April 2, 2021
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 NRSV
Concord United Methodist
Tennessee Valley District
Isaiah 52:13-53, 53:12 NRSV
Each year we follow our liturgical calendar and we celebrate the moments in our religion that mark important occasions. For me, Holy Week holds a massive amount of emotion. Every year, I am amazed that as we return to Lent, and then Holy Week, the same feelings emerge as I again go through this journey. The time of Lent is when I prepare my heart, looking within myself and examining those things that need work. I am always amazed that I have allowed myself to slip yet again. And yet I find God is waiting for me.
Then Holy week comes. I feel the push of excitement as we move into preparing for this week at church; Palm Sunday with the energy that flows from the kids as they parade their way through church with their branches; the Egg Hunts, Seder Meal, Maundy Thursday, and then Good Friday.
Good Friday has always perplexed me: How can one day bring up so many different emotions? The day contains such profound images as the great and overwhelming sadness of the death of Christ. I can’t help but think of Mary and the disciples as they mourned the loss of her child and their friend. How hopeless and lost they must have felt. There was likely the frustration of those who were close to Jesus towards the people who days before had celebrated Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem had so quickly turned against him. There is the criminal on the cross, experiencing the same pain and fear that Jesus was also enduring, defending Jesus and asking to be remembered in the Kingdom. There is the compassion with which Jesus responds to this man who admits his own guilt and assures him he will be with Him in paradise.
We see reflected in this story how, to his last dying breath, Jesus was all that we desire to be: loving, compassionate, patient. All the while he was experiencing all the human pain and emotions of enduring such a cruel death. Yet, I always have the knowledge of Jesus’ victory over death and the joy that will come on Easter morning mixed in with all of these thoughts and feelings.
Each year I read the story over and over during Holy Week and yet each year it still brings me to tears. The story still stirs within me the same emotions as a mother, a friend, and a follower. The cycle of life that, as a Christian, Jesus brings to me in times of self-reflection; the increase in time I spend in the word which is followed by the extreme joy of Easter when I promise myself that I will finish the year as strong in my study as I am on that day.
Then, as often happens, my focus slowly becomes diluted with other daily routines. By Christmas I realize that I have fallen away from the meaningful time I have spent studying to being swept into the glamor and glitz of the holiday.
Then epiphany brings us around to earnestly looking deeper into the New Testament. Then Lent comes. With its arrival, I find myself again realizing all that there is I need to repair within myself. But though I find Lent a difficult time of rebuilding, I also yearn for Holy Week; I crave communion with Christ, I realize that I have been Peter denying Christ as I have moved through the year. I am brought to tears as the cock crows not just because I know that Peter is heartbroken but also because I once again realize that I have slipped back into the person I didn’t want to be, denying Christ to myself.
I sit quietly on Good Friday and let those feelings come. I prepare myself for the great celebration on Sunday, while thanking God for his great sacrifice and that he waits for my return with great compassion and love when I slip and fall away.
On this Good Friday I encourage you to not just read a section of the story but immerse yourself in the story. Begin in Isaiah and read the words that the ancient Israelites will forget but will be revealed through Christ. Read the gospel retelling of Holy Week, allow yourself to feel the feelings of the people involved, and then repent knowing that God is awaiting your return to Him. Hallelujah will be called out on Sunday and we can all share in the excitement and joy of what gift Christ brings to us through his death on the cross.
Heavenly Father, I am sorry for all that I have let block me from walking closer to you during the year. I rejoice and am thankful for your son’s precious gift. Help me to stay focused on that gift. Let the emotions of Good Friday feed into the joy of Easter so I may keep my eyes and heart on you. In your precious and holy name, Amen.