I know I've talked before about my experiences with chapel life at Valparaiso university. Visiting Valpo, you can't miss the chapel as it seats over 2,500 with multi-story stained glass windows right in the middle of campus. With that kind of space, the chapel not only allows for but even demands a certain level of pageantry for festival worship. You can't do anything small in a space that big. Palm Sunday worship was no exception. When I was a student, the Palm Sunday tradition was to start outside one of the academic buildings with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. We heard the Palm Sunday Gospel, sang hymns, and blessed each other's journey into Holy Week before taking our palm branches and red balloons and processing to our own buildings to continue our worship services. There was so much joy and energy to worship. But too soon, the palm branches were dropped and scattered on the floor to be trampled on. The balloons were released (inside not outside) where they floated to the ceiling high, high above us. The music and tone turned somber as we heard the Passion narrative and left in silence.
Most congregations and worshiping communities don't go the extremes of pageantry that Valpo did. Although even as I say that, I was remembering with Hope members about the time a real donkey led our procession 2 years ago. But whether Palm Sunday and Holy Week come with huge fanfare or quiet simplicity - one thing that remains the same is that Holy Week has ALL the emotions. There is excitement and joy, there is betrayal and loss, there is confusion and disbelief, and there is triumph in the face of real and certain death.
Holy Week truly has something for everyone. Whatever is happening in your life, you can find your place in the Holy Week narrative. You don't have to wait until you understand it all. You don't have to wait until you are in the "right" place. You are invited now, as you are, to find your place in the middle of God's story of salvation. A few years ago, Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber put it this way in her Palm Sunday sermon and it stuck with me,
Don't worry about coming to church this week for the right reasons. Just wave branches. Shout praise for the wrong reason. Eat a meal. Have your feet washed. Grab at coins. Shout Crucify him. Walk away when the cock crows.
And in it all, hear the story of God's incredible love for me, for you, for all of us. We hope to see you this week!