The approaching Palm Sunday has something of the atmosphere of a movie trailer. Events flash before us at confusing speed in an attempt to persuade us we want to see the whole production. Beginning with the excitement of a triumphal procession, we are quickly plunged into a morass of jealousy, politics, betrayal, and suffering.
The director of this particular movie, however, leaves us with no happy ending. There is no cheap and neat conclusion to his plot. It appears to be the quintessential kitchen-sink drama; beginning in joy, rapidly descending to darkness and despair, and ending in failure – just what we expect.
But the director already knows of another story, an event with a radically different conclusion, but he has chosen not to share it with us just now. Instead he invites us to come to the movie theatre on opening night to discover for ourselves the depth of the darkness and the true meaning of a morning still seven days away. Our director wants us to connect to this story in our inmost being and he believes we cannot do so if we experience the ending ahead of time.
The week after Palm Sunday is scheduled for the premiere of this movie, beginning on the Thursday. It is a long movie in three parts showing over three days. The first sets the scene and the theme. It is the night of loving servanthood, companionship, intimacy, faithfulness, and offering up of life. In its final moments, it fades to momentous silence and dread filled darkness. Action is suspended. The second part of the movie opens Friday. Darkness gives way to the harshness of injustice, to the pain of suffering innocence, betrayal and the death of the main character. Jesus is abandoned by his friends and is largely alone at the end. We know this experience for ourselves. It is pain close to our own suffering and loneliness. This part is hard to watch and even harder to feel.
The director allows us to rest until the third evening. He has something momentous to share and he needs us to be ready. In that pause, we will experience our humanity in all its vulnerability, thinking on a life where it seems there is no God, or love, and no victory over evil. Do we dare to turn up for part three? What kind of ending can it be?
Trust the director and don’t miss the premiere. Part three opens on the Saturday night. Rumor has it that the ending is almost beyond belief.
Show up. Live the story.
The Rev. Susan N. Eaves