How We Might Walk Through Holy Week

Preacher: 
Rev. Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

Fifth Sunday in Lent

John 12:20-33 – Year B

March 11, 2018

How Might We Walk Through Holy Week

Open our ears, O Lord, to hear your word and know your voice. Speak to our hearts and strengthen our wills, that we may serve you today, now and always.

         As of today, we are 12 days away from Good Friday.  We are 14 days away from Easter.  We have been walking this path with Jesus from the start of his ministry.  Today marks a shift – a very significant shift.  We hear Jesus telling his disciples about how the grain of wheat must die – how it must fall into the earth and die in order to bear much fruit.  And like those who may have heard these words, we stand with them, unsure of what all this means.  Yes…we have the benefit of knowing the story – knowing what awaits Jesus, his disciples and followers and all those who had started to develop hope for a new way of living, but do we really understand? 

         We hear these readings and spend time together in worship each week, but when our worship is concluded, we all head back out into our worlds that are busy and full – full of the Now…the chores needing to done, the groceries needing to be bought, and the list of things to do each and every day.  But Jesus, the disciples and his followers did not get to take a break from what was about to happen.  This was not a story to them but real life.  Jesus was truly a man, who knew that his path was going to lead him towards conflict and pain.  Yes, he was divine, but as we talked about in the beginning of his ministry – he too was human.  This conflict and pain was going to be real. 

         It’s easy to drop in and out of this story.  We all know how important the life and ministry of Jesus was and the gift he gave all of us through his dying and resurrection.  Next Sunday we get the joy of parading with Jesus as he enters Jerusalem, and we also hear the hard reality of the Passion Story read.  I don’t know about you, but the Passion Story has always been hard for me to hear.  In the reading of the story, all of us say together…“Crucify Him.” It sometimes takes my breath away.  It hurts my heart to think of saying those words, but I must own those days when I choose sin over God’s love for me and in doing so…utter those words.  It makes me think of how hard Jesus worked to show us a new way, and yet how we, as humans, struggle…back then and now…to trust it. 

         But then suddenly life jumps back in – we’re off to tackle our To Do Lists and to live in this age and this time.  There have been years when I jumped straight from the Passion Story of Palm Sunday to the glorious sounds and celebrations of Easter.  The days in between full of other thoughts – of worldly thoughts.  That’s not a “bad” way or uncommon way to travel these next 12-14 days, but what might we gain in our lives if we didn’t walk away from the story?

         What if this year was a little different?  What if…this year we took a little time each day to think about what life may have been like for this man named Jesus as he prepared for his earthly ministry to come to an end?  What if in our to-ing and fro-ing, we took a minute or two to ponder what we know about his teachings, stories, and messages?  What was he trying to achieve through his teachings and actions?  How do we feel about the fact that he gave his life – willingly - for us  - not just the people he knew back then, but for us here today?

         What if…as we workout at the gym or ride our exercise bikes or walk in our neighborhoods, we think about those politicians and religious leaders who were threatened by Jesus?  That sounds weird, right?  But they felt anxiety during this time too.  This man was threatening all they knew.  His message and reputation had grown so large that even the Greeks were coming to hear him.  How did the world and this threat feel to them and their sense of security?  For us to say, “Oh, that was is just part of the story – a story so long ago,” is true, yet we see that level of fear and division in our own world, today.  We can’t deny that.  How is conflict impacting people today…our high school students, our DACA Dreamers, our poor, our handicapped, our immigrants, and our own families?  We are feeling that tension and anxiety each and every day lately.  

         What if…on our drives to work or as we do our household chores, we pause and think about those disciples, who left all they knew and Jesus’ followers – men and women who followed and cared for Jesus, learned from Jesus, and loved Jesus.  What was it like for them in these next 12 – 14 days?  What was it like for them to see people getting so excited to meet Jesus – to hear him talk – to hold hope for a new way of living or to be healed?  Did they know of the growing anger from the chief priests and Pharisees?  Were they too excited about all that was happening or did something inside them whisper words of concern?

         It is easy to drop in and out of this story, but what if we didn’t?  How might it impact each of our lives to intentionally walk this final portion of Jesus’ earthly ministry?  Not walk it in a somber, head down, hopeless march but in a way that informs our thoughts and actions – now.  How might we combine our lives now – in the 21st Century with those of the disciples…of Jesus…of his followers…of the political and religious leaders who feared Jesus’ growing power…of the people who had started to dream and hope of a life of love and equality?  How might staying engaged enrich and inform our lives…now? 

         I encourage us all to walk these days intentionally.  I invite us all partake in the liturgy and worship of the coming days.  Be present for Palm Sunday – for the celebration of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem AND for the words of the Passion Story…both are profound experiences.  I invite us all to come to the days of Holy Week and worship with one another.  Sit together and rest in God’s story – in God’s love, because that is what this walk to the cross is about! 

         Come to Maundy Thursday and join us as we wash one another’s

feet…as we lovingly care for one another as Jesus cared for his followers.  Come…feel what that is like.  Sit with us as we remember the death and loss of our dear Savior on Good Friday – again not to feel weighted down by the guilt of our sins but to recognize the deep love and sacrifice God made for us! 

         This is not a priest of a church trying to convince the members of her parish to attend worship.  This is a fellow human being, who has experienced the transformative love of Christ, inviting you to join her in these days ahead and just maybe find something you’ve been needing too. 

 

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