Much to my surprise, it was my turn to lead our staff devotion this week. Here are some of thoughts on what God is revealing to us about ourselves during Holy Week. You can follow our staff blogs here.
Each week our staff devotion starts with one question: “What one thought or idea from today’s lesson especially intrigued, provoked, disturbed, challenged, encouraged, warmed, warned, helped, or surprised you?”
“If Jesus is showing us something so radical about God, what is he telling us about ourselves – about human beings and our social and religious institutions?” – Brian McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking
We are in the midst of Holy Week. This is a time in the church calendar when focus our attention to Jesus’ journey to the cross. We look to His final meal with his friends (Maundy Thursday). We pray as he is killed on Calvary (Good Friday). On Sunday morning we look to the joyous news that the tomb is empty (Easter). We see the the full range of human reaction to Jesus this week (then and now): “One minute the crowds were flocking to Jesus…. The next minute they were shouting, ‘Crucify him!’”
What can we learn about ourselves when one minute we are lovingly embracing the love of God and the next turning our backs entirely, unwilling to even pretend for a second that we know who this stranger from Galilee is?
The entirety of Holy Week shows us that we today, individually and the church, are no better or worse than Jesus’ first followers. We are willing to drop it all so that we can join in the ministry of this first century Galilean until one day when we are unable to even admit that we’ve met this man. That is what challenged me this week.
Even with five years of seminary under my belt, being able to recite creeds and interpret what Paul is really saying in his letters to the local church, I will still deny Christ. After spending half of a decade studying what it means to be a follower of Jesus, more than half of Obama’s Presidential term, I will deny Christ. I might not do it today or tomorrow or even this year but eventually I will be just like Peter. Just like Judas, I will sell out for the convenience of profiting off the exploitation of Christ. This is what disturbed me this week.
In the midst of our denial and betrayal, Jesus is still sitting with us at the table during His final meal and sending us out into the world to be His bride. In the midst of all of our shortcomings Jesus is still using us today, just like he used His first followers to change the world. Jesus set the example for us, knowing full well that individually we would not always live up to the example. The church can be that example.
Holy Week changed everything. Christ’s execution at the hands of the Romans was just an attempt to stop God’s reaching out into our world. The empty tomb, Christ’s commissioning of the one who denied him, and the sending of the disciples literally changed the world.
No matter what we do we are still sent. No matter what we do we are still welcome at the table. No matter what we do we are still called by the one who changed everything.