Last year, as we approached Holy Week and Easter, we were wondering how we could make this work with no in-person church services. Or community gatherings. Or family gatherings. There’d be no classic hymns of the season, no waving palm branches or parading around on Palm Sunday, no crowded communion celebrations, no Easter breakfast or big Easter egg hunts. We had to be creative and find new ways to connect, new ways to tell the story through a screen, or things we could send out or drop off at peoples’ homes, new ways to do big things in a small way.
But we were only going to have to do that once, right? Well, no, as it turns out. Here we are again. So maybe one of the things to consider is that our creativity isn’t just coping until it’s over, it’s finding new opportunities, new ways to learn and connect that might last, that compliment – not replace – the personal connection we’ll return to one day.
Certainly, one thing is to see how disrupting our habits and practices can draw our attention to things that our old “normal” may not have. Easter, for example, isn’t just a day. (It’s technically a season, by the way, that begins with Easter Day.) It needs the story around it. It needs Palm Sunday and Holy Week. We call it Holy Week because it’s story of a week and a day, Sunday to Sunday. Eight days, altogether, because, of course, Easter Day is “the first day of the week.” It’s the only time we can assemble a day-to-day account of Jesus’ life. And death. And life again.
We know, Robin, you remind us about this every year. Yes, I know, but this past year maybe has taught us that it’s more than just a question of a chronological account, it’s about the personal geography of those days.
Look, a very long time ago, we might have gone to church every day this week. But we became a tradition of Sunday. Many churches are trying to break that habit these days, but here’s a moment when it’s obvious: if we celebrate Palm Sunday and Easter Day only, then we miss the point of the week. It’s not about chronology, it’s about geography. The personal, spiritual, emotional geography of a week in which Jesus is celebrated and welcomed as the messiah, angrily tears down the sellers and buyers in front of the temple, is repeatedly challenged by the Temple authorities, is betrayed, arrested, abandoned, abused and killed, buried and appears, alive, to his closest companions. That’s a full week.
We need to travel that geography and see how it speaks to our own lives. Lives that have their own ups and downs, joy and grief, confusion and hope. We might also see how the week is full of moments that contrast the behaviour of crowds with more personal, intimate moments. Embrace the story, not for its ancient images, but for how it speaks to us today about those daily moments we all encounter.
We might also see that our relationship with God has Palm Sunday moments and Good Friday moments. Our relationship with God might struggle through celebration, anger, learning, loneliness, death, even emptiness. But there will always be an Easter.