I greet you in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the peace and power of the Holy Spirit as we enter Holy Week—this week that is the most powerful and profound in the Christian year.
Holy Week is a week of wonder in many senses of that word. It begins with Palm Sunday where the wonder of joy is on full display, praise and parade as Jesus enters Jerusalem. Perhaps in the jubilation, the disciples are wondering what will come next.
The wondering about what’s next is only heightened as the week moves forward and Jesus finds himself in a number of conflict situations. He is at odds with the way the Temple worship has been organized and engages in an act of symbolic prophetic criticism. He finds himself in a number of conflicted conversations with religious authorities.
Yet in the midst of these conflicts there is wonder as amazement as Jesus again centers what he teaches and does in love. Asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus offers that it is love of God with all one’s being and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. In the midst of fanfare and conflict, of overturned tables and tense conversations, Jesus reminds all that what matters most is love of God and neighbor. Amazing.
As the week continues and takes a difficult turn, as foreboding pervades the story, there is the wonder of pondering. A woman offers expensive perfume to Jesus, lavish, extravagant, and Jesus praises her and looks toward his death. A meal is served, and a symbolic meal enacted. Bread and wine are the very body and lifeblood of Jesus. Take, eat, and drink. What does this all mean?
Then there is wonder in the face of a devastating death. Jesus is crucified by the Roman imperial government. The joyful parade becomes a tearful and fearful execution procession. This powerful and profound teacher and healer who put love at the center and around whose life the disciples had centered their own is gone. There is only silence.
And then, all these wonderings are taken up in a final act of wonder as joy, amazement, and astonishment. Resurrection. “He has been raised. He isn’t here.” Easter becomes the beginning and the end of all our wondering. We still wonder at the persistence of the forces of death and injustice in our world. We still wonder what it means to center our lives in Jesus and what it means, concretely, to live love of God and neighbor in such a world. And we always begin with the wonder of Easter, trusting that even when the forces of death, destruction, and despair seem so potent, there will be a way forward. And we know that in the end centering our lives in Jesus, in love of God and neighbor is the way of life.
May this Holy Week be a week of genuine wonder for you.
Bishop David Bard is interim bishop for the Minnesota Conference. He also serves as resident bishop for the Michigan Conference.