I woke up this morning for the second time this year to open windows and birds chirping. What a way to wake up! Nature has this almost magical effect on me. On a nice day I can, and often do, get lost in the beauty of God’s creation. When you think about it, sometimes it can be overwhelming to think about the intricacies of our world and the fascinating balance within it.
This Sunday the Christian churches celebrate Palm Sunday, and the following Sunday will be the Easter Celebration. Something is lost when we focus upon the celebration of Palm Sunday and Easter and miss the Passion of Christ’s betrayal, abandonment, conviction, humiliation, and crucifixion. As a result, we are unable to see the fullness of the Resurrection, and cannot truly appreciate the sacrifice that Christ made by suffering through the Passion.
Understanding the Passion and Christ’s suffering are essential, because if we do not know what Christ endured, the empty tomb is rendered meaningless. Missing Holy Week is like winning a race that was never run. Or, in other words, it is meaningless without the struggle.
The struggle is important. Unfortunately, as a society, we all too often cut out the struggle. When crafting games for children, political correctness requires the struggle to be eliminated in order to “make everyone a winner.” In life, if we don’t like our place, we can move. If we do not like a person, we can avoid them. If we don’t like our job, we can search for a new one. If we don’t have money, we can borrow it. We can do many things to remove ourselves from the suffering, and so could Christ.
It is similar to our secular life in another way. The freedom that we have as a people is due in great part to the suffering and struggles of those who came before us. There are also many who, because of their parents’ hardships, are able to live better and more comfortably than any prior generation in their family. Thus, history plays an important role, but the struggles of our previous generation shape who we are.
This is true in my life. Growing up, I never received an allowance. If I wanted something, I had to work for it (mowing lawns, babysitting, washing cars, etc.), or save birthday and Christmas money. Though my parents could have afforded to give me much of what I wanted, they did not. Both grew up in families that were poor and struggled. Both went to college and both worked hard to make it to the tops of their chosen professions, thanks in great part to the hard work they had learned to handle in overcoming struggles. In knowing their history and learning the importance of hard work, I am able to be that much more grateful for the life that I have.
The same is true of our faith. It is in the struggles of Christ that we understand the importance of the Resurrection. God’s choice to send Christ into this world allows us to see God through Christ as fully human and fully divine. We know that he felt the same pains that we feel. He got sick, as we get sick. He was tempted, as we are tempted. And he suffered as we suffer. He suffered so that when we suffer, we know that he is suffering with us. Furthermore, he did all this out of love; he did this so that we may receive his grace and have life.
As we come to Palm Sunday, I challenge you to go to at least one other service during the week. It could be one of the community noon services or a Holy Week service somewhere else. Let your eyes be opened to the Passion that allows true celebration.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen