Holy Week tends to be pretty hard on pastors–or at least on me. There is, of course, the practical aspect of organizing and leading extra worship services. (Between today and next Sunday there are seven worship services in which I have a significant part.) More worship services means more sermons to write, more music to choose, more people to coordinate, more liturgy to develop, and more time leading worship.
Really, though, I usually find that the hardest thing about Holy Week, for me, is the emotional disconnect. I’m reading through and preaching on the road to the cross, and the cross event itself, all while planning for a glorious celebration on Easter morning. “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” runs around in my head all week with “Christ the Lord is Risen today!” It’s exhausting.
And to be honest, I tend to resent the exhaustion. I want to experience straight-forward terror and sorrow the way Jesus’ first followers must have. Then, on Easter morning, I want undiluted joy. I want to be able to participate fully in the story–not be half in, half out.
But I’m wondering this morning, as I prepare to dive into Holy Week, whether the emotional roller-coaster that lies ahead might not be akin to what those first followers experienced after all. It would have been a crazy week for them. They were in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration, so their lives, for that week, would likely have centered around their religious community.
During that week, Jesus and his followers would have been thinking of the terrible suffering experienced by their ancestors who were enslaved in Egypt. And they would also have been remembering God’s mighty acts of liberation as their people walked out of Egypt and through the Red Sea.
Jesus’ disciples would have experienced fear, sorrow, horror as the events of the week unfolded. Yet I wonder if there was a lining of hope. Did any of them remember that Jesus had said he would rise again? Did some of them have glimpses of Easter in the midst of the Good Friday terror?
And on Easter, had the cloud of the previous week completely disappeared? Surely Jesus’ followers still experienced some fear, some sorrow for what had been lost, as they met the resurrected Christ.
I think I’ve been operating under the myth that the story of this week follows some pure emotional narrative–and that is just not the case. All of the emotions would have been mixed up together for the original disciples just as they are for me today.
So this year, may God grant me–may God grant us all–the grace to appreciate this Holy Week journey as it is given to us–one mixed up, exhausting day at a time.