We start the week with an outcry of Joy, Excitement, and Anticipation.
What do we dream and imagine, as we lay down cloaks for Jesus to walk upon? What are we waiting for as we sing Hosanna in the adoring crowd? Who are we as we take a palm and lay it down for Jesus?
Everybody in this moment has expectations. Those crying Hosanna in the streets are expecting something great. Those waving palms are expecting something great. Those walking beside Jesus are expecting something great. Miracles. Justice. To be saved. There is hope for a new beginning. Hope.
This week, we run the gamut of human emotion.
Very quickly things change and the adoring crowds become confused and angry crowds. Things seem to come crashing down. To break down or break open?
We experience our deepest emotions this week. Many of them rising up from the cellar of our soul. Those emotions we all experience, but would rather not. The ugly emotions. Despair. Fear. Anger. Guilt. Shame. Hopelessness.
It’s easy, when the emotions run high, to hate. It’s easy to point fingers. It’s easy, especially when we are feeling the cellar emotions, to want to take the attention off of ourselves. It’s easy to hate, but can we forgive? Can we love? Especially when we are hurting those deepest hurts and feeling those deepest emotions?
This is a week of the heavy emotions. Who are we? Who would we like to be? It helps to look at the story…
Perhaps the easiest to condemn is Judas. This is the BIG denial. The BIG betrayal. It’s easy to condemn Judas to the lowest pits of hell and throw away the key or possibility of redemption. That’s him. That would never be us. Never. But, perhaps, he is simply a small man. We all know small men. We all experience small sides of ourselves. Maybe this is why we most don’t want to look at Judas as human, as like us. He wants to hurry it up. He wants it done the way he thinks it should be done. He lacks patience and he lacks faith.
He also experiences the deepest, most uncontrolled guilt and shame and self loathing…so much so that he can not longer allow himself to live. The BIG failure. He can not see it to the end. He has lost everything to the ugliness. He believes in nothing, not even the power of forgiveness and love.
Jesus tells everyone at the table: All will lose faith. PAUSE
There are smaller versions of these raw, unescapable emotions. Peter’s denial. Denial. Denial. Then his shame and guilt and grief when he realizes what he has done. Grief that brings him to tears. Tears. Little deaths. Sheddings. Letting go. He can still believe in the power of forgiveness and love. He will see it to the end.
All will lose faith. Each and every disciple runs away and hides. Each one must face their own guilt and shame, and anger and grief. Each one is overwhelmed and…lost. Lost in the ugly emotions and despair.
Those adoring crowds singing Hosanna and laying out palms…where are they now as Jesus is betrayed and arrested? They, too, are feeling betrayed and arrested. Who is calling out: “Crucify him. Crucify him!”? Are many of these the same people who sung adoring songs, now lost in the mob? Suddenly in doubt and despair covered by anger? How fast our emotions change and twist and turn.
The disciples. This is not what they expected marching in to Jerusalem.
It is easy to hate and point fingers, but can we forgive? Can we forgive…ourselves?
Even the “bad guys” in the story…maybe it’s just human failings. Failings we are all too familiar with ourselves. The priests are mostly good men. Caiaphus is a High Priest, a pious and upright man of God, but perhaps he is too pious and upright. Perhaps, he is afraid of another way of thinking and can only see one right way, one right path, one truth. We see this in ourselves and others. Fundamentalist thinking where it’s this way or wrong. Where there’s no room for other ways of thinking and loving. No other paths. He would rather watch another suffer and die than to allow faith to be practiced another way. Perhaps, he is swayed by the fear and anger of his peers and the fear and anger within himself. It is easier often to build up walls that to do the work of building bridges. It is easier to condemn than to listen and change.
Pilate. He knows Jesus is not guilty and yet he condemns him to beatings and torture and death. Why? Perhaps because he was afraid. Perhaps, because he is weak. Perhaps because, it was easier. How many things do we do, or not do, because it is easier? He didn’t have courage to do what was right. He “washes his hands of Jesus”. Yet, through inaction, he has acted with weakness. We all have moments when courage fails us, and we feel distant enough to walk away. But often, our inaction…is action.
It’s easy to not think of the “bad guys” as human beings worthy of love and forgiveness, but that is where the tiny divides begin that some people are not worthy of love and forgiveness. Some acts are not worthy of redemption.
Everyone, from the moment the first palm is laid down, has expectations of Jesus. The ordinary people, the passers-by beneath the cross wagged their heads and jeered at him: Save yourself and come down from the cross.
How many of these passers-by beneath the cross were simple, ordinary people who had, days before, laid down palms for Jesus? How many were sad and disheartened, those of broken hope, because things didn’t go the way they were supposed to? How many people watched and cheered and jeered? How is such a thing possible?
You will all lose faith.
Perhaps, there are jeers, but perhaps there is also begging. Please. Come down. We need you. Don’t betray us. Don’t betray us. All will lose faith. This moment has sucked away hope in all of us.
We’ve all experienced moments of hopelessness. Times when it seems as if life will never be good or the same again. And we jeer and beg and follow the mob to hide our own fears.
Then, there are the wild acts of kindness. Small acts that are so very big. A cup of water. A sip of wine. A weight lifted. A gentle bearing witness.
And yet, at the end, there is only death. And the world stands still…
Can we see it to the end?
READ Mark 15: 22-38
We stand before the cross in a world torn asunder. Can it really all just…die? Is it finished? We look at the cross and find ourselves lost.
The cross. It stands for something.
The cross is there as a reminder of the very real and ugly emotions inside all of us. The side of ourselves that can follow the mob, throw stones, condemn, torture, kill and the side that watches, jeers, and does nothing.
The cross is there as a reminder of our common suffering. No one suffers alone. When one suffers, we all suffer. No one suffers alone. (perhaps our biggest Work is to lessen the suffering of others, because when one suffers, we all suffer).
The cross stands as a reminder of who we can be. To bring our beautiful souls together, not to change, but to become. To have the courage to walk the path of the ugly emotions, suffering, fear, and through every trial. To have the courage to keep faith and the courage to continue to do the small, daily acts of love and forgiveness, the wild acts of kindness, especially when is the hardest and seems the most hopeless.
Mini Prayer: Jesus.