Good Shepherd Lutheran

Welcome to Holy Week

Palm Sunday used to be just Palm Sunday in Lutheran churches. A day when we celebrated the triumphant arrival of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. But now it’s different. Now it’s Palm/Passion Sunday. The church felt we had to do that because people weren’t showing up for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services anymore. We were going directly from the triumphant “Hosanna in the Highest” of Palm Sunday to the glorious “He is Risen” of Easter Sunday and just tiptoeing around and avoiding that horrifying cry of “Crucify him!” of Good Friday.
Now I get the original impulse to skip Thursday and Friday of Holy Week because avoiding confrontation seems to be part of our nature. Who doesn’t want to go from glory to glory and just skip the messy embarrassing condemning stuff in the middle? But our problems start when we think we can know who God is by just looking at who we are and then expanding that up to God-size.
We’re vengeful so God is vengeful. We’re power-hungry so God is power hungry. We want to smite our enemies, so God wants to smite our enemies. That’s why we can’t imagine that God would willingly choose to be poured out for us on the cross because, honestly, we’d never do a thing like that.
But the good news is that there’s a reliable way to truly know about the nature of God, and it’s not by looking at ourselves. It’s by looking at Jesus. Jesus is God’s self-revelation. Jesus is like God saying, “This is how I want to be known.” It’s as if God is telling us, “Will you stop with your projections already and just listen to Jesus? Watch Jesus and follow Jesus so that you can know who I really am.” The way to know the Father is through the Son.
It’s only through the cross that we know that God isn’t just standing smugly at a distance. But that God’s abundant grace is hiding in, with, and under all this broken stuff in the world around us. Because the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross is for all of us.
In fact, God is so much for us that there’s no place God won’t go to be with us. Nothing separates us from the love of God in Jesus. Not insults, not betrayal, not suffering, and as we’ll see at Easter, not even death itself.
So, don’t go from glory to glory and skip the cross. Because we, as the broken and blessed body of Christ, move into this week with only one certainty. It’s that as we enter it, we do so in the company of a self-emptying God who pursues us and saves us with relentless, terrifying love. One who will ultimately enter the grave and endure the very stench of death in order to say, “Even here, I won’t abandon you.”
Hosanna in the highest indeed. Welcome to Holy Week.