The Disillusionment of Holy Week

Growing up, I never heard of “Holy Week.” Now, it’s all the rage. I am left to wonder why? As a child, I just anticipated the big day of Easter. I knew nothing about the week before. Now, as an adult, I know that I cannot fully grasp the day of Easter without being grasped by the week before Easter. Perhaps this is why I can fully realize this week as a Holy Week.Our world has become so secular; so filled with eggs and bunnies, robins and nests, chocolate and brightly colored baskets. We want all the color, comfort and cozy things of life without the pain and passion of these days of “Holy Week.” The week before Easter has nothing to do with bright color; nothing to do with bunnies; nothing to do with celebration.Holy Week is a journey of seven days and seven long nights to examine the pain and passion of Jesus. It’s about examining unmet expectations; shattered dreams and painful realizations of disillusionment. When one embraces one's own betrayal; dashed dreams and discarded illusions we've clung to in life, then we are ready for a deeper meaning of Easter.All the people around Jesus were dashed to the ground, along with their dreams and illusions, because of this week. Each one: Mary, Peter, Judas, Lazarus, Martha—all had their personal hopes go bankrupt. Each faced a disillusionment of their own seismic proportions. Each person lost something. Peter lost his loyalty. Thomas lost his faith. Judas lost his life. Mary lost her son. Each day of this week became a new ground zero of faith and failure; betrayal and conviction; courage and cowards. Holy week is holding on to what we have lost in life--or will lose soon. There are no exemptions for some kind of loss. None. Every person must walk through their own holy week of loss, disappointment and bewilderment. These are the very things that prepare us for a new opening in our lives--even the opening of a tomb.On Thursday in particular, it was a day of the bottom falling out of the sky. This happened to us, just today. We had hoped of spending our Easter days with a couple of our sons and their families. Our grandchildren were coming. We found a small house at the beach to hold us. They found a house to hold them. It was all set. Then, it came-- a phone call of Maundy Thursday proportions. There house fell through and a phone call brought the shocking news of a tightly held illusion going south. They were told that their house was double booked and they could not come.When the news came, I at first felt a lunge of panic---my hopes of finding sea shells by the sea shore with my grandkids were harpooned and I was left sinking and felt my dreams drowning in the high tide. We would be alone. We would be by ourselves. A shattered dream--again.But my illusions of Easter are pitiful in comparison to Mary—the mother of Jesus. The son she bore in her womb would soon be crucified and she would stand at the cross as she stood when that angel's message pierced her virgin soul. How Mary did it, is how we all must learn to do it--to do life--to endure and to overcome--for this is the real message of every Easter.I had a Mary moment on Maundy Thursday when that phone call came from my son. I mustered courage to say, “All is not lost. Something will open up.” And it did. Another house came open due to someone elses cancellation and alas, my grands and my sons and their wives will come. It will be Easter after all. There will be sea shelling and eggs and crab benedict to boot.You and I stand this week in a week that truly is holy. Each day as we move close to the grave opening up—which is far, far, far better than a house at the beach opening up, everything in our lives will change.May the disappointments, betrayal, shattered dreams, stings of the many deaths of our journies, converge to a Blessed Easter--a day of every tomb opening for us because of the opening of Jesus' tomb that very holy morn.But until then--until Easter, we must wait in our shattered dreams.

In the Middle of Holy Week: Wednesday

Wednesdays are the days that are in-between the ones that have passed before and the ones that are yet to be. It’s the hump day of the week. Often, I will say, “If we can just through the hump day, the rest of the week is down hill. I doubt that Jesus felt this way, though. Down hill for Jesus in the middle of Holy Week meant the march to death and utter rejection. But on the Wednesdays of such weeks we pause, catch our breath before we move on and so forth.Wednesdays are the days we are caught in the middle. It’s the twenty year mark of the forty years spent in the wilderness. It’s how you feel when you’ve fed 2000 of the 5,000 waiting to be filled. You’d had a good start but you have a long, long way to go to finish. On Wednesday, there’s no getting around it, you’re in the middle of something. It's the day of your vacation that you finally can breath--finally know that all the work, all the packing, all the hassle might have been worth it. But, in the midst of it all you can also look up and feel like it's going to be over all too soon. The in-between days are days that can be monotonous and long. The in-between days are the days that right, smack dab in the middle of a long week and you know you’re not leaving on your trip yet for a couple more days. They are days of endurance. Like Jesus in the midst of what we now know is Holy Week, nothing really happened important on this Wednesday. But tomorrow, everything changes as it often does. Thursdays bring new challenges that only the weekends can forgive. Wednesdays are days to hang in there…not to go back because there is nothing in the past for us—only what lies ahead in the rest of the week. It is in the in-between times of our lives that so many of us fight with great fervor. In- between jobs; in-between houses, in-between churches and in between relationships. It’s a long, long day that has little stretch, give and significance. Wednesdays are like the middle child. Always accepting of the others and knowing one’s place the family of the other days of the week. It’s not a solid beginning nor does it have the drama of a last born day of the week or child. It’s a gentle day that can often go overlooked. I think it was one of those in-between days when David slept with Bathsheba, his mistress. When he was tired, bored and looking for love in all the wrong places. I think it was probably a Wednesday, when the disciples fought over who’d replace Jesus and who would be the greatest in the kingdom---the weekends would have brought responsibility, mission and focus. But Wednesday conversations allow us time to ponder what we would not ponder on other important days of the week—like on Monday morning when we’re headed out after the long, good weekend. Or some other really good time of the week that you find yourself looking forward to as the week unfold. As far as we know, the Wednesday before the Thursday of Holy week just may have been the day when Jesus went to the home of Mary—when she anointed him with oil. Jesus could have used that mid-week refreshment knowing that was lying ahead in wait for him. Go ahead. Sigh that deep breath out and take a break. It’s Wednesday—a long day to catch your breath and to eagerly look forward to what is going to unfold tomorrow. Because when tomorrow comes—when Thursday arrives—everything is going to be different—really different.On the Wednesday of Holy Week, we have a break before the intensity begins. Today, we stop, pause and sigh because we know what it's going to be like. It's going to be intense. Cruel. Vile and ugly and one needs a day like a Wednesday in order to prepare.Wednesdays begin the long vigil of waiting for the redemption. The redemption comes on Sunday but for now we have to just wait.  

Why This Week Matters!

Many of us are already focused on Easter. We are making our plans. Planning what we'll do with friends and family and more. But this week, this week that we are in really matters. Don't move too quickly towards Easter forgetting something really important that happened this very week and could happen to you again THIS WEEK!In the Eastern Orthodox church, millions of people are remembering Lazarus, the friend whom Jesus loved but died and was raised to life again. It's called "The Feast of Lazarus" and it's important because the raising of Lazarus foreshadowed the raising of Jesus and Jesus knew it. As Lazarus walked forth from the tomb, Jesus would have looked at this amazing sight thinking something like this:  I will be doing what Lazarus is doing in only a few, short days.Only a week after Lazarus was raised to life, Jesus was in deep trouble. He entered the Passion Week--the week before his death and Lazarus would have been on his heart and his mind. We read in John 12 that Jesus even went back to the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha and it was there that Mary anointed his feet with the sweet smelling fragrance of perfume and Jesus loved this aromatic comfort because he knew the stench of death was right around the corner.Do yourself a favor this weekend and re-read the story of Lazarus in John 11. It has all the drama of a best selling novel and a block buster movie. It's a story that changed an ordinary man's life into the stuff of transformation! -----------------------Here's the link to the book I wrote on Lazarus two years ago. It is the PREQUEL to The Jesus Life. The last chapter of The Lazarus Life raises the questions that I attempt to answer in The Jesus Life which is now released!