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Thought for Holy week

The sacred week is now upon us, and we have some time to rehearse in our minds and in our worship, the mysteries of the death and resurrection of Christ. We do this together, as a gathered family of God, and I hope that we will all feel in some way supported by that family and feel that we can be involved in the worship of the church fully and actively – otherwise it will just wash over us and not involve and transform us.

Holy Week is lived in community, and was done in community, as Christ leaves Bethany and walks with his gathered family to Jerusalem, where He would change the life and history of Humanity forever. Communities and crowds are notoriously unstable. A group of football fans that is at one moment enjoying a match with relaxed cheerfulness can easily become a threatening mob. To be in a big group of people can feel like belonging to a community and may be so. But you can be sucked up into a gang in which one loses one’s individuality and consents to terrible deeds. Think of the Nazi rallies, sweeping people up into a hatred that one day many of them would find puzzling. Think of the people in Jerusalem who shouted ‘Hosanna’ today before shouting ‘Crucify him’ a few days later.

Our community is fragile and made up of wounded people, myself included, who find a way of hiding and showing our scars at various points throughout the year, and hopefully nurturing each other through hard times and celebrating good times, which, again, can come as fast as Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Holy Week pins our lives and identities to that of Christ and the many people who play their part in this divine drama. Will we feel more like Simon of Cyrene at times, or Peter, denying Christ, or a soldier pushing Christ up the hill of Calvary to try and get it over with quicker? All these identities are available for us, often we succumb to off-the-peg identities, and try to find ourselves in the role models of our society rather than in the role models of our faith. Celebrities attract vast adulation, and thousands wish to belong to their ‘community’ through Twitter or Facebook. By associating with them, wearing their clothes, supporting their team, bearing their brand, we may hope to find ourselves. But the participants in the drama of Holy Week take the risk of being themselves, the unique friend of God that they are. They are non-conformist.

So today do we dare to follow the King who ‘being found in human form humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross’ (Philippians 2.8)? He gathers around himself a community on Easter Sunday, in which we find a multitude of brothers and sisters, but in which we can also dare to be ourselves, each individually caught up in God’s universal friendship, each infinitely loved by God and each free to inhabit the Body of Christ as a free, redeemed soul, rejoicing and mourning, singing and walking on our pilgrimage to the heart of our faith in which we find ourselves and Christ, together and free, joined to the Body by the shedding of His blood and liberated from this world by our work to build His Kingdom here, on the Cliffs, in Blackpool. And if not here, where?

And this is not what we expect, this call to change and to follow. Every day this week the church looks and sounds a little different – sometimes dramatically so, for example between the stark intensity of Good Friday to the exuberant joy of Easter Sunday. It’s a little chaotic in a true, worrying sense, because we remember so much in so few days – but this is the timescale lived by Christ, these three days that changed the world, and so a little chaos, a little uncertainty is absolutely natural and is a gift to us – salvation was not rehearsed and presented on a plate, it was crucified, descended to hell and rose again in a blaze of glory, fear, hope and the certainty, from that moment on, of martyrdom for the disciples. Enter into this week with uncertainty, with an open mind, with faith in the saving power of God, who has walked into the Holy City to die for you. May that death not be in vain.


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