I've been quiet this week, thinking and reflecting, and purposely not blogging. I wanted to experience Holy Week as a whole before I wrote about any part of it. I'm glad I did, because it's been quite a revelation.
I'm going to warn you right off the bat that this is likely to be long.
Of all feast days, Palm Sunday is usually my least favorite. I don't really know why that is, except that it stands in stark contrast to the days to come during Holy Week. It's a day of triumph, but the Gospel for the day is the Passion. It's a say of dichotomy, and it's unsettling.
At the church I've been attending, Palm Sunday started off with the whole congregation processing into the church with palm branches. Any church I've gone to in the past has made the procession optional, if they've done it at all, because the congregation is so large, or because they don't see the liturgical significance. I usually haven't participated because...well, I don't know why. But there was something powerful about the whole congregation entering the church together as a community of faith, waving their palm branches as the crowds did when Christ entered Jerusalem all those years ago.
It also brought home the symbolism, at least it did for me. Those same crowds that greeted Jesus as they would royalty, as a celebrity, were clambering for his execution not even a week later. And even if they weren't among those yelling, "Crucify him!" they weren't yelling anything to the contrary. It reminded me how we so often embrace what Christ teaches in theory, but then we turn our backs on it when comes time to put it into practice. "Love one another as I have loved you," sounds like a marvelous ideal, but when faced with that co-worker who gets on your nerves, or that driver who cut you off, or that friend who takes you for granted, it gets shoved into the background. We are willing to turn out backs on what Jesus taught in a heartbeat if it serves our purpose. It's a humbling and somewhat guilt inducing realization, but it is comforting to look around and know that every single person processing with you has the same failings you do. And it's even more comforting to know that we are forgiven when we fall short.
But perhaps the most moving part of the service on Palm Sunday for me was the "reading" of the Passion. Now, normally this is done in one of two ways. Either the presider reads the whole thing from the Gospel, or it is read with a narrator, the presider reading the part of Jesus, and one or more people reading the other "characters." But this church did something different and really good.
Instead of the Passion being read, the choir sang a cantata that told the story of the Passion. I forget the composer, but it was wonderful to say the least. It was accompanied by a Powerpoint presentation of a variety of images of Christ's Passion and death from various artists both classical and contemporary.
Normally, I don't like multimedia presentations during worship. There's a time and a place for that, and liturgy isn't it. But this was just...I don't have the words for it. To see so many representations and interpretations of the passion story was...almost overwhelming. It brought home the fact that when we talk about humanity being made in the image of God, it doesn't just mean people we like, or people we are comfortable around. It means people who are different from ourselves, people who make us uncomfortable for whatever reason. We are all made in the Divine Image, no matter what our culture or ethnic group or socioeconomic status or sexual orientation or whatever.
That reminder, combined with all the news coverage of Terry Schiavo (which I have studiously avoided writing about) have made me consider what it really means to respect life. So many people get so up in arms about euthansia or assisted suicide or abortion. The decry them as part and parcel of the moral decay of our country. The protest outside clinics and hospices.
But so many of these same people have no problem with the death penalty being applied to minors or those who are mentally challenged. They favor the war in Iraq, and didn't see any problem with the humiliation of Iraqi prisoners of war. They cross the street rather than walk by someone who is homeless. They ignore the hungry in their own country and across the world. They turn a blind eye to the fact that there are parts of this world where children can be forced into slave labor in the sex industry on pain of death of themselves or their loved ones.
Aren't these part of respecting life?
Now, I'll tell you, I don't think Schiavo's feeding tube should have been removed. Palliative care like that is just a basic right and component of death with dignity. And I don't favor abortion and a method of birth control. I just get upset when the religious right focuses on just these things and ignores the other issues. When Jesus told us to love one another, He didn't just mean when it is convienient. He meant all the time.
Sorry for getting off on that tangent, but it is really a part of the whole story of Easter.
I'll write about the rest of Holy Week tomorrow. It's later than I thought it was, and I need to sleep now.
Monday, March 28, 2005