Monday, March 25, 2013

Holy Week, Horror Week?

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week when Jesus returns to Jerusalem - and it is the beginning of the end.  Palm Sunday is generally regarded as a joyous occasion - the return is in triumph! 

Saturday, I went to the church and made palm crosses.  Every year, even with instructions, we struggle to remember how to make them - and even when you've managed to make a few perfectly, you'll pick up a frond and your mind is a blank and you have to relearn how to make it all over again.  Last year, my friend Millie was the instructor - teaching all of us how to do it.  I was sitting next to her when she forgot how to make them and had to talk herself through it again, so I know I'm not the only one.  We lost Millie this past year and she was sorely missed on Saturday. 

Once we'd made our crosses, we went over to the church to clean.  A new organ was recently installed, wires run, and there was construction dust all over the place.  About 10 of us polished pews, dusted the floor and got on hands and knees to clean the legs and feet of the pews.  It took about three hours overall, but when we were done, the place practically shone.

Sunday morning, it was pouring down rain.  Trees were down all over town, especially on our end, making travel to church difficult and for some, impossible.  The power was out at the church where my husband was trying to make breakfast for the congregation.  It was not an auspicious beginning, but when 9am rolled around, the rain had stopped and the sun came out, and power was restored.

In my church, the tradition is to begin the service in the Parish Hall, then to process, singing, into the church waving palm fronds.  The people entered, singing and waving and found their seats and there was an air of anticipation emanating from them.  The children were ushered out for Children's Church and the reading of the lessons began.

When we got to the Gospel (Luke 22:14-23:56), various members of the congregation were to read parts and I was asked to read this year.  My part was Elder 1, which doesn't appear until later.  Together we sat at the table.  Judas betrayed Jesus to the soldiers with a kiss and he was taken away with insults being hurled upon him.  As Elder 1, I questioned Jesus' authority and taunted him, giving testimony to Pilate that he was perverting our nation and stirring up the people...  And when Pilate asked what should be done with Jesus, I was the one who yelled "Crucify, crucify him!"

I have to tell you, it disturbed me.  All my life, Jesus has been the good guy and here I was shouting that he should be killed!  In one of the worst ways possible.  And because I consider myself a professional reader, I had to make myself believe it, however briefly, to say those lines in a convincing way.  Raising my voice to recommend a horrible death for Jesus may have been one of the worst moments I've ever had in that church.  And maybe one of the best.

You see, I go to church every Sunday.  I participate in a lot of the activities - fundraising, cooking, cleaning, making palm crosses, teaching children's church...  I am a part of something bigger, a community of people who come together because of a united idea of who we are and how we relate to a higher power.  I've been doing this off and on since I was a little girl, but for some reason, shouting for Jesus' death drove home to me the whole reason for being there in the first place.

Most people look forward to Holy Week, but it is not a joyful time.  It is the most awful time that there has ever been.  The only reason we "celebrate" Holy Week is because we know that it ends with Easter and proof of the resurrection of Christ.  Sunday is the real celebration - Holy Week is the horror that leads up to it. 

I have no idea why I never got that before.


Sandy said...

Beautifully put, Sayre. I think I first got it the year that a dear friend of mine, a doctor, spent a good part of the Good Friday service explaining, physically and medically, how long it took Jesus to die of suffocation.

God bless you during this holy week and have a very joyous and wonderful Easter!

joanygee said...

Thank you for the reminder, Sayre. I realise once again why a good friend of mine always says the time to be joyous is Whitsuntide rather than Easter.