Here we are at Holy Week, the week where we had alot of hopes, and those hopes died. The week where the societal change we believed was being birthed, suddenly was aborted. What is so holy about this week? What makes this week so special? Why do Christians look towards this season with both sorrow and joy?
I love a good juxtaposition–the mashing together of things that from initial interaction seem not to belong together–sad art that is brightly colored, flowers growing at an abandoned building, etc. I look to the compositions of Benjamin Britten to illustrate this point. In each of his compositions, there is something a bit bizarre–unexpected notes, harmonies, tonalities, and texts mingle together to create something wholly original and impossible to ignore.
Tension is where the heart of good art is formed.
Take for example his Opus 66, “The War Requiem.” This powerful work incorporates texts from the WWI poet, Wilfred Owens, who tragically died during this war about a week before Armistice, and the traditional latin texts from the “Latin Mass for the Dead.” This musical experience is both gorgeous and terrifying. One of my favorite portions if this Requiem is the Sanctus, movement IV, featuring a soprano soloist and the chorus. A chorus of “hosannas,” explodes over rocketing timpani and triumphant horns, and yet the victorious quality is not without undertones of grief. Much like the betrayal we feel with the occurrence of any war. Maybe we had begun to feel triumphant about the perceived sensible and compassionate trajectory of human life, and then boom–another war breaks out reminding us of the atrocities humans are capable of.
During this week especially, I am mindful of how deeply betrayed Jesus’ friends must have felt. Each disciple wrestling with their identity, the call that they perceived was on their life, the direction their work and worth was headed towards. Abundant life! A new kingdom founded upon love and unity–belonging to each other and the world as valuable, created beings! All of this died on the cross with Jesus. They mourned the violent, unexpected death of their dear friend, but they also mourned the violent, unexpected death of their individual callings.
I guess the gospel is canceled? Everyone go home, because the good news just got hijacked. The Jesus way failed, so…we don’t really know what’s next.
I feel this grief profoundly. This sense that what I thought was the meaning and work of my life, all of a sudden isn’t. I had a good thing going on, and that thing gets canceled. It’s over, and the new good thing hasn’t arrived yet.
Resurrection isn’t even on the horizon. Time for putting up the palm branches–the prophetic hosannas feel silly right about now.
Oh Jesus, what a frail kingdom we have tried to build. What a fragile substitute we have created with our lives, yearning for concrete when you have handed us mystery.
For even in death, Jesus has not left us. The sun still rises on a day of death, and it’s cyclical arriving can warm a tomb, nurturing the flowers left by the headstones.
It is a season for lamenting. For re-grouping. Asking deep questions. Humble prayers. Reconnecting with roots. Weeping in worship.
Are you willing to leave a bouquet at the headstone of your tightly held dreams and beliefs? Can you surrender to the plot twists? The failed job? The failed marriage? The failed church?
You just might find a few seeds of something new simmering in the dirt, gathering up life from the tears you’ve shed.
And you just might find Jesus’ hands in the dirt, right next to yours’.