord is risen today!” Know resurrection. Know it deeply.
Then like those present to the risen Christ on that first Easter, witness the resurrection, tell the story and live the resurrection.
Live as if joy outlasts tears. Live as if justice overcomes. Live as if beauty always returns. Live as if the beloved community is always possible. Live as if tenderness is our greatest strength. Live as if love is the most powerful thing there is.
Friends, we don’t simply live “as if.” We trust that it is so because God continues to make things holy in love, and God’s way is the way of resurrection.
Blessed Holy Week and Easter,