Palm Sunday, March 28
The Lord God gave me an educated tongue to know how to respond to the weary with a word that will awaken them in the morning. God awakens my ear in the morning to listen, as educated people do. (Isaiah 50:4)
Renewal comes after an ending. Offering hope in a hopeless moment is a gift. At one point in my life, uncertainty had me twisted up as I questioned the next step in my career and in my work-life balance. A colleague prodded gently, asking whether I’d KNOWN what had lain ahead the last time I was in transition. (The answer, of course, was no.) My colleague then reminded me that having a vision of the future is not required for God to move.
Sometimes seasons end, and we don’t see what is coming next. It is humbling to know that God gives the faithful servant “an educated tongue” when things come to an end. While we may all assume initially that we are the faithful servant who speaks, it is probably more likely that we are the weary who need a word to awaken them in the morning.
As we begin the journey to the cross, let us remember that all things must come to an end. God gave us gifts of mercy, guidance, and grace to be able to face the end, and to face the unknowns in our lives.
Prayer: Help me to face the endings that need to come so that I can fully follow you.
Monday, March 29
But me? I trust you, Lord! I affirm, “You are my God.” My future is in your hands. Don’t hand me over to my enemies, to all who are out to get me! Shine your face on your servant; save me by your faithful love! (Psalm 31:14-16)
When I was facing the final earthly days of a family member, I knew that there was nothing I could do to pause the relentless approach of death. While my family member had lived a long, full, and grace-filled life, I didn’t want to let this person go. All I could do was ask for God to be with me as that earthly journey ended.
I didn’t know what life would be like after this person died. I could see the end coming quickly, and I couldn’t see what would come after. It is humbling to be reminded that our futures are in God’s hands, and not in our own.
Holy Week takes us through the journey to the end—an ending that centers on the cross. While we know what comes after the cross, it is a good spiritual discipline to be reminded of what it feels like when an ending is inevitable. In today’s scripture, the psalmist writes of trusting God and placing one’s future in God’s hands. May we all be reminded to place our trust in God.
Prayer: Redeemer, help me to stay on the path to the cross.
Tuesday, March 30
Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus: Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit. But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings. When he found himself in the form of a human, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God highly honored him and gave him a name above all names, so that at the name of Jesus everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)
Holding on to power is a very human tendency. While these words in Philippians may be familiar from creeds, songs, or sermons, the message is still profoundly radical. In this passage, we have an almost melodic description of Jesus’s life, work, death, and resurrection. But even though the language is smooth and familiar, it starkly illustrates that Jesus chose an ending—one that would lead to his horrific death—in order to save the world. By doing so, Jesus showed humanity that choosing the end of power leads to new life.
What would it mean for you to “adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus”?
Prayer: When I fear the end, Divine Ruler, remind me of Christ’s sacrifice.
Wednesday, March 31
The chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas to them instead. Pilate replied, “Then what do you want me to do with the one you call king of the Jews?”
They shouted back, “Crucify him!”
Pilate said to them, “Why? What wrong has he done?”
They shouted even louder, “Crucify him!”
Pilate wanted to satisfy the crowd, so he released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus whipped, then handed him over to be crucified. (Mark 15:11-15)
Sometimes choosing the right thing to do opens us up to disgrace, mockery, and derision. You may have an experience in your life where you had to stand up for the right thing, even knowing that friendships and family relationships would be impacted.
Choosing to end something can be the right thing to do, but it is not easy. I can only imagine what Christ felt as he stood silently as the crowd urged Pilate to send him to the cross. Christ was following the path laid out for him, and he knew that there would be brokenness, no matter what.
Prayer: God, as I stand up for what is right, sustain me as I endure endings.
Maundy Thursday, April 1
They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means Skull Place. They tried to give him wine mixed with myrrh, but he didn’t take it. They crucified him. They divided up his clothes, drawing lots for them to determine who would take what. It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The notice of the formal charge against him was written, “The king of the Jews.” They crucified two outlaws with him, one on his right and one on his left.
I like to think that Christ had the option to simply step away from his journey to the cross. But when we get to the point of the Passion narrative when Christ is nailed to the cross and lifted up for the crowd to see him as he slowly died, it truly shows the finality of his commitment to God and his servant status.
Christ chose the end so that we could live. While we know what comes after the cross, it would do us well to remember how final Christ’s decision was to die for all of humanity. Choosing the cross meant becoming as low as a common criminal, a spectacle to the masses who were hungry for entertainment and punishment.
Choosing this kind of ending goes against every worldly understanding of what power is supposed to do for us. Perhaps we need to consider how we cling to power in our own lives and what we need to end.
Prayer: Creator God, may I give up my power so that you may reign.
Good Friday, April 2
The curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. When the centurion, who stood facing Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “This man was certainly God’s Son.”
Some women were watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James (the younger one) and Joses, and Salome. When Jesus was in Galilee, these women had followed and supported him, along with many other women who had come to Jerusalem with him.
When we come to the end of Christ’s death on the cross, it is important to note that there were people who truly saw Jesus for what he was, who were there with him, including the centurion and the women mentioned in this passage.
When we are facing an end—whether it is the end of a season, the end of a loved one’s life, or the end of our own time on earth—we should be reminded that there are those who are with us, even if we are not aware of them. The centurion and the women are examples of the Holy Spirit observing, naming, and claiming where God is at work, even when we don’t see or feel God’s presence.
Prayer: In the darkness of the cross, may I find you, O God.
Holy Saturday, April 3
Since it was late in the afternoon on Preparation Day, just before the Sabbath, Joseph from Arimathea dared to approach Pilate and ask for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was a prominent council member who also eagerly anticipated the coming of God’s kingdom.) Pilate wondered if Jesus was already dead. He called the centurion and asked him whether Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that Jesus was dead, Pilate gave the dead body to Joseph. He bought a linen cloth, took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in the cloth, and laid him in a tomb that had been carved out of rock. He rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was buried.
Funerals and burial rituals are ways for us to find closure. I can only imagine what Joseph was thinking as he so reverently prepared Jesus’s body for burial in a tomb. The ritual actions must have intertwined with heartbreak—the one who was supposed to save the world instead ended up dead on a cross, no better than any common criminal.
We should also note that Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, saw part of the ritual and knew where Jesus was buried. Sometimes when we are facing an ending, we are watching what is happening in someone else’s life and are unable to intercede. The death and burial of Jesus remind us that even when we are facing the end, there is always a divine Observer.
Prayer: God, in the darkness of the tomb, may I find you. al.