This year, in the days before Holy Week (the 8 days from Palm Sunday to Easter, inclusive), my thoughts turned to some contemporary images that are evocative of biblical images embedded in the Holy Week narrative. To find those images, read the Holy Week narrative, versions of which are found in the first three books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Luke’s gospel, the biography of Jesus read this year by many churches, including the Episcopal Church, that follow the Revised Common Lectionary for selecting the scripture passages to be read in worship service, the Holy Week narrative spans Luke chapters 22-24.
Here are some suggestive images.
Jesus washed his disciples’ feet before he shared a final meal with them. The disciples wanted to wash Jesus’ feet; his filling the servant’s role discomfited them. Today, the “dirty” may belong to a different political party, different race, or have a different sexual orientation. How can I humble myself to see that I, not they, am truly the one who is dirty? How can I allow Jesus to wash me?
Jesus is famously tried by Pilate who washes his hands of the entire affair. When individuals wrongly or falsely disclaim responsibility for a problem, they emulate Pilate, figuratively attempting to wash their hands of the entire affair. Among such individuals are climate change deniers, flat earthers, white supremacists, and those who rely upon their own “alternative facts.” Who might you add to this list?
Jesus, whom the gospels describe as without sin, was executed as a common criminal, an insurrectionist. When humans harm the planet, wantonly destroying other life forms, humans reenact the wanton execution of Jesus. Conversely, when humans strive to live Jesus’ radical teachings about loving God, neighbor, and creation then those humans become vulnerable, as was Jesus, to forces opposed to any change, actual or possible, that threatens their power. For me, authoritarian leaders and most of the world’s wealthiest 1% invariably react against changes that would bring liberation and give life to the dying, downtrodden, and disadvantaged.
Scripture reports that the Easter event begins with the discovery of an empty tomb. Is emptiness ever sufficient to point the way to God’s loving presence?
The Easter event was unexpected. The disciples had no inkling that Jesus would continue to be present with them. The disciples failed to recognize him in reading their Bibles, in sharing meals, and in one another. When I saw an angry man today, who appeared to be under the influence of some substance, I wondered: Can I see Jesus in him? When I saw a parent berating a misbehaving child, I wondered: Can I see Jesus in the parent, in the child? When I listen to egocentric politicians rant, I wonder: Can I see Jesus in that person? In other words, is God’s Easter promise to still be with us true? Or, will death and evil prevail?
What contemporary images do you associate with the biblical images? How does the story of Holy Week come alive for you?