There are few pleasures in life as satisfying as reading a really good novel (however you may define “really good”) The characters become increasingly real until they feel like good friends, their joys and worries become yours, YOUR adrenaline flows when they are in danger. Your body reacts as though it were you experiencing the things that are unfolding within the pages. For the minutes or hours that you spend reading you immerse yourself into a totally different reality. You become part of the story and the story and the story becomes a part of you. Even when you are not actively reading sometimes, you think about the characters and the challenges they face and the decisions they must make. Sometimes, if you are like me, you may have conversations with them in your mind where you explore the options or call them out on their dumb decisions. And then, eventually, you get to the last page and the story is over. And it can feel like your best friend just got on an ocean-liner and sailed off to who knows where and you know that you will never see them again.
Sometimes we immerse ourselves in a story like that to escape the difficulties of “real life”. But more often I think we immerse ourselves in a powerful story in order to understand “real life” more fully and to know our real selves more deeply. Stories (whether fictional or factual) have the power to shape our lives.
Holy Week is such a story (and YES! Pastor Dave believes that the crucifixion and resurrection REALLY happened!!) It is part of the Christian (or liturgical) year. Every year we tell and hear the same story again. We immerse ourselves in the drama of it. We identify with the different characters. We identify ourselves with Jesus and his courage and with Peter and his fearful denials and with Judas the betrayer and with the two Marys and their faithfulness and compassion and grief. We ask ourselves year after year, where and with whom we would have stood. We explore within ourselves what difference it has made and is making in our lives that Christ gave up his life for us. We experience the disciples’ confusion and joy at Jesus’ resurrection.
If you were to pick up a new novel and just read the last page the story contained within it would have absolutely no impact on you. The events it describes would not impact your life. The story would not become a part of you and you would not become part of the story. That’s just not how it works.
The same is true of the Sacred Story of the events of Holy Week. Unless you stand among the adoring crowd on Palm Sunday and stand by Jesus as he confronts the Pharisees and sit around the table that last time with Jesus and his friends and pray with Jesus in the Garden and watch helplessly as he is tortured by the soldiers and experience the horror of his crucifixion the story cannot enter you or transform you. Easter Sunday will inevitably be drained of its joy.
This is why you NEED to be here with all the rest of us for all the services and activities of Holy Week. It’s not just the story of Jesus’ last days. Its not just HIS story. It’s OUR story. It’s the only story that can fully make sense of our lives. We’ll miss you if you’re not there!